The Price of Christianity (II)
Last week's editorial considered the price of Christianity from the standpoint of what it cost Jesus. In this week's editorial, I want to consider what Christianity costs the individual who decides to become a Christian. Because of the charge that some of us are teaching salvation by perfect obedience, let me quickly state that I do not believe that the things which man does in response to the gospel of Christ can be considered meritorious works. The full price for man's redemption was paid by Jesus when He shed His precious blood. Yet, the figure of the counting of the cost of Christianity is perfectly biblical when applied to what it costs man (cf. Lk. 14:26ff). Hence, I would like to consider the price of Christianity to those who are disciples of Jesus Christ.
Separation From The World
One of the first things which Christianity costs man is the price of separation from the world. God's demand is, "Come out from their midst and be separate. . .and do not touch what is unclean" (2 Cor. 6:18). Hence, those who are Christians must be men who have decided to forego whatever pleasures immorality can bring and to give themselves to the service of God. There is no way that the disciple of Christ can live in sin. John said, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 Jn. 3:19).
Separation from the world will mean giving up the things which are wrong. The fornicator must cease to practice fornication; the adulterer must quit practicing adultery. The gambler must cease to gamble. The drunkard, social drinker, etc. must quit their drinking. The one who uses profanity must cease doing this so that his speech might be pure.
The life of a Christian should distinguish him from the non-Christian. Peter wrote, "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you" (1 Pet. 4:3-4). Notice that Peter expected the Christian's moral conduct to be different from that of the non-Christian.
One of the reasons that Christianity has had such little impact on the world around us in recent years is that the distinction between the world and the Christian is blurred. My friend, I can guarantee you that the difficulty in distinguishing the Christian from the non-Christian is not caused by the moral purity of the world. Rather the problem lies with Christians who have become convinced that there is no reason to break adulterous marriages, that there is nothing wrong with social drinking, that mixed swimming is all right, that gambling is not so bad after all that there is nothing wrong with dancing, and that there is nothing wrong with off-color jokes. That is not the way Christ intended it; the Christian is to practice a standard of living far superior to that of the world. Hence, Christianity will cost him separation from the world.
Christianity will also cost the Christian persecution. Paul wrote, "And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). Generally, the persecutions which we are facing in this age are much less intense than those which first century Christians had to face. Nevertheless, we do face persecutions.
The man who lives the moral life demanded by the Bible is socially ostracized. Because we do not participate in the telling of filthy jokes and in going with our fellow man to the taverns, bars, night clubs, and office parties, we are considered "outsiders." We are not with the "in" crowd. Hence, we are socially ostracized. We are considered "crazy" for giving sacrificially. Those who attend all of the services of the local church are considered "religious freaks." Anyone who reads his Bible regularly is a "Bible-beater." If we think that salvation is available only in Christ, we are considered narrow-minded, bigoted idiots. Yes, those who follow Christ will be persecuted. That is one of the things which Christianity costs the Christian.
Christianity also costs a man his time. Paul wrote, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:15,16). There are times when the service of Jesus Christ calls the Christian away from activities which he enjoys. There are times when I would prefer to be in bed asleep, at home with my family, or just having a good time that I must be about the Father's business. Yes, Christianity costs a Christian his time.
I sometimes wonder what our conditions would be like if God treated us like we treat Him. Suppose we said, "Father, give me this day my daily bread," and He said, "I am sorry, but I am too busy for you today." I am afraid that we would die of starvation. Yet, I am exposed to a number of "Christians" who are "too busy" to worship God. My brethern, those who are "too busy" to worship and work for God are "too busy" to be saved. God will not save those who are so preoccupied with the things of this world they cannot serve Him. Hence, Christianity costs us our time.
Our Life And Talents
Christianity also demands that I use my life and talents in the service of God. For different persons, this will mean different things because each of us has differing abilities. However, for me, the service of Christ means spending my life as a gospel preacher. I can remember when I left home to go to college that I planned to become some kind of an engineer. Then, I was going to get a good job (translated, that meant only that I was going to make big money) and live comfortably ever after. Then, I realized that God had given me certain abilities for which I was accountable (Mt. 25:14-30). Consequently, I felt a responsibility to use my energies in His service.
I remember hearing Brother James P. Needham preaching in Marion, Indiana on this very subject. He made a statement or two about this which has frequently come to my mind. He said, "Any excuse which God will accept from you who are in possession of the ability to preach for not giving your life to gospel preaching He will accept from me as an excuse to quit preaching." Though I had no desire to quit preaching, I thought about that for many years. I still believe that it is true. Apparently, Paul felt the same way for he wrote, "for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16).
Christianity costs us the use of our life and talents in Christ's service. You who have the ability to lead singing must use that in Christ's service. You who have the ability to become elders and deacons must use that in Christ's service. Whatever talents you have in your possession, you must use them for Christ. That is what Christianity costs the Christian.
Christianity costs me my money as well. Every week, I donate a pretty good portion of my income to the Lord. That money could be used to buy me a boat, clothes, a second car, etc. just as easily as the world uses its money to satisfy itself. Yet, I do not begrudge the money which I give to my Lord. After all, He is the one who gave me the ability to earn a wage. Moses said, "for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth" (Deut. 8:18). What I give to Him is but a small portion
of what He has so bountifully given to me.
Really, the money which I give to Christ is the only money which amounts to anything anyway. One poet expressed it like this:
"Use your money while you're living,
Do not hoard it to be proud.
You can never take it with you,
There are no pockets in the shroud.
"Gold can help you on no farther
Than the graveyard where you lie.
And though you are rich while you are living,
You're a pauper when you die.
"Use it then some lives to brighten
As through this weary world they plod.
Place your bank account in heaven,
And grow richer toward God."
The Christian recognizes that Christianity will cost him money since he is expected to give sacrificially to the Lord.
My brethren, Christianity does not come to us cheaply. It did not come cheaply for Christ and it will not come cheaply to us. Yet, the rewards which it holds out for us make whatever sacrifices which we must make to serve Christ infinitesimal. The opportunity to escape Hell and to live forever in Heaven comes to me at a small price. I am willing to sacrifice all of this and much more to live forever with God in the bliss of Heaven.
Truth Magazine XXI: 43, pp. 675-677