If salvation doesn’t cost anything, then where did the idea of “counting the cost” come from? They seem like a contradiction, or do they? The concept actually comes from Jesus in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” When you believe in Jesus Christ, you’ve got to really believe, and really believing means believing that Jesus is Lord. That means that He owns you as His servant, so you’re actually giving everything up to Him. The reality is that you get everything, but in a temporal way, you are giving up your own self, your own life, your soul. Are you willing to do that, because that is believing in Him? That is counting the cost, and Jesus illustrates that. If you believe in Jesus Christ, saving faith, then you believe that He is better than everything, He is good, and you trust Him, which means trusting that you are better off with Him. Do you believe that or not? That is counting the cost. Am I really giving that up or not, or am I just going through the motions here? Actual costing you something would be something of value. Your life, you assess, as Paul did, is dung, so you count it, as He said, as loss. You win Christ, who is of eternal benefit and all that goes with Him.
Very often in describing salvation, I explain that you don’t have to give up anything to be saved, except for everything. Someone might ask if you have to give up smoking to be saved. Someone doesn’t get saved by giving up smoking. However, smoking might be the reason why someone doesn’t receive Jesus Christ, believe in Him, knowing that smoking is not in accordance with faith in Christ. Repentance might require the willingness to give up smoking, since that’s what stands between someone and Christ. We don’t have to give up anything in particular to be saved, except that we can’t keep going our own way in be saved. You can’t worship Jesus Christ and everything else. It is Him or nothing. If someone has the grace of God through salvation, He can give things up that are worthless. Paul said that all things were lawful, that is, they might be permissible, but they were not necessarily expedient, that is, necessary. If something keeps you from running your race as fast as you should, then you lay it aside to run the race that is set before you. I ask myself why certain meaningless things really matter to me. Sometimes what really matters doesn’t matter and what doesn’t matter, really does matter. If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we should consider what it is we should give up for Him.
I was thinking of a song I sang in congregations while growing up and into my adult life, Jesus Is the Joy of Living. The idea just popped into my head, while considering what to write. I wondered about the song, because the music seemed like it came from a certain revivalist era. I read about the author and composer, Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960), who wrote 1500 religious and secular songs in his lifetime, trained at the London Royal Academy of Music, attended Westminster Seminary, a Presbyterian pastor, but had worked with Billy Sunday for his campaigns. His music mainly doesn’t match the content of the old hymns and the psalms. Overall, I don’t like the trajectory his songs took church music with less focus on God and exegetical language. They are not up to that standard, but some of them serve as good hymns and spiritual songs, worthy of being sung. Even as I meditated on the song of which I’m speaking, I loved the biblical truth again, Jesus is the joy of living. It is true. The next line helps tell why, He’s the King of life to me. There is a love and affection that Ackley communicates that represents worship in spirit. The end of the first verse reads, “Ev’ry blessing of His favor fills my heart with hope so bright.”
Does God give us the maximum amount of evidence for believing in Him? In other words, could He give more than what He does? Yes. We don’t know how much more He could do because there is no limit on what He can do, and unlimited manifestations of His power are something that we can’t comprehend. We know that God limits Himself in the amount of evidence He might show, because He says He does that again and again. He has a purpose for discontinuing the revealing of Himself to the same extent. He could do greater and more. Two places that came to mind is the teaching of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to Isaiah in Isaiah 6, which is then quoted in a few places in the New Testament, Matthew 13 and John 12. At one point Jesus said He wouldn’t show any more signs, except for one, the resurrection. He even stops preaching where people do not want to hear, and does what He calls, dusting His feet. Whatever evidence we have, therefore, is the evidence that God wants us to have. The evidence is limited to that which would require faith, because faith is what is necessary for someone to please God. God withholds some of the evidence He could give, because He wants man to want Him.
A word not found in scripture, but one that could represent some wrong thinking, belief, or practice is “externalism,” which is sometimes mistaken for another non-scriptural word, “legalism.” Legalism, as I understand it, is adding works of any kind to grace, and, therefore, nullifying grace. One could call it peformance-based Christianity, where your salvation and sanctification are dependent on your performance, instead of the grace of God. It’s wrong, and the book of Galatians among other places in the New Testament shoots that down. Externalism is related to legalism, but it also could be different than it. Externalism is where your Christian life is what I have called, “painted on.” You figure out what is a token amount of Christian living or works to represent a Christian life in order to look good enough as a Christian. On the inside, you might be generally ignoring God, thinking about yourself, and mainly worldly things. Your affections are not set on above. You are not seeking first God’s kingdom. You are looking just so-so and just getting by with the least possible. You might just get by with keeping all the rules or the ones that will keep you under the radar of men, but God knows your heart, it’s not close to Him.
Scripture says a lot about who you spend your time with. It matters. Very often you will hear me say that someone is either a ministry or minister. Those two categories divide up your associations into what is acceptable. People who are a ministry are those who welcome scriptural help, either as an unbeliever listening to the gospel or as a believer for his edification or spiritual growth – teaching, correction, reproof, instruction, encouragement, and comfort. As long as someone is listening to scripture, he is a ministry. You can spend time with that person. Then you have those who will help you, because they are living a righteous, obedient life, that is a great example and challenge to you. These are not people who will drag you down spiritually, but will lift you up spiritually. Your life is short. You are redeeming your time, trading for what is eternal. What is eternal is about God and the souls of men. What is about the souls of men is evangelizing and edifying others and being edified by others. If it is not that, then it is trading your life for something temporal. It is not pleasing to God. Spend your time with those who will listen to God’s Word and with people who will challenge you with God’s Word.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” As a Dad, I’m thinking about the seasons of life, because this is a season. My wife and I are very happy about the marriage of Julia and Derek, the whole process leading up to the wedding at noon on Thursday at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park in Berkeley. What scripture teaches, they’ve done. It’s been wonderful. It’s better than the wrong thing. They’ve done everything that we’ve wanted them to do, and I have to report that I’ve been watching them. Everybody would know that I would be watching them, even if I’m trying to act like I’m not. Sometimes we call it, keeping your eye out. I appreciate the Wilhite family and Derek in particular for this. I’m thankful for Julia, because she’s wanted to do right. This has been a blessing to my wife and I. I haven’t seen anything that I’ve disapproved of. They’ve honored God in this. They have a few days to go, but it will be worth it. I’ve waited to say anything, but this is close enough that I think they’re going to make it a few more days. More than anyone, I want to thank the Lord, because it wouldn’t have been possible without Him.
[Julia and Derek were married on January 11, 2018. This was written before the wedding.]
I usually preach a goal sermon on this Sunday night, and I’m not going to do that this year, so I’ll write a brief message about it here. The word “goal” isn’t in the King James Version, but the concept is in many places, and normally I point to Philippians 3, because the concepts are there. The idea is within the content of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when in Matthew 6:33, He proclaims the goal to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How do we seek first the kingdom of righteousness? “First” communicates priorities. If someone is seeking the kingdom of God first, then He is putting the kingdom of God above other things, which means His goals revolve around the kingdom of God. In Ephesians 5:16 says, “Redeeming the time, for the days are evil.” We are trading in our time for something, redeeming it. The goal would be to trade in something temporal for something eternal, which gets a higher value out of life. In Philippians 3:14, Paul instructs to press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The mark is the goal. The high calling of God is when believers are called up to the platform, like at the end of the race, to receive their reward, which is in Christ Jesus. Our goals should revolve around Jesus Christ.
Deadbeat dad. You’ve heard the term. Would anyone want to be known as that, a deadbeat dad? I don’t think so. Dads are supposed to take care of things, a lot of things if they are doing what they are supposed to do. Can men still be known as deadbeat dads if you take away their authority? I say, take away, but if men have authority, then they are abdicating their own authority. What is a man, who is not a deadbeat dad? What is he doing? Is a breadwinner? Is he providing? Is he taking care of things? I mean, really, we can’t have it both ways, can we? If he is not deadbeat, then he is providing. That means a man is the provider, and if he is, he should have authority as well. He can rule in a home. I don’t want to be a deadbeat dad, but I also want to get the credit for not being one, which will include authority. I have authority in my home. Our home is going to do it my way. That does assume a biblical way, but I can get that accomplished. God requires a man to provide. He should. He should be expected to. Along with that, He gets authority. What I see today is that men are deadbeats if they don’t provide, but they also don’t get authority. Let it not be.
How sure is the assurance of salvation? You say, sure. Others say, no one can know, which isn’t true. If you know, really know, why do you then need assurance? You know. You don’t need assurance when you know. If you know what the Bible teaches, which is all you can know about the assurance of salvation, then you know why assurance of salvation isn’t exactly like knowing that you’ve got shoes on, or something like that – the assurance that you are wearing shoes. How do you know you have shoes on? It’s not the same, but we know why from scripture, so that we can call it assurance of salvation. It is assurance as far as the Bible treats assurance, and the Bible is God’s Word, so it is the truth. God knows that if you had assurance while living in sin, you would live in sin. You aren’t promised assurance of salvation while you are living in sin. Someone living in sin might not be saved, probably isn’t. You don’t want an unsaved person having assurance. Assurance goes only to people who are really saved. They can have it. It is something that you have to embrace, assurance. You don’t have to be diligent to be saved, but you have to be diligent to be assured that you are. This is how God has designed it, and it makes total sense.