Part of the gospel message is to tell people to count the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus. To count the cost of being a true Christian means that a person seriously considers giving up certain things, submitting to specific sacrifices, and is determined to follow Christ wherever He leads, while serving others. J. C. Rylee helps individuals in the matter of discipleship by plainly stating what following Christ will cost.
First, true Christianity will cost one his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to Heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel that he has “erred and gone astray like a lost sheep,” that he has “left undone the things he ought to have done, and that there is no strength in him.” He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible reading, church-going, and sacrament receiving—and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
Second, true Christianity will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it and labor to keep it under control, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no secret truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day, and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins. It is written, “Cast away from you all your transgressions” (Ezek. 18:31). “Break off your sins . . . and iniquities” (Dan. 4:27). “Cease to do evil” (Isa. 1:16).
This sounds hard. I do not wonder. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children! We love them, hug them, cleave to them and delight in them! To part with them, is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye! But it must be done. The parting must come. “Though wickedness is sweet in the sinner’s mouth, though he hides it under his tongue; though he spares it, and forsakes it not,” yet it must be given up, if he wishes to be saved (Job 20:12, 13). He and sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins.
Third, true Christianity will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble, if he means to run a successful race toward Heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behavior every hour of the day, in every company and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace. In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of them who he can safely neglect. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4).
This also sounds hard. There is nothing we naturally dislike so much as “trouble” about our religion. We hate trouble. We secretly wish we could have a vicarious Christianity, and could be good by proxy, and have everything done for us. Anything that requires exertion and labor is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have “no gains without pains.”
Lastly, true Christianity will cost a man the favor of the world. He must be content to be thought poorly of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted and even hated. He must not be surprised to find that his opinions and practices are despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast and a fanatic to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says, “Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Master.’ If they have persecuted Me they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). –J. C. Ryle (Holiness)