the cost of free

It’s an odd thing to call salvation free. I mean, on the one hand, it is free. Totally free. Grace comes to us without requiring payment and without regard for our history. It is simply ours if we want it; if we will accept it from Jesus. But it’s the most costly free we will ever encounter.

 

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.          Luke 14:28-33

 

In truth, it’s not the salvation that’s costly. As I said, that’s free. Grace is grace because it’s free. But it’s the life that comes after accepting, the life of following, that comes at a cost. And it costs us everything.

 

But maybe this is misleading too. It’s not a cost in the sense of paying for something. What we have from Jesus—the Life abundant he describes—remains forever free. But the life of following this Jesus, the life of relationship has a “cost” and that cost is everything. The word I’m looking for here is one none of us likes. It’s a word we avoid and when we say it we usually think of other people and how it relates to them. It’s easier than thinking of it in terms of our selves.

 

Surrender.

 

That’s the word. And in a sense, surrender is all about cost. It’s all about giving up and handing over. It’s about submitting and relinquishing control. And we just don’t like this kind of thing. But Jesus wants us to know up front: grace is free, but living with Jesus will cost us everything. That goes back to the reality that he must be first. And so he lays it out here, talking about the cost and making sure we take the time to consider it and commit to it.

 

For the second time in just a few sentences Jesus uses the words. “…cannot be my disciple.” He used it in verse 17, which we looked at yesterday, and he uses it here in verse 33.

 

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

 

He’s not saying we aren’t allowed to own possessions, and he’s not saying that when we accept the saving Jesus offers we should become homeless. This isn’t about possessions really. It’s about us and our heart and our priorities. Again it’s about surrender. It’s about giving up control of our stuff. Letting God take priority over everything else.

 

The difficult thing about this is that it’s easy to say we give up everything when we still hold it in our hands. It’s hard to hold on loosely and fight the tendency to grip our stuff firmly. We grow attached, we find security, and we even tend to place our identity in our stuff. And Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me you can’t do that. You have to hold it with an open hand. You have to let me be in control of it. You have to give it up.”

 

Today I’m thinking about the stuff I have, the roles I fulfill, the people I spend my time with. I’m considering the ways in which I let that stuff define me. I’m considering the ways in which I let that stuff consume me. And I’m praying for the courage to give it up and follow.

 

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7 thoughts on “the cost of free

  1. Hi again,

    I’d like a little clarification on this please. Is there really anything wrong with having a passion for something? Someone who is a musician may love to play an instrument. Is anything wrong if the music defines him or if he loves his instrument? As long as when the time comes he is willing to part with it if for whatever reason God requested it. Is that not like saying it is wrong to love and be attached and defined by your children. I don’t think God wants us to go through life being miserable. Otherwise we would all be empty shells and go through life hating the fact that we have to give up so much. At which point we are actually indirectly feeling bad for following Jesus.

    • Costas, thanks so much for asking for clarification! Sometimes I know exactly what I’m saying in my own head, but maybe don’t communicate it as clearly as I think I do. And of course, sometimes I re-read what I wrote and have no idea what I meant! But in this case I think I just can clarify what I was getting at.

      Passion for the things around us and the people in our lives is something God gives us, I believe. So pasison for music, using the example you gave, is not wrong. Loving to play an instrument, it could be argued, is something God has planted within us. I didn’t intended to imply that it’s wrong to enjoy things or people. I think God gives us these things sometimes to be used by him and sometimes just for the pure enjoyment they bring us. I think God is very much for us experiencing life with enjoyment. And passion is a central part to it.

      I think you are right on when you say, “As long as when the time comes he is willing to part with it for whatever reason God requested it.” Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about.

      I personally am one of those that loves music. I love to listen to it, I love to play it, and I even love to sing it (when no one is around!). In many ways I would say I have a deep passion for music, and I find a great deal of enjoyment in it, and I think it deepens my experience with God at times. But I have to be careful not to let that take priority over something God may call me to. So I have to hold it loosely, so to speak. It’s the same concept we find in Philippians 2 where it’s talking about Jesus coming to earth and it says, he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” That word “grasped” could be interpreted as “held on tightly to”or “clung to.” In other words, Jesus held his equality with the Father loosely so that if it was required that he give it up for a time he would submit to that.

      We are very passionate about things and people in our lives and I think God wants it that way. I guess part of what I’m thinking through is our tendency to find our core identity in these things instead of in Christ. I’ll take your example of our children. I have four children and I love them deeply. And being a father to them is part of my role and identity. But I have to be careful not to let my children define who I am. I am a follower of Christ who has children. Children Gad gave me and children I am deeply passionate about. They bring me a great deal of joy and this is how God intended it to be.

      But just like anything else in life, I have to hold on to them loosely because ultimately they aren’t mine. They belong to God. If I make them a priority above God or hold on too tightly to them I may hinder the things God wants them to experience through me as their father. I may start pushing my agenda for them above God’s agenda for them.

      ok, I’m not sure if I’m making any sense here. I may just be rambling on, or I may have just generated more questions. Let me know where you are at on this now. Did I clear it up? Muddy it further? Do you disagree? I’m still on the journey and learning so please share your thoughts and doubts about what I’m thinking here.

    • ok, one more thing…

      You wrote, “Otherwise we would all be empty shells and go through life hating the fact that we have to give up so much. At which point we are actually indirectly feeling bad for following Jesus.”

      Wow, this is such a good identitfication of some core issues that can arise as we attempt to follow Jesus.

      I really believe, really and fully believe this: If we are “giving up” everything (in the sense that we turn control over to God, not that we stop enjoying or having passion for it) that we will not find ourselves bitter for having given up so much. Not if we are doing it right. (Sorry that’s an ambiguous statement). What I mean is that as give control over to God I have found that he shows us ways to enjoy and build passion for these things on a level we never could have found on our own. Often times “giving up” deepens the passion and enjoyment of something in our lives rather than being lost to us all together. Yes, sometimes God may require us to truly and fully give something up or leave it behind. but most of the time I think the giving up has more to do with control and priorities; not letting other things be more important than Jesus.

      Following Jesus is often hard and can at times be discouraging, but I don’t think God ever intends it to be an experience in which we ultimately feel bad for having chosen to follow.

      Thanks again, Costas for asking questions and probing at what I’ve written.

  2. I’m known to pick at things 🙂 I over-analyse everything, but I think what you have just said after my comment pretty much sums up what I was thinking. The original statements about cost made following seem like a burden which it isn’t. Following Jesus makes your life clearer and more enjoyable so it’s not a cost, but more like another gift that we fail to see at first and then realise later.

    • You are always welcome to pick at the things I’m writing. Many times what I’m writing comes straight from my head to the computer. It’s not filtered or refined (as I’m sure you can tell) and sometimes it’s the frist time I’ve even considered it in exactly that way. So questioning what’s written is helpful.

      I like what you said here. “Following Jesus makes your life clearer and more enjoyable so it’s not a cost, but more like another gift that we fail to see at first and then realise later.” That sums it up best I think.

      Thanks for sharing today, Costas — or is it “tonight” already? 🙂 .

      Grace and peace to you.

      • Well I’m in Cyprus and I’m guessing you’re in the US so day and night isn’t the same for us 🙂 I’d just like to complement you on everything you have written so far. I enjoy reading your posts. I’m glad you don’t take my comments in a negative way because I’m just trying to clear up some of my thoughts and questions. I look forward to your future posts.

        • Thanks for the encouragement. I definitely don’t mind the questioning. It’s good and gives us all a chance to grow more. I am, just as you are, trying to clear up my thoughts and questions too. So keep on asking!

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