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Dec
29

Count the Cost in Conversion?

This will be my last post on this question. We have been talking about John 3:16 and how the first step in mentoring a new believer is to confirm their understanding of conversion. The last issue I want to raise relative to this discussion is that of counting the costs of following Jesus.

John 3:16 does not raise this issue, so I am a bit hesitant to raise it at all. But elsewhere Jesus clearly does ask future disciples to count the cost (Lk 14:28-33).

So there are two questions here. (1) Should we, I some way, make this part of our offer of salvation? (2) How do we do it? Here is one way I have explained it.

On the one hand, salvation is totally free. Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8-9).

But the life of discipleship costs you everything. There is a path on the other side of the gate, and at the end of the path is eternal life. That path is the path of discipleship. Paul tells the church in Galatia that he has been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him (2:20). He is saying that in going through the gate, he has become so united with Christ that he died to himself and he lives only for Christ. Jesus tells the disciples that if they want to follow him, they “must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The path of discipleship is about dying to yourself and living for God.

Now don’t get nervous. Jesus never calls us to action without giving us the ability to do the work. That’s part of the beauty of the path of discipleship. But I hope you realize up front that when you walk through the gate, God changes your heart and your life is going to start to change. Over a period of time, you will look more and more like Jesus. You will want to change. There is no other way.

When I set out from my cabin to hike into the mountains, I know it will cost me. Sore feet. Tired muscles. Scrapes and bruises from the times I will most certainly slip and fall on the path. But the hike is worth the cost. The joy of the journey and the pleasure of finishing well at the top far outweigh the price I pay. Walking with Jesus, running toward heaven, is worth the scrapes and bruises along the way. As Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).”

What do you think? QK6UACYZ6HXG

About Bill Mounce

Bill lives as a writer in Washougal, WA. He is also the President of BiblicalTraining.org, a non-profit organization offering world-class educational resources for equipping leaders in the local church, and Research Professor in New Testament at Western Seminary. Bill is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook Basics of Biblical Greek, Greek for the Rest of Us, and many other resources. Bill was also the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and is currently serving on the New International Version translation committee.

Comments

  1. Ron Swaren says:

    Bill, I can just give you my layman’s view:

    I think that “trustworthiness” to people is a very important part of following Christ. I’ve worked in the construction industry for many years—and people will tell you what they think of religions, with no hesitation! True for others in the blue collar world. The verse that comes to mind for me is: Acts 10:34-35

    New International Version (NIV)

    34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

    There is a universal respect for those who produce tangible value. And even with the intangibilities of faith we can make room for tangible things, too. I see in the New Testament a respect for people who work hard and produce tangible value in this world. Once I saw a special on PBS TV by Randall Balmer, titled ” The Evangelical Subculture? ” I saw it , probably in 1996. Here is a video, from Baylor University, where Balmer is summarizing what it is about: .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuTHeU2TyVY. (At the time in my life, I had suffered a major financial crime that was caused by some religious people so when I saw this it tended to answer a lot of questions)

    The gist from Balmer is that evangelicals tend to produce their own culture that is insular to the rest of society. But Balmer, being also a historian, praises the early history of the evangelical movement and I like to read some of his accounts. (He is also an editor for Christianity Today.) Without evangelicalism’s influence in early America it likely would have been more difficult to keep the country together.The fervency of the Methodists, and similar groups, and their inspiring works planted a stronger conscience in our forebears. God was there ( in people’s consciences) where the lawmen couldn’t be.

    So, discipleship, to me, has a big component of being trustworthy to the
    “average Joe” in our culture. I think an important thing is that Christians be perceived as completely trustworthy to other people. Wasn’t there a high value placed on difficult physical work in the Early Church? The apostle Paul writes about “laboring with his own hands” and it seems to me that he holds this in esteem. And when you think about it, through every human culture, people want to feel that there are those they can trust, who won’t unfairly make off with their money. In CS Lewis’ book, The Abolition of Man, he uses the phrase “men without chests” to refer to people who are not ethically balanced—-and I think he identified a trend in his society that is now pretty common in the Western world.

    I think there are some good trends happening in some of the newer churches, where they don’t feel that they have to make sizable financial investments—such as in buying a building—to bring the gospel to people. When any kind of movement gets into financial trouble and is desperate for money, it becomes evident to people.

  2. Are we still talking about a two-minute encounter with a seeker at a bus stop? This seems like a topic for a more extended mentoring; my experience as a beginner suggests that the most important thing is to find a community where mentoring like this can take place organically. So (in two minutes or less) give a specific pointer, such as a Christian coffee shop or service (worship or social). I think what a new person needs to know most is where to go to take his next baby step.

    PS Bill, still chewing on your previous comment. Thank you for it.

  3. Bill Kelsey says:

    There is a parallel between Ephesians 2:8-9 and John 3:16. John writes that “… He GAVE His only begotten Son…” Since Paul writes that grace is a gift, then grace is equated to Jesus and His saving work on the cross. Bonhoeffer said that grace was free, but it cannot be cheap. The gift is given to us at the point of salvation (justification) or in your analogy, the gate. The path is our sanctification that culminates in Heaven. Paul tells his beloved Philippian church to “… work out your own salvation…” (Philippians 2:12). This is the path that you describe. Sanctifying grace is hard work, but there is reward beyond imagination. Thanks for a great post! Also, thanks to all for a great blog site.