Friday, March 28, 2014

Cost of Discipleship

Cost of Discipleship

In general terms, cost is the loss or penalty incurred in gaining something.  In finance, it is the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something; such as price.  When I buy a piece of fruit the cost is what I give the merchant in exchange for the fruit.  I lose money, but I gain the fruit.  I give up A, to gain B.  This implies that the fruit is of more value than the money.

The word cost is also used to define the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.  Runners sacrifice time with loved ones, favorite foods, and amusement time - among other things - to exercise and practice their sport.   The practice of their sport - and the chance of participating in a racing event - is of more value than the things they give up.  Paul saw what runners do as a parallel to the Christian experience.  Ellen White elaborates on Paul’s idea,

In referring to these races as a figure of the Christian warfare, Paul emphasized the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race--the preliminary discipline, the abstemious diet, the necessity for temperance. "Every man that striveth for the mastery," he declared, "is temperate in all things." The runners put aside every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers, and by severe and continuous discipline trained their muscles to strength and endurance, that when the day of the contest should arrive, they might put the heaviest tax upon their powers. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interests are at stake, bring appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God! Never must he allow his attention to be diverted by amusements, luxuries, or ease. All his habits and passions must be brought under the strictest discipline. Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God's word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control. {AA 311.1}

It is obvious then that there is always something to give up.  The following verses make this point clearly.  Let us read them,

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.


Just like there is no successful runner that gratifies inclination and refuses to obey their coach, “There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God” (MYP 154).

Now, in addition to giving up self, those who follow Christ will suffer persecution.  We read in John 15: 18 – 20,

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;

So, there is a double cost to be a disciple: what we give up and what we endure.  In order to get B I must give up A, but in order to retain B – forever - I must endure C.  So, the question is what is B, and is it worth giving up A, and enduring C, to have it.  Evidently B is Christ.  A is self, and C is the persecution and hatred we encounter as we become followers of Christ.  We see this dynamic in Paul’s experience as presented in Philippians 3: 7 – 10,


Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

In the beginning verses of Philippians 3 Paul talks about what he gave up.  Nothing he had before – his ethnic background, his high standing in society, etc. – compared to the matchless charms of Christ.  In verses 7 and 8 Paul says he gives up everything to know Christ, and in verse 10 he says that he endures suffering and even death to continue to know Him.  We can see that Paul makes a distinction between what he gave up and what he endured.

What is not readily said is that the giving up and the enduring are related.  God designs the enduring, to help us in the giving up; and, the giving up helps us in the enduring.  Often the enduring reveals what we ought to give up. If we do not give up what the enduring reveals we should give up, we will fail to endure. Many may believe that the initial cost should be enough, perhaps too much.  Why should we endure trials?  Let us put it this way: if to receive Christ we must die to self, then the trial is to help us stay dead.  Trials teach us to trust, depend and wait on God.  Trials, rightly understood and endured, are to help us develop Christ-like character.  Ellen White says,

God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. {OFC 67.1}

What about us: Loadicea? What will it "cost" Laodicea to be in partnership with Christ our High Priest in His mission to the world? There is a difference between fulfilling the great commission,--"Go ye ... and teach [disciple] all nations,"--before 1844 and being co-laborers with the Harvester during the cleansing of the sanctuary.

It will cost Laodicea everything she thinks she knows about righteousness by faith in exchange for an appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to obtain justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the at-one-ment with God. This is the "offense" of the cross.

Why is Laodicea's discipleship and devotion to Jesus lukewarm and lackluster? The True Witness diagnoses her disease which is causing Him acute nausea,--"I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).

This warning is parallel to that Christ gives those who say, "Lord, Lord, open unto us ... I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ... you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:25-28). That's an awful word--"iniquity." We instinctively pass it on to our Sunday-keeping neighbors.

What we need to realize is that devotion perfectly appropriate during the ministry of the High Priest in the Holy Apartment becomes "iniquity" when weighed against the incomparably greater scope of His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment! Christian experience perfectly acceptable in times previous to the cleansing of the sanctuary becomes "lukewarmness" in our day. To our High Priest, there is no more nauseous sin than this.

The truthful Witness testifies that Laodicea's self-understanding of righteousness by faith is pre-1844. And further, she has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. Her confession is: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." According to the Heavenly Counselor she doesn't know her spiritual condition: "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).

The True Witness addresses "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev. 3:14). "The angel" is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who have unwittingly led the church into a self-centered understanding of righteousness by faith which it proclaims to the world as its gospel commission.

We know Jesus challenges the Adventist Church regarding her message because He appeals for a correction of course. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed" (Rev. 3:18). The Savior couldn't be more clear. The "white raiment" which Laodicea lacks is obviously garments of righteousness. This clothing is "gold tried in the fire." Furthermore, the Heavenly Merchantman markets His commodity to her. She is "to buy of me gold."

The "gold" of which He speaks is faith and love. "The gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven." [Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.]

Her problem is not a deficiency of doing "much work." The "gold" we lack is not more feverish activity. That we're truly "rich" in, already. Our need is basic. In respect of the very "gold" itself, the True Witness says our treasure-box is empty.

Why "buy" it? Why doesn't He say, "Ask of Me, and I'll give it to you"? Could it be that we must surrender our false concepts of righteousness by faith in exchange for the true? These "goods" we do possess: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).

Writes the pen of inspiration: "What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge." [Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 252, 253.]

The "price" we must give up is "deception," false "spiritual knowledge." In other words we must surrender our false ideas and deceptions regarding righteousness by faith in order to "buy" the "gold."

Is our Lord trying to tell us that we don't really understand what love is, and therefore cannot have true faith? Is the "angel" of the church destitute of "such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ"?

There are two great antithetical ideas of "love." One has come from Hellenism and is the kind of "love" that the popular evangelical churches accept today. The other is completely different, and is the kind of love that can have its source only in the ministry of the true High Priest in His cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. [Early Writings, pp. 55, 56].

Christ Himself makes clear what New Testament faith is, and His view is different from that of the "popular ministry": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him ..." (John 3:16). God's love is the first thing, and until that love is revealed, there can be no "believing." As the result of His "loving" and "giving," the sinner finds it possible to "believe." Faith is a heart-experience, "heart-work" to borrow Ellen G. White's phrase, and it cannot exist until God's love is understood and appreciated.

The "believing" is not motivated by a fear of "perishing" or an acquisitive regard for "everlasting life." The primary cause of faith is "for God so loved." The results of God's love are "that He gave His only begotten Son" and "that whosoever believeth." The believing is a direct result of God's loving the world.

Thus Jesus' clear definition: Faith is a heart-appreciation of the love of God revealed at the cross. A subtle shift has occurred in the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding its understanding of righteousness by faith. An acquisitive hope of reward is set forth before the people and the world to offset the "cost" of discipleship now. Such self-centeredness is antithetical to the "gold" of Christ's righteousness. When faith and love are truly tested, it will be revealed as to what source produced the righteousness--whether it be self or Christ.

Raul Diaz