Counting the Cost

July 1, 2018

Listen to this sentence from The Long Beach Independent, December, 1949. “Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and not have it cost her an arm and a leg.” Supposedly this is the first time the expression, “arm and a leg,” appeared in print. When we purchase something expensive we might say, “It cost me an arm and a leg.”

We are looking at the fine print involved in following Jesus. Why would someone decide to follow Jesus? Why would you decide to follow Jesus? Is there “arm and leg” value in following Jesus? Is the value of following Jesus worth any cost to yourself? This is an important question. This morning I want to point out that receiving God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ involves personal cost.


In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed life from God and with God as they lived in the presence of God. But when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they chose to order their own steps, to define their own lives apart from God. They rejected life with God. When we reject life with God, in essence we are saying that we do not want God or want to live under the rule of God. And in doing so, we embrace death, because all that is not of God is death and only results in more death. This willful choice to establish our life apart from God is what the Bible calls sin. Sin speaks of our rejection of God. Sin speaks of our disobedience to the good commands of God. Sin speaks of our guilt before God. All the brokenness, immorality, abuse, deceit, anger, violence, shame, antagonism, racism, hostility and death that exists in the world today is the consequence of living life apart from God. Ever since Adam and Eve, this world and every person in it has lived under the domination of sin, death, and guilt before God. Look around you and see if that is not the reality of life in this world.

Think about this. When you make something that is beautiful and expresses your heart, when you seek to give your love and kindness to others, how do you feel if someone destroys the beautiful thing you made? How do you feel if the one you love turns away from you, especially if that person is your spouse or child? How do you feel when your kindness is rejected? Most of us experience hurt and anger. God created all things as an expression of his glory and for the good of mankind. He established a good order for life, but mankind, each one of us, has chosen against God and our sin and disobedience brings the wrath of God. God’s wrath is directed towards the sin which rejects and ruins all he has made and done.

Just as you and I might watch the evening news and shake our heads in horror at the terrible things we see being done to the earth and the people on this earth, longing to see justice carried out, so God, who is completely righteous, cannot bear to see the sin in the world and in our own lives. He loves us too much and he is grieved at what we have done to all he has made.

Because God is loving towards all he has made, he determined to establish a way by which all things in heaven and earth, including you and me, can be reconciled to him. In other words God has acted to make it possible for us to once again receive his life and enjoy relationship and fellowship with him in his presence. God has provided a way for our selfish disobedience and rejection of him to be forgiven.

God did this by sending his Son, Jesus Christ into the world. But Jesus did not just pop up on the earth one day. Jesus was conceived in the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit. Mary was Jewish and so Jesus is Jewish and in fact, the history of Israel, found in the Old Testament, gives the important back story for Jesus’ coming into the world.

In the Old Testament we learn important truths about God as Creator and King. We learn about sin and forgiveness through atoning sacrifices. We read promises from God to send a Messiah, his anointed King who would experience death for all who are under the sentence of death as a result of sin. We learn that this King would be a mighty deliverer from sin and death, and the beginning of a new order of creation.

And so Jesus came into the world, fully God and fully man. From the very beginning of his earthly existence he began to experience the destructive power of sin and death that drives everything in the world today. When he grew up he began teaching about forgiveness and life in the kingdom of God. He performed amazing miracles, even raising people from the dead. Because he is fully God he has no sin. People who saw Jesus saw what a sinless life looks like. Jesus regularly invited people to begin living in the kingdom of God by repenting of their sins and becoming his disciple or follower. But there is more.

And this is where we begin to understand how Jesus counted the cost in bringing reconciliation. Being sinless in every way, Jesus understood that his was the only life qualified to die in behalf of sinners. He knew that in order for mankind to be reconciled to God, he would have to die, bearing the sin and guilt of the world. Being fully God, his life is of infinite value. Being fully man, he can stand in the place of humanity. Jesus willingly gave himself to be crucified on the cross in order to pay the price or debt of our sins. In Mk.10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In Phil.2:6-8 Paul writes, that “though [Jesus] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In providing for our salvation and life, Jesus did not count his life to be dear. He gave his life. And Paul tells us that, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” God bore his own wrath against sin because he loves us.

When Jesus, the perfect Son of God came into the world, the world did not recognize him and the world crucified him. This is what the world does to God. And so, Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew full well that he would be giving his life for the world. He counted the cost and obeyed the will of the Father even to death on the cross for you and me.


To appreciate what Jesus is saying, we must recognize that for us the cross has been defanged. We wear crosses around our neck in the form of beautiful, costly jewelry. It is common for celebrities and professional athletes to wear crosses. You don’t even have to be very religious to wear a cross. That’s how fashionable it is.

However, in the days of Jesus no one would be caught wearing a cross around their neck as a fashion statement. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals. Roman citizens could not be crucified. Crucifixions were done in public with crosses lined up on the sides of the street. People were crucified naked. Because it could take a number of days for a person to die, their exposed bodies were often eaten by birds of prey. Crucifixion was designed to humiliate and be as painful as possible.

So here is Jesus telling his would be followers to voluntarily take up their own cross in order to follow him. In fact, he tells us that before we even think about becoming his follower, his disciple, we need to enter into a thought process of counting the cost. What is it going to cost me if I become a follower of Jesus? And to help us Jesus gives two illustrations.

In the first illustration the owner of a vineyard wants to build a tower in order to guard the vineyard and protect his property. It appears that the foundation in and of itself is expensive to build and so he has to decide if he has enough money to finish the tower. The wise person, first sits down to calculate whether or not he or she can complete the project. To begin without counting the cost is to open oneself to ridicule and shame.

The second illustration involves a king who is contemplating going out to fight against another king whose army is twice the size of his own. The king must count the cost. “Can I be victorious with only 10,000 soldiers against an army of 20,000?” If not that king is wise to make peace so that he does not suffer the loss of his kingdom. As you can see in these two illustrations the stakes are high.

Now is Jesus preaching the gospel? Yes. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Entering into eternal life in the kingdom of God is costly. In fact I would add that the deep joy of knowing Christ cannot be experienced apart from bearing one’s cross. Perhaps you are thinking, “Wait, I thought salvation is a gift, a free gift that we receive from Jesus as we repent of our sin and call upon the name of the Lord. The price has been paid. How can there be a cost?”

Before I say anything else, let me point out that the gift of salvation is not the gift of going to heaven. The question is not, “Do you want to go to heaven when you die.” The gift of salvation is receiving the eternal life of Jesus Christ which was purchased through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The gift is the forgiveness of our sins and the life of Jesus given to us. The gift is Jesus. It cost Jesus his life. And it will cost you and me our lives.

Any gift of great value involves a cost to both the giver and the receiver. Imagine you are married but because of infertility you are not able to have children. You go to the doctors and follow their advice, but no babies. You are praying to God, asking for a baby. You have almost lost hope, but then you find out that you are going to be a mother, a father. Your baby is born and you see this baby as a gift from God. And it is! But in receiving the gift there is great cost. It costs everything you have for you give your life to the care of your child through joy and heartache. Receiving the gift involves great personal cost.

The gift of salvation is a free gift of God through faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. If you receive the gift there is a cost that comes with it. It is the cost of your life. In receiving Jesus we embrace him as our Lord and King. What exactly is the cost of believing in Jesus? Let me offer a few thoughts about this. 1) The gift of Jesus Christ is received as we enter into union with Jesus. Over and over again Paul talks about being “in Christ.” In Rm.8:1 we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Jn.14:20 Jesus says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Being saved is about being found in Christ. This speaks of a deep relationship with Jesus that is ongoing. So like any other relationship, our union with Christ must be cultivated. That means we will set our minds on Christ and things above. We will seek to walk in the way of Jesus. 2) There is a cost because the life of Jesus that is in us is set against the practice of sin. Everyone who turns to Jesus is a sinner. Sinful ways of acting and thinking are deeply embedded in our bodies. Well if we embrace Christ as our King then we will seek to resist these sinful ways. We will seek to put to death what is earthly in us. That is costly. We are dying to ourselves. 3) There is a cost involved because this world does not embrace Jesus and his ways. Just as Jesus was mistreated and crucified, so his followers may experience rejection and ridicule. That is costly. We are bearing our cross. 4) When we embrace Jesus we surrender ownership of our lives to him. He is our King. If Jesus is King then you and I are not king. We die to self. Jesus says, unless we bear our cross we cannot be his disciple. There is no salvation apart from discipleship to Jesus.

And here we are at the Lord’s Table. The bread and juice speak of Jesus who counted the cost of giving his body and blood, his life for us. But if you think eating this bit of bread and drinking a shot of grape juice brings you salvation, you misunderstand the significance of this meal. At the Lord’s Table we draw near to Jesus, who has saved us. At the table we reaffirm and physically act out our receiving of Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. It is Jesus who saves and strengthens us to live in obedience to him, not the bread and the juice. But in eating and drinking he is present.

If you do not know Christ, this table is a visible invitation for you to repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus in faith and allegiance to him alone. The table is only for disciples of Jesus. If you are his follower come to his Table.