Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 17, 1960
NUMBER 44, PAGE 1,10b

The Cost Of Being A Christian

L. R. Hester, Savoy, Texas

A man once said to Jesus: "Lord, I will follow thee withersoever thou goest." He replied: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Lk. 9:57-58.)

The Christian must follow Jesus without reservation. This, He invites all to do; but careful deliberation is a prerequisite to faithfulness in Him. Let the person who requests baptism into Christ "choose you this day whom ye will serve," and let him take the initial step convinced that it is better "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Jesus said: "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." (Lk. 14-28-30.) Obviously a chief cause of indifference, worldliness and drifting in the church today is a pulpit policy that fails to emphasize the cost of being a Christian. Too many are being immersed who have not given due consideration to the sacrifices and trials involved, and who are therefore half-hearted and worldly. When these are called upon to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1); "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5); "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 8); and "to-be ready to every good work" (Titus 3:1), they find the cost greater than they are willing to pay. Instead of growing, these become weaker and the church in many cases drifts with them rather than exercise discipline. But others, having seen the line of demarcation between the church and the world clearly drawn, and having weighed the matter carefully, obey the gospel and overcome the world daily. These reckon with Paul "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rem. 8:18.)

Jesus said: "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. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple...whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple." (Lk. 14: 26-27, 33.) And again: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Mt. 16:24-25.)

From these scriptures we are sure that Christianity requires self-denial. This means that the Christian must renounce the will of self in favor of the divine will. A Christian must overcome the world, and this requires self-control. James makes it clear that "man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (Jas. 1:14.) While John wrote: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 dn. 2:15-16.) Then to overcome the world we must Control (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life. To do this is overcome temptation; and when this is done in favor of the divine will, self-denial is practiced. Paul said: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: ..." This is the duty of every Christian.

But there it no virtue in self-denial as such. Jesus said: "... Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. It is for my sake" — Jesus' sake that we are to lose our life practice self-denial. The self-denial required of a Christian is in consequence of following Christ. Stephen's death (Acts 7:54-60) was an acceptable sacrifice, but the Lord's delight was in Stephen's loyalty, not for his suffering. So it is not a requirement that the Christian be denied of things pleasing to himself, but that he be loyal to the will of Christ. If family unity can be maintained without disloyalty to Christ it is acceptable and a thing to be desired, but it is required that we sacrifice this pleasant relationship if it cannot be maintained without disloyalty to Him.

This necessitates a divine standard. If we are to choose between the will of self and the will of Christ, we must discern his will. What, then, is the divine will? The Lord has revealed to men an all-sufficient embodiment of divine truth which is to serve as a standard of life, worship of truth is called "the faith" (Jude 3), "the gospel" (Rom. 1:16), "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25), "the new covenant" (Heb. 12:24), etc. The author of this divine message requires no more and no less of us than loyalty from the heart to this standard. He asks us to make no sacrifice that this does not require, but demands that we make every sacrifice that it does require. Thus, to accept the consequences of loyalty to the gospel message — the written New Testament — is to pay the required cost of being a Christian.

This is voluntary service. There are burdens of life that none can avoid, but the Christian has a cross to "take up." If there is a family relationship; a financial, political or social advantage, or any other interest of self, that cannot be enjoyed without disloyalty to the divine standard, he is asked, but not compelled, to sacrifice this interest in favor of Christ's will.

The scriptures abound in examples of self-denial in favor of divine law. Micaiah refused to pervert God's message to Ahab even when loyalty brought imprisonment and the bread and water of affliction. (I Kings 22:27.) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego accepted the fiery furnace rather than worship of Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. (Dan. 3:21.) Daniel defied the king's injunction forbidding the worship of the true God for a season, knowing that he would be cast into the den of lions. (Dan. 6:10.) John the Baptist told Herod the truth about his marriage though it cost him his life. Stephen was stoned and James beheaded for preaching the truth. For truth's sake Paul was expelled from Antioch of Pisidia, stoned and left for dead at Lystra, whipped and imprisoned at Philippi, subjected to mob violence at Jerusalem, and (according to history) beheaded at Rome. And that we might have salvation, Jesus was crucified. Paul said of the apostles: ". . . we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." (I Cor. 4:13.)

Truly, our present freedom and protection in America is to be desired. We ought to thank God for it and work and pray lest we lose it. But even in our time and nation there is a cost to being a Christian. Secular law protects us from physical violence, but not from psychological domination. From within and without pressure is brought to bear upon those who love and obey the truth. In many congregations there are those who "will not endure sound doctrine", and who, "after their own lusts" — the will of self — heap to themselves teachers, "having itching ears." Then there are powerful centers of influence in the brotherhood from which pressure is brought to bear. Benevolent institutions, sponsoring churches, some religious journals, and some Christian Colleges (so-called) are making their influence felt. Christian men and women are subjected to pressure, both from the worldly in the local church, and from the centers of influence in the brotherhood. It is either yield or suffer the consequences. Especially is this true of those of us who teach publicly. If the preacher does not want to get his support cut off and be evicted from the house he lives in, he must water the mixture to please the people. This cannot be compared to the stoning of Stephen or the beatings of Paul, but it is far from the will of self. "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecutions."

The writer is aware that no "man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him." He intends not to impugn motives nor discredit the faithfulness of any person or congregation. Apparently, only the truth is intentionally tolerated and preached from many pulpits. But it is still true that the faithful are in many cases being subjected to pressure from within and from without. Then "let every man prove his own work". (Gal. 6: 4.) "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves?' (2 Cor. 13:5.)

Let us not yield to any influence that would divert our loyalty to the truth. "We ought to obey God rather than men; and it was God, and not man, who commanded: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." If as professed gospel preachers we know that Masonry, divorce and remarriage for every cause, indecent dress, dancing, social drinking, gambling, church supported entertainment and recreation, church contributions to human institutions designed to do benevolent works belonging to the churches (as well as works that do not belong to the churches), centralization of funds and oversight in a work of many congregations, etc. are inconsistent with New Testament teaching, but refuse to speak out against these things because of pressure, or fear of what might befall us, we yield to the will of self and fail to pay the price required.

And let the audience be admonished also. You who listen from the pew have a cross to take up too. Are you willing to bear the full consequences of truth? or do you apologize when the truth disturbs the conscience of the guilty? Are you afraid the truth will be preached so plainly and with such force as to endanger your financial, social or political position? Or are you among those who really want others to know and accept the truth, but at the same time feel that it is best not to pinpoint sin, lest the guilty be offended? Dear reader, the truth has no apology to offer. The truth should be spoken kindly, but plainly. Until the wicked are aware of their wickedness they will not be led to repentance. Peter was specific when he said: ". . . whom he slew and hanged on a tree." (Acts 5:29.) It is our duty to speak the truth in the right attitude: whether the listener obeys it or goes away in a rage is his responsibility.

To be Christians we MUST accept the New Testament as our standard and remain true to it. To do so we must maintain (1) moral purity, (2) faithfulness in worship, (3) doctrinal soundness, and (4) diligence in good works. Whether it be a matter of immoral conduct, missing the assembly to entertain company, yielding to doctrinal corruptness when we know the truth or refusal to minister to man's needs either spiritual or physical, the will of self is exalted above the will of Christ. "I BESEECH you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1.