Sunday, October 9, 2011

The High Cost of a Free Gift

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8

The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 6:23

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. -2 Corinthians 9:15

Life itself is free- life abundant and eternal. In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of justification, righteousness, and life as "the free gift" and "the gift by grace" (5:15-18) and declares that while "the wages of sin is death ... the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Salvation is offered only as God's free gift to men. It must so be received.

All who propose to bargain with God for a place in his Kingdom will be disappointed. The gifts of God are not for sale. To Simon of Samaria, who supposed, that the gift of the fullness of the Spirit could be purchased with money, Peter replied, "Thy money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20).

Salvation is God's gift to undeserving men. We have but to ask to receive. "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink," said Jesus to the woman of Sychar, "you would have asked him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10). The last invitation in the Bible is our risen Savior's gracious appeal, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). "...take...freely!" The water of life may be had for the taking. What good news for impoverished sinners!

Does salvation, then, cost nothing? Indeed, nothing in all the universe has cost so much. It cost the Father the sacrifice of his uniquely begotten Son, in whom He was well pleased, on Golgotha's tree where was "laid on him the iniquity of us all," that he who was without sin might be "made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in hum ... the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."

It cost Jesus the patient pursuit of the path of obedience; finally unto death, even the death of the cross where "he bore our sins in his body on the tree" and "his body was made an offering for sin," putting him into the grave and drawing from him the anguished cry that marked the wretched bitterness of the cup of his Father's appointing, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Not all the angels of heaven can declare the cost of the glorious salvation which God in grace offers as is free gift to undeserving sinners.

But though salvation is God's gracious gift to spiritual paupers, the acceptance of the gift, like its provision, is costly. It costs the renunciation of self and of much that men hold dear. Paul, who gladly paid the cost, expressed it in such statements as, "I am crucified in Christ ... To me to live is Christ ... What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Indeed, I do count all things but loss for the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...." One cannot accept Christ and his salvation on lesser terms than the complete surrender of self to him. No man can accept Jesus as Savior of his entire being without accepting Him as Lord of his life.

The Gospel of Christ, though a comfortable Word, is in a sense "a hard gospel." Jesus warned His hearers that the cost of discipleship is dear. In Luke 14:25-35 is recorded an instance in His ministry which seems virtually to be ignored in this day of easy discipleship:

"There went great multitudes with him: and he turned and said unto them, 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 does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple" (vv. 25-27). Count the cost, warned Jesus, and be sure you intend to finish (vv. 28-30). Salt is good only as it retains its savor (vv:34-35). The price of discipleship is high. "What king," asked Jesus, "going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador and desires conditions of peace" (vv:31,32).

The "condition of peace" granted by a king to a lesser king who dared not meet him in battle was total submission. The lesser king became his vassal, paying tribute, with himself and all his possessions subject to the command of his lord. "So likewise," said Jesus, "whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple" (v. 33).

The lordship of Jesus over self, life, and possessions must be acknowledged if we are to know him as Savior. All must be surrendered to Him who gave his all for us. He who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden," said also, "Take my yoke upon you." We cannot find rest for our souls in him unless we take his yoke upon us. "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone," said Jesus, "shall be broken" (Matthew 21:44). Casting ourselves upon the Rock of our salvation involves a painful breaking of self. But the alternative is fearful: "On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." We must fall and be broken, or be fallen upon and forever crushed.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach "repentance and remission of sins in his name" (Luke 24:47). There is no remission apart from repentance. And repentance involves the whole of life. It is concerned, not merely with sorrow for the past, but even more with our intention for the future. It is the abandoning of our own selfish way to go God's way in obedience and fellowship with him.

We cannot accept Christ as Savior apart from a definite change of mind, heart, and will; involving the whole of life; and all our affections and intentions. There must be full surrender to the lordship of Christ, a sincere acceptance of his yoke.

Only a dying man can be saved "just like the dying thief." This does not mean that God has different plans of salvation for different people, according to their circumstances. It means only that, at whatever point in life one comes to Christ for salvation, the whole of life from that point onward is necessarily involved in his decision and must be surrendered to the lordship of the Savior. Had the thief on the cross met Jesus in the midst of life rather than as a dying man at the gates of death, he would have been confronted with the grave demands of Jesus which he frequently declared as the irreducible terms of discipleship for all who would know and follow him. There can be no reception of Christ as Savior apart from a full commitment of oneself to Him.

Salvation costs men nothing ... and everything.

The Christian, to be sure, begins his new life in Christ as a babe. He needs time and nurture for development. He has much to learn in his new life. He lacks understanding and may stumble frequently, displaying spiritual immaturity in many ways. But the windows of his heart will be open toward the Sun of Righteousness, and the basic orientation of his life will be towards God. He will acknowledge, however imperfectly, the lordship of Christ over his heart and life.

A long lifetime will not suffice to teach us all that is involved in true discipleship. But though at best our devotion and obedience will be quite imperfect, they nevertheless must be real and sincere if Jesus is to be our personal Savior. Solemn indeed are the words of Jesus, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends; if we do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:13,14) "He that saith, I know him, and keeps not his commandments," declares John, "is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Submission to the lordship of Jesus is not optional for men who would know Him as Savior.

It costs to follow Jesus. The emblem of our faith is the cross. There was one for Jesus. There was one for Peter. There is one, too, for everyone who would follow Jesus. "If any man will come after me," said Jesus, "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. For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26).

The gift of salvation is costly. It cost God more than heaven can declare. It cost Jesus the cross. It costs everyone who receives it the total submission of self in the acceptance of the rightful claims of Jesus on the lives and souls who would be his for time and eternity.

-From "Life in the Son" by Robert Shank, with edits where necessary by Keenan Lyon

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