Count the Cost

The Parable of the Banquet speaks of grace. And God’s grace is pictured in the parables of Luke 15. But grace, though free, is not cheap, as Jesus points out in Luke 14:15–35. It is costly to God, who provides it in his Son, and it is costly for you, who walk by faith in the Son of God. God calls you to put him first, regardless of the consequences.

Count the cost of discipleship. Jesus demands priority. Hatred of parents may be seen as relatively normal in our culture, but it was (and still is) shocking in the Middle East. Jesus is not abrogating the 5th and 6th Commandments. He is not suggesting rebellion or suicide. Rather, Jesus requires that he be first in your life, so unquestioningly that relationships with others is compared to hatred, see Matthew 10:37, 38. Because Jesus is God incarnate, the commitment required by the First Commandment is a commitment we owe to him.

“[T]he ‘love’ which Jesus demands in the gospel is based on a radical choice. Properly speaking, it is another word for ‘conversion.’ It consists in the complete surrender of the will, in being at the disposal of the Lord in the same way as is a slave.

Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 316
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Out with the Old!

We begin our worship service with words of welcome. But now for some words of exclusion — if you are not a sinner, you are welcome to leave. Why? Because Colossians 3:5–11 calls sinners to repent, and Paul’s letter is addressed not to agnostics and atheists (though if anyone listening is struggling with those concepts, you are welcome to keep listening), but to the holy and faithful ones at Colosse. Before you get up and leave, remember that Paul has just told you some pretty heady stuff in Colossians 3:1–4. Since you are united with your Savior, your life really belongs in heaven with him. Don’t forget that there are some very practical implications! You need to put your sin to death.

Out with the old! Get rid of what belongs to the earth, to the old self.You have been raised with Christ. Recognize that sinful activities contradict that relationship with him. Note Paul’s pastoral approach: he does not say, I hear that there are certain serious sins among you, I’m wondering if you are really regenerated? Instead he tells you who and where you are as you are untied to Christ by faith, and then points out what follows from that. These things must be removed from your life. Spot these sins for what they are. Don’t minimize or justify them. We recognize some of these sins as very evil. But we tend to overlook “minor” things like greed and lying. These sinful activities bring the wrath of God down upon those who practice them. God’s people are not free from sin. Look at David’s terrible sin! Temptation in his heart led to horrendous abuse of his royal power, exploitation, and then to murder. Luke 18 records Jesus telling the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, both of whom went to the temple to pray. The tax collector confessed his sins — and was forgiven, while the Pharisee, who saw no need for repentance, was not justified. You need to be busy about the business of the slaughterhouse. The struggle against sin is not easy. (That is one of the reasons Christ gave you the sacraments—to assure you of his sustaining grace.)

“Paul is saying in ef­fect, do not practise those sins which are after the pattern of the old man but be­have as new men, as indeed you are.”

John Murray, Princi­ples of Conduct, p. 214
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Seeing the Lord

What does it take to see the Lord? Especially, what is essential to seeing him in the last day? What does it take to see him, not as the Judge condemning you, but as your Shepherd, as your Redeemer, welcoming you into his eternal presence?

Strive for holiness. Holiness is essential for seeing God. Were I to suggest that essential for seeing the Lord is holiness, the reaction might be, “that sounds like basing salvation on works.” The response to “ How good do I have to be to get into heaven?” is “better than you can be — 100% obedient. We very properly recoil from the suggestion that our works have any meritorious role in our salvation .That was something learned afresh at the time of the Protestant Reformation. And yet Hebrews 12:14 tells you: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Sanctification is sometimes reduced to simply being fruit and evidence of justification. Scripture treats sanctification as something distinct from, something in addition to, and thus decidedly more than just fruit and evidence of justification. Parallel to repentance, sanctification is never the ground or basis for your justification, but it is something that is an essential part of belonging to Christ. The author of Hebrews is no less clear than Paul that our salvation rests on nothing that we do or are, but only on Christ himself: “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” Heb. 7:27. The Holy Spirit, through Hebrews, is calling you to turn from self-righteousness and to trust in Christ alone for salvation.

“Sanctification has es­pecial regard to God. Even though the whole world blazes with war, we must not let go of sanctification because it is the chain which binds us in union with God…. No one can see God without sancti­fication since we shall only see God with eyes that have been re­newed according to his image.”

John Calvin, Com­mentary on Hebrews, at 12:14
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The Keys of the Kingdom

A parent hands Johnny or Susan the keys to the car. With that simple act goes a great deal of responsibility and stewardship. The keys that Jesus gives his church (Matthew 16:18–19 and 18:18) have much greater responsibility attached.

The King builds his church. The King has come, establishing his kingdom. Matthew’s Gospel proclaims the coming of the true King of Israel. The Old Testament describes the establishment of God’s kingdom, and anticipates the fullness of it. It looks forward to the trees rejoicing, the nations sounding God’s praise, the islands and deserts proclaiming God’s grace (Isaiah 42). The parables focus on the kingdom. The miracles are not just “wow!” events, but they put in visible form the reality of the blessing proclaimed verbally in the teaching and preaching of the kingdom. The kingdom is present because the King himself is there.

“The Church, in short, is a present manifestation of the Kingdom of God and in her the Kingdom’s transforming power operates and from her its life and blessedness flows to form an oasis in the desert of this world’s sin and mis­ery, darkness and death, to which the thirsty traveler may come and drink deeply at the well-springs of salvation.”

Raymond O. Zorn, Church and Kingdom, p.81
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Your Crucified, Risen, Ascended Lord Saves You!

How can we who have sinned against God, we who are unrighteous, come into the presence of a holy God, a God who is too holy to tolerate sin? 1 Peter 3:18–22 focuses on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. He also points you to the way that God makes visible the reality of Christ’s work.

Christ died for you. Christ died once. Christ’s death is unique. It cannot be repeated. Christ died once for all. His death is sufficient. It accomplished what it set out to do.

The righteous died for the unrighteous. Christ died because of sins. It was your rebellion and disobedience that made his suffering and death necessary. He died in your place. The substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel.

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