My apologies for delving into 'religion' again, but I don't hear this talked about enough. So, I'm going to tonight. I hope I don't lose too many readers for making this post. Many of you know that I'm sometimes more transparent than most people, and I speak what's on my mind. As some would say, maybe too much, especially since this blog gives me an easy outlet (I'm better at typing my thoughts than speaking them). I do it with the full knowledge that I might look a little foolish to people that 'have it all together', but I gave up on impressing that demographic a long time ago. When I see this post title start showing up on the various feed readers, I know I'm watching part of my reputation go down the drain. That's part of the cost that I'm about to talk about.
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:25-33
Jesus said it Himself - "Count the cost".
The biggest misconceptions about making a decision to believe in and follow Christ are as follows:
Everything starts working out for you in your personal and business life.
All of your life's problems are solved.
You get all of the answers to difficult questions.
All of your weaknesses, bad habits and human nature vanish.
You spend every waking moment happy and upbeat.
Life generally gets easier to handle.
I hate to break this to prospective Christians, but those are all false assumptions. These are the benefits of following Christ:
All of your sins against God are forgiven.
You escape eternal punishment.
You get to spend eternity in heaven.
Notice the difference in those two lists. One is all about life here on earth. The other is about life afterward.
This December 9, I will pass the 15 year mark on my decision for Christ, made during my freshman year of college. After 15 years, I have had quite a journey - and sometimes struggle - and can say that becoming a Christian has not improved my life here on earth (now before I get taken to task by other Christians for that statement, hear me out first). As a matter of fact, it has been the single most costly and difficult decision I have ever made, and staying on the path continues to cost me dearly. The price seems even to increase over time.
The reason for the cost is because I take it seriously. Taken seriously, being a Christian will cost you - no exceptions. In fact, I'd say if there has never been a cost for you as a Christian, something is wrong. Unless of course, you are a Christian who is willing to reject some of Christ's teachings, in which case you can probably make a pretty good life for yourself here on earth. But if you're willing to reject Christ's teachings with impunity, there is not much support for your faith being real to begin with (and that's another post altogether).
No signs on earth
The reason many people get hung up on Christianity is because they want to see circumstances change here on earth. And most of the time, they don't. There is not much to see here on earth, Jesus even said there 'would be no sign' for those looking for one. But that's not where the focus of being a Christian is. Being a Christian is about getting your eternity taken care of, not your earthly life. Just think of the people who have died, and are dying still today, for their faith in Christ. Some were tortured, starved and abused. Then they died a miserable death. Things didn't get better or work out for them in the end, at least not in a worldly sense.
Some Christians start businesses that fail, and they lose all they have. Christians get murdered, robbed and scammed. Christians get betrayed, get into accidents, get cancer, get shot, lose their jobs, get their electricity shut off, get slandered and rejected. Does that prove God isn't real because "those things aren't supposed to happen to believers"? No. Being a Christian does not exempt you from the dangers and pitfalls of life, as the Bible says, 'rain falls on both the just and the unjust'. God has the power, but not the obligation, to protect and bless His followers on earth. The real benefit of following Christ comes after this life is over. God does provide earthly blessings if He so chooses, but there is no promise to that effect simply for being a Christian. God does not owe us anything! The promise we do have is in eternity, and eternity is infinitely more important than this life.
So becoming a Christian means that God will 'bless' my career or business? No. God does not promise success on earth for following Christ and doing things right, He only promises 'success' after this life is over. Following Christ does mean I have to play by the rules in everything I do - which let me tell you, costs me dearly. I pay for all of the software I use. I report all income I receive to the IRS. I don't make promises I know I might not be able to keep. I'm not sitting here patting myself on the back, because I'm not perfect. If you put my life under a microscope (no, actually you won't even need glasses) you'll find plenty of faults. I'm saying that I've done those things to try and stay true to Biblical principles, and I still struggle with trying to get ahead every day. God may choose to bless my career, or He may not - either way, He is under no obligation! There is no promise that says do things right, and God will repay you with success. My ADD (or whatever it is) keeps me from being successful in business (getting beyond the 'just getting by' stage), and probably will for the rest of my life. While God may someday give me the means to be successful, I have no promise that being a Christian will help me overcome my earthly problems. That's not why Christ came to save me.
Being successful is not a sin. Being wealthy, happily married, in good health and living a long life does not imply an insincere commitment to following Christ. God can and does bless Christians with those things. What the Bible does tell us is that they are not promises for being a believer. Don't expect them, and don't use it against God if they don't happen for you.
After such a depressing post, now for the good part. Nonetheless, I am blessed - not because of anything I do, but because the Lord is being gracious to me - He doesn't owe me anything in life. He doesn't owe me anything, I deserve nothing - but He still provides and still gives. And as incredibly hard as it is to be a Christian, there is no place else I would rather be - as the Steven Curtis Chapman song says "No better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven". There is no one else that can provide forgiveness of sins other than Christ. Who or where else am I going to go for that? I may have a struggle here on earth, but in the end everything will be fine for me whan this life is over. All of us will have to face the end of earthly life eventually - from that point on, it is nice to know where you're headed and what to expect. The relief in knowing I'm OK for eternity outweighs the costs I have to pay here on earth.
So why follow Christ?
Jesus was not God's arbitrary 'pick' as a figure to force everyone to "believe in, or else". Jesus came to solve a problem - which is our sin. He was the only person who could voluntarily take our place and satisfy God's requirement for sin to be punished. The price for our sin had to be paid, and He paid it on our behalf on the cross. He asks now that we turn to Him and follow Him to obtain the benefit of His taking our place. The Bible says that all of us are sinners. That includes me! This is not a "righteous Christians versus lowly sinners" thing - we are all in the same boat, we all need to be saved.
The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:
You contiue to amaze me, son. I pray every day love will find you and you will have all that you have hoped for. - Posted by Mom
Well said, Dan. You're a strong Christian and a blessing to all who know you. :) - Posted by Rob from Hampton, VA
Dan this is a really great post. I love it because it shows the humility of a Christian. Even with all that we go through, thank GOD that we know where we'll end up!
Our pastor recently preached on Luke 14:25-33 and it really hit home for me. A lot of people get thrown off on that passage. How could a loving God want us to hate those closest to us? God loves us, and wants us to love him SO much, that compared to our love for Him, it would appear that we hate our loved ones. That is SO powerful. But even still, there is simply no greater love than His love for us. He knows the desires of our hearts, and I truly believe God wants to see us happy and to succeed. You are an inspiration for Rob and I, and we truly value you and will keep you in our prayers daily, friend! We can't wait to get back to WV to hang out like we used to! - Posted by Jes from Hampton, VA
Dan, I just came across your site, looking for inspiration and direction from the Holy spirit which has led me here to your page. Thank You Brother.....sending you a Big ALOHA from Hawaii> God Bless You - Posted by Thomas Park from Hawaii
Thank you very much for an honest and well written post.It is refreshing to read something different and know that some people actually try to follow the narrow road.You tell it as it is and it is appreciated. - Posted by Peter from England