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December 13, 2010

"That is why he warned people to 'count the cost' ..."

Count The Cost

Sounds ominous - especially considering this came afterwards -

"For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die..."

"As you have testified about me in ____, so you must also testify about me in ____." ... "had no idea what that meant ... but ... decided he would remain with him regardless of the danger."

The 1st quote above - that's something I was reading Friday afternoon. The other two are from something I read Saturday night.

After reading the 2nd set of quotes - I knew I had to write something about this. It was kind of scary - didn't know whether this was going to apply to me - or maybe to someone reading this site. I still don't know.

But - the sermon in church on Sunday reminded me that either way - whoever this is intended for - it's not scary. Maybe not "easy" - but not scary either.

So - here we go -

That 1st one is from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. It comes from Chapter 31 <Counting The Cost>, from which this article title comes -

That is why He warned people to 'count the cost' before becoming Christians. 'Make no mistake; He says, 'if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect-until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'

Yet - this is the other and equally important side of it - this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make to-morrow to do the simplest duty. As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby's first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, 'God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.'

Mere Christianity is C. S. Lewis' book that gets down to what are the basics of Christianity - the things that pretty much every Protestant denomination believes in - the essence of Christianity, without the things that divide different churches.

The other quotes come from Luke's Story, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins - which is a fictional (but possible) telling of how Luke came to write his Gospel and the Book of Acts.

The first quote from Luke's Story comes from page 204 -

"Paul listened passively, and when they were finished, he said, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

Luke had to admit that none of the prophecies said the Spirit was telling Paul not to proceed. They merely foretold what would happen to him.

Given what was foretold - many were obviously trying to persuade Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

He did go - was nearly killed, and ended up in custody, when the final quotes came in this sequence on page 208 -

When Luke visited him that night, he was struck to find Paul dejected and in need of encouragement, so he prayed for him. Paul told him later in the night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

Luke had no idea what that meant, when they might go, or how long Paul might be restrained there. But taking heart from Paul, who had become his brave mentor in the faith, Luke decided he would remain with him regardless of the danger.

So if things weren't bad enough - Paul is being told that he will be going to Rome to also preach the salvation of Jesus. That's like going from the frying pan into the fire.

OK - at this point - you may be saying that these are both just books - one a theology book from someone who was at this point in his life a Christian - although after much effort of trying to not be one. And - the other is Christian "fiction" - which although based on history and the Bible - is essentially one possible way that things could have taken place - although not necessarily so at all.

So - as I always say - let's go back to the relevant verses of the Bible from which these came.

BTW - as you read these - consider this - all of the verses are from Luke (not surprising for Luke's Story - but even from C. S. Lewis) - coincidence - irony - or Planned?

The C. S. Lewis quote about counting the cost - is from Luke 14:25-35 -

The Cost of Being a Disciple

Lk 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Lk 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Lk 14:31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Lk 14:34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Specifically, the quote comes from verse 28 - but the whole series is a number of ways that Jesus tells us to be sure that we are truly prepared to pay the cost - that we are really willing to do what He calls is to do.

And what is He asking us to do?

Also from Mere Christianity -

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says `Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'

Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, 'Take up your Cross'- in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden light.' He means both. And one can just see why both are true.

He wants all? Everything? Seriously?

From Luke 9:18-27 -

Peter’s Confession of Christ

Lk 9:18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

Lk 9:19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

Lk 9:20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Lk 9:21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Lk 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

All. Everything. Seriously.

And from these statements by Jesus - we can see why Paul is willing to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

One thing to notice here though - Paul is not yet in prison. While he is on his way to Jerusalem, he's not worried about himself - he's more concerned that the other Christians are asking him to not listen to God - to not go to Jerusalem.

In case you didn't notice / realize the importance of Luke's reaction to this in the book -

Luke had to admit that none of the prophecies said the Spirit was telling Paul not to proceed. They merely foretold what would happen to him.

Was this observation by Luke actually recorded in the Bible? Let's look at Acts 21:1-16 which takes place when Paul is about to travel from Ephesus to Jerusalem -

On to Jerusalem

Ac 21:1 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

Ac 21:7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Ac 21:10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”

Ac 21:12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

So no - Luke's observation is not there - not explicitly.

However - that doesn't make it any less valid.

How can we know this? From another part of Luke - where Jesus was talking to His disciples about things to come in Luke 12:1-12 -

Warnings and Encouragements

Lk 12:1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Lk 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Lk 12:8 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

Lk 12:11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

This fits Paul's situation exactly.

Not only is the Holy Spirit guiding him - it will also tell him what to say when he gets to Jerusalem.

So Luke is right - as we all would be - to listen to the Holy Spirit - and to be led by Him.

But - things change a bit when Paul reaches Jerusalem - is nearly killed - and is now told that he must go to Rome and preach the Gospel as well. After that happens, Luke's Story says -

When Luke visited him that night, he was struck to find Paul dejected and in need of encouragement, so he prayed for him.

So now the book has Paul being down - and Luke praying for him. Is that in the Bible? Let's look at Acts 22:30 - 23:11 - where this takes place after a day of Paul testifying before the Jewish leaders -

Before the Sanhedrin

Ac 22:30 The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.

Ac 23:1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

Ac 23:4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?”

Ac 23:5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’’”

Ac 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)

Ac 23:9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

Ac 23:11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

Nope - Luke praying for Paul wasn't there either.

So - why do the authors put this in the book - is there a reason for it? Do people like Paul really need encouragement?

From Luke 22:31-34 - which is right after Jesus broke bread and passed the wine at the Last Supper, He had the following conversation with Peter -

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Lk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.

Maybe they do! Peter says he's willing to die for Jesus - but when we have Satan asking to sift us as wheat - that's pretty hard to stand up to by ourselves.

We need the power of God to be able to hold up against something like that. And sometimes we need others to remind us - and to pray for us.

I believe that's the message that the authors are trying to give with this sequence of Luke praying for Paul. And people did pray for Paul - as in Acts 21:1 above.

What we have in the end then - we need to listen for the Holy Spirit - God leading us. We need a community of other Christians - to both provide support for and to receive support from. And - we need to be willing to do what the Spirit calls us to do - with the help of both the community and God.

We cannot do it alone - we need God's power.

We also seem to be really good at getting away from God when we are apart from His people for too long - and apart from His word for too long.

The choice would be which god - the god of "ourselves", where we think we can do everything on our own - or the God of the Bible who calls us to be members of His church body - to have community. For this one - we leave Luke and look at Matthew 18:19-20 -

Mt 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Which "god" are you choosing?

To me - the big unanswered question here - who is this message for? Specifically - why do I feel I need to be writing this now?

I don't know - but it's a feeling I can't ignore.

It made me really nervous Saturday night - feeling like something's going to happen to someone.

But then Sunday - part of the message in the Sermon was something that I know - and have written about - but needed a reminder - that no matter what happens here in this life - it IS for God's glory - and it's such a short life compared to eternity with God in Heaven - and no matter what else -

John 14:23-31 -

Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

Matthew 18:16-20 -

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”