BY REV. DAVID SCUDDER
My faithful readers know that I often talk about how amazing it is that Jesus paid for our forgiveness on the Cross. That’s because the Bible clearly states this truth: “For by grace you have been saved [from the penalty of sin] through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Also see 2 Timothy 1:9.
In other words, not one person who makes it into heaven will ever be able to brag about what they did to get there.
Erasing our sin debt cost Jesus a lot, yet we don’t pay anything for the forgiveness He offers. If that eternal forgiveness is absolutely free, have you ever wondered why anyone would turn it down? I think I know why.
Think about it. Most of us realize that accepting a valuable gift from someone puts us under some obligation to that person. In the back of our minds, we realize that we owe them a debt. If they later ask us to do something for them, we may feel like we ought to do it just because we are in their debt.
If we embrace Christ’s wonderful, free gift of salvation, it naturally follows that we will feel obligated to serve Him. Because Jesus actually suffered the hell we deserve for us, He has the right to control our lives. The Bible words it this way: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [Jesus has already presented His body for us!] a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
Jesus warned us to think about the consequences of following Him before we make that decision. “Whoever does not carry his own cross [i.e. be willing to die] and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:27–30).
Many people have decided to follow Jesus knowing that it might cost them everything. Here are some examples of well-known Christians who were willing to do this. These are people who are talked about in the Bible, but the accounts of their deaths are from secular history. Matthew was murdered with a sword. Mark died when he was dragged through the streets of Alexandria. Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece. John was thrown into boiling oil, but miraculously survived, and then was banished to the Roman penal colony on the island of Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded in Jerusalem. James, the son of Alphaeus, was pushed off a high point of the Temple, and then was beaten to death. Bartholomew was flayed alive. Andrew was tied to a cross where he proclaimed the Gospel of Christ until he died. Thomas was run through with a spear. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthias was stoned and then beheaded. Barnabas was stoned to death. Paul, after suffering many different tortures, was beheaded in Rome by Emperor Nero.
Following Jesus is NOT just another Sunday morning religion. Following Jesus is going to cost you something. You may lose some friends. You may lose some money because you won’t do anything dishonest. You may have to leave the religion you are comfortable in because they don’t worship Christ as He is taught in the Bible. After you think about what following Jesus may cost you, are you sure you still want to follow Him? I hope so!
Jesus said, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Coming to Jesus Christ means knowing that He has earned the right to be your master because He made you and died for you. That’s what the worship in heaven is all about. “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Are you willing to embrace Christ’s free forgiveness knowing that it may cost you everything? Is Jesus worth that to you?
Bethel Chapel Church is located at the corner of K & Lycoming Streets in Juniata Park. Website: http://www.BethelChapelChurch.com — You can email Rev. Scudder at DaveBethel@gmail.com — His column appears weekly in the Juniata News.