Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Low Cost of High-Cost Discipleship

 

Dr. Roger Fankhauser

Burleson Bible Church

 

We often hear in free grace circles that “salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.” I agree wholeheartedly. Following Jesus means making decisions that could cost me something – even if the cost is as small as choosing to use my time to pursue kingdom purposes rather than personal interests. It could cost minor persecution, severe persecution, or maybe even death. It could cost money and other possessions. It could cost loss of relationships with friends or family. The cost is indeed high, and we do need to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

 

Discipleship is costly, but I believe in the bigger picture it costs less to follow Jesus than to not follow Him. Here’s why. Discipleship is costly in the absolute sense only if we look at the costs in this life. In this life, the costs are, in fact, high. Sometimes very high. But when I look at the whole story, the benefits of following Jesus far outweighs the cost. No matter how high the cost.

 

Think of making a financial investment. Let’s say I put $500 per month into an IRA for my retirement. Does it cost me something? Absolutely! I have $500 per month less for going out to dinner, buying fishing tackle, making a car payment, or anything else. But you won’t hear me saying “my retirement is so costly,” even though it is. The obvious reason is that I am expecting the payoff down the road to significantly exceed the $500 per month I’ve placed in the IRA.

 

I think we should look at discipleship the same way. The return on my investment far outweighs the cost I pay to follow Jesus. Even Jesus viewed obedience this way. Read carefully the words in Hebrews 12:2,

 

“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)

 

The short term cost: “Endured the cross, despising the shame”

 

The long term return: “For the joy set before Him…. Has sat down at the right hand”

 

The cost to Jesus was more than I think I’ll ever understand. The cost was high – torture, death, bearing the weight of my sin. But the reward outweighed the pain.

 

What benefits result from our obedience? Bringing glory to God might be the greatest benefit. If He gave me nothing else, and somehow my obedience brings Him glory, the benefit still far outweighs the cost. But God gives us even more!

 

Every believer must face the Bema seat, as Paul writes:

 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10, NKJV)

 

We receive something positive for what we have done “good” in this life; and we receive something for what we have done “bad”. I don’t pretend to know what this negative side actually looks like, but it seems clear we receive a return on our investment for what we have done in this life, even some sort of loss for disobedience. By the way, lest anyone wonder, the “loss” is not speaking of our eternal salvation. We receive eternal life freely by faith alone in Christ alone. Our final destiny is by grace; our reward, on the other hand, is based on “what we have done”.

 

Positive reward for what is good; negative “reward” for what is bad. It seems the truly high cost of discipleship happens when we fail to faithfully follow here and now, no matter the short term cost. In the long run, I lose more than I gain by not following faithfully. I might well avoid some short term cost, but I lose any positive “return on my investment”.

 

To avoid turning this post into a book, let me simply list some of the other passages (in no particular order) that give benefits from faithful discipleship:

 

  • Reward: 1 Cor. 9:24-27
  • Freedom: John 8:31-32
  • Glorifying God: John 21:18-19, Acts 5:40, Acts 21:11-14, 1 Pet. 4:16
  • Pleasing God: Phil. 4:17-18
  • Building character: James 1:2-4
  • Experiencing abundant life / eternal life: Gal. 6:8
  • “Greater riches”: Hebrews 11:13, 24-26
  • Ministry opportunities: Acts 4:1ff, Acts 16:19ff

 

Is discipleship costly? Absolutely – here and now. But, when we look at the entire picture, the return on our faithfulness is so high, the truly high cost position happens when I fail to live as a disciple. When we talk of the cost of discipleship, let’s be sure to point out the benefits. In the long run, the real cost of high-cost discipleship is low!

 

“You see, the cost of following Jesus Christ is everything. But the rewards! Ah, the rewards are heavenly…. I want you to consider me not as an evangelist but as an investment counselor showing you how to make the ultimate investment, one that qualifies you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” (Mark Bailey, To Follow Him: The Seven Marks of a Disciple (p. 125))

Thursday, October 4, 2012

From the President


 

Dear FGA Members and Friends,

In just a few days the FGA national conference will convene in Irving, Texas. I must tell you that this year I believe we have an excellent field of speakers and workshop leaders.  The theme is “Discipleship in the Gospel of Luke”. This is such an important topic for us in the Free Grace Movement because our theology clearly emphasizes the distinction between what is necessary to gain the free gift of eternal life and the requirements to live a life of discipleship.  The gift is free, but discipleship is costly. There has been so much confusion as theologians and pastors seek to blend the two conditions together with the result that the freeness of the gospel is clouded and confused. This confusion leads to a charge of “easy believeism” or “cheap grace”- a charge and a caricature that we strongly reject.

At the conference we will hear from Dr. Dave Anderson, President of Grace School of Theology, Dr. Charlie Bing, Dr. Jody Dillow, Bob Tebow, Dr. Tom Constable, Dr. Brian Fisher and special guest, Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Seminary. Mark will also be the speaker at the FGA banquet. There are many others who will join us as we seek to examine what it means to live a life of submission to our Lord Jesus.

I want to remind you that the FGA is an Alliance of pastors, educators, missionaries, evangelists, and leaders who hold to Free Grace Theology. We are an Association of Christian men and women who seek to encourage, educate and connect to fulfill the great commission, as we make disciples with a clear understanding of the difference between evangelization and edification.

Many of our members have been busy this past year researching and writing. Let me mention a few new resources to you.

  • John Correia has written an excellent primer on Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism entitled Refreshing Grace Gods Will Our Will. This is a great tool to introduce people to the issue of election and free will and an excellent overview of these theological systems.
  •  Dr. Jody Dillow has completed his new edition of Reign of the servant Kings entitled Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings. It is twice as long as the early edition (1130pages) and has a complete update of the first edition with many new chapters. Don’t miss this great resource.
  •  Marty Cauley has finished his massive 2 volume, 1200 page tome titled, The Outer Darkness.
  • Keith Krell has had his Ph.D. dissertation published titled Temporal Judgment and the Church- Paul's Remedial Agenda in 1 Corinthians. This is an excellent work on the theology of judgment in the life of believers.
  • Mark Spencer has a new book out that provides an expositional overview of theological conclusions regarding evangelism and discipleship. It is titled A Moment in Time and it is an excellent resource to give people for an overview of Free Grace Theology through clear exposition of the Bible.
  • G. Gordon Olson has revised his book, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism.
  • The Faith That Saves: The Nature of Faith in the New Testament written by myself and John Correia has been newly published by Wipf and Stock. 
  • There is also a collection of essays on Free Grace Theology titled Freely by His Grace: Classical Free Grace Theology.  The book is edited by Roy Zuck and many FGA members have contributed selections on issues of Free Grace Theology.
        
There are many other projects that are in process that will also help provide you with excellent tools in your study of the Bible and Theology, and as you seek to lead people into a clear understanding of the issues of salvation and sanctification.

If you are unable to come to the FGA conference we will have the recorded sessions available for you to purchase along with other books and resources through the FGA book store. Let me invite you to browse the store and the website, www.FreeGraceAlliance.com.   I think you will find some helpful resources.

If we can help you with theological questions or ministry opportunities please send me an email. If you are not yet a member of the FGA let me invite you to sign up at www.freegracealliance.com/join. I believe that the FGA as an alliance and association will be encouraging to you personally and be of benefit to your ministry.

Serving him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President