Need to Count the Cost
The Most Oft-Neglected Element of Our Gospel Presentations
No, I have not done an "official" study of what doctrinal truths we most leave out of our gospel presentations. And since 98% of statistics are made up on the spot, I'll say that a majority of gospel presentations leave out this crucial element. What do we often leave out of evangelism? The necessity of telling people to "count the cost".
Sadly, to my own shame I've been guilty of this. I fail to warn people of the difficult parts of following Christ. Yes, I've shared with them the basic gospel message that ends with their proper response - repentance and faith, but I haven't been faithful enough to then tell them what to expect, like Jesus did (Matt 8:20, 16:24-25; Lk 14:26-27). Our Lord basically asked people who made quick and emotional decisions to follow him whether or not they were sure. Jesus wasn't trying to keep them from the Kingdom of God. Jesus was seeking to keep them from thinking they were a part of the kingdom when they really weren't. They needed to understand exactly what they were signing up for. In evangelism, it's important to tell people about all of the blessings of being in God's family, but we cannot forget to tell them about all of the challenges. I believe that there are some common reasons that we fail to call people to this type of consideration.
1. We are afraid of losing a potential convert. We don't want to take them down the road of understanding the gospel only to lose them in the final mile. We tell them all of the good parts about following Christ, but we ignore the whole "take up your cross" thing. This all boils down to a failure, on our part, to trust in the Lord. It's incumbent upon us to give them an accurate representation of the Christian life. If we believe that God is sovereign in salvation, He will draw them to His Son (Jn 6:44). What's more is that He will use this "counting the cost" to invigorate them as they march into battle for Christ. A person who is told to count the cost and decides not to follow Christ at least isn't deceived that they are ok with God, when they are still the object of His impending judgment.
2. We want results and we want them now. We no longer need to wait a week to get pictures developed and we no longer need to kill, skin, and cook dinner to eat it. If we want something, we can have it almost immediately. Modern technology is amazing. However, God's timetable for regenerating a heart is not always our timetable. You may have tried to share the gospel with somebody in the past and been so encouraged by your first meeting. Maybe you've even been reading the Bible with them for a few weeks walking them through God's plan of salvation. They're asking questions. They're excited, reading, showing up, and then all of a sudden seem to totally lose interest. The car was going 80mph, and now it's all of a sudden it's down to 10mph. Jesus, Himself slowed the car down in His gospel presentations. He would say "Come to Me", "Drink", "Believe", "Knock", and then He would shift back down to first gear and say in essence, "Are you sure?". This portion of our gospel presentation is where we have given them the message of salvation, told them of what the Christian life will likely be like, and then we ask them to stop and think before they trust in Him for all of eternity. This only seems reasonable. J.C. Ryle said it well in Holiness
"I am bold to say that it would be well if the duty of counting the cost were more frequently taught than it is. Impatient hurry is the order of the day with many religionists. Instantaneous conversions, and immediate sensible peace, are the only results they seem to care for from the gospel. Compared with these, all other things are thrown into the shade. To produce them is the grand end and object, apparently, of all their labors. I say without hesitation that such a naked, one–sided mode of teaching Christianity is mischievous in the extreme.
Let no one mistake my meaning. I thoroughly approve of offering men a full, free, present, immediate salvation in Christ Jesus. I thoroughly approve of urging on man the possibility and the duty of immediate instantaneous conversion. In these matters I give place to no one. But I do say that these truths ought not to be set before men nakedly, singly and alone. They ought to be told honestly what it is they are taking up if they profess a desire to come out from the world and serve Christ. They ought not to be pressed into the ranks of Christ’s army without being told what the warfare entails. In a word, they should be told honestly to count the cost."
3. We will discourage them. You don't buy a car from the guy who says, "Yeah, she'll probably let you down quite a bit, so never leave home without your AAA card." Jesus didn't seem to understand how to "close the deal". Instead of saving the best part at the end, He told potential disciples of promised trouble. Most people left when He told them about the daily death to self. Based on human logic, this type of message would be discouraging to somebody who considers giving their life to Christ. However when Jesus presented these truths to His true disciples they jumped in with both feed and subsequently turned the world upside down for Him.
It's good to come to Christ and to actually need Him daily as you live in this sin-cursed world. When we tell people of the upcoming difficulties, we are not only warning them of future pain, but we are pointing them to the only Rock who can be their fortress, the only Light that can guide, and the only Father who trains and protects. When we tell them to count the cost, we are showing them that Christ will always be enough for them. This is the truth that motivates and encourages a new disciple.
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