“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.” –Luke 14:26-33
So how can salvation be a gift and yet come with a price? As American consumers we are too accustomed to “having it all,” and so each Christmas we just add new toys to our storage bins, only discarding those things that have lost their appeal. We believe we can both eat the proverbial cake and yet simultaneously save it for later. But God’s gift requires an exchange. It would be like winning a brand new car, but being required to trade in our old vehicle—which happens to be a broken scooter. Or being given a mansion to live in, but having to turn in the keys to our current home—which happens to be a cardboard box. It is hardly a shrewd transaction on God’s part, which is what makes it such a gracious and great exchange. It is a gift so valuable that to not require a sacrifice would demean its value.
But we are tempted to refuse the exchange when we realize that we have to also abandon our cherished, shabby blanket and grocery cart of fond memories, forgetting that these too are shadows of God’s gracious gifts (Jam 1:17).
But we can hardly cling to Christ alone and serve Him with all our hearts (1Sa 12:24) if our fists are full of other things (Luke 16:13). To walk towards the promised land, we must leave behind Egypt (Exo 20:6)—especially in our hearts (Acts 7:39). And to enter that land, we must willingly and faithfully follow our deliverer through the wilderness (Num 32:11-12). We cannot just long to be free of suffering and slavery. We must forsake the plentiful gifts of this world (Exo 16:3) in order to free up hands of faith to lay hold of treasures above (1Ti 6:17-19).
And so every idol must be torn down and destroyed (Deu 7:5-6; 2Ch 14:2-5) in order for worship of the Lord to commence (Jdg 6:25-26). All our ambitious dreams and expectations of establishing permanent settlement here on earth must be forsaken (Luke 12:16-21; Phi 2:3; Jam 4:14-15) (ex: Mat 4:20; 9:9). We are but travelers (1Pe 1:17), emissaries (2Co 5:20), foreign soldiers (2Ti 2:3) and citizens of a kingdom not of this world (Phi 3:20; John 18:36). We must renounce all our possessions (Mat 19:21), and learn to be content even if all we have is food and clothing (1Ti 6:8).
“As Jesus looked at [the young man], he felt love for him and said, ‘You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.” – Mark 10:21-22
Do not be foolish and cling to your cardboard box. Leave behind the basket of meager trinkets you have gathered. Pick up your cross and follow Him wherever He leads. A mansion awaits.