How much does Heaven, eternal life, salvation cost? I know, I know, I can already hear the responses being typed based solely on the title alone:
“Salvation is free!”
“There is nothing we can do to earn it!”
“It is the free gift of God!”
Yes. Those things are all true. The Bible says it best, in fact:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Rom 6.23
The wages, the just reward for sin (any and all sin) is eternal, spiritual death. Since we have all sinned, that is what we deserve. So God intervened with the work of Jesus, with redemption, and gives us a way out, a free gift, salvation that we cannot earn or merit on our own accord. But we misunderstand and misrepresent this free gift. More often than not, we want to give an excuse for disobedient Christians, and we separate “being a disciple” from “being saved”. We think that if we can intellectually convince someone to understand, agree, to want Heaven eternally and believe that Jesus is the only way, that is salvation and obedience comes later. We want them to sign on the dotted line, to walk the isle and get their bases covered, and hopefully someday someone will “disciple” them.
Jesus, however, when He preached the Gospel, when He invited people to follow Him, when He offered this “free gift”, he painted a very different picture:
“Whoever does not carry his own cross 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.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
– Luke 14.27-33
Jesus tells people who think that they want to follow Him that they have to stop and count the cost. In this passage Jesus says that the cost is to “carry [your] own cross and come after Me” and “give up all [your] own possessions” (v27, 33). He also says in this passage,
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
– Luke 14.26
When was the last time that you shared the Gospel with someone with those stipulations? Jesus never said that one becomes saved by hating his family, by carrying his cross, by giving up all of his possessions, but Jesus said that that is the cost. In order to follow him, this is what will and must happen. Does someone say he wants to follow Jesus? You can test if he truly does by checking those factors. Thus Jesus stops people dead in their tracks by saying “consider the cost” if you want to follow Me.
This flies in the face of our western prosperity gospel. Mega churches are bursting at the seams with people because pastors are teaching the exact opposite of Jesus. They say, “follow Jesus and He will give you health and money”. Jesus said, “you have to give up all of your possessions, the world will hate you, and you might even have to die because of Me”. But the one who truly understands the value of the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life considers this no cost at all.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
– Matt 13.44
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
– Matt 13.45-46
These pictures outweigh any I can paint for you. If you found buried treasure that was worth millions and millions of dollars, would you not sell your current house and car to buy the land where you knew it to be buried?
The irony here is the fact that some people may love their lives here on Earth and are not willing to surrender it to Jesus, and they are those who will ultimately lose their lives:
“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
– Luke 17.33
Our salvation cost God Jesus’ life. It was the most expensive thing ever bought. He, who owns the entire world and everything in it paid the highest price for our eternity. There is no way we could ever pay that debt, that price. We can only say “thank you” and receive the free gift of salvation. But the response is to die to ourselves, to take up our own cross, to follow Jesus, to live as He lived, to lose our own lives. Those attributes do mark his disciples. If one does not have those attributes, he is not a disciple of Jesus. So where do you stand today?