wrapped packages

A Package Deal

Because most people are enticed by the offer of a free gift, that strategy shows up often, starting with retailers trying to engage customers.  Yet, God was likely the strategic originator by creating mankind with the ability to procreate.  It could be said that babies are His free gifts to blessed couples.  Then there is the prospect of inheritance where receiving a fully paid and furnished home from a parent is an amazing free gift.  But the fact is that every free gift comes with a hidden price tag, whether it’s purchasing more than we need, supporting a child’s physical needs for 18 years plus, or paying property taxes and home maintenance costs. Consequently, gaining something we desire without any initial personal investment is actually part of a package deal that requires payment to sustain the gift.

Salvation is like that.  Jesus took the cost of our sin by dying in our place so that we could have His free gift of life.  But in order to receive this tremendous blessing, we must receive Jesus as Lord, and that means becoming His disciple.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, to wake up Christians to the fact that salvation is free, but discipleship is not.  He took Jesus’ words seriously and paid the ultimate price with his death in a Nazi prison camp. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”  (Luke 14:27)

There are unfortunate similarities between the German Christian church of World War II, and the church of today.  Both have tended to be blessed, self-contained communities that don’t venture much beyond the church walls – a see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil group.  It is a sad commentary on our precious gift of salvation having given way to entitlement that presumes the blessing and favor of God regardless of a sincere commitment to Jesus.  That means we get to show up at church once or twice a week to check the box, receive some encouraging word, then go home to our protected cocoons.  In case any of us thinks this does not apply to us, we should consider the last time we inconvenienced ourselves by buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, praying at an abortion clinic, blessing the homeless with food or clothing, or making a public stand for biblical values in our schools and governing bodies.

Jesus used stern language to emphasize what it meant to be His disciple by saying we should hate our father, mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters, as well as our own life (v. 26). He wasn’t saying we should not love our families, but I believe Jesus was warning about our tendency to place those we know and love ahead of Him.  The fact is, when He is first, everything else follows in its proper order, for His command and model is love.

So, Jesus’ sacrifice for us becomes a sacrifice we make for others. The first is free to us and costly for Him, the other costly for us, but done freely for Him – both motivated by love.  Jesus defined the cost of being His disciples, “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33) Without question, we will never pay a commensurate price for what Jesus did for us.  But He admonishes us to consider that any waffling over our willingness to cover the cost required would result in us failing Him.  The good news is when we acknowledge Him as Jehovah Jirah, the Lord Our Provider, He supplies what we lack, including courage: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  The One Who has purchased our salvation has also provided all that is necessary to be effective disciples. That is the package deal of a lifetime, just waiting to be accepted!  How could we turn down such a rich offer??