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Have You Counted the Cost of Being Lost?

I read the story of a church treasurer who, at his retirement after 30 years of service, said, "I would say that I got more out of it than I put into it, but I don't think that would be appropriate for a church treasurer." How appropriate would it be for you? A tired, worn out complaint against religious institutions in general and the Lord's church in particular goes something like, "All they want is my money." Experience has taught me that, in general, the church can't get money or much of anything else from people who lodge that kind of complaint. Years ago I read about an effort in Reformed Judaism which aimed at convincing people who had dropped out of that religion to renew their participation, especially younger people. To that end, congregations of the Union of American Hebrew congregations began issuing "Privilege Cards" to men and women aged 22 to 30 for them to "bring without the usual expected contributions." Also, according to the report, "Access Cards" were issued to college students to provide a similar waiver. Rabbi Alexander M. Schlindler, who at the time was the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, made this statement: "The biggest dropout problem is the claim that the cost of belonging is too high" (Hannibal Courier Post "Privilege Cards are Issued"; Hannibal, Missouri, January 5, 1991).

Let me cut to the chase. Reformed Jews are not the only religious group struggling with some who want a religion high on "privileges" but low on cost. To be blunt, in some places and cases, belonging to the church may be the cheapest deal in town. You can be baptized into Christ and get all the spiritual perks and privileges Jesus provided through the cross (every spiritual blessing [Ephesians 1:3]). Meanwhile, you can attend, give, serve, and participate as much or as little as you want. No commitments, no cost, no sweat. Like the old Burger King commercial, some folks like and practice a religion that lets you "have it your way." In Christ without Christ in them. Claiming to be members of the church while only nominally if at all supporting the church. Little prayer, little Bible study, little giving, little loving the Lord — but still expecting the privileges. The following story reminds us that low-cost Christianity won't help us. A man who rarely attended church told the preacher after worship, "Yes, Sir! I'm saved and going to Heaven!" The preacher said, "That's great. Where do you worship regularly?" The man said,"I don't, but the thief on the cross didn't either, and he went to Paradise." The preacher probed further -"Have you ever partaken of the Lord's Supper?" "No," came the swift reply, "but the dying thief didn't either, and Christ accepted him." The pesky preacher pressed on - "Do you ever give to missions?" Again, "No, but the dying thief didn't either." "Do you ever give any time to help teach or serve in a local congregation?" the preacher asked." Yet again, "No, but neither did the dying thief, and he got to be with Christ." The preacher concluded, "Well, my friend, the only difference I see between you and the dying thief— is that you are living one!" The cost of belonging to Jesus is high — for Christ and to us if we truly follow Him (Acts 20:28; Luke 9:23). But, in the words of A. J. Hodge, "Have you counted the cost if your soul should be lost?" It cost Jesus His all to save you. How much is it costing you to serve Him?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ