Counting the Cost

The gift of salvation is free. (Romans 5:15) However, there is the cost of discipleship that all must consider. Luke 14:25-33 (NIV) provides us with a recount of Jesus speaking to the mixed multitude of followers. Not everyone in the multitude were true followers of Christ. Jesus being aware of this fact spoke to the multitude regarding the requirements of true discipleship. Jesus was not interested in enthusiasts. He was seeking true disciples. Verses 26-27 says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

In these verses, Jesus emphasizes that a true disciple must be willing to give up family, friends, and their own lives to follow Him. This is very important. Not simply because we must be willing to give up everyone and everything but because it means that our lives are not our own. We do not live for ourselves; we live for Christ. It is also important to focus specifically on verse 27. Jesus makes references to carrying their own crosses. The cross is a symbol of suffering and persecution. In other words, are you willing to be insulted, physically beaten, and/or tortured to serve Him? Will you lay down your life in service for Him? He encouraged the followers to reflect upon these requirements before willfully committing.

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus states that not everyone that cries out proclaiming to prophesy, cast out demons, and perform miracles in His name will enter the kingdom of heaven. Furthermore, Jesus says that He will tell them, “…‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” This group of people are the hypocrites displaying a form of godliness, without the power. In Matthew 25:31-46, speaks of Jesus’ return and how he will address the sheep and the goats. Sheep are symbolic of God’s children who will reap the inheritance of the kingdom and eternal life. The goats represent the hypocrites who will receive eternal punishment.

There is a difference between calling ourselves a Christian and actually being one. Christian are called not to love the world or anything in it. (1 John 2:15) It is our duty to be living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1) Our greatest commandment is to “…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” We must evaluate ourselves honestly and soberly. Now that we know what it takes to be a true disciple we must ask ourselves the question. Is God seeking us?

Worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth

In the Book of John chapter 4, John provides the narrative on the Woman at the Well. This narrative provides insight to the type of worshippers God the Father seeks. John 4:23-24 states, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Jesus explains to the Samaritan woman at the well that the physical location of worship is not relevant. Who we are and how we live matters to God. The Father seeks those whose worship engages their spirit in the pursuit of truth.

Why must we engage our spirit in our worship? Because God, sheer being itself is spirit. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law, “Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NIV) Our worship is a reflection of our love for God. We are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. In other words, we are to love God with our entire being. God provided man with the honor of being created last. Unlike any other creatures that God designed, God gave man a soul. One of the ways we are created in God’s likeness through our soul (soul is interchangeable with spirit). The soul is an intelligent, immortal, and influencing active spirit. Our spirit not bones and flesh is required for true worship.

How do we worship God according to His standards if we are ignorant? The answer is simple, we cannot. Hosea 4:6 (NIV) provides a warning regarding ignorance, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” Worshipping God in truth means to worship God as His word directs. John 17:17 (NIV) says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Attempting to worship God from what the Scriptures direct us to do in worship is empty and in vain. Mark 7:7 (NIV) tells us, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

Amos 5:21-23 (NIV) illustrates how God detest vain worship. “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” If we are living sinful lives and using religious rituals and traditions for appearance sake, God will despise our worship and not accept our offerings. He desires sincere hearts and not the worship of hypocrites.

Our worship should not be dependent upon how we desire to worship God but according to what God commands. We must worship in spirit and in truth. It is not a choice between spirit or truth. Both are requirements for proper worship pleasing to God. We cannot engage into worshipping God “in truth” but not “in spirit”. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 (NIV), “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” Any endeavor to worship God that is not specified in the Scripture is in vain. We need to ask ourselves the question. During corporate worship services are we more concern about our image or our attitude toward God?

Being Living Sacrifices

Examining Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul addresses the Body of Christ regarding true and proper worship. He encourages the Believer to consider God’s compassion and blessings toward us. For this reason, we should offer God something very precious – ourselves. Being a living sacrifice means to present our daily lives as an offering to God. We must reverence God in all that we do. Actively seeking God by keeping our minds focused on Him and His Word allows us to be transformed. We are called not to conform to the traditions and ideologies of the world but to live according to God’s will and purpose. With God to guide us we are empowered and equipped as God’s perfect will for our lives unfolds.

The Apostle Paul states “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Loyal devotion is what we should desire to give for His mercy toward us. For our sacrifice to be pleasing to God we must present our offering according to God’s standards. Our attitude and the way we present ourselves before God is vital. This is perfectly illustrated in Genesis 4:3-5 as it recounts the offerings of Cain and Abel. This was the first act of worship after man’s fall. Abel presented before the Lord the “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Cain, on the other hand, offered yield from his farm. Abel’s sacrifice received God’s approval and was pleasing to God. However, Cain did not receive the favor of God. Why?

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV) says, “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Abel presented an offering of atonement acknowledging that he was a sinner deserving death but hoping for mercy through his sacrifice. Abel’s offering was through an act of faith and being a true worshipper. Cain presented an offering of acknowledgement and thanksgiving. Cain did not submit an offering as an act of faith but from the force of education or natural conscience. When we read further, we learn that although God rebuked Cain’s offering Cain was given another opportunity to present an offering.

There were two key causes to the rebuke and rejection of Cain’s offering. Cain was disconnected from God -lacking a true relationship. Cain did not have the right attitude in his worship. Proverbs 21:27 (NIV) says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable — how much more so when brought with evil intent!” Cain’s reaction to God’s rebuke would indicate that Cain’s attitude was wrong from the start. When Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God, Cain sulked and became angry. Cain’s sin was not in his sulking or anger. Cain had a choice to correct his attitude in presenting offerings to God. Yet, he chooses to take out his anger on Abel in murder. One of the most important lessons we can learned from Cain’s life is to present our offerings by faith, with the proper approach, and in reverence to God.

We are no longer bound to the old sacrificial system because Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross. Yet, the requirements for presenting our offerings have not changed. We must worship God according to what He commands in His Word. God alone is worthy of our worship; therefore, He should be our focus when we worship. Like Cain, God gives us the opportunity to reevaluate ourselves. Do we desire to worship God for the right reasons? Do we present our offerings by faith or out of tradition? Are we the true worshippers that God seeks?