What is the Cost of Following Christ? - Radical

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What is the Cost of Following Christ?

What does a Christian have to sacrifice in order to fully follow Christ? Is the cost of discipleship worth it? In this video, Rosaria Butterfield shares what the cost of following Christ looks like in her own life, and what it requires of all Christians. For Rosaria Butterfield, the cost of following Christ truly took giving up everything that she knew. Yet, what she gained from following Jesus far surpassed anything she surrendered. For Christians, the cost of following Christ means full surrender. It might not be easy, and it often never is, but what we gain in return is worth everything and more.

  1. The Gospel is Not Cheap
  2. Giving Up Everything
  3. What God Gives Us Back

The Cost of Following Christ

The person that the Lord used to share and model the gospel was an unlikely friend. His name is Ken Smith, and he was an older guy, a neighbor of mine, and a pastor of the then the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. And he knew that I was working on this research project. And one of the things that the research project actually required me to do is read the Bible. And Ken was, in some ways, a great resource for that.

Over the course of time meeting with Ken, it struck me though, that Ken and Floyd were really different. They just didn’t fit the model that I had. They were not anti-intellectual. They were not sour. They certainly were anything but anti-community. And we had a lot in common. And they encouraged me. Ken and Floyd both encouraged me to keep reading the Bible, and met with me very frequently. They were true Christian neighbors, and a real model of that.

And their household was a place where many people would come to talk about anything. And it would never be uncommon for people to bring some food, and to sit down, and open the Bible, and talk about things. And that was interesting to me, because I had only seen Christians use the Bible to end the conversation, not to actually deepen it. And so, I appreciated that.

Understanding Who God is

Over the course of the time, I was reading the Bible, as I do to research, I’m a research professor, so I was reading it five hours a day. And some of my well-worn paradigms were starting to fall apart. It was shocking to me, that even the God of the Old Testament would deal differently with people when people dealt differently with God.

But another thing that was quite evident was the cost. That this gospel was not cheap, was obvious in the Bible, but not so obvious among Christians. And I think just to bait Ken, I don’t really think this was a burning, I don’t recall this being something that was really emotionally undoing me. I just presumed that at some point, I would sit down with Ken Smith and say, “Well, look, clearly this whole biblical paradigm is going to fall down right here at my knees, because it is not fair that you’re calling… That you and this Jesus guy, are calling me to give up my girlfriend when you people get a free pass.”

And Ken said, “Well, have you talked to other Christians about what they have given up?” And I said, “Well, no.” And he said, “Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you just go around and say, ‘I have to give up the girlfriend, what do you have to give up for Christ?'” I don’t know if he warned people in his congregation I was going to do that. Can you imagine? Right.

Giving Up Everything to Follow Christ

But I was really rebuked by, and not intentionally, but by just the spirit of humility, when I would pursue that with other folks from Ken’s, then Ken’s church. And I learned that to a one, everyone had to give up their most precious possession. Women who were infertile, who had to give up the idea that they could only truly be godly wives if they had children. Parents who have buried not one, but two, and sometimes three children. It was shocking and frightening to me about the reality that this gospel is a costly gospel.

And so, when I did finally come to Christ, one of the things the Lord impressed upon me was that, I really thought I had been on the side. I was on the good team. I believed in egalitarianism and democracy, compassion and kindness, social justice. And it was a really disarming truth to realize that it had been Jesus I was persecuting the whole time. Not just some historical figure named Jesus, but my Jesus. And so really, my first experience of repentance was, the reality that there is a risen Christ who is alive, and I have been maligning, and despising, and demeaning Him.

So there were a lot of things that I had to give up. And then many things that I did give up that wouldn’t necessarily be gospel calls, but they were calls upon my time. But it was very hard to give up my idols. It’s pretty clear, from an old Marxist perspective, but if you have an ideology and you hold it near and dear, it becomes an idol. It just does. It becomes a hard, fast, fixed reality. And there’s only one way to destroy the idols that I know of, and that the Bible teaches, and that’s repentance. But one of the things that repentance does is, it does clear the playing field.

The Peace of God

So yes. I was called to give up everything. I lost everything but the dog. He was a great dog, and you guys would’ve loved him. But man, that was not fun. But what I gained, the Jesus promises that it’s not just waiting till heaven and it gets good. He promises a hundred-fold in this life. Often, Christians have communicated that in very worldly prosperity-given ways. That’s not, I think, what the gospel’s getting at. Not at all.

But there is simply no price you can put on the peace of God. And in some ways, there’s no price you can put on a God who loves you enough to give you the gift of repentance. Because really, the thing I always wanted to do in the world was to stand with the disempowered. Ever since I was very little, I loved the stories of Dorothy Day, and I was raised Catholic.

I’m named after the rosary if you guys didn’t know that. So I always wanted to be a source of peace and kindness. And it was a shocking reality to discover that the gospel was the only way to be a safe one with another. Because the only thing that makes us safe is repentance unto life. So that was pretty shocking. But yes, I got to lose everything buy the dog. And he was a nice dog, but God gave me bunches back, as he promised.

Rosaria Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University and author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Crown & Covenant, 2012) and Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (Crown & Covenant, 2015). Her new book is The Gospel Comes with a House Key (Crossway, 2018).


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