Joseph Herrin (04-12-2010)
Counting the Cost of Your Journey
Surviving an arduous wilderness journey is made possible by doing the preliminary prep work. The value of careful planning cannot be overestimated. Some things must be done BEFORE one enters the wilderness. What adventurer would set forth on a difficult trek without first calculating the cost and making sure he had available resources to properly outfit himself for the journey? Many have perished in the wilderness for lack of such planning.
Let me remind those reading this series that the wilderness experience of every Christian is a metaphor of the disciple’s life. When we commit to following Christ we are to immediately leave all behind us, take up our cross, and follow Yahshua. This was symbolized on the night of the first Passover that Israel observed in Egypt.
The Israelites were commanded by Moses to eat the Passover meal in the following way.
Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste - it is Yahweh’s Passover.
It was not simply because the Israelites were going to depart Egypt that night that they were given these instructions. These things were recorded for our benefit. They were written for the ekklesia, the called out ones of Jesus Christ, Yahshua the Messiah.
I Corinthians 10:11
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Passover Sketch by Rossetti
Why did Yahweh tell the Israelites to eat the Passover meal fully clothed, with sandals on their feet, and with staff in hand? It was because all who become partakers of Christ, the Passover Lamb, are to be ready to depart from this world system in haste. Having applied the blood of the Lamb to their lives for the remission of sin, having become a partaker of His Spirit, signified by taking the lamb into their body by eating it, they are to not tarry, but to immediately begin a life of being led by the Spirit of Christ.
Notice that Moses gave the Israelites these instructions BEFORE they ate the Passover supper. This corresponds to Christ telling all those who desired to be His disciples to FIRST count the cost. If they became His disciple they must be ready to follow Him immediately, and never turn back from following Him.
And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." And another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Yahshua said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
What do these words of Christ signify? Those who come to Christ must be ready to depart immediately from their former manner of life. They must forget the life they formerly lived. They are to embark on a new life, for they have become a new creature in Christ.
Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Yahshua. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude.
The disciple of Christ must be ready immediately to begin a new life, a new journey. Before they had their soul to guide them, but as Christ’s disciple they must yield to the leading of the Spirit of Christ.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Christ’s counsel to those who wanted to be His disciples seem cruel and unreasonable to the natural man. To not even be allowed to go bury one’s father, or say good-bye to those at home appears unnecessarily harsh and demanding. Why the rush? Why cannot following Christ be put off for a brief season? Why must we enter into this relationship of discipleship fully girded for travel and with our staff in hand?
The one who would be Yahshua’s disciple must be brought to understand that a radical change has occurred. Before they could choose their own way. If they wanted to tarry a while and enjoy the fellowship of natural relations, they were free to do so. But a Christian does not have this liberty.
I Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know... that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price...
A change of ownership has occurred. The disciple of Christ is translated from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Heaven. They are under a new Headship. To be a disciple of Christ, one must become like Christ.
"I can do nothing on My own initiative.”
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Yahshua therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative...”
“For I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”
People of God, to be Christ’s disciple requires a total change of life. We must take upon the mind of Christ which was declared in these words. Yahshua lived ONLY to do the will of His Father. He did not live to please Himself. He saw all relationships in this world as secondary to that of His Father in Heaven. So too must all His disciples.
"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.”
Certain things need to be settled in the mind of those who would be Christ’s disciples before they embark on their wilderness journey. Foremost is that discipleship requires complete submission to the will of Yahweh. Discipleship cannot be entered into by degrees.
This is why Christ told all who thought they wanted to be His disciple to first count the cost of what this commitment would mean to them. It was an all, or nothing, proposition. There could be nothing held back. If absolutely everything was not given over to God; family, friends, possessions, and one’s own will, then the time would eventually come when they would find following Christ to be too costly and they would turn back. Having begun this journey, they would eventually realize that they could not finish. Only those who surrender all can finish this wilderness trek.
"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.'”
My own wrestling with this issue of surrender in 1999 lasted for weeks, for I knew what was at stake. What I was facing was the death of self-rule. I would be committing to doing whatever Yahweh required of me, and He could require absolutely everything. He had required that Abraham, His friend, lay even his cherished son on the altar to slay him.
I have watched people enter the wilderness, beginning to follow the leading of the Spirit, without first counting the cost, soberly appraising their willingness to yield everything to Yahweh, and then accepting it. Instead they go along haltingly. At every new command of the Spirit they wrestle with whether they will pay this cost too. Having never committed to follow Christ to the point of death, they limp along painfully, and are tossed about as double-minded creatures.
Their way becomes very bitter, for they keep looking over their shoulder, thinking that if things get too difficult they can always go back. The temptation to flee the wilderness and seek an easier walk becomes a snare to them. Not having decided from the onset that there is no going back, the temptation remains as a constant nagging thorn in their mind.
We see that the majority of the Israelites had not counted the cost. If following Yahweh got too difficult, they had held onto “plan B.” They could go skulking back to Egypt, and return to an existence that for all its bondage seemed to be easier to them.
And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! And why is Yahweh bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."
People of God, do not say you will follow Christ wherever He will lead you if you do not intend to keep your commitment. If there is any wavering in your heart, He will surely seek it out. He has promised to see you through to the journey’s end. He will not fail you, but you can fail Him. If you commit to follow, you must hold fast your commitment, even if death be your lot. He has promised that you will suffer no eternal loss as long as you continue to trust and obey.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Your very soul is at stake. You can hold onto all the things of the world that you find comforting and necessary, but in the end you will forfeit your own soul.
"For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
There are truly issues of life and death at stake before the people of God. They can cling to their natural life and lose all they hoped to hold onto. Those who survive the wilderness are the ones who have counted the cost. They have surrendered to follow Christ through riches or poverty, through health or sickness, through peace or distresses, through honor or shame, through life or through death.
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”
I am not exaggerating the cost of discipleship with these words. The Israelites saw the giants they had to face, the multitudes of people to be fought, the great walled cities, and they rightly understood that they would be risking their lives if they obeyed Yahweh’s command to go in and take possession of the land. The only thing between them and death was the word of God.
Yahweh has said to us today that He will never abandon or forsake us. Though He will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with His people. He did not say they would not suffer. I live in the midst of America, a country that calls itself a Christian nation, and I have experienced hunger, homelessness, and loneliness. My fellow ministers cast me out. I have been refused communion and any opportunity to teach in Yahweh’s churches. My wife and son departed from me. Family have labeled me a heretic and deluded. I have even been imprisoned for obedience to Christ.
Do not think such experiences as Christ and His early disciples went through were only for that day and hour. The cost of discipleship has never changed.
II Timothy 3:10-12
But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Yahshua will be persecuted.
There are not two roads that lead to life, a broad and easy highway, and a narrow and afflicted wilderness path. There is only one way that leads to life, and few there are that find it.
People of God, I do not share my trials to elicit sympathy. Rather, it is to reveal that even in this hour the cost of following Christ fully is the same as it was in the book of Acts. If Yahweh can take one of the weakest, most timid, and fleshly of all men and bring me through these experiences without shrinking back, then He can bring any and all men through. He is a Father of great compassion. His mercies are new every morning. His love never fails.
If you have not yet settled it in your mind that you will follow Christ come whatever may, without shrinking back, then how long will you avoid the decision? Yahweh has tarried patiently with many of His sons and daughters, but He will not wait indefinitely. If you are experiencing the drawing and conviction of His Spirit today, there is no guarantee that in putting Him off that He will still be calling you tomorrow.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways'; As I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'"
Have you already partaken of the Passover Lamb? Have you already applied the blood to your life? Then why do you not have yourself girded, sandals on your feet, and staff in your hand? He is calling you to follow Him now. Do not miss your opportunity.
"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
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