Counting the Cost
On my way to visit a Jewish man who had expressed an interest in Jesus, I decided to drop in on one of the local churches. That particular church belonged to a mainline evangelical denomination, and though I had never met the pastor, I was hoping to introduce myself. We like to know the pastors of such congregations because it provides us with a good list of churches we can recommend to people we lead to Jesus. Often some of the church members will even undertake to pray for us as we are ministering in their locality.
I walked into the church that day and found the pastor, an older man, sitting behind his desk. I introduced myself as a staff worker with Jews for Jesus. Immediately he told me that his church could not have Jews for Jesus come and speak. I explained that I was not there to schedule a meeting; I just wanted to say hello.
The pastor said that he received our Newsletter. He even indicated an acceptance of our outreach and ministry among the Jewish community. But then he went on to say that he was very friendly with the two local rabbis and served on various ecumenical” councils. With an amicable, fatherly gesture, he said, “You realize that what you do makes a lot of people very upset.” What an understatement, I thought, having experienced hostile reactions more than a few times in my ministry.
That pastor was telling me in his own way that he did not want to sever the relationships he had with the Jewish community, not even for the sake of the gospel! My reply to his statement was, “My whole family is Jewish, and I honestly believe that to know this great news about Jesus and not tell them would be the most anti-Semitic thing I could possibly do.” He nodded respectfully, perhaps having been challenged.
Before I left, I said with a smile, “Let me ask you, Pastor-the local rabbi down the street—does he need Jesus as his atonement?”
He smiled back and said, “I’d rather not answer that.”
Jesus told His disciples that following Him would involve a cost. Yet He calls us to live our lives boldly for Him. The formal “ecumenical” movements that encourage “dialogue” are often effective in weakening the message of the gospel. That pastor cared more about his earthly friendships and the opinions of nonbelievers than he cared about proclaiming God’s truth. When we declare the message of Jesus, inevitably we will step on some people’s toes!
Perhaps I should have asked that pastor how he would have responded to the Apostle Paul, given the Jewish opposition to his ministry. Certainly, Paul got a lot of people upset. He proclaimed a very powerful message, and he is our example as proclaimers today. Rather than avoid the world’s backlash against God’s message, perhaps we should take a lesson from the apostles. They “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
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As part of my missionary duties with the New York branch of Jews for Jesus, I met a certain Jewish woman who was very interested in the gospel. She had several relatives who had given their lives to Yeshua, as well as a few Gentile friends who were committed Christians. She had heard the gospel many times, and had even prayed that she might have the faith to believe in Yeshua. She admitted that at times she did believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but that she still had many doubts. I was wondering what I could tell this woman that she had not already heard.
I asked her what she thought was keeping her from committing her life to Yeshua, and she confessed that she was afraid of what a true commitment would mean. She knew that accepting him as the Lord of her life would mean changing her lifestyle and perhaps giving up some of the people and activities to which she had become attached in recent years.
She said that one Christian friend had advised her to accept Yeshua as her Savior for now and then let him show her later what needed to be changed in her life. Her only problem with that was that she already knew what was wrong in her life and what Jesus would require her to give up.
I told her that Jesus taught that it was important first to count the cost before following him. Too many people begin to follow him as their Savior, only to fall away later when they discover that he wants to be Lord in every area of their lives, as well as Savior. She said that no one had ever talked to her about counting the cost,” but she knew that this was what she had been doing, and she was afraid that the cost of following Jesus might be too high.
As I tried to think how I might express to her the fact that the blessing far outweighs the cost, I remembered a little parable that I had heard sometime during my nine years of following Yeshua. I said, “Look at it this way:”
Once there was a father who had a little girl whom he dearly loved. While they shopped together in a ten-cent store one day, the little girl saw a necklace of colorful plastic beads, the kind that snap together. She asked her father if he would buy it for her, and he did. The little girl treasured that necklace. She often went to bed still wearing it, and even bathed with it because she couldn’t bear to take it off. It was her most prized possession.
One day as the little girl sat on her daddy’s lap in a big chair in front of the fireplace, he asked her to take off that necklace. She made a fuss about it, but he said, “Trust me. I know what’s best for you.” Grudgingly she took off the necklace and handed it to her father. He threw it into the fire and immediately the pretty beads melted away. After she recovered from the shock, the little girl began to sob uncontrollably, but her daddy wiped away the tears and asked, “Do you believe that I love you?” “Yes…” the little girl replied hesitantly, “but how could you throw away my beautiful necklace?”
“Because I wanted to give you these,” the father answered. And pulling out a strand of genuine pearls, he fastened them around her neck.
So often we are like that little girl in our relationships with our heavenly Father. He has riches to give us, if we would only let go of the junk in our lives that we treasure so highly. It’s my hope and prayer that the woman with whom I shared this little story will put her complete trust in our heavenly Father and come to know the blessings of following after Yeshua.