free and costly?

Come on in, I said, entry is free to anyone!

The cost of entry is far too high for some of us, he said.

I was talking about salvation through Jesus, but then thinking last night about this conversation I was reminded of that chocolate brownie I bought at a little bakery in Lincoln a few weeks ago. Let me take you there…

It’s a hot summer’s day. I’m on holiday, and today I’ve been exploring the high street – it’s something I really like doing when I’m away on holiday, I like wandering around a different town, checking out the local shops, stopping at a café here and there, all at a leisurely pace… Nice, but…

but I’m seriously unfit and my lower back inevitably starts screaming that I’ve been on my feet too long, even though I try to pause now and again and sit down. and it was a very hot day, so I was getting tired…

It’s late afternoon, I’m tired and I’ve decided it’s time to walk back to the guesthouse. But I realise I’m going to need a little something to give me enough energy for this walk – unlike the high street, the walk back to the guesthouse is devoid of benches or cafés, so I won’t be able to stop anywhere for a rest or for sustenance.

By this stage – as I may have mentioned once or twice :) – I’m really really tired. So I don’t have the energy to explore a whole load of different places – I just walk into the little bakery that’s right there in front of me, and I see something that looks appealing, and I just point and ask for one of those, to go.

It’s only when the guy is packing the chocolate brownie and asking me for two pounds something, only at that point do I realise that I never even thought to ask how much it costs. Because I was desperate. Like a thirsty person walking in a desert and seeing water, that was me seeing that chocolate brownie.

Take that feeling and multiply it by a million, and you get how I felt when, on 1 July 2002, I reached up and grabbed hold of Jesus, my life saver. Oh, how badly I knew I needed him – I didn’t think what it might cost me, because I knew I needed him and there was just no question…

Yes, it does cost – even though it’s free… It’s free in the sense of: there’s nothing you have to offer God as an entry fee, there’s nothing you have to do to earn it, Jesus has done it all for us and all we have to do is accept the gift he offers. So what does it cost? It costs everything you’re holding onto – because receiving God’s gift of salvation means accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord: it means letting go of the reins, accepting that God knows best and starting to live a life of loving, grateful obedience. If this sounds horrifying to you that’s because you, just like the rest of the human race, are so used to living in rebellion against God that you think that’s normal and natural and fine, and the concept of obedience to God is hateful to you.

I know. I’ve been there. I grew up striving for independence, I remember my mother telling me “do what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone”, and some guy I had a crush on when I was 14 preaching to me about the laws of the jungle and urging me to “look after number 1”. I didn’t even know God was there, let alone having any concept of him maybe loving me or something… But oh how I made a mess of my life, and what an awesome surprise it was to discover that God in his grace stooped down to reach out to me and offer me salvation, and love!

Here’s the thing about cost: when you are asked to pay two pounds something for a chocolate brownie, there’s two sides to the equation – on the one hand, how badly do you want/need that brownie? and on the other hand, how much do you value the two pounds something that you’re asked to let go of?

With Jesus, on the one hand you need to know how badly you need him – and on the other hand, how worthless everything else is. As long as you think you can manage without him, the cost will seem too high.

So I invite you to think about your life, to think about those times when you feel desperate, when you feel you’re not coping, when everything’s just too much and you want to scream or bury yourself under the duvet and make life.just.stop… Those times when your coping mechanisms give way, when the ground is sinking under you… Those times when you reach for whatever normally works and it just doesn’t and you don’t know what to do… Because yes, we all have those times. The world around you will say: pull yourself together. Or, more positively: you can do it, we believe in you… So you keep trying, because what else is there… But the truth is: we weren’t made for independence, we were created by a loving God to be in an intimate, loving relationship with him, depending on him for our deepest needs. The only thing standing in the way of that is our sinful rebellion against him. We don’t have to keep somehow coping in our own strength – turn to God, repent of your sinful rebellion, accept what Jesus has done for us on the cross and get forgiveness of sin, adoption as God’s own child, and his Holy Spirit to guide you and help you throughout whatever life brings.

And if you feel you are coping with life, that’s nice but you do know the time will come when you’ll run out of strength, right? When your body will wear out, your heart will stop beating – and you will, just like the rest of us, stand one day in front of God for judgement.

All the stuff you’re relying on now? All the stuff you’re hanging onto? It will be worth absolutely nothing on that day. The only thing that will count when we stand before God for judgement is being able to say: I’m in Christ – Jesus died on the cross to take on the punishment I deserve, so I, even though I’m a sinner, can go free.

For those of us who can say that, there’s a totally airtight promise:

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

and that’s worth absolutely everything.

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

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