Count the Cost: A Letter to New Believers (or a letter to my younger self)

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Dear New Believer,

It’s hard to imagine as a young believer how much you face. A baby can’t know the heartache of growing up. You can’t know the heartache this choice to follow Christ will bring you. In some ways—and please don’t misunderstand me or read this with any bitterness, but only with a tender longing—I want to tell you not to do this. You have no idea how hard and dark your path will be, and how much of that hardness and darkness will be based on your ‘choice’ to be a Christian.

You will be forced to choose, almost daily, between the things you love and Christ . . . not in big ‘martyr’ type ways, but in private, little ways which will seem insignificant to the world, but might mean the world to you. You may have to decide to leave a group of friends you love because one of them is living in open sin and by hanging out with them you lend credence and support to their life decision. You may face setting aside what is good for what is better, but only in the eyes of a handful of people. You may have to stand up to your friends facing life alone and in the dark. You will have to choose Christ over what and who you love. You will have to choose between what you can’t see and what you can.

Count the cost.

You will have to decide not to watch a TV Show you’re interested in. (See how un-glamorous the Christian life can be?) More so, you will have to spend the rest of your life thinking about everything constantly. You will have to judge your heart at every moment never resting. The fun part? Things change. A TV show which didn’t go against your conscience last year, may prick it the next time you watch it. You must practice Constant Vigilance, but not against enemies sneaking in, but the enemy within. In choosing to become a Christian and follow Christ, you have made an enemy out of your very heart, mind, and body. Do you want to do the hard work of living with an enemy all the time?

Guard

Count the cost.

As you get older, the choices get harder.

Count the cost of choosing things the world doesn’t understand and deal with being called a fool.

It gets harder.

Saved at a young age, growing up in a home-schooled, conservative, Christian home doesn’t give someone much of an opportunity or desire for blatant sinning. Let me warn you. You think that being mean to your siblings, getting upset with your parents, or skipping out on chores is bad, wait until you get older and wrestle with your own sin nature a little more. It doesn’t get better. You don’t sin less. If you stick with this whole Christian thing, you will go from thinking you’ve got it all together to realizing just what a sick, selfish, God-hating, relationship destroying monster you really are. It’s not fun. It’s more fun, it’s easier, to think you have it all together and that you’ll just have it together more as you get older.

Count the cost.

The road you have chosen promises you a difficult marriage, a life of constant guarding of your heart and mind, working for others and thinking little to none of yourself, being on the outside of culture, being thought of as strange, in a cult, belittled, labeled as wasting your life, never well-known for your creativity, and living a life of insignificance. And that’s the easy Christian life, the ‘first-world’ Christian life. Some believers face lost jobs, rejection by this world AND by fellow believers, the suffering of their children, and loss of their own life.

Count the cost!

This isn’t a fun life. It’s hard, toilsome, sweaty, uncomfortable, and ugly.

Start-A-Business-And-Keep-Your-Day-Job-For-Now

Count the cost, but also, start now. If I could instill one thing in your mind, it would be Start Now. Forgo waiting around to do all the ‘normal’ things and busy yourself with your church. You were just baptized and you took a vow of membership. Many of us looked to the day we would say our marriage vows, but did you pay attention to the vows you just made to the people sitting around you? Are you taking them seriously? If so, you need to spend less time thinking about Friday night, who’s cute, who’s annoying, that TV show you love, and what degree you want to get in college, and start thinking about serving your church family.

Help the older members. Do you have a driver’s license? Go to the elderly in your church and mow their lawn, clean their house, water their plants. Forgo your parties and serve your church.

Study theology. It’s not for stuffy old men who never had adventures. It’s the very truth of God to whom you just promised your life. Make church a priority. I can’t stress that enough. This will make you different in a weird way and possibly poor, but put your church before your schooling and your job. Don’t sacrifice your youth to establish your career at the detriment of your church. Put church first and the rest below that. It won’t win you any fame or many friends. It may lose you a high-paying job and really cool friends who are going places. It may mean you have to pass up on dreams because the people who are successful work on Sunday.

Sit down at the feet of Christians who are older than you, not at the feet of other teens. Your life seems ahead of you with so much time to be and do. It may or may not be.

Count the cost.

I didn’t do this. Most of my young single years were spent on me. Yes, I was growing and learning, but I applied myself to this world and little to my eternity. How I wish that I’d spent more time loving my church and less time seeking this world.

I wish I ‘d spent more time using my energy being helpful to my church family, being engaged there, memorizing Scripture and applying my mind humbly to theology, and less time at the mall, concerts, hanging out, or watching movies. I would have seemed strange to the world. I would have probably looked strange, but I still wish I’d been wiser with my time.

Count the cost.

In all this, I’m thankful for each horrendous trial the Lord brought in my life, for while I feel so much of my youth was wasted, the Lord used all of it. I’m humbly thankful for all He’s done in my life. But, they were hard-won and hard-fought lessons. They weren’t a walk through fields of flowers.

Count the cost.

Are you ready to learn what a sinner you are? Are you ready to be rejected by fellow ‘believers’ and labeled a cultist and possibly dangerous? Are you ready to lose your grip on this world? Are you ready to give up on your dreams of houses, children, a spouse, education, artistic expression, career, and more for Christ? Are you ready to be an old maid instead of living in this world if the Lord calls you to that? Are you willing to give up what makes you feel alive if it’s not serving your church? Are you willing to put your church before your family? Are you ready to stick with and love people who may annoy you? Are you ready to give the best that you are for something the world sees as a waste of time?

Being a Christian will not guarantee you get married or that your marriage will be happy. It won’t guarantee you have kids or that you get to keep them. It won’t guarantee your safety, health, or wealth.

Count the cost.

Being a Christian will guarantee you a hard life, filled with sin, surrounded by the least and weakest of people.

Count the cost. It is great though often unseen.

So, why do we do it, us older Christians? Because Christ saves sinners. It is all of grace and none of ourselves.

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." - 2 Timothy 2: 3-4

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” – 2 Timothy 2: 3-4


 

(Our church just baptized several of our young people. What a blessing to see them take communion for the first time, become members with us, and do this first act of public obedience. Yet, as a now older Christian, there is a part of me that wonders if we would take these first steps if we knew what was coming? I hope the spirit of this letter is understood. I in no way regret my walk with the Lord. It is my life. But, I do wish I had had the capacity to dedicate my life more fully to the Lord at a younger age. I wish I had loved my church then as I do now. He is sovereign over that and I trust Him with my rate of sanctification.)

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6 thoughts on “Count the Cost: A Letter to New Believers (or a letter to my younger self)

  1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words! This is right where I’m at right now–both realizing the high cost of the path I’ve chosen and the centrality of the church in the believer’s life. As you may have already seen, I shared this article on FB and because of that, I would like to ask one clarifying question in case I’m asked (and because I’d like to know too): what precisely do you mean by saying we are to prioritize church over family?

    Personally, I both agree and disagree with the statement. I agree in the sense that the church is a permanent institution while the family is not and that when the two are spiritually in conflict, the church must be prioritized. A person saved out of an unbelieving home is a prime example. The church becomes their primary family. And it answers the question “what if my spouse forsakes me and my children abandon the faith? What then? Do I still love Christ and his church more?”

    But on the flip side, there are many, many people who use “service to the church” as an excuse for abandoning their God-given duties to their families. I think this is a big problem with many program-driven evangelical churches today. Mothers and fathers are pressured to neglect their children and leave their education and upbringing to others in order to be more involved in “ministry”, this being a godly “sacrifice” for the sake of the kingdom. I could fill a shelf with biographies of missionaries who cast aside their children–sometimes just spiritually, sometimes physically leaving them on the other side of the world–for the sake of “ministry”. Yes, grown children may consider it as part of their divine calling to leave their natural families for the sake of the gospel but I do not believe it is within the duties of mothers and fathers to abandon each other or the children still entrusted to their care for the sake of their preferred mode of ministry. Child-rearing is gospel work too.

    Anyway, I’d like to hear how you would expound upon your statement and what you would say in response to the latter understanding of “church over family”.

    • Hey Emily! Thanks for reading and for the great question. I think we would be in agreement on this. Any one who abandons their responsibilities for the “ministry” doesn’t understand the Bible. I would guess that first many of those people aren’t qualified to be missionaries. Second, the Bible makes it very clear that most of us are called to a quiet life. Look at Ephesians and any other passage where it talks about being in a local church and the Apostles go right to husbands, wives, children, slaves. The first and best way I can serve my church is by submitting to my husband. It’s not amazing, it’s every day work. This would be like someone quitting there job and going on welfare to study theology. You can’t steal to obey.

      So when I say the church should be your first priority, I mean that it should be God, Church, and then everything else God says about your life. This means that when you chose a school, or a career, or anything like that you need to think about your church.

      But, a few interesting things to keep in mind. First, Christ himself did ask who his mother, brother, and sisters are. We may be called some day to choose our faith and or are church over our families. Life changes. People change. You never know what’s going to happen and if you don’t have your feet in a firm foundation, the going off the deep end of a family member may rattle your faith. Your church, the ones who follow and obey Christ are your first family. Your earthly family will fall away. Second, from the world’s perspective, even those of us who live a quiet life may look like we’ve abandoned our families. A man may pass on a high-paying job to go preach at a small church thus making it impossible for him to afford to pay for his children’s college education. A wife may send her children off to school and instead of filling her ‘free’ time with ‘me things’ may visit the poor, or clean the church building, or help other moms with smaller children. To the world, we may not have run off to the other side of the country but we may look like we have chosen our church over our family…and in a way, they would be right.
      Family isn’t forever. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ calls us to take care of our families. I better serve my husband when I submit to him not for him or cause of him, but as if I was submitting to Christ and knowing I’m strengthening my church. If I try to do it just to do it, it doesn’t work. I either give up, become proud, or bitter.
      I hope that makes it clearer if anyone asks!
      Thanks!

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