Go figure. And what I've just written, above, is probably going to change. I suspect He's going to direct me to preach more often, and talk about the news less ... if at all.
But today I'm going to do it deliberately.
Somebody out there (and you know who you are) needs to read this; I make no apologies for it. In fact, I'm proud to be publicly identified with Jesus. One of my favorite New Testament verses is Acts 4:13:
"When they* saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (emphasis mine)
I pray that, like them, you can tell whose I am, and that I've been with Him.
Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has given up house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands for My sake, and for the Gospel’s, who will not receive a hundred times as much now, in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution – and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
Paying the price for a Christian life, for blessings, for whatever we receive from God, has become a catchphrase – but it shouldn’t be just a catchphrase. It’s not just something we talk about. As pastors, we talk about it frequently, because the Gospel has a cost to it. It’s free to those who receive, but there’s a cost to publish it
What is the cost of the blessings of God? The true cost is “whatever God wants.” It costs some people more than others. In Luke 12:48, Jesus says, “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” Those of us who have received much are required to give much in return.
When we moved to Alaska, we spoke to our Anchorage congregation about the 17 of us who came here from St. Louis. We left everything – relatives, good jobs, houses, everything we had. And we couldn’t wait to get here! We knew God called us, and we were eager to come, because He commanded it.
Does that make us special? No.
It’s just what God wanted.
Everyone who has received from God has already paid a price – we’ve lost friends and family because of the revelation of God that we’ve received. Does that make us special? No – it’s just what it costs.
When you go to the store and buy a sweatshirt, and you take it home and put it on, does it make you special? No. "But Rev. Paul, I paid good money for that sweatshirt!" And so you did ... but that doesn't make you special.
No, what you paid is just the price for owning the sweatshirt. It’s just what it cost.
It’s the price you paid to have the thing.
It’s the same with God, salvation, blessings, and His anointing, His power in your life. He doesn’t give it away without requiring something back. Whether it’s obedience, or sacrifice, or whatever … it’s not that the cost is too much; it's just what it costs.
Of course, it often separates us from family and friends. In Matthew 10:34-36, Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to part asunder a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother … and a man’s foes will be they of his own household."
There’s a price for this revelation, and for this power of God that He so freely gives us. You don’t think and act the same way you used to, and people find it strange that you’ve changed. You can’t hang out with God, meeting after meeting, service after service, and NOT be changed.
But why is there a cost?
I'm glad you asked! I was putting together a Sunday School lesson, several years ago, and the verses the Lord was giving me were literally from one end of the Bible to the other. I finally asked Him, “Why aren’t all the verses on healing together? Then we could just turn to that section and find what we need. It would be so much easier!”
You know what He said? "If I made it easy, My people would take it for granted. I don’t want them to take it for granted. I don’t want them to forget how much it cost.”
So what did it cost? It cost God His Son, who had to die with the cumulative weight of the sin of all mankind on His shoulders ... to take our punishment, in our place ... so that WE can be forgiven.
Why is there a cost for faith, revival, healing, and the anointing? Same answer.
It’s not easy, and it costs a lot. When you get something for free, it’s easy to treat it as if it’s disposable. What do you do with the free flyers that people put under your wiper blades in parking lots? You throw them away – and why not? It didn’t cost you anything.
But what do you do when you see your kids playing with an expensive piece of electronics, or a family keepsake. “Hey – be careful with that! It’s expensive!” Or, “Be careful – we can’t replace that!”
When you pay dearly for something, it means more to you – and you take better care of it. It should be the same with revival: He asks us to pay for it, so we won’t take it for granted. It's that "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45-47) for which we sell everything else we have, in order to obtain it.
In our five years with the St. Louis church before moving here, we noticed how complacency set in.
In the beginning, the senior pastor would announce a week of revival, 100 people would cheer – and 200 would show up for the meetings. Four years later, he’d make that same announcement; 40 would cheer, and 12 would show up. The people became complacent, and they were becoming stagnant. The anointing - the power and presence of God - was still there, but the people weren’t putting as much demand on it. A lot of the time, they didn’t seem to care. They took it for granted.
As the children of God, we’ve been called to something special – something not found everywhere – and we must not take it for granted.
We dare not become complacent.
We have to press into His presence. We have to remember how precious this is, remain grateful, and fight to keep it. God has called each of to be where we are for a reason: He has a greater purpose in mind. We have to stay hungry for more of Him.
He doesn’t mind making us uncomfortable to accomplish His purpose, because His purpose is not to make us comfortable.
Read that last sentence again.
Remember how much it cost you already, and be determined not to forget what it cost. Be determined to hang onto whatever revelation you've received.
DON'T forget, and DON'T take the blessings of God for granted.
* The high priests, religious rulers of the day