Costly Free Gift.
Introduction: These days we seem to be bombarded from every direction with advertising: TV, letterbox, newspapers, radio, internet. Often you find them trying to grab your attention with offering something free. There it is in big letters – but more often than not you find that there is a catch – you read the fine print and it isn’t quite like that. The people I work with are forever looking up airfares “Grab a seat” $1 fares – but you have to buy a full fare return, stay so long at a certain hotel. Have you ever been caught out? Sometimes they offer you a free issue but then you find you have signed up for a series that goes on for years! The thing offered free isn’t free at all – there are strings attached. It is misleading advertising. Now we come out here preaching the Gospel, a Salvation that is free, the free gift of God. Now I don’t want to be misrepresenting what the Bible says – be guilty of misinformation, misleading advertising. Are there any string attached? Is what God offers really free?
Eternal life – the free gift of God: As you get older, you get a bit more cynical. You don’t get anything for nothing. No such thing as a free lunch. There are always strings attached. A truly free gift? It’s too good to be true. But salvation is free, it is not a con – it is a gift. [1 John 5:11-12 The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in His Son. Whoever has the Son has this life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.] God gives eternal life – it is free, a gift [OHP]. Where do you get this gift? – the verse tells us: in His Son! In Jesus, the Messiah! He is the only place to get this life. That most well-known of verses says the same thing: [John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.] It is a gift! It is free! God gives eternal life freely: [Romans 6:23 For sin pays its wage—death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.] We try so hard, we try to earn favour, work hard, try to reform our character, we strive for new life but all our sinful self-effort earns is death. God offers it freely as a gift: [Isaiah 55:1-3 The Lord says, “Come, everyone who is thirsty— here is water! Come, you that have no money— buy corn and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk— it will cost you nothing! Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry? Listen to Me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all. “Listen now, My people, and come to Me; come to Me, and you will have life! I will make a lasting covenant with you and give you the blessings I promised to David.] Here is where so many stumble – you don’t have to do anything, Jesus has done it all – but we want to think that we have done something; that it is to do with our goodness, or character. You know, it’s really our pride – it has to be something in us. But it doesn’t depend on us but solely on Jesus being righteous, sinless, pleasing in God’s sight. He has done it for us: fulfilled all God’s requirements in His Law. But we all fail: [Romans 3:23-24 Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.] We are set free from the slavery of having to perform, make the grade, being good enough. God gives to us what we don’t deserve – that’s what the Bible calls “grace”: [Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.] You see? - pride is excluded. It is a free gift, it sets us free from the bondage of human-effort that is the way passed down to us from our earliest ancestor: [Romans 5:15-17 God’s free gift is not like Adam’s sin. It is true that many people died because of the sin of that one man. But God’s grace is much greater, and so is His free gift to so many people through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. And there is a difference between God’s gift and the sin of one man. After the one sin, came the judgement of “Guilty”; but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of “Not guilty!” (Aren’t those wonderful words to hear?!) It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule because of that one man. But how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ! All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.] So the Bible is completely unequivocal – eternal life is free, it is the gift of God!
Free but costly: Salvation is a gift, it is free – you know, that when things come free when tend not to value them. You give your son a car and he won’t take care of it, but if he has to work to save up enough to buy an old beat up wreck, then he will take care of it as if it is the most precious thing. I have known a several people who have won significant amounts in lotteries, but in each case the money just seemed to dissipate. It came too easy and went just as easily. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap or worthless. Eternal life is given freely but it is most precious [OHP]. Free, but costly. It is not cheap, it cost dearly. [1 Peter 1:18 For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors. It was not something that can be destroyed, such as silver or gold; it was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw.] In order to give us the free gift of eternal life, God had to sacrifice the thing most precious to Him, His only Son – the only perfect sinless One [Romans 8:32 He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all]. God sacrificed the One in whom He delighted daily. [Revelation 5:9 You are worthy to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.] Jesus bought us with His blood. That is what it cost – the blood of Jesus poured out! He gave us life, the life of Jesus living in us by His Spirit. The very Spirit of God Himself lives in those who receive this gift. We are a temple where He dwells: [1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; He bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. ] God purchased us, it cost Him His Son! He paid the price to set us free, so we must not go back to that slavery of man, doing things by our own efforts. [1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.] Because it cost so much, it is infinitely precious [1 Peter 2:4 Coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 1 Peter 2:7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe;] We ought to value above all else the gift that has been freely given to us!
Are you willing face the cost?: The gift of God is free but there is a cost – it cost God and His Son dearly. But there is a cost for us too. Now I’m not attaching strings, the gift of life is free. But sometimes we are so eager for people to come to Jesus, to make it easy – but it is less than honest if we don’t make clear the COST [OHP]. We are not paying for or earning salvation – there is no way we could [Psalm 49:7-9 A person can never redeem himself; he cannot pay God the price for his life, because the payment for a human life is too great. What he could pay would never be enough to keep him from the grave, to let him live for ever.] We can’t pay the price, Jesus paid it for us. But anything of value costs – marriage (I didn’t buy Rhoda, like some buy Philippino brides but it cost your whole life). Look at anything you value, and you will see that it has cost you – be it in time, money, effort or agony. We don’t value what cost us nothing. But Jesus made clear that there was a cost in following Him. Sometimes the way we present it, it is like God is desperate to have men come to Him! We plead and persuade. In doing so we cheapen the Gift – it’s like God would do anything to have someone worship Him – we don’t realise what an immense privilege it is that we have the opportunity. We deign to come to Jesus – do Him a favour?! Rather, wonder of wonders that He would deign to receive me! God is not desperate to have people follow Him. Jesus made it hard. [Matthew 19:16-22 Once a man came to Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” “Why do you ask me concerning what is good?” answered Jesus. “There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.” “What commandments?” he asked. Jesus answered, “Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.] Jesus let him go …. He wasn’t willing to pay the cost, to give up everything to follow Jesus. Jesus said: [Luke 9:23 And He said to them all, “Anyone who wants to come with Me must forget self, take up their cross every day, and follow Me.] You have to say “No” to self, to what you want. Take up your cross – that is the road to death! You lay your own life down; you die with Christ in order that you may have His eternal life. It is going to cost you everything to follow Jesus! This is what He said: [Luke 14:25-33 Once when large crowds of people were going along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, “Those who come to Me cannot be my disciples unless they love Me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. “If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and work out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will laugh at you. ‘This man began to build but can’t finish the job!’ they will say. “If a king goes out with ten thousand men to fight another king who comes against him with twenty thousand men, he will sit down first and decide if he is strong enough to face that other king. If he isn’t, he will send messengers to meet the other king, to ask for terms of peace while he is still a long way off. In the same way,” concluded Jesus, “none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.”] You have to count the cost; stop and consider whether you are prepared to pay the price. So is it not free? Yes! Oswald Chambers said, “Our LORD never lays down the conditions of discipleship as the conditions of salvation.” We mustn’t confuse the two, they are different: salvation is free but discipleship is costly. Having been saved, we now live for Jesus and not ourselves. That following of Jesus is costly! I don’t want to be guilty of misrepresenting the message – eternal life, salvation is free but have you got what it takes to follow Jesus? Are you going to lay aside all else to have that which is of supreme value? [Philippians 3:7-16 But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere refuse, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in His sufferings and become like Him in his death,(that costs dearly!) in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life. I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my brothers and sisters, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight towards the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude.] Yes, God gives us entry into His Kingdom: [Luke 12:32-34 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. But Jesus goes on to say: Sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor. Provide for yourselves purses that don’t wear out, and save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them, and no moth can destroy them. For your heart will always be where your riches are. ] There is a cost, a commitment required. I want to challenge you tonight. You may have been coming along to these meeting, been interested in what’s been said – but have you counted the cost? There was a man who wanted to follow Jesus: [Luke 9:57-62 As they went on their way, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But that man said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus said to him, “Anyone who starts to plough and then keeps looking back is of no use to the Kingdom of God.”] Following Jesus requires your total commitment. In the light of all that Jesus has done for you and offers freely, are you willing to give up all to follow Him? Give Him your all? Forsake your own path and plans and walk in the way that He directs? It is not something to be entered into lightly. You need to consider what He requires before deciding whether you are prepared to follow Him.