The Cost of Repentence

In America and beyond, many see Christianity as a religion of convenience, not conviction. Baby boomers went church shopping in the 1990s, "traveling from church to church or faith to faith, sampling creeds, shopping for a custom-made God" ("The Church Search," Time Magazine, April 5, 1993, 45). In the wake of their church-shopping mentality came their children, the Millennials, and a generation that completely abandons moral absolutes and restraints (Rom. 1:24-32).

New Testament Christianity will never appeal to the mindset that looks for "a religion that fits me." The gospel that produces Christians calls on men and women to "fit" themselves to the will of God, through personal faith, repentance of sins and full obedience to the word of the Lord (Rom. 1:16-17; Matt. 7:21-23). That is not accomplished by church shopping.

The cost of discipleship is high, and that includes the cost of repentance (Lk. 14:25-33). While people look for a church that fits their desires (that is, teachings and practices that scratch their itching ears, 2 Tim. 4:3-4), the Bible tells the story of people who heard the gospel and were so persuaded by it that they paid a very high price to have its blessings of salvation for themselves. They found the "pearl of great price," and paid whatever price had to be paid in order to possess it (Matt. 13:45-46).

Consider one such example. The place was Ephesus, during a time when practicing magical arts and sorcery combined with the worship of Diana to form a powerful force over the lives of its citizens. Into this bastion of idolatry and sorcery-based superstitions came the apostle Paul, preaching Jesus Christ, His kingdom and His Way (Acts 19:8-10). The miracles that accompanied his preaching were astounding, convincing many in the city of the superior power of Jesus Christ and His gospel over their sorcery (Acts 19:11-17). Consequently, many believers divested themselves of their sinful practices, burning the very books which had once directed their performance of magical arts (Acts 19:19). Their action of repentance cost them a combined total of 50,000 pieces of silver (enough money to pay the yearly wages of 200 men). Yes, repentance cost them something.

Today, as then, the gospel calls on sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Those who answer the gospel call must understand their personal repentance will cost them something (such as the ceasing of sin, the reordering of priorities, etc.). The cost may be financial, emotional, relational, or all these. For example, does not the gospel call on the businessman, who prospers from the sale of sinful products (like alcohol), to renounce such an enterprise and cease profiting from the sins of others (Eph. 5:7-11; Gal. 5:21)? Yes, as surely as a converted silversmith in Ephesus could no longer profit from idolatry (Acts 19:24-27). Or again, the gospel calls on those in adulterous remarriages to stop their sinful relationship (Matt. 19:9; Rom. 6:1-2). It is hard to conceive of a more emotionally traumatic experience (see Ezra 10, where unlawful marriages were ended). Yet, repentance demands the practice of every sin must cease, including sinful remarriages (Acts 26:20).

To be saved from our sins we must pay the price that repentance requires. Heaven will be worth the cost (Matt. 16:24-27).