by Rayola Kelley
Q: What does the term, “paying the price” really mean in layman’s terms?
A: The concept of “paying the price” comes out of Jesus’ statement found in Luke 14:28-32 in regard to “counting the cost.” If you count the cost, it is with the intent to pay the price. If you pay the price, you will possess the goods.
The cost Jesus is talking about is that of discipleship. Sadly, it seems the concept of “paying the price” is becoming vague or misused. To explain what it really means, I first have to do away with misconceptions about “paying the price.”
Separation from the world: Some people think that when you separate from certain aspects of the world, that that is paying the price. This is incorrect. Separation from the world must occur before you are able to “pay the price.” Without the separation from the world, one simply becomes a martyr rather than a disciple.
Consequences due to wrong decisions and actions: Other people think that reaping what one has sown in the flesh is “paying the price.” However, this is incorrect as well. The principle of reaping what you sow reveals one’s character that will manifest itself in fruits. Those who fail to make the right decision, and begin to taste the fruit of it, are simply facing the foolishness of their fleshly ways. One can always distinguish these people by the spirit of self-pity that operates in their lives. Such people feel sorry for themselves because they are caught in their foolishness and called to accountability.
Giving up worldly possessions and activities: Some people believe “paying the price” is giving up certain aspects of their worldly life and activities. After all, are they not being noble in giving these things up? Cannot God see their sacrifices? However, these are not sacrifices. They are nothing more than people throwing God a bone to impress Him. These people not only delude themselves, but also become self-righteous in their religious attempts to offer blemished and unholy sacrifices because they are self-serving.
This brings us to the real cost. As I have stated, it is the cost of true discipleship. Jesus clearly outlines the cost of this life. Let’s consider it.
Deny self: The price of separation that we must pay is separation from the self-life. The self-life includes rights to my life on my terms. This involves personal dreams, agendas, and pursuits. It means I have no real personal life. In other words, I cannot offer certain parts of my life to God while holding onto my rights to other areas of it.
A good example of this is, “Lord, you can have my time, energy, talents and resources for 23 and-a-half hours a day, but I reserve the last half-hour for myself. The problem is self will eventually resent the time that is dedicated to God and become a suffering martyr on the altar of martyrdom. In the end, such an attitude will defile anything that is being done for God.
The cost of denying self of the self-life is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means the self-life will have no arena to rise up, demand its right to exist, and defile what has been committed to God.
Pick up the cross: It is important to realize that we cannot offer anything of the self-life to God that can be used. Therefore, the Apostle Paul tells us to offer our bodies up as a living sacrifice. The body is the only thing God can really use. Outside of the motivation of the self-life, it is a vessel that can be made fit for His use and glory. Within the dictates of the self-life, pride is serving as its platform to execute its demands and desires. Once the self-life is denied along with neglecting pride, the body can now be used for God’s bidding. However, the cross must be applied to all fleshly and worldly influences and emphasis.
It is important to point out that offering up our bodies as an ongoing or perpetual sacrifice does not really constitute “paying the price.” According to Paul, it is our “reasonable service” in order to discover the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
This brings us to the final aspect of the cost of discipleship—following Jesus. Without denying the self-life, we will play games with our Christian life. In other words, we will give the impression we are nobly “paying the price,” while standing up on the inside defying the living God, and refusing to follow Jesus into the life He is calling us to.
Without applying the cross, we will lag behind or get ahead of what Jesus is trying to accomplish in our lives. The cross is the only means that will bring us under His yoke and discipline our walk, as we walk as He walks.
The cost we must pay is the cost of the self-life, agreement with the flesh, and associations with the world. In the light of eternity, this cost is not sacrificial, but necessary to gain the life Jesus has for us. After all, Jesus is the one who paid the ultimate price for our sins.
In fact, the ultimate cost to the self-life will bring us to the bedrock of our self-life, and that is our selfishness. Therefore, our cost is to strip our wicked, depraved selfishness of its prideful reign, its arrogant exaltation, and its right to exist and reign.
As I have stated more than once, we must pay the price to know God. We cannot know God from the premise of our wicked selfishness. We can only know God from the premise of being a true disciple of Jesus. The privilege to know God was paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice. Therefore, my cost to know Him is not sacrificial, but reasonable. It is not noble, but necessary. It is not a matter of great honorable attempts on my part. Rather, it comes down to a willingness to give up my right to be selfish, and give way to the liberating intervention and work of the Holy Spirit to point me in the righteous paths of the Shepherd. It is in such liberty that I can follow the Shepherd into the life that has been prepared for me; a life that is glorious and eternal; a life that leads me into the place of communion and rest with my Living God.