The passage below is from JC Ryle’s book Holiness which you can download as a pdf free (Part 1 and Part 2) from the Chapel Library. A longer version of the passage can be found from Chapel’s Free Grace Broadcaster magazine on Self-denial. The magazine has short articles from Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield and John Calvin as well, so it’s worth your time.
It costs something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost”.
For one thing, it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by grace and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel as well as say the Prayer-book words—that he has erred and gone astray like a lost sheep,” that he has “left undone the things he ought to have done, and done the things he ought not to have done, and that there is no health in him.” He must be willing to live up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church going, and sacrament receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
For another thing, it will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice that is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labor to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. Here must be no separate truce with any special sin that he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never written, “Cast away from you all your transgressions” (Ezekiel 18:31); Break off your sins…and your iniquities” (Daniel 4:27); “Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). This also sounds hard. I do not wonder. Our sins are often as dear us as our children are—we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them.
For another thing, it will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble if he means to run a successful race towards heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard like a soldier on enemy, in every company, and in every place-in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of Sundays with all their means of grace. In attending to these things, he may come farshort of perfection; but there is none of them that he can safely neglect. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs13:4).
In the last place, it will cost a man the favor of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic—to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute u; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
Such is the account of what it costs to be a true Christian. I grant the list is a heavy one. But where is the item that could be removed? I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity without a cross will prove in the end a useless Christianity without a crown.