— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Have You Counted the Cost of Following Christ? – John 16:1-7

Count the Cost
Have you ever considered what it could cost you to wholeheartedly follow Christ?

On the morning of July 15th 1555 at 9am, two men were led to their execution at London’s Smithfield in the reign of “bloody Queen Mary”. They were condemned to be burnt alive as heretics. One was a young man of 19 called John Leaf, the other was about 45 years old and his name was John Bradford.

Among Bradford’s final words at the stake were these “O England, England, repent!” Turning to the young man who was to suffer with him he said, “Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a happy supper with the Lord tonight”. Then, embracing the wood of his execution, he repeated our Saviour’s words, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to life and few there be that find it”. “Thus”, says Foxe in his Book of Martyrs, “like two lambs, they both ended their mortal lives … being void of all fear”. [1]

Date: February 19, 2012
Title: Have You Counted the Cost of Following Christ?
Scripture: John 16:1-7
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont, Higgins Lake Baptist Church
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These are just two of so many over the centuries of who have considered the cost and given their all for Christ.

We’re going to see, as we enter chapter 16 of John’s Gospel today, that Jesus was very clear with His disciples that to follow Him would be very costly. He didn’t paint a green pasture picture of the good life that would be theirs if they committed to following Him faithfully. He didn’t tell then they’d be rich or that everyone would love them.

No, in fact, what we hear in the first few verses of chapter 16 may have shocked the disciples. It would be a wakeup call to them to consider the cost. This was not to scare them away — this was to prepare them. And this is also to prepare us. 

Have you considered that following Christ will not be easy, it will be difficult, and it will be costly in human terms? We’ll be better prepared if we consider the cost of following Christ as we read the text before us. 

Let’s look at John 16:1-7.

1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.

4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’

6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Chapter 16 begins with this reminder from Jesus that he’d been telling them all these things we saw back in chapter 15, such as He is the true vine, and that believers are to abide in the vine, and that His Word is to abide in believers and that His love is to abide in believers, and that believers are to love one another. 

And this obedient abiding in Christ and loving one another is going to be critical for our strength and encouragement because, as we also heard in chapter 15, the world will hate all faithful followers of Christ. 

So with verse 1 here in chapter 16 Jesus tells the disciples why He’s been saying all these things to them:

1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

Following Christ is going to be a costly matter for all who accept the challenge to faithfully and obediently abide in Christ. Jesus wants His followers to be prepared for the difficulties that will come to those who obey Him. He doesn’t want them to be surprised. He doesn’t want them to be so discouraged that they lose hope and fail to trust him. So He says, I’ve told you all this to keep you from falling away

God’s Word is clear, the Godly will be persecuted. Says 2 Timothy 3:12; Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

So it does us no good to pretend otherwise. It is not Biblically honest to say that those who follow Christ will live safe and undisturbed lives because of their faith in Christ. Note how Jesus makes it plain for the disciples in verses 2. 

2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

I wonder what the disciples said when they heard this from Christ?

“Wait — what did you say? And Jesus says, “what, the part about throwing you out of the synagogues?” And they would say, “No, the other part, the part about being killed.”

That’s a shocker isn’t it? But it’s a prophetic word from Christ that has repeatedly proved true throughout the centuries. Many who have gone before us have had their lives taken from them for their faith in Jesus Christ and it’s still happening today, around the world. There are still believers today who are giving their lives for their faith in and obedience to Christ. 

And that should not surprise us, because Jesus makes it clear that it will be so. And sadly, as Jesus says in verse 2, they will think they are offering service to God. They’ll think they are taking the lives of Jesus’ followers as a favor and service to God. And this too has proved true over the centuries of Christendom. 

But why? Who would do this?

Why would people do this to Christians whose only crime is walking in obedience to Christ and bringing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 

Says Jesus in verse 3,

3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.

Why does the world hate and persecute followers of Christ? The world persecutes believers because they are blind. The do not know the Father or the Son. And this blindness is not in the absence of the truth — this blindness is because of their rejection of the truth. 

Jesus Christ brought the truth of salvation through faith in Him alone. Jesus Christ proclaims forgiveness of sins for all who repent of sin and trust in Him. 

But many there are who reject this truth, who reject their need of a Savior, who reject that they are sinners who need to be forgiven and they reject Christ. And they also reject those and persecute those who are Christ’s representatives — those who do follow Christ. 

It’s a sobering reminder, is it not, about what it means to be a true follower of Christ? Jesus didn’t come to proclaim, health and wealth and an easy path through life for all who trust in Him.

No, Jesus came and warned His followers that they must be prepared to suffer for the sake of righteousness. 

Jesus warned that we must be prepared to be rejected for our faith in Christ, wounded for our faith in Christ, opposed and persecuted and even killed, for our faith in Christ. 

But just as we’ve seen before, Jesus does not leave us without hope and help.

Repeatedly Jesus tells us that the Helper will come. All who place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sins will receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus tells the disciples again.

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Back in verse 4 Jesus says that he had told them all these things, warning them that there would be persecution and even death for following Him, but that when the persecution comes they would remember these things — things he had not told them earlier because He had been with them.

They didn’t need to know all this at first, but now He was preparing to leave them and their hearts are heavy because of this. They need encouragement. 

So now in verse 7 he tells them again, as we’ve heard Him tell them before, you will receive the Helper. It’s a good thing that I go away, says Jesus, because if I don’t go away you won’t have the Helper. But because I’m going away I am sending the Helper and you will be far better off because of this. 

How thankful, later, the disciples must have been when they did remember these things, realizing that as persecution came they had the help and strengthening of the Holy Spirit.

And we too should be thankful that Jesus ascended and now, we who trust in him have the indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. And when we begin to count the cost of following Christ, it’s comforting to know that He has not left us alone to live for him in this world. 

How good of God to give His children His Spirit to live in them, to strengthen them, to empower them to obedience. This is so important that we understand we have the power of Christ at work in us if we are His.

J.C. Ryle lays out four points on why this was “wise, and right, and true”, and a very good thing that Jesus ascended and believers now have the Holy Spirit instead of the physical presence of Christ. 

If Christ had not died, risen again, and ascended up into heaven, it is plain that the Holy Spirit could not have come down with special power on the day of Pentecost, and bestowed His manifold gifts on the Church. Mysterious as it may be, there was a connection in the eternal counsels of God, between the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit.

If Christ had remained bodily with the disciples, He could not have been in more places than one at the same time. The presence of the Spirit whom He sent down, would fill every place where believers were assembled in His name, in every part of the world.

If Christ had remained upon earth, and not gone up into heaven, He could not have become a High Priest for His people in the same full and perfect manner that He became after His ascension. He went away to sit down at the right hand of God, and to appear for us, in our human nature glorified, as our Advocate with the Father.

Finally, if Christ had always remained bodily with His disciples, there would have been far less room for the exercise of their faith and hope and trust, than there was when He went away. Their graces would not have been called into such active exercise, and they would have had less opportunity of glorifying God, and exhibiting His power in the world. [2]

We ought to count the cost of discipleship. There will be persecution for all who live in obedience to Christ. We ought not live under the illusion that we should have it easy as Christians, when through the centuries it has not been easy for Christians. But at the same time we also ought not lose hope. 

If we are Christ’s, we have the Helper. We have the Spirit of God at work in us to help, encourage and strengthen us in the exercise of our faith. We have the Spirit of God to embolden our obedience. We have an advocate with the Father. 

And yes, the cost of being a believer is high, but the cost of not following Christ is much higher. 

I would much rather live in this world with persecution for my faith in Christ, knowing I’m eternally secure and forgiven, knowing that I have the indwelling presence of God in me, than live this life without persecution and without God and without forgiveness of sins.

[1] JOHN BRADFORD (1510 – 1555)

[2] The Gospel of John, J.C. Ryle

Photo by: MikeBehnken (Creative Commons)