There are no shortcuts to heaven, no bargain rates. When I went to college, in Wheaton, Ill., I heard about a place in Chicago where, if you were the first one to arrive on Monday morning, you could get a bargain. So I was the first one there on Monday, and I bought a suit for $5. I was proud of that suit. I wore it on Saturday afternoon to a football game, and it rained. I’ll let your imagination tell you the rest. I thought I had a bargain, but I was mistaken.
The Bible teaches that it costs something to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. First, we need to realize the high price of sin. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NIV). That is a high price to pay for sin-physical death, spiritual death, eternal death. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). The Bible also says that “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7, NIV). Many of you are reaping what you have sown. You may be religious; you may go to church. But deep down in your heart there is that guilt because you know that you are not right with God and that your sins are not forgiven. You haven’t changed your way of living.
Job said, “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8, NIV). When we sow sin, we will reap the results of it. Someday your sin will catch up with you. No one will ever get by with a single sin. You may get by with it for a month, or a year, or two or three or five years, or even for 10 years. But one day you are going to reap what you have been sowing.
“They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes,” says Proverbs 1:31 (NIV).
Proverbs also says, “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast” (Proverbs 5:22, NIV). Think of it: Cords of sin hold you in some of your habits that you know to be wrong and sinful. It may be a drug habit; it may be an alcohol habit; it may be a sex habit; it may be something else. Too many people think that they can go out and sow their wild oats all week and then head for church on Sunday, and everything is OK.
Everything is not OK. You may have been baptized and confirmed and you may go to church. But Sunday is just one day, and the rest of your week–your business life, your home life–is something else.
You must not just become a Christian; you must also be a Christian all the time, 24 hours a day. You should bear the fruit of the Spirit, which the Holy Spirit supernaturally produces in you when you come to know Christ.
Is it worth it? The Bible says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17, NIV). Are you in the will of God?
Jesus Christ paid a high price for your sins. He died on the cross for your sins. He suffered death and hell and judgment for you in your place. He rose again for you.
You can come to God, and He will forgive your sins and give you the power–power that you have never known before–to resist temptation. But you need to repent of your sin. Have you renounced your sin? That is what it means to repent. It means to say to God, “I have sinned, but I’m willing to renounce my sins and change my way of living.”
The Bible talks about “all that is in the world” as being “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16, NKJV). One meaning of the word “lust” is selfish desire.
Such worldly desire may be in the physical realm, which is “the lust of the flesh.” It could be the wrong use of sex. It could be gluttony, overdrinking or overeating. It could be self-indulgences of various sorts.
It may be in the realm of the imagination, “the lust of the eyes.” Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1, NIV).
It may be in the realm of ambition, the pride of life. In other words, wanting that job, that honor, that award–so badly that you would sell your soul for it. It is wanting something so badly that you will do anything to get it. That is one of the tricks of the devil. Is it worth paying the price? No! It is too high a price to pay.
Not only is there the high price of sin, but there is also the high price of salvation. It cost God His Son. “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19, NIV).
Can you imagine how God felt and how the angels felt when they saw the Son of God taken outside Jerusalem and beaten with long leather thongs? When they saw the crown of thorns placed on His brow? When they saw His blood dripping from head to toe? He had to carry a heavy wooden cross until He stumbled and fell, and a man from Africa helped Him to carry it to Golgotha. Nails were put into His hands and feet. He was jolted up between heaven and earth, and there He hung. The heart of God was broken. Perhaps the angels in heaven pulled their swords, ready to come and rescue Him.
But God’s Son said, “No, I love them too much.” He was looking forward to this generation and to other generations. He said, “I am dying for their salvation. I want to reconcile them to me. I want to save them; I want to forgive them. And this is the only way.”
Finally, there is the high price of commitment. You, too, must pay a high price, a high cost. Jesus must become first in your life as your Lord and your Master and your Savior. Jesus never offered a bargain. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV).
What does that mean? It may cost you a great deal when you come to Christ. For some of you, it will cost you friends. They won’t want a person around them who lives a clean life and talks about God and reads the Bible and prays. It becomes embarrassing to them.
It may mean misunderstanding. Jesus told us that His coming divides families. Some will say yes, and some will say no.
C.T. Studd, the famous English cricketer and member of the Cambridge Eleven cricket team, gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary. His slogan was, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” He lost himself for Christ.
In 1912 William Borden, a graduate of Yale University, left one of America’s greatest family fortunes to be a missionary to China. He got as far as Egypt and died of cerebral meningitis. But before he died–and he was only in his 20s–he said that he had “no reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”
Then there was Jim Elliot, who became a missionary to the Aucas in South America. He was killed, along with four others. Before he died, he had written this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
It may cost you something to come to Christ. It may cost you time and effort. You may have to get up earlier in the morning to read your Bible, and that may be hard for some of you. It may mean that you will have to witness to a neighbor. You may feel embarrassed or shy about it. It may mean that you will have to treat your wife or your husband differently. It may mean a whole new relationship with your family. God may speak to you in a hundred different ways.
Are you willing to pay that price in order to have God’s joy and God’s peace and God’s forgiveness?
Then I am going to ask you to make that commitment–a hard commitment. There are no shortcuts to heaven.