I remember witnessing my first baptism in Ghana, West Africa. We were all gathered behind the Effiakuma church building where there was a small tank of water. A brother stood outside the tank with a lady and was instructing her about the responsibilities of becoming a Christian (I had to ask since I don’t speak Twi).
Before he finished, his voice was raised and he was giving great emphasis to what he was saying. Even though I didn’t understand a word, I was thinking, “If I were that were that woman, I might be having second thoughts!”
This may have been the point of the whole ordeal. Taking up one’s cross and following Jesus is a daily death to self (Luke 9:23). It means a willingness to forsake family, friends, everything I have, and even my very life if necessary.
Without question the decision to follow Jesus necessitates a call to repentance and not just covering my bases.
In Matthew 3 and Luke 3, John the Baptist saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized by him. Knowing their history of hypocrisy, he rebuked them saying, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:7-8).
I recall a local preacher telling of a man who came to his office and requested baptism. Upon further investigative questioning, the man said that he read the Bible and believed he needed to be baptized, but didn’t know the right place to go, so he had been baptized several times that day already. His reasoning? He wanted to make sure he had his bases covered.
The Athenians were so superstitious that, despite their city being home to more than 30,000 deities, they hedged their bets and erected an altar to the unknown God (Acts 17). Paul declared and identified that God to them, admonishing them to count the cost of their disobedience and prepare for the judgment to come. While they were willing to hedge their bets, most were unwilling to hear Paul’s gospel of the resurrected Lord. Thankfully, some believed Paul and obeyed.
We must be willing to forsake all that we have to be true disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. No sacrifice is too great, no earthly relationship too important, no burden to great to bear. But we must prepare ourselves to pay!