Canaan Toll Booths Ahead

By David M. McNabb

Interstate 90 is a major U.S. artery, which runs from Boston, Mass. to Seattle, Wash., passing through 13 states. Most of the eastern part of I-90 is tolled, which means one must pay a fare to travel that part of highway. From the Wisconsin/Illinois border eastward, the traveler must stop and take a ticket which shows the entry point. Upon exiting the highway (or crossing a state line), the traveler pays the appropriate fee for the distance travelled.

Although alternate routes are sometimes available, I-90 is often the best, most logical, and most convenient route - despite the cost.

As you enter the toll road, and take your ticket, you are faced with a reality: there is no turning back. You are obligated to pay for the use of the road. You cannot make a U-turn and return to the toll plaza of origin for free. In fact, doing so would be in violation of the law, resulting in a fine far greater than the toll would have been to continue on to the next exit.

Since there is no turning back, one must consider the cost before even entering. Payment will be required at the exit, so one should not even think about getting on the highway without first having enough cash on hand. Thanks to the modern marvel of ATMs, it is sometimes possible to obtain the money at a rest area along the way, but that, too, must be included in the travel plans. And what if the ATM is out of service? How will you reach your destination if you fail to obtain the funds? It may be the right way, the best way, or maybe even the only way, but you must be aware of the cost.

On a day when multitudes followed Jesus, He said to them, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26-33).

Jesus makes a clear distinction between believers and disciples in John 8:28-32. "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

You see, for you to be a disciple of Christ, it is not enough to simply believe in Him: you must abide in Him. While there is a simplicity in Christ Jesus, modern evangelists are often guilty of over-simplifying life in Him. As the Pharisees of Jesus' day, most of the emphasis is put on producing more converts, and the principles of the doctrine of Christ are not instilled in the newborn believer. As Jesus said to them, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15). How did they accomplish that ignominious result? Jesus rebuked their method in Luke 11:52, "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."

Today, Christian leadership calls us to pray and sing together, while doctrinal discussions are deliberately avoided. We are encouraged to focus on those things which "unite" us, but the Scriptures reveal an immutable truth: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). If we never come to the unity of the faith - contending earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints - then true unity will never be achieved.

The character of God's Church, from its very foundation, has been its unity. On the day of Pentecost, "they were all with one accord," and they "continued daily with one accord." It is unity, and not diversity, that God celebrates. It is His will that we, with one mind and one voice, glorify Him, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:27). In this way alone will our lifestyle reflect the gospel of Christ!

However, in today's world, to shun diversity as the central theme - pursuing instead unity through God's word - is to reject conventional wisdom. The hue and cry of modern "civilized" society, and that of mainstream (apostate) Christianity, is an affront to godliness, righteousness, and true justice.

With great joy, we have received the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ. What we do with that precious gift, though, must now be decided. Will we reject His true way, and allow ourselves to flow with the rushing currents of modern, progressive thought, or will we turn contrary to the winds of humanism, and set our hearts to be true disciples of the Lord? Who will be more influencial in the way we live our lives: God or the world?

Jesus spoke plainly, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:34-38).

This is the cost. Will we cling to the world, gaining acceptance on the altar of public opinion and peer pressure, or will we reject the world, and come up with acceptance on the altar of God, that He might glorify the house of His glory?

Are you willing to lose all for the cause of Christ? Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Nothing else will do. Nothing else will be pleasing in the sight of God.

Peter presented his case to the Lord, saying, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" Which of you, given the opportunity to stand before the Mighty God, could say, as Peter did, that you left all to follow Christ? Which of you, today, would walk away from all aspects of your earthly life, to pursue the will of God?

God told Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee so Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him." With very little direction, God sent Abram on a journey. The promise was great, and the blessings ahead were unimaginable, but the cost was high. Abram had to abandon the familiarity of the people and place of his nativity. He had to leave behind his brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and the rest of his friends and family. He even had to part ways with Lot, the one nephew whom he had taken with him, that the call of God upon his life could be answered in its entirety.

Later, Abraham would have to bid farewell to his concubine Hagar, and the dear son she bore him, Ishmael. When you consider the sons of Keturah, you can see Abraham as a man, who, though God had promised to multiply him as the sand of the sea, was willing to let seven of his sons depart, trusting God to fulfill His promise in the person of Sarah's only child, Isaac. So great was his faith in God, that he was obedient to God's will, even unto the point of offering Isaac for a sacrifice, if need be. Paul said, "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:20-22).

Abraham's story serves as an example of how we ought also to be. Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).

The children of Israel, likewise, had a price to pay to enter the land of promise. Their obedience to the word of God, and their unwavering trust in His deliverance, was required if they would possess the land. When they staggered at the promise of God through unbelief, He caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years, until a new generation would arise that would judge Him faithful to keep that which He had promised.

Today is the day of our trial of faith. Will we be the generation that will trust the Almighty, or will we perish in the wilderness, while another generation inherits the promises? Are you willing to sacrifice conventional wisdom for the wisdom which is from above? Are you willing to reject pragmatism for divine providence? Are you willing to pay the toll of discipleship, with the land of promise as its clear destination?

The decision is yours, and the time is now. God's grace is sufficient for us, and the toll booths are just ahead.

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