Four Costs of Being a True Christian

by J.C. Ryle, adapted by
Time: 6 Minutes

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28 ESV)

Let me try to show precisely and particularly what it costs to be a true Christian.

Let us suppose that a man is determined to take service with Christ and feels drawn and inclined to follow him. Let us suppose that some affliction or some sudden death or an awakening sermon has stirred his conscience and made him feel the value of his soul and desire to be a true Christian.

No doubt there is everything to encourage him. His sins may be freely forgiven, however many and great. His heart may be completely changed, however cold and hard. Christ and the Holy Spirit, mercy and grace, are all ready for him—but still he should count the cost.

Let us see particularly, one by one, the things that his Christianity will cost him.


Your Self-Righteousness

True Christianity will cost one his self–righteousness.

He must cast away all pride, high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free 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 that there is no health in him.”

He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible reading, church-going, and sacrament receiving. He must trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.


Your Sin

True Christianity will cost a man his sins.

He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. Whatever the world around him may say or think, 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 control.

He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which 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 give way to them.

He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins.

It is written,

  • “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed” (Ezekiel 18:31 ESV)
  • “Break off your sins . . . and iniquities” (Daniel 4:27 ESV)
  • “Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16 ESV)

This sounds hard. I do not wonder. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye (Matthew 5:29-30).

But it must be done. The parting must come.

“Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth” (Job 20:12, 13 ESV) yet it must be given up, if he wishes to be saved.

He and sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But he will not receive them if they will stick to their sins.

He and sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But he will not receive them if they will stick to their sins. 


Your Love of Ease

Also, living as a true Christian will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble if he means to run a successful race toward heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground.

He must take heed to his behavior: every hour of the day, in every company, 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.

With all their means of grace, he must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible reading, his use of Sundays.

In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of those who he can safely neglect. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4 ESV).

This also sounds hard. There is nothing we naturally dislike so much as “trouble” about our religion. We hate trouble. We secretly wish we could have a vicarious Christianity, and could be good by proxy, and have everything done for us.

Anything that requires exertion and labor is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have “no gains without pains.”


The Favor of the World

Lastly, true Christianity 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, or 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.

He must not marvel if some call him mad, in fact. The Master says, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20 ESV).

I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We would not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbors.

It is always unpleasant to be spoken against and forsaken and lied about and to stand alone. But we can’t help it. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by his disciples. They must be “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

The Cost of Being A True Christian Is Worth It

Considering the weight of this great cost, bold indeed must that man be who would dare to say that we may keep our self–righteousness, our sins, our laziness and our love of the world, and yet be saved!

Moreover, I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But what sane man or woman can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved?

When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew thinks nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb dies, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save his life.

Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. 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.

This article has been adapted from J.C. Ryle’s sermon, titled, The Cost. This originally appeared on
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