“For want of counting the cost, the children of religious parents often turn out ill and bring disgrace on Christianity. Familiar from their earliest years with the form and theory of the gospel, taught even from infancy to repeat great leading texts, accustomed every week to be instructed in the gospel, or to instruct others in Sunday schools, they often grow up professing a religion without knowing why or without ever having thought seriously about it. And then when the realities of grown–up life begin to press upon them, they often astound everyone by dropping all their religion and plunging right into the world. And why? They had never thoroughly understood the sacrifices which Christianity entails. They had never been taught to count the cost.” ~ J.C. Ryle Holiness
Raising children who “leave the church” had always been one of my greatest fears. Now the truth is, that children like that were never in the church to begin with. However, usually parents believe that they were and that when these children grow into adulthood and forsake all of the religious teaching that they have had, they are simply living in a “back slidden” condition.
But I don’t think that is what the Word of God says. And I don’t want my children to grow up deluded into unbiblical thinking when it comes to true Christianity and that means teaching them to count the cost. It is a high cost. Ryle lists four.
1. True Christianity will cost one his self–righteousness. He must cast away all pride and 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.
2. 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. 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, whatever the world around him may say or think….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. But it must be done.
3. Also, Christianity 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 and 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.
4. 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 and even 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. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad.
This is what I want to teach my children. I want them to know these things for several reasons. One, that they will know what true Christianity is. Because if you don’t know what it is, how can you be one? Two, that they will be prepared. When you are prepared, you are not surprised by it and that brings greater consistency in your walk with the Lord. Lastly, I want them to count the cost because I desire them to be keenly aware that if they are not paying this “price”, have they really sold all?
O God, please don’t let me raise children deluded into thinking that they are true followers of Christ, when they aren’t!
That is my heart’s cry.