Several years ago I compiled a devotional book from Ray Stedman’s writings called The Power of His Presence. I’m delighted that these devotions are now being sent out to over 7,000 people each day on their email through an excellent website called raystedman.org. I am currently writing a second devotional on Ray’s writings that will be available in 2014. I’m constantly amazed at how relevant Ray’s writings still are. As I was reading some material from a sermon Ray did on Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, I ran across this quote that identified for me some of the concerns I have about more than a few best-selling Christian books today:
There are a great many books written about the so-called “cost of discipleship.” They declare, in one way or another, that to have power with God we must pay a high price. In various ways they state that to become a victorious Christian, an effective Christian, requires a difficult and demanding discipline… I must say that I am not impressed with this type of literature at all…. We have gotten the cart before the horse… I do not mean that such an approach is untrue, for the fact is that obedience to God does mean saying, “No” to a lot of other things. You cannot say, “Yes” to the Spirit of God without, at the same time, saying, “No” to many other things: it is simply inherent in the process of decision. Therefore, I do not mean that power with God and living for the glory of God does not indeed cost us certain fancied pleasures and relationships which perhaps we want to hold onto. But the cost of discipleship is not the cost that really ought to concern us. The truly costly thing is the cost of disobedience! There is where the emphasis should be put. I would love to see a book on the cost of rebellion in the Christian life.
How well we know that cost. What a tremendous toll our rebelliousness, our disobedience, our unwillingness to give of ourselves, takes in our lives in terms of frustrated, restless spirits, the shameful, degrading acts that we hope nobody discovers, the skeletons that rattle around in our closets for years, the irritated, vexatious dispositions that keep us in a nervous frenzy all the time, the weak, spineless, crowd-following ways that we frequently exhibit, the self-righteous, smug, religiosity which we call Christianity that is a stench in the nostrils of the world and an offense unto God and men. Where do these things come from? Are they not the terrible price that we pay for a rebellious spirit, for an unwillingness to yield ourselves to the Lordship of Christ? We are not our own, we say, but we still cling to the right to run our own lives and make our own decisions, to choose our own pleasures and to go where we will and do what we want, and we cover it over with reserved, pious religiosity! We say we want to do God’s will — as long as it is what we want to do. At the center of our lives Self is still king, and that is the problem. Our own glory is in view. We still want what we want and we are not willing as Jesus was, to walk in glad obedience.