The Cost, written by well-known author and preacher Steven Lawson, is a simple, straight-forward proclamation of what it means to be a true disciple of Christ based upon Luke 14:25-35. In the biblical account, a large crowd was listening to Jesus. The crowd was composed of many levels of interest – from those who were merely curious to some who were confused to those who were counterfeit to those seeking truth and to some who were committed disciples (pp. 21-31). Jesus clarifies to this mixed multitude what it means to be a follower of Himself. As Lawson correctly interprets Jesus’ words, to begin the journey costs us nothing but it is a journey that comes at a high price (pp. 15, 17). “It is a free gift to receive by faith alone. But it will cost you everything” (p. 127), is the essence of this book.
Several brief observations could sum up this short volume:
- It is written in a very simple style, with short choppy sentences. While this was a bit irritating, at least for this reviewer, apparently the target audience is the unregenerate who have little exposure to Scripture, or the Gospel, and Lawson resorted to this writing style believing it will communicate better to them.
- Lawson clearly distinguishes between the gift of salvation, which is obtained by faith alone, and the cost of discipleship, which is all-consuming. As he writes in his closing sentence, “It will cost you everything.”
- As such, Lawson is presenting what is often termed a Lordship salvation understanding of the Gospel message. “No one cuts their own deal with Christ” (p. 37), and “Jesus will not accept a mere peripheral place in our lives” (p. 66), and, “These words spoken by Christ will negate any possibility of easy believism” (p. 51). Repentance is a requirement for conversion (pp. 123-125).
- In addition, all those truly born again will be followers of Christ, something Jesus calls for 13 times in the Gospels (p. 61).
- Interestingly, for one known for his strong Calvinistic theology and, in particular, his focus on limited atonement, none of this is evident in The Cost, however a call for a “decision” to receive Christ is a regular feature of the book (e.g. 59). Having heard and read many Calvinist deride “decisional regeneration” over the years, I was left to wonder what Lawson intends to communicate. While a book geared to the unbeliever is not the place for a heady theological discussion on election and free will, it did not go unnoticed that virtually any well-versed Arminian could have written this book. This caused me to conclude that, while this is a valuable subject to pursue, perhaps less vilifying of others’ positions on the presentation of the Gospel is in order.
- I did not agree with the author’s insistence that the unregenerate must feel their need for Christ and the weight of their sin, equating that with the conviction of the Holy Spirit (pp. 121-123). It may very well be the case that such feelings will accompany the Spirit’s conviction, but I do not see it as the same thing. The New Testament indicates that it is when an individual comes to the recognition of their sins and is convinced of their need for a Savior that they turn to Christ. Feeling may often be part of this process, but it is not mandated.
Lawson’s stated purpose was to “help you see what is required in beginning an authentic relationship with Christ” (p. 9). I believe the author accomplished that purpose.
The Cost, What It Takes to Follow Jesus by Steven J. Lawson (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2017) 127 pp., paperback $9.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel