The following is taken from J.C. Ryle’s book Holiness, in the chapter entitled The Cost –
But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.
Hence arises the unspeakable importance of ‘counting the cost’. Let me try to show precisely and particularly what it costs to be a true Christian. Let us suppose that a man is disposed 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 religion will cost him. [Following is the first cost which Ryle discusses]-
1. For one thing, it will cost him 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. 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, churchgoing, and sacrament receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
Now this sounds hard to some. I do not wonder. ‘Sir,’ said a godly ploughman to the well-known James Hervey, of Weston Favell, ‘it is harder to deny proud self than sinful self. But it is absolutely necessary.’ Let us set down this item first and foremost in our account. To be a true Christian it will cost a man his self-righteousness.
Ryle, J. C.. Holiness . Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.