Satan Shows His Best and Hides His Worst; Christ Shows His Worst and His Best

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Matthew Henry was a British pastor who wrote a devotional commentary on the whole Bible between the years of 1704 and 1714. It is so spiritually insightful that the great evangelist, George Whitefield, read all six volumes four times, the last time on his knees.

I consulted Henry’s commentary last Sunday on the text for the evening service, Luke 14:25-33. This is the place where Jesus tells prospective disciples to count the cost before following him. He says that if anyone does not “hate” his family and his own life “he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This is a hard saying and a high price for being a Christian. So Jesus says,

Which of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.

In other words, before you become a Christian, sit down and count the “expenses” and the “perils” of following Jesus.

So Jesus is unashamed and unafraid of telling us up front the “worst”—the painful cost of being a Christian—hating family (v. 26), carrying a cross (v. 27), renouncing possessions (v.33). There is no small print in the covenant of grace. It is all big, and bold. No cheap grace! Very costly! Come, and be my disciple.

But Satan hides his worst and shows only his best. All that really matters in the deal with Satan is in small print on the back page. On the front page in big, bold letters are the words, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4), and “All these things I will give to you, if you fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). But on the back page in small print—so small you can only read it with the magnifying glass of the Bible—it says: “And after the fleeting pleasures, you will suffer with me forever in hell.”

Why is Jesus willing to show us his “worst” as well as his best, while Satan will only show us his best? Matthew Henry answers, “Satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not [counterbalance] his worst; but Christ’s will abundantly” (Vol. 5, p. 737).

The call of Jesus is not just a call to suffering and self-denial; it is first a call to a banquet. This is the point of the parable in Luke 14:16-24. Jesus also promises a glorious resurrection where all the losses of this life will be repaid (Luke 14:14). He also tells us that he will help us endure the hardships (Luke 22:32). He also tells us he will give us the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). He promises that even if we are killed for the kingdom, “not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18).

Which means that when we sit down to calculate the cost of following Jesus—when we weigh the “worst” and the “best”—he is worth it. Abundantly worth it (see Romans 8:18). Not so with Satan. Stolen bread is sweet, but afterward the mouth is full of gravel (see Proverbs 20:17).

Grateful for the honesty of grace,

Pastor John