Learning to Count

Our youngest child started kindergarten last week. Because this is our third time down this road, we have a pretty good idea of how this is going to go. We know, for example, that this week is going to be rough. He’s going to be exhausted all week long as he adjusts to this new schedule. We know that he’s going to have to become accustomed concentrating for a longer period of time. And we knew that the first few days of class would be a kind of assessment of where he is currently in his learning so that his teacher will have a good gauge of where to begin the class.

Part of that assessment was for Christian to display his counting skills. He’s been practicing for that assessment for a while, and Christian is a good counter. He can go all the way to one hundred and further unassisted, but he came by that through practicing counting over and over again. He has counted fruits; he’s counted insects; he’s counted pennies; he’s counted virtually everything around him in increasing levels for the better part of the last year.

As he grows, he will be able to count more and more, and that counting will become more and more instinctive. But counting is not just a skill for kindergartners; counting is a learned practice for every Christian. In fact, much of the Christian life is indeed about counting:

  • In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).
  • consider (count) that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
  • But whatever were gains to me I now consider (count) loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider (count) everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider (count) them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).
  • As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered (James 5:11).

Christians count. We count ourselves dead to sin; we count our present sufferings not comparable with the glory to be revealed; we count all things as loss; and we count persecution as blessings. When we count as Christians, we look at the truth we behold in Scripture, then we being that truth to bear on the present situation. Through our counting, we get an accurate assessment of what’s before us. Many times, it’s only through counting that we are able to see through the present circumstances and instead behold the truth of a situation by faith.

When, for example, we are tempted to sin, we count. When we count, we remember what Christ has done for us. This is an objective truth, as objective as 1+1=2. We know that we have died to sin and been raised to life in Jesus. Through our counting, then, we see that sin no longer has any power over us.

When, for example, we are tempted to despair because of the suffering in our lives and in the world, we count. When we count, we remember that circumstances and fallenness do not have the final word. We bring to bear the truth of what is to come onto our perspective in our current situation.

Like a kindergartner learning his numbers, so do we practice the discipline of counting, and it is indeed a discipline. We take a step back, realizing that we need truth to interpret our situations and accuracy to drive our feelings. And of course, we can count because Jesus Himself has first been counted:

“It is written: ‘And he was counted with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37).

Because Jesus has been counted among the transgressors, we can count ourselves as the righteous children of God, dead to sin and alive in Christ. This is a skill we learn over time, starting with 1+1. But as we count more and more, that counting becomes more and more instinctive. So count today, Christian; bring the truth of the gospel to bear on life.

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