It’s never been harder to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in America as it is today, yet we have many reasons to rejoice! Mainstream or “Cultural Christianity” may have lost much of its voice and influence, yet, the way of Christ, and the cost of following Him has never been clearer. It may not be as “cool” to be part of a church youth group, but perhaps this has given pause to Christian youth ministers (as I was not long ago) in trying to compete with the entertainment world by using their methods to attract the leaders of tomorrow. It’s evident that today’s generation is hungering for meaning and purpose for life, like the others, but we have never stood so distinctly unique from the rest of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In His own words, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Many may be mourning the loss of influence for Evangelical Christianity in America, but I believe the current cultural climate has presented us with new and wonderful opportunities to be His witnesses in the world. Less people will “play the game” like Ananias & Sapphira in Acts 5, if there is a cost involved. I tend to be pretty “cheap” with resources God’s entrusted to us for our home, often looking at used items or cheaper materials. I’ve learned the hard way, that sometimes, you get what you pay for! Sadly, the same is often true in churches. People are quick to flock to the free offer of Grace and forgiveness, but they fail to take into account what it means to truly follow Jesus.
To them, our Author graciously gives us these free samples: As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)
Perhaps all of this could be summed up by His words in Luke 9:24 "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Why did Jesus talk like this? Was He trying to lose followers? I would submit to you that He was graciously giving us the reality surrounding salvation in Him. He was moving past the common sense of His day and pointing to the Truth found in Himself.
We also need to look past the “safe” man-centered rituals found in stagnant church traditions to see that the Biblical Christian perspective is OTHER-worldly. It is not “common sense” for those seeking self-promotion or self-preservation. It may not even seem wise to those who have not been humbled by the revelation of a Holy God. But we in the West hear of this already at work in the lives of believers from many nations that are openly hostile to Christianity: Growth through Sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel!
Paul rightly reminded the Colossians of this beautiful reality in the midst of Persecution:
1:27-29 To them (the saints) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Also 2:20 – 3:3 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
It’s not “Us vs Them”, but “we were once them”. According to God’s viewpoint, we are already raised with Christ, so why not live in that reality and freedom, and throw off those things which shackle us to the ways of this world? Sure, the cost of following Him demands our lives, but the reward is far greater!
I say all this so that we may be prepared for the tides of persecution that are turning our way, and joyfully take it head-on with this Other-worldly perspective that brings true Hope.
In His Care,