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In his recent New York Times best-selling book “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” (Multnomah, 2010) author David Platt challenges the water-downed gospel featured in many American churches in our day. He correctly diagnoses many of us when he says that we are “settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves” (page 7).
What does it mean to follow Jesus? In Matthew 19:21, Jesus told a rich young man who came to Him asking what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life to “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (ESV). Following Jesus will affect your pocketbook.
But not only is it costly materially to follow Jesus, it can also cost you your life. This is what our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church around the world already know. It is costing them something to follow Jesus. They are shedding their blood for the privilege of following Jesus.
According to the teaching of Jesus, this is to be expected. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (ESV).
What did it mean to take up one’s cross? It doesn’t mean to wear a golden cross on a necklace or as a lapel pin. It meant to take up an instrument of death and carry it with you to the place of execution. As the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” (“The Cost of Discipleship,” Touchstone, 1995, page 89). Bonhoeffer was executed for his attempts to resist the Nazism of his day. Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart.
Are you a follower of Jesus? Are you willing to follow Jesus now that you know what it means? There are many professing Christians who have been sold a false bill of goods. Come to Jesus, some say, and everything will be just fine. You’ll get everything you get when you play country music backward: your wife back, your truck back and your dog back. That’s not what Jesus is offering. Jesus is calling for absolute submission to His kingly authority, and nothing less.
We have trouble understanding this in America. But our brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith have no problem at all understanding the words of Jesus. To learn more about them and how you can help their cause, visit www.persecution.com.
Steve Weaver is an Anderson County resident and pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church (www.farmdalebaptist.com) on 127 just across the Franklin County line.