It’s an astounding fact that western Christianity has largely made itself no Christianity at all. How is it that we’ve come from the early church, in which the apostles and the followers of Jesus were severely persecuted, to a place where following Jesus is made to be like having a boy- or girlfriend?
In those days after the crucifixion of Jesus and for centuries afterwards, His disciples knew how difficult and costly it was to belong to Him. Every single one of the apostles, except for John, were put to death by the authorities, often after extreme torture. John himself suffered persecution, just not unto death.
The Roman emperors realized the menace Christianity was to the State. When all citizens were required to bow down and worship Caesar, and the only ones who didn’t were the Christians, these absolute authorities saw that such dissent would cause them to lose power. Since power and control were what they lived for, these heads of state had to destroy that which threatened their position. Such thinking continued from the Roman Empire with its emperors to the Catholic church with its popes. True Christianity demanded obedience to God alone; the Vatican required that people obeyed the pontiff as – supposedly – Christ’s representative on earth. When Bible believing Christ-followers saw that the man at the top of the Catholic church was flawed and sinful and his decrees against the ways of God, those who loved the Lord had to stand against Rome’s way. Persecution followed.
Jesus spared no warning when He spoke of how difficult it would be to follow Him. In Luke 14:27-28 He said:
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Bearing one’s cross and counting the cost aren’t words that speak of an easy life. Of course, the cross in Jesus’ time was an instrument of torture by the Roman government. Implying that someone must take such a burden of potentially being crucified required serious consideration on the part of a person thinking of following Jesus. That was indeed an expensive cost.
Christ-followers in the 10/40 Window generally have that same decision to make. The dynamics in Muslim, Hindu, and Communist countries demand that people follow those ideologies and religions exclusively. Someone rejecting them and turning to Christianity knows how difficult this will be. He’s seen it in the culture around him. He’s observed how anyone declaring Jesus is Lord rather than Mohammad, thirty million gods, or no God at all brings down the wrath of friends, family, and the State. He can lose everything, from his possessions, to his position, to his relationships, to his life. He must do what Jesus said in Luke 14:33:
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
He must renounce everything and all expectations that this life will be easy.
Thus the question: How did Western Christianity evolve to the belief that – pick one:
- This should be our best life now?
- The gospel is about social justice?
- Jesus demands that we worship the earth?
- The Bible tells us that race and racial equity are the keys to heaven?
- We can shape our own reality by thinking and saying the right things?
Seems like a perversion of what Jesus intended, doesn’t it? Bad thinking, however, isn’t isolated to our current times. When Saul became king in ancient Israel, Yahweh required certain acts of obedience from him. Over the course of time, Saul proved that obeying the Word of God wasn’t his priority. After failing to honor the Lord with the best of the spoils of war, and instead setting up a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15:12), Saul learned the price of these wrong actions when the prophet Samuel had to set him straight and declare the bad news to him. In 1 Samuel 15:22-23 we see the consequences:
And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
We learn so much from these few verses:
- Obedience is better than sacrifice
- God equates rebellion to divination
- To presume upon the graces of God is an immoral act that He likens to idolatry, i.e. following gods other than Him
Saul’s sins caused God to strip away the kingship of Israel from him. And that brings us to another question. Would the presumptions noted above for the Western church grieve God in a similar manner to how Saul caused Him sorrow?
For presumptions they are. If Jesus died for the true Gospel, and the Western church is propagating a false gospel with little to no cost of discipleship, what will God’s judgment be upon this false church with its aberrant Christianity?
Sadly, we already know the answer from Christ’s letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:16. Jesus says He “will spit [vomit] you out of My mouth.”
This is the norm today in our apostate church. Many have fallen away and many more will depart from the faith. On the other hand, there remain a faithful few – a remnant, if you will – who desire to follow our Lord at any cost. If we are to see Him face-to-face and rejoice in doing so, shouldn’t we determine here and now to trust in Jesus whatever it costs?