Jesus has the best public relations in the world. The stuff one can buy with His name on it is everywhere. When you go to church in some places, it’s like attending a concert. Trendy names like Jesus Freak pop up, describing those who aren’t ashamed. For all of this cheerleading, are we really following Him?
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken touches on the reality of following Christ. In one situation, a Middle Eastern man realized if he followed Jesus that decision would place a death sentence on him, his wife, and children. Tonight, when one of our Fellowship Group questions asked, “What should our response be to God’s faithful leadership?”, I thought of two words: fear and excitement.
Fear describes a realistic (as much as I can imagine in America) viewpoint of what it means to answer Jesus in Matthew 4:19 when He said, “Follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” (NIV, paraphrased). It’s unsafe to follow God. In following God, a person could get cancer; or lose their home; or be asked to do something as minor as serve outside of our comfort zone because someone needed to see our faith in action to finally believe in Jesus’ existence. In America, I don’t have to worry about my decision to follow Jesus, or if tomorrow the police will knock on my door and take my husband because of my decision. I worship in freedom. I blog so far in freedom. Yet, this freedom also makes me and others complacent.
And I don’t understand this Free Grace (or otherwise phrased as cheap grace) because Lordship Salvation makes so much sense. I understand once you ask Jesus into your life, you’re saved. It’s not, “Jesus plus…,” it’s just Jesus. But then, I did a study in James and realized how much Lordship Salvation makes sense. Faith will save us, but we are called to be fruitful in our lives. It means giving up, doing, loving, not giving in, and sacrificing; and that brings me to the second word, excitement.
Excitement is how we should feel when faced with following Jesus. Not the kind of shallow excitement based on a well-organized public relations campaign where emotions fade and fail to pass, as Pagan Christianity said, the Monday morning test. But to look at following Jesus in a new way—an adventure. It means, you’ll be uncomfortable at times, doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, and maybe you’ll be called to live in a dangerous part of the world or in an unsafe part of town. Maybe, like me, you aren’t being called to other parts of the world, but simply to step away from being a wallflower and start approaching strangers to pray for them.
Sometimes excitement for a calling flags as time passes and the emotions wear thin, but like any commitment, it’s something you have chosen. You know the excitement is still there and the burning belief, too, that God wants you there, but for the moment, you struggle to feel it. Like any good emotion, joy returns again. Following Jesus is risky and rewarding.
In other countries, it means poverty for life, a lower station in life, or death if discovered by the wrong people, even the authorities. In America, I will never know how it feels to live for Jesus in the way Christians in the Middle East live. I won’t ever know the kind of poverty where people live in landfills. In church, as we worship God, I wonder if we in America really know what it means to follow Jesus? How far would we really go if our faith was tested like it is elsewhere in the world?
The sane part of me is grateful we aren’t tested in that way. The insane part of me knows that kind of testing brings only good to believers, shakes up apathy and complacency. It stirs the blood. So as I drink water out of my Jesus water bottle, I often pray that my faith will be as strong as the faiths of other believers worldwide.
What if following Jesus meant losing your job, your family, or your iphone?