Here in America after the Gospel is preached, we hear, ‘if you want to accept Jesus into your heart, stand up or raise your hand.’ In the Middle East, after hearing the Gospel in which comes with great danger to the speaker and hearer, we hear, ‘are you ready to be persecuted and die for Jesus?’
There is a great chasm between the former and the latter. The former is not biblical. The latter is. The former cultivates weakness and timidness. The latter sifts out weak and timid to what is true, genuine and sincere belief. With that being said, I now invite you Into My HEART...
I know the former. Upon attending church in 2006, I heard about Jesus and at the end I was asked if I wanted to make Jesus my Lord and Savior. I stood up and repeated the prayer that the pastor was praying and that was that. A short time later, I was baptized at a beach, and attended church on Sundays. This didn’t fuel me to know Jesus for myself, but it did make me feel happy. Happy for a new thing in my life. Happy to be a part of something different. However, it did not last and months later I began to revert back to my old ways.
Three years went by, and Jesus was not even a passing thought. Although my willingness and faithfulness to know and be with this person grew weak and ultimately ended, His willingness and faithfulness did not end. Upon my life coming to its weakest point, one night on July 3, 2009 I could not take it anymore and I cried out to God for help and Jesus was the one who drew near to me and spoke to me. I was baptized that night, not on a beach or in a pool or submerged under water. I was baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit and the immersion that took place was into Jesus’ baptism, where I was lowered into His death and raised into His new life. It’s going on 8 years from that night and I continue to have a willingness to know Him and remain faithful to Him.
There is a huge difference with Christians in America (and Europe) and Christians everywhere else. The former cannot fathom persecution for their faith nor dying for their belief in Jesus. To the latter, everyday the reality of persecution and death is a common occurrence.
In the U.S. and Europe many Christians believe in Jesus and God out of convenience or tradition and for the thought of a better and prosperous life. Where houses, cars, families, vacations and material wealth is commonly expected and losing any of that or bad things happening to them, is immediate grounds to question God and turn away from Jesus.
In the rest of the world, persecution is expected. Death is reality, and in the midst of it all, Jesus is still Lord and Savior and God is still good, merciful and faithful. Jesus was born in a tumultuous time in Israel. Those who followed him also lived in such times. Those who were baptized were to publicly acknowledged their sin and then be immersed into a watery grave to emerge having received the remission of their sins. To publicly be baptized was to have a death sentence upon you many times.
Jesus said to His followers that they would endure persecution for His name’s sake (click here) and that the world would hate them for their faith, belief and commitment to Him (click here). Jesus said to His followers that they would experience hard times in the world but to rejoice in Him (click here).
These early followers of Jesus knew persecution, death, scarcity, abandonment, families disowning them, even leaving family and familiarity to follow Jesus. Yet, they did not question Jesus’ loyalty, royalty and Godhood. He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Now in the U.S. and in Europe to find such allegiance to Jesus is to actually stop in your tracks and be amazed. Many American and European Christians have great wisdom, knowledge and understanding from God, but allegiance to Him if it meant leave everything and everyone dear to them behind, becomes their proverbial line in the dust. That is where we draw the line. That is going too far!
Jesus said to His followers that if they weren’t willing to give up everything and everyone for Him they were not worthy of Him (click here). That is candid speech that does not make room for other interpretation. Jesus told His followers if they desired to pursue Him they must deny themselves and pick up their cross daily and follow Him (click here). Jesus said to His followers, if they began to follow Him and then decided to look back and turn away they were unfit for the kingdom of heaven (click here).
A lot of Americans and Europeans will preach a passive Jesus. A Jesus that is nice. A Jesus that is kind. Yet, they rarely if at all emphasize His true teaching of absolute commitment and allegiance at all cost. Jesus gave His life through horrific means to save sinners; to save the entire world from the condemnation they would all certainly received from sinning against a holy God. He committed Himself to this very cause at all cost. Why would anyone who follows Him not expect the same to be asked of them?
We may not all die of persecution, but we are all commanded to follow He who we have acknowledged as our Lord. And a Lord is a master and an owner. They have rights to you. They own you. What they say goes.
The Bible presents a startling truth that underlines all the words of Jesus that most overlook and dismiss. The scripture teaches: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV).
The above speaks of complete ownership by God of our bodies; of our entire being. In Christ, we are not separate agents free to do as we please, but we are free in Him, to please Him. We were captives to sin and the results of it—death and punishment. Jesus alone bought our freedom and for someone to save a life, it is to owe them that life.
For us to actually know the Jesus of the Bible we must adopt as our own the whole Gospel that is preached and the scriptures that reinforce them. Only then, is Jesus actually Lord and Savior.