Saguaro National Park; Tucson, Arizona
January 21, 2022
In our day, Christianity often gets watered down to a narrow message emphasizing what you will get, while glossing over what you must give up or suffer. What may quickly come to your mind in thinking about this, are the numerous public ministries peddling the so-called “Health and Wealth” gospel. These ministries tend to offer Christianity as a means to acquire more wealth or to be the recipient of the healing of a bodily ailment. The main hook seems to be having enough “faith” to give money to said ministry, while believing with all your heart that you will get what you hope for. Some people may actually receive more wealth or better health this way because of their own personal faith, but the only one who always benefits and grows wealthier is the ministry itself. But hope often springs eternal for these exploited churchgoers, so many never give up donating their hard earned money while perhaps being mostly disappointed in the results.
Is the ultimate core goal of Christianity, as well as of individual Christians, to eliminate poverty everywhere, provide everyone with a monthly allotment of money, give free medical care to all, and provide food and shelter to all whether they all are willing and able to work for it or not? This seems to be the “social gospel” promoted today by America’s liberal wing to “fix society”, as they imagine virtually eliminating crime and producing a harmonious, stable, and happy society. Crime is the result of people not having their needs met and not because they are “bad people”, these liberal types will often lament. Well, that is the picture of socialism and actually the antithesis of true Christianity. Yes, Christians are taught to help the truly needy, but the far greater need that people have is to be taught and inspired to participate in their own salvation, care for their own worldly needs, and end up in eternal heaven when they die. There is nothing on earth that is a more important work to accomplish!
Besides the health and wealth ministries, many traditional Christian churches also can get caught up in downplaying how hard Christianity can be, while preaching a sort of feel good message of love, mercy, forgiveness, abundance, and peace. But there is a more realistic expectation of how your life will go if you live a truly authentic Christian life. Paul gives us a clear warning about this in his second letter to Timothy:
“You have observed my resolution, fidelity, patience, love, and endurance, through persecutions and sufferings in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. You know what persecutions I have had to bear, and you know how the Lord saved me from them all. Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3, 10-12.
That last sentence includes all of us Christians, not just those who preach for a living. This is because when you ally yourself with Christ, all who oppose him on earth will also persecute and fight against you. You will be the target and you can expect some hard paths to walk and sufferings to endure. One of the hardest tests you can encounter includes when your own family opposes and rejects you because of your faith and beliefs. Today’s spiritual climate in America can provide a tough test for families, where there are often factions within a single family as well as among that family’s relatives. Even Jesus had this to endure. The more fervent and outspoken you are as a Christian, the more pushback your family is likely to give you. Here is what Jesus experienced as recorded in Mark, Chapter 3:
“He returned to the house with them (his disciples) and again the crowd assembled, making it impossible for them to get any food whatever. When his family heard of this they came to take charge of him, saying, ‘He is out of his mind’; while the scribes who arrived from Jerusalem asserted, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul'”. Verses 20-22
“His mother and his brothers arrived, and as they stood outside they sent word to him to come out. The crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking for you’. He said in reply, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And gazing around him at those seated in the circle he continued, ‘These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.'” Verses 31-35
Jesus had to fight against his own family, which appeared to be far from understanding the true nature of what he came to do on earth. And many of you Christians reading this article may also face great opposition from your own families, even to the point of estrangement from them. This goes with the territory of becoming a true Christian rather than a lukewarm one. True Christianity necessitates that you enter a battle to save souls, and working hard to save souls will always bring with it suffering, persecution, and an all out battle against Satan and his demonic forces who hate God and good and the salvation of souls. To be in an effective partnership with God, you have to be all in, just like any soldier preparing for battle. Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 10, gives us a great summary of the cost of what it really means to become a committed Christian: (Jesus speaking)
“Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread, not peace, but division. I have come to set a man at odds with his father, a daughter with her mother, a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law: in short, to make a man’s enemies those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me. He who will not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me. He who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, whereas he who brings himself to nought for me discovers who he is.” Matthew 10, 34-39
Yes, being a believer requires one to deny himself, take up his cross, and be committed every day to seek and obey the will of God. True Christianity is a personal lifestyle, and not merely being part of a religious institution.
One of the greatest failings that I see in Christianity today, is the often wholesale substitution of tolerance and acceptance of sinful lifestyles in place of speaking out the truth in warning people that living in habitual sin has the capacity to ultimately send you to hell! Many feel that this is unkind, and opt for tolerance and a misguided notion of love. True love speaks against sin, and works hard alongside the sinner to lead him away from his destructive path. Some of our modern sins that most are afraid to call out as sins, include love of money and things, couples living together without being married, homosexuality, self-indulgence, divorce, abortion, glorifying man and his accomplishments, and tolerating atheism, unbelief, and reviling God. These and other evils, if allowed to proliferate and become entrenched within a society, can only result in the slow choking off of holiness and goodness and purity in the people, and the strangling of the desire in a society for self-sacrifice and open faith in God. Our eventual destruction cannot be far behind.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us some further insight into why true Christians must suffer for living the Christian life:
“As a matter of fact, not even his brothers had much confidence in him. Jesus answered them: ‘It is not yet the right time for me to go (to the Jewish feast of Booths), whereas the time is always right for you. The world is incapable of hating you, but it does hate me because of the evidence I bring against it that what it does is evil.'” John 7, 5-7
Yes, there is a price that you must pay to be a real Christian, but the ultimate reward and blessings you will receive will far outweigh that price. In Luke’s gospel, Chapter 6, we receive both a warning and a blessing–please read and heed Jesus’s words:
“Woe to you when all speak well of you. Their fathers treated the false prophets in just this way.” Verse 26
“Blest shall you be when men hate you, when they ostracize you and insult you and proscribe your name as evil because of the Son of Man. On the day they do so, rejoice and exult, for your reward shall be great in heaven. Thus it was that their fathers treated the prophets.” Verses 22-23
So get out there, stand your ground, and fight for truth with all that you have!