For many in this world, the meaning is very clear. Becoming a follower of Christ in many countries means willingness to be persecuted or executed. The Voice of the Martyrs does a very good job communicating the plight of the people of God in hostile lands. One might be arrested, kidnapped, beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, tortured, or murdered in places like Eritrea, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, China, Columbia, etc.
But we live in the United States of America; how can we relate to this command of Christ to take up our cross and follow him? To sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel? We don't face persecution (yet) like our brothers and sisters in distant lands. In many ways, however, we would be better Christians if we lived with persecution. Because we live with deception.
How many "Christians" in the U.S. are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and the gospel? Many would confess with their mouths their willingness to do it, but how many confess with their actions? I often don't. My life is filled with entertainment. I struggle to make time for Bible reading and prayer, much less additional reading that is not required for school. Yes, everyone needs times of refreshing, but how long will we live like the world and call it Christianity? Are we deceiving ourselves?
I think this is why Joel Osteen and his fellow proclaimers of the "prosperity gospel" are so "successful" and dangerous. Jesus said that he came to give us abundant life, but that does not necessarily mean a life filled with material possessions. How is anyone sacrificing their lives for Jesus and the gospel if he or she is living life for material wealth? How does the well-to-do church member with a boat and a big-screen and a Benz reflect Christ to the homeless man on the street? Not that those things are wrong in themselves, but are we living as a witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, or do we treasure our treasures above all else? Would you give up your job for full-time ministry? Would you abandon your comfortable life to move somewhere hot and humid and disease infested for the sake of Christ?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21
"Help us, Heavenly Father, to seek first your kingdom, and to trust you to meet our every need."
~ Todd ~