In his book What the Bible Says about Jesus, Donn Leach wrote; “Yet Jesus considers Himself, His mission, and the spiritual welfare of men of such surpassing importance that He calls for the absolute loyalty of the disciple to Himself even when that brings enmity from those most closely related to the disciple by blood or marriage. It is even more important that self-preservation. Jesus calls on men to be willing to die for Him.”
Salvation was not just about being promised eternal life, but it was being rescued from the kingdom of darkness and being brought into the Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14). That means Christians are citizens of God’s Kingdom, and that our desire is to see God’s will done here on earth as it is done in heaven. Let me ask you a question: Are you willing to die to see that happen?
To be honest, we cannot fully know how we would respond to a life and death situation until we experience that type of situation. Peter, before Jesus’ arrest, was confident that he would stay with Jesus, even if it meant death. Though you and I know the rest of the story. When the apostle was confronted with the prospect of being captured he denied that he even knew Jesus. Brave talk and positive thinking do not necessarily translate into courage when the chips are down.
Yet, isn’t necessary to think about such things in order to prepare for what may happen? I think our imaginations can help us prepare for the tasks that lie ahead, and that includes the possibility of laying down our lives for the Kingdom. One of the things the coaches I had for basketball and track asked the team to do was visualize the game or the race. It was about mentally preparing for success. So, on the one hand, we cannot know for certain how we would respond to the threat of death, on the other hand, we can prepare for that possibility by employing our imaginations to imagine our thoughts and feelings during such an experience.
There are other difficult situations that we have to prepare for besides the prospect of dying for our faith. Some of us will face the difficult reality of being shunned by family because of our Christian faith. The temptation to walk away from faith, or at least water it down, has to be so appealing during those moments, and yet Christ thought His Kingdom and mission were so important for you to walk away from your family instead.
The scenario can play itself out in a number of different ways: to break the law or lose your job, to pursue a forbidden love or stay single for the rest of your life, to party each weekend or lose your buddies. You get the picture. To die for Kingdom and to give up our lives for Christ is just the ultimate example of the choices we face over and over again in our lives. Will we remain faithful to Christ or will we give into the pressure?
How can we develop the type of faith that will stay with Jesus even when our world crumbles around us? I think this is question needs to be asked of the Church as a whole and not only just for ourselves. Remember, one of the Church’s tasks is to build each other up in faith. In other words the Church is to facilitate the spiritual growth of each member. Spiritual growth is not just a personal responsibility, but it is also a corporate responsibility. The Church should help Christians become people who are able to remain faithful amidst family conflict, persecution, and the threat of death. Is your church family producing such people?
Being a follower of Jesus is tough. Jesus was always very straight forward about this fact. He never tried to candy coat the reality what it meant to follow Him. It remains the same today, though because of our blessed situation in the United States we have forgotten this reality. It is tough to follow Jesus, and that is true in United States as it was in the Roman Empire during the first century. To be a Christian doesn’t mean that we believe certain things about Jesus, but that we trust Him enough that we would die for Him. The question we need to answer is: How can we become people who will die for Jesus?
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