By Russ Wilkins
Dir. of Missions, Shiloh Baptist Assoc., Adamsville
Focal Passage: Luke 9:18-27
For years in our country, it was fairly easy, if not advantageous to be a Christian. Christians could get by with a “casual” relationship concerning Jesus and there would seem to be no consequences. Being a moral church member was “good enough.”
If you owned a local business, you were a “good guy”, went to church every Sunday, you may even become a deacon. But now, things have reversed. Showing up at church may cost you. People in the community may even consider you as judgmental or a bigot simply because you go to church. Now, we have come to a point where we have to ask ourselves if it is worth it to go to church. Some of the numbers seem to suggest many do not think it is worth it.
A few weeks ago, I saw some statistics from Barna research that said, of practicing Christian adults, 19 percent have not been in church or watched online at all since the pandemic began.
In 2019, that number was zero percent. All practicing Christians had gone to church within the last six months. That same article said that only 36 percent of adults that were in church are back in church. Do not get me wrong, many people have a very good reason for concerns and not attending live services. The point is that the church now has the potential to cost us something, so it is harder to be a casual Christian and remain active in church.
In today’s passage, Jesus steps up the commitment level. The task is bigger. There is more intensity. Jesus began with “Who do you say that I am?” Calling Him Lord, Messiah, Son of Man is fairly easy to say. Remember, even Satan knows that truth. Jesus turns up the challenge and says, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Unlike today, the disciples had a visual understanding of what take up the cross looked like and the high cost of following Jesus. Jesus also hits us right where we are today when He said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words.” We now live in a time in the United States where if you share Jesus’ teachings and Scriptures on sin, you will be attacked. The intensity has been turned up, as Christians, we are at a point where we have to decide if we are going to stand up for Jesus, His Word, and His teachings or will we cower?
“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels”. As we read Jesus description of the last days, we will find that this will only get worse and our decision to stand unashamed will be more difficult. I have friends that went to China on a mission trip and one of their comments was, that for the people in China, praying over their meal was legitimately a question of whether or not they were willing to go to jail for that prayer.
Maybe we are headed that way in America and the words of Jesus will ring true here as well. In light of today’s Scripture, will you pray for boldness? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”. The early church did not pray for the persecution to go away but rather prayed to be bold in the persecution (Acts 4:27-29).