"Is Following Jesus Worth It?"
I just finished a book entitled, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken. This is
my second time reading this book and the reason I picked it up again was because of studying Luke 6:22-23 for Sunday, March 27,2022 morning's teaching. These two verses are part of Jesus’ sermon on a level place, or sermon on the mount as Matthew describes it in Matthew 5-7. Jesus teaches the crowd what being a disciple of His is all about. The more I study Jesus’ sermon, the more I realize that “American Christianity” does not match with what Jesus describes here. For some reason many Christians in America try to continue to live their "normal American lifestyle" and add a little Jesus to it (i.e. just go to church Sunday mornings). But in this passage of Scripture, Jesus turns everything upside down and says if you are really going to be my disciples, then your lifestyle will be totally different.
In Luke 6:22-23, Jesus tells His followers how they are to respond when they face persecution because of Him. Jesus says that they are to rejoice. As I was thinking about these verses, I was reminded of the book “The Insanity of God” and decided to reread it. If you have not read this book, I would encourage you to do so. This book is about a missionary to Northern Africa and his questions he had about the future of Christianity in Somalia because believers in Jesus are killed and very few believers in Jesus even exist. He returned to the United States asking questions about how the Gospel of Jesus could survive and even thrive in places like Somalia. He started interviewing believers around the world in countries that face persecution to find out how believers stand firm as followers of Jesus despite the persecution. This book shares his journey and some incredible accounts of believers living in Russia under communism and believers in China and the underground church. The testimonies of these individuals are incredible.
But at the end, he also highlights some lessons he learned on this twenty-year journey of talking with people who live in countries that face persecution. Below are just some of those conclusions that He came to after these conversations.
“…the primary cause of “religious persecution” in the world today is people surrendering their hearts and lives to Jesus…Could it be that the only way that Almighty God could actually answer prayer asking Him to end the persecution of believers…would be to stop people from accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior? If people stopped accepting Christ as Lord and Savior…persecution would end immediately. That would be the only way to completely end persecution.”
“Why is it that millions of the global followers of Jesus who actively practice their faith live in environments where persecution is the norm? The first and most basic answer is that these people have given their lives to Jesus. The second answer is that they have determined in their hearts that they will not keep Jesus to themselves. Having found faith in Christ, they have such a passion for Jesus that they must share the Good News of His sacrificial love and forgiveness with their families, their friends, and their neighbors. By doing that these believers are choosing to be persecuted.
What that means is that, for most believers, persecution is completely avoidable. If someone simply leaves Jesus alone, doesn’t seek Him or follow Him, then persecution will simply not happen. Beyond that, even if someone becomes a follower of Jesus, persecution will likely not happen if the faith is kept private and personal. If a person is silent about their faith in Jesus, the chance of being persecuted is very small.
So if our goal is reducing persecution, that task is easily achieved. First, just leave Jesus alone. Second, if you do happen to find Him, just keep Him to yourself. Persecution stops immediately where there is no faith and where there is no witness.
The reason for persecution, then, is that people keep finding Jesus—and, then, they refuse to keep Him to themselves.”
“…we would do well to ask ourselves whether or not we are being obedient to Jesus. He is asking us –He is expecting us—He is commanding us to share Him wherever we go. He is commanding us to do that wherever we are today.”
Is my life characterized by a passion for Jesus that I must tell others about Him? My prayer, after reading this book, is this:
Lord, may I have the boldness to tell others about You no matter what the consequences. May I not be silent. May I be Your servant willing to be used by You because You are worth it. Amen.