I have never been so troubled by events in our country. I have never even imagined being so troubled.
Conditions are ripe for totalitarianism, and even for an unholy holy war. One side in this conflict — the side that has established a grip now over nearly every major power center in America — has adopted a seriously anti-evangelical ethos. (Those five links are merely representative; I could have shared many more.) And there’s COVID, too.
I have never been so troubled, and I have never been so encouraged.
Encouraged? Yes! Not by realities on the ground, but by a growing awareness and increasing connection with a much greater reality: the eternal goodness of God in Jesus Christ.
It’s mostly because of the way God is meeting me in prayer. Seeing less reason to count on normal American life as my hope, I’m looking more to God now as my hope. My Bible and prayer times have never been so sweet.
It’s partly because I recognize myself in more pages of the Bible. More of our story today is aligning with more of its story: believers under oppression, nations rising, and nations falling under the weight of sin.
I believe the American church may be heading for very hard times. I am completely convinced that God knows what he’s doing, and that he’s more than adequate to carry us through. Scripture says so; other oppressed believers have said so; my brief taste of it lately also confirms it.
It’s About Jesus, No Matter What
What I’m not so sure of is that we’re ready for it. American Christianity is weak, divided, unsure of its theology, unaware of reasons for belief, and too content in American normalcy.
I’ve been saying this for years, but the time is now upon us: We must equip ourselves. We must prepare. But how?
I’ve thought through all kinds of answers to that question. They range from community to prayer to worship to witness to study, and they’re all crucial. When it comes to hard questions, though, there’s only one that will determine whether you’re ready or not. Are you willing and prepared to say you’ll follow Jesus, no matter what?
That’s the issue. I predict that for Christians it will become the question of the year. It will show up in different ways, but that’s what it comes down to. So…
If they ask you to lie (whatever that lie might be), will you follow Jesus no matter what?
If they demand you make yourself an “LGBTQ Ally,” will you follow Jesus no matter what?
If your friends cut you off for your convictions, will you follow Jesus no matter what?
Whatever happens, will you follow him no matter what?
You will, by God’s grace (which you and I will surely need) if you are sure that he is worth it no matter what.
The Disciples Knew
When Jesus asked the disciples in John 6:67-68, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter got that right. He faltered during Jesus’ trial, but later he followed his Lord all the way to his own crucifixion. Let’s take a closer look at all that he got right in that answer, for it was plenty. There was Jesus’ identity:
“Lord.” Peter started in the right place: recognizing Jesus as Lord and Master.
“You are the Holy One of God.” It was dawning on the disciples at this point who Jesus really was. I don’t know when they came to full awareness of his complete deity, but Peter was at least getting there already.
There were the two options Peter stated:
“To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” They could leave, or they could stay; they could follow false ways, or they could live the truth; they could move toward death, or they could stay with Jesus for eternal life.
And then there was the disciples’ conviction:
“We have believed, and have come to know.” Peter connects faith with knowledge here, as they ought to be connected, and there’s also a hint at that knowledge growing over time as they lived in relationship with Christ. And don’t overlook the “we” that’s in there. They learned Christ together.
We Have the Truth; Do We Have the Conviction?
Jesus was and is Lord. He was and remains the Holy One of God. His words were then, and still are, the great and uniquely true words of eternal life. That’s enough there to qualify him as the one to follow no matter what. Whether we do that will depend on whether “we have believed, and have come to know.”
These are questions to ask yourself, then:
- Do I believe Christ alone has the words of eternal life?
- Do I believe he is God, the Lord?
- Am I convinced of these things? If I say, “I believe,” do I mean I actually consider it to be true? Or am I hedging on it instead?
- If I say I consider it to true, do I have good reasons?
Good reasons exist, to be sure. Some believers falsely believe faith is better off without reasons, but Jesus spent his earthly life giving them reasons to believe in him. (See especially Acts 1:3.) Other believers take a dull, childish route of not bothering to learn. If that seems offensive, realize those are the Bible’s words, not mine (Heb. 5:11-13).
Do We Have the Connection?
Those who do not know for sure may not last for sure.
- Am I connected with other believers to help each other stay strong?
- Am I connected to Christ himself?
You may be put to the test, and it may come sooner than you expect. Are you ready to follow Jesus no matter what? I urge you to prepare your heart, your mind, and your faith, to stay with him who has the words of eternal life.
Image Credit(s): CC00 Public Domain.