Written by Ryan Miller
Christianity doesn’t really cost me anything.
Can you relate?
Paul was persecuted.  Killed.  So were all the apostles except John, who miraculously survived being boiled alive.
Jesus, of course, killed.  God poured his wrath upon his son.  Upon himself.  For me.
And what does my faith – this belief that I’ve been freely given through God’s incredibly sacrifice – cost me?
Not a whole lot.
Can you relate?
I was at Winter Jam a little over a week ago and it struck me that, at least in the south, Christianity is still popular.  It’s still cool to be a “Christian”.  It’s still cool to stand up on a stage and proclaim the gospel to a bunch of middle school kids in a way that is slightly humorous, but well scripted and well spoken.  It’s still cool to rock out in the name of Jesus.
No, these aren’t the quickest routes to fame.  But they’re not too shabby.  Added bonus, we get to feel good about ourselves.
We don’t have to sing about drugs or sex or money.  We can sing and talk about Jesus and make it all sound real good and we’ll still get a bunch of people patting us on the back and telling us how convicted they were by our sermons, or our blog posts, or how they cried because we sang, with only minimal backlash that doesn’t really hurt all that bad because of all the praise that drowns it out by the people around us who feel so much better because of what we’re doing.
Of course, so do we.
Otherwise why would we do it?
But what happens if we actually have to stand up for what we believe?  What would this country look like if every single so called “Christian” acted like the one’s we see in the Word?  What if we didn’t fluff our way through life?
What if following Jesus actually cost us something?
What if Christians got killed in this country for proclaiming the name of Jesus?  Would you still call yourself a Christian?
And so I question my own faith.  Not the existence, but rather the genuineness.  The trueness of it.
Why does my faith, my “Christianity”, look so different from what I see in the Bible?  Why do others?
Why is self-marketing mixed in with glorifying Jesus?
Why do the artists at Winter Jam have to tell us what booth they’re at and how much their t-shirts cost and how we can get a free CD if we buy one after their set?
What if that’s not really glorifying Jesus?
Sure, the money is probably being used for good things.  And sure, the gospel is being spread.  And I don’t want to deny that.  Because Jesus will use the good news no matter how it’s portrayed.  The Holy Spirit will change lives despite our weaknesses.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.  Yes, and I will rejoice, | Philippians 1 15-18
But what if this isn’t all there is?
What if all our culture’s talk about gospel tracts and how to get people in our church doors and retain them isn’t what Jesus died for?  What if the music and preaching and service we do actually don’t mean a dang thing if there’s no love behind them?  If the Holy Spirit is not moving through us?
What if giving our bodies to be burned is actually meaningless if not for love?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. | 1 Corinthians 131-3
Then it sounds like we would all be damned.
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. | from Romans 14:23
I don’t want to imply that we stop spreading the gospel.  That the artists are Winter Jam are all doing their self-promotion for the wrong reasons.  Because I don’t know their hearts.
All I’m saying is it didn’t sit well with me.
And yet I can point the finger at myself.
Even as I write this post, I’m being tempted with the thought of being popular.  It started out okay – I really felt like I was writing out of the Spirit – but now I’m not so sure.  Because I’m thinking and analyzing.
What if this offends people?  What if there’s something in here I shouldn’t say?  Doesn’t the Bible talk about getting good counsel?  Maybe I should have a bunch of people read this and comment before posting it…
But what if they don’t think I should post it?  What if their judgments are out of fear?  How do I know I can trust them?
More to the point of this post, why do I sit idly by as those around me continue in their sin?
Why am I not compelled to share the gospel and love deeply those around me who don’t profess the name of Jesus, even those who clearly are not following Jesus, though they claim his name?
Why does it seem that so much of what I say and do is about being liked rather than about being obedient?  Why don’t I radiate love for Christ?  Why doesn’t my life look radically different from the world around me?
Why don’t I feel a deep, passionate love for my Savior?  Why is it all so in my head?
Why am I such a hypocrite?
Popular Christianity is sitting less and less well with me with every passing day.  Including my own passivity and lukewarm-ness.
I don’t want to just fit in.  And I know there’s more to a relationship with Jesus than what I’m currently experiencing.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, | 2 Timothy 3 12
Yet we try to affirm persecution in our own lives to justify being a faithful disciple.  To justify being saved.  Since that’s what Christianity has become all about.  Personal salvation.
“Oh yeah, I’m persecuted for Jesus.  I got attacked on Facebook just the other day.”
Yet the “persecution” most of us experience for Jesus probably isn’t really persecution.  I can largely affirm this in my own life.  I don’t know if there’s a single thing in my life right now that I would say is persecution for the name of Jesus.
And maybe I’m just being an idealist.  Maybe – probably – some of the difficulty I go through mentally is persecution from Satan because he knows I’m striving to follow Christ.  I’m certain there’s an aspect of spiritual warfare that is being waged on my life.
But a lot of my struggles could just be my own sin.  My own stupidity.
Is there such a thing as “little versions” of persecution?  Is the world a bit of a different place than it was in Bible times?  Sure.
But really we’re probably just justifying what we really want to be persecution so it affirms that we are actual believers.  Most of us at least.
Forgive me if you’re one of the true who is persecuted because you’re actually following Jesus.  But of course you will forgive me.  Because the Holy Spirit is alive in you.
Should not our lives look radically different from those around us, my professing brothers and sisters!  I speak also to myself.
I just feel so inundated with the modern American version of Christianity around me that I’m a little confused on what it means to spot, or be, a genuine believer in this dark and depraved world.  Forgive me Father for being lukewarm.
Why is the line so thin between Christian and non?  What if most of the people around us are actually damned and we just can’t see it because of our own blindness?
What if there’s more to following Jesus?
I guess that’s all I’m really saying.  That I know there’s more.
Perhaps you can relate.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. | John 15 18-20
Though persecution is promised, my desire is not to seek it out, nor should it be yours.  That would be sadistic.
Rather, I want to seek to live like Jesus.  Genuinely.
And persecution is promised to those who desire to live a godly life.
What will that look like?  I don’t know.
Intense hate speech?  Property damage?  Physical damage?  Martyrdom?  When did that become such a novel idea?
Probably when Christianity became lukewarm and popular.
Maybe it’s time for a change.  Maybe we should actually start following Jesus for real.
I don’t want to be afraid.  I don’t want to fear.  I’m tired of being afraid of what people think of me.
More importantly, I’m tired of being numb.  To the reality of the sacrifice of Christ.  To the incredibly beauty of the glory of the Father.  To the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit.  Which, as one of my pastors spoke about last Sunday, is the only way we will ever truly see change.  It’s the only way we will ever see life.  Dying to self through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because, as he said, if the Holy Spirit is not present, life will just be miserable.  It will just be a bunch of rule following for the sake of earning something that can’t be earned.
For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. | Ephesians 2 8-9
And maybe this post will do nothing.  Maybe everything will continue status quo.
But I doubt it.
Because God is real.  God is alive.  The Holy Spirit is alive.  Jesus is alive.
And I pray that we will all truly experience Him.

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