What Does God Most Care About? Looking beyond religious rituals. By Dennis Prager This column…
How Committed Are We To Jesus?
By Grant Phillips
Elijah Ogunyi of Gashua, of Yobe state, Nigeria said of his life as a minister in that region, “Persecution is a part of Christian life. If truly we pastors are called by God, we should expect persecution.” [The Voice of the Martyrs, August 2022, Vol. 56 No.8]
Seventeen-year-old Moses Joseph of Kudana state, Nigeria lost his father to what he believes was militant Muslim Fulani herdsmen, but it has not stopped him from following Jesus. He said, “Persecution cannot stop me from going to church services and going about my regular church activities. It will not stop me from telling anyone about Christ.” [The Voice of the Martyrs, August 2022, Vol. 56 No.8]
Pastor Emmanuel Maigairi of Kudana state, Nigeria suffered much at the hands of kidnappers, but had this to say, “I know that persecution is a part of the Christian life. We who are Christians will suffer. If this doesn’t happen to us, the Bible is not fulfilled.” [The Voice of the Martyrs, August 2022, Vol. 56 No.8]
Despite its problems, and they are many, I feel so blessed that I live in a country that is the polar opposite of countries where other Christians face persecution and death on a daily basis. Even though Christians may not be facing persecution as a whole in America, there have been several instances of Christian persecution, usually coming from bogus court cases. It will get worse as we get closer and closer to the day of the Lord.
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” (Matthew 5:11) He also tells us, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I sometimes wonder how we would react in America if we lived under the same conditions that Elijah Ogunyi, Moses Joseph, and Emmanuel Maigairi face daily.
Wikipedia suggests that 65-75% of our population (or 230-250 million) are Christians. Personally, I don’t buy it, because Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) I’ll tell you what, let’s just leave the percentages and numbers to God. I’m sure He will know when the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25).
I guess what concerns me for the spiritual welfare of so many who call themselves a Christian is, “which road did they take, the wide way or the narrow way?”
Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Yet, few of us who say we are a Christian actually walk the talk outside the walls of the church building.
Within the walls, why is it that many, consistently, will rush to the altar at the close of each Sunday morning service to pray, but are also consistently absent for the Sunday evening service and the Wednesday evening Bible study?
Could all this have something to do with true repentance and a real commitment? God said to Israel, “…For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away. For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:4, 6) In other words, stop playing church and follow me.
Israel had gotten to the point that their actions toward God were merely routine religious genuflecting that meant nothing at all. Their heart was far away from God. God said in Deuteronomy, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Jesus repeated those same words in Matthew 22:37-38. Jesus also said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23-24) Maybe it’s not what we are committed to but Who we are committed to.
If we are not committed to the Lord Jesus Christ when there is little to no persecution, how will we react when persecution comes upon us? Most of us who claim Christ in this country would turn tail and run if we had to face life and death persecution for our faith in Jesus. That would definitely cull the church rolls. Nobody, myself included, desires persecution of any kind, but Jesus did say that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Do we trust Him?
Can we honestly say along with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) and, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Job was persecuted mightily by Satan’s own hand, and what did he say about his trust in God? He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” (Job 13:15)
Is it possible that most who claim Christ today will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you, depart from Me?” “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23)
Through the apostle Paul, the Lord challenges all of us to, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)