Now Comes the Question: Will You Follow Jesus No Matter What?
I have never been so troubled by events in our country. I’ve never imagined being this troubled. COVID isn’t even at the top of the list. I’m concerned over conditions being so ripe for totalitarianism, or even for an unholy holy war.
Yet I have never been so encouraged — not by realities on the ground, but by a growing awareness and increasing connection with a much greater reality. These disturbing events have changed the way I pray. Old-fashioned normality no longer looks so much like the place to put my hope, so more and more I’m looking to God for it. More and more, as I pray and study that way, He is meeting me with His presence.
My Bible and prayer times have never been so sweet. I recognize myself and our country’s situation in more pages of the Bible, as more of our story today aligns with more of the Bible’s story: believers sighing under oppression; nations rising and falling under the weight of sin.
This Moment Is Different
The United States is falling. It hasn’t completely fallen, and I’m not ready to say we’re doomed, but we have serious problems going back long before the most recent election.
It seems to be coming to a head, as the American people (with or without the help of election fraud) have handed the federal government to an ideology that also holds a grip over nearly every major power center in America, and which has adopted a seriously anti-evangelical ethos.
The American church may be heading for very hard times. 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 His goodness lately also confirms it for me.
God is ready for it. I’m not so sure we are.
It’s About Jesus No Matter What
Actually, I’m sure we aren’t. American Christianity is weak, divided, unsure of its theology, unaware of reasons for belief, and too content in American normalcy. That adds up to serious spiritual anemia. Yet here we are, staring down the real possibility of significant oppression. The question comes down to this: Are we willing and prepared to follow Jesus, no matter what?
That’s the issue. I predict that for Christians that will become the question of the year.
It will show up in different ways, naturally. Your boss may ask you to lie on a report. Your school might demand you make yourself an “LGBTQ ally.” Your friends may cut you off for your convictions. When that happens, will you follow Jesus no matter what?
Your decision to follow Jesus doesn’t begin when they turn the heat on under you. You and I need to choose to follow Him the very next time the choice comes before us. That choice might be right now: a decision to turn away from something you know you’ve been doing wrong, and turn to Christ for His forgiveness.
Will You Follow Him No Matter What?
Whatever happens, will you follow him no matter what?
The crowds were walking away after Jesus gave some hard teaching, in the sixth chapter of John. He asked the disciples (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.”
Yes, Peter faltered during Jesus’ trial, but he followed his Lord all the way to his own crucifixion years later in Rome. So it’s worth taking a closer look at all that he got right in that answer, for it was plenty.
Peter’s Great Reasons for Following
“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.
He saw the options clearly:
“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 in truth. They could move toward death, or they could stay with Jesus for eternal life. They chose the only right answer, all but Judas (see John 6:70).
And then there was the disciples’ conviction:
“We have believed, and have come to know.” Peter connects faith with knowledge here, as the two ought to be connected; and there’s also a hint at that knowledge growing over time as they lived in relationship with Christ. Don’t overlook the “we” that’s in there: They learned to follow 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. The question is whether we, like Peter and the Twelve, “have believed, and have come to know.”
These are questions we all need to ask ourselves, then:
- Do I truly 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 believe it to be true? Or am I hedging on it instead?
- Do I have good reasons for considering it to be true?
Good reasons exist, to be sure, and they can carry you through when doubts come. Some believers falsely believe faith is better off without reasons, but Jesus spent His earthly life giving His followers 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; see Heb. 5:11-13.
Those who do not know for sure may not last for sure.
Do We Have the Connection?
Finally, because God doesn’t expect any of us to go it alone:
- Am I connected with other believers to help each other stay strong?
- Am I connected to Christ himself?
This year may put you and me to the test. Are we ready to follow Jesus no matter what?
Adapted from Thinking Christian. Used by permission.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality — a book to show just how extraordinarily great Jesus is, and that He’s worth following no matter what.