I love the part in the Bible where the disciples just went about their normal lives and tried to be “nice”. They never offended anyone, and they got lots of “likes” on their encouraging and inclusive Facebook posts. Man, they were likeable guys.
That’s not how it really went down, though, is it? That story wouldn’t have been worth the papyrus to inscribe it on.
All but one of the apostles were murdered for standing strong in the Lord. And John, the last man standing, was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. So it makes you wonder, why did people hate these guys so much?
Because they followed Jesus, and Jesus preached repentance and faith in God alone. Sin is a four letter word in popular culture, both then and now, and people don’t want to hear it.
I get it. I am as guilty as the next person. We all have our laundry list of weakness and shame. Mine might be longer than yours, or yours might be longer than mine. It doesn’t matter. Without Christ, not one of us will enter heaven.
When we bow down before the Lord of the universe, ask his forgiveness and pledge our loyalty, an exchange happens. His righteousness covers our sin and all of the yuck we have and will yet commit is paid for at the cross.
We will be sinners until the day we die. Even Christians. I have messed up big-time even since placing my faith in Jesus. The difference is, I don’t want to stay there. Even if it feels good in the moment, I hate my sin. It grieves me. I struggle against it, and ask for help and forgiveness when I need it. That is how I know Jesus is with me: his Holy Spirit helps me to kick off the sin I once lived in quite easily. My heart has changed. If it hadn’t, there would be no evidence I actually belong to the Lord.
Ok, so back to the disciples. When Jesus called them, as he is still calling us, they followed him and preached the gospel. That was their life; calling people to new life in Christ through..you guessed it..repentance and faith. It got on people’s nerves. And it got them jailed, beaten, and killed. Just like our Savior.
But the message didn’t die along with them; through their faithfulness to preach the word of God, many others believed and were saved, and the gospel is still giving hope to the hopeless right now, two thousand years later, because it’s still true.
There are many false gospels circulating today, as was predicted in the Scriptures. Even many churches today have a high view of their own opinions and a low view of the Word of God. Their “gospel” is one of their own making, and will do nothing but deceive people into believing whatever sounds good. And, oh boy, is it popular.
This seductive, permissive “church” culture makes for a generation of Christians who aren’t. They want the chuckles from a feel-good “sermon” but none of God being the Lord of their lives. They want the “get out of hell free card” but don’t actually believe the Bible. They are deceived into thinking being positive and nice is a sufficient substitute for an actual life lived in love and obedience to Christ.
God doesn’t save good people. There aren’t any. He saves sinners who come to him in repentance and faith. And once we are saved, our lives are not our own. They have been purchased with his blood. There is no other gospel.
When you compare the lives of the apostles and the lives of most Christians you know, is there even a slight family resemblance? Or is popular Christianity today just entertainment?
Heaven is just around the corner, but we’re not there yet. We can’t succumb to the things that want to numb us into complacency and self-gratification. We have to shake off those things that so easily entrap us and hold us back from what God has called us to.
It’s worth it.