Lately I’ve been talking about self-denial and persecution. These are the “downsides” of Christianity, the stuff Joel Osteen wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The stuff most pastors of any church that hopes to grow won’t touch.
Self-denial and persecution, when actually mentioned, get tacked on to the end of the Gospel message as a sort of legal disclaimer. “Adherence to these beliefs may cause certain side effects including loss of self, persecution by former friends, loved ones and people you don’t even know. Other symptoms may include rocks to the head, saws to your neck, flames to your feet and projectile vomiting. Use as directed.”
Unfortunately, most Gospel presentations don’t even include the disclaimer, most just promise you happy, happy, joy, joy. Health and wealth. Power to fulfill your American Dream. Jesus is nothing more than a friend with a big bank account and free meds.
The Church seems content to teach this. It’s what people want to hear and people will pay big money to hear what they want to hear. There’s good money in the happy, happy, joy, joy gospel. Don’t expect it to go away.
Last week we looked at 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” “That will” is a Greek word that means “intend or resolve.” This same Greek word is used in another similar passage when Jesus says:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”
The word “intending” is the same word translated “that will” in 2 Timothy 3:12. When a person resolves or intends to do something, they should consider what the cost is in carrying out their resolution.
Christianity is no different from a construction project. Consider what you’re doing. When the Church, the sole possessor of the Gospel, doesn’t tell people the cost, they merely equip people to fail.
He becomes the seed sown in stony ground that fades away when tribulation or persecution come his way. He didn’t count the cost, didn’t even know there was a cost cuz no one told him. Then he gets blown away by tough stuff. He protests, “Hey, I thought you guys said everything was happy, happy, joy, joy?”
We never mention the cost. This is not just an error of Joel Osteen and TV preachers, this is common Christian behavior. “Don’t you know we’re saved by grace? We don’t have to suffer. Why are you telling people that?” Is the response from “good Christians.”
But that’s what the Bible says, so it’s kind of what I have to say.