The Jesus you love will cost you, millennials.
That message has largely been lost in this age of emotional Christianity. But Jesus himself said it so insistently, so repeatedly, that we can conclude this: if sharing the Gospel is not costing you, you might want to ensure that it’s really the gospel you’re sharing.
The Jesus who did so many wonderful things – ate with outcasts, railed against Pharisees, whispered “neither do I condemn you” to the adulterous woman – also said some other things, difficult things, which many Christians my age hesitate to accept. He compassionately asks us to release cherished sins. He urges us to put his Word before our deepest feelings and most precious relationships. He commands us to look to him, not the world, for our definition of love. He speaks of hell. Often. He calls us to tell decent, law-abiding citizens that their efforts are not enough, and that only turning to Jesus in repentance can save them.
You already want to dismiss me.
Just hang with me for a second.
Most importantly and hopefully, God offers to reward us for these sacrifices.
Would it make the Christian life easier to be completely convinced of that last part?
I have a theory. I believe we’ve fallen, without realizing it, into a terrible lie: that if we do things his way, we will be on our own. We will not be caught, we will not be backed up, we will not be defended, and we will not be repaid. We will simply hurt. No validation, no triumph, no reward.
This is as far from the truth as the east is from the west.
If you want to test my theory, look at that thing that God is telling you to surrender, and ask yourself: Do I really believe he’ll reward me for giving this up? Or do I only see the price I’ll pay? And do I believe it enough to surrender all else and launch myself on his tide?
A lot of us would probably say no. We’ve swallowed the lie that we’re really on our own. We all have countless different shades of “God’s not real” metastasizing in our hearts; this is simply another one of them. We are not eternal people. Cultivating a relationship with the unseen has been hard, and frankly, we often wake up wondering why we even believe in God in the first place. I count myself among you; my heart and mind are too often trapped in the present and the visible. (And it doesn’t help that the modern church has little concept of true reward amongst its teachings.)
So when we’re asked to sacrifice our Isaac on the altar, all we see is the earthly consequences. We do not see the Jesus who has our back. We forget the God who can take the world’s wounds and turn them into converts, the God who is counting every tear and drop of blood and personal rejection on his scroll (Psalm 56:8).
Some of you are confronted today with staggering prices for following Jesus.
I don’t envy you your situation. God might be asking you to give up a current happiness, remove yourself from some close friends or allies (they’ll call it “betrayal”), shoot your job prospects in the foot by revealing that you’re a Christian, or all of the above in one fell swoop. Your true heart’s belief will be revealed by your action; you must put your money where your mouth is.
It is a profound test. Do you really believe God’s claim that life can only be found in his footsteps? Or do you believe that only your chosen path can bring you happiness?
Look at the soaring promises that God offers to those who choose him. Let’s start by finishing Psalm 56:
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:9-11)
I know. You’re like, “Well, a lot.”
Centuries later, we find Peter holding the same fears you are, dear reader.
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children* for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-29)
Matthew 19:29 adds “or fields”. Jesus, in his generosity, even thinks of material possessions. Be careful about filling in the blanks here; God alone decides what, when, where, and how these rewards will come. But his is a heart you can trust. (And the peace, at the very least, will not delay in arriving. I believe that’s an immediate benefit.)
Jesus is not demanding followers and then casting them aside, forgetting about their sacrifices once he’s done with them. He is accounting for every loss we take, carefully and jealously, and at the same time arranging your reward. There will be losses when we follow him – earthly losses. Christianity is not about hearing what you want to hear all the time. But Jesus knows how to reward his followers. He has far more resources at his command than anyone on this earth. He can outmatch any evil you incur with greater good. And his heart is more generous than anyone’s.
I dare you to accept his offer. Ask God what he wants you to do today.
I know the cost you’re facing could be enormous. I pray that you are comforted and encouraged. Surrender your fear to him; watch him replace it with peace, boldness, and the wisdom you need. Prepare to have your mind blown with how God makes up for your sacrifice.
He will not fail to leave you feeling rewarded.