Surprisingly, to many, salvation is merely a word. It has no meaning. I once read a story about an underground church that was holding a secret meeting— hoping the authorities wouldn’t find out. To their dismay, men burst into the meeting holding guns forcefully in their hands. The Christians were very much afraid. It was against the law to meet like they were—arrest was certain for anyone who was caught. One of the gunmen barked for those who wanted to deny their faith to leave immediately. A few stammered out the door. Once they were gone, the men lowered their guns and said, “Now let’s have church.” They were not the police after all.
I’ve often wondered what I would do in such a situation. I’m not sure I’ll ever know the depth of my devotion to Christ apart from some level of persecution. It’s here that our loyalty is put on display. It’s easy to say we will follow Jesus no matter what when things are going smoothly. Peter told Jesus before his crucifixion, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mark 14:31). But his confidence did not hold up later that evening when he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus. Afterwards Peter was remorseful for his unfaithfulness and wept bitterly in repentance.
Do I obey His commands? As best as I know to. Do I seek to please Him? It’s my driving force for most of my decisions. Do I love Him? You bet I do. Is all this enough to be willing to die for what I believe? Jesus says it clearly, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). These are some pretty heavy words. In fact, many of us that claim to love Jesus would never take these words literally. Isn’t going to church every Sunday good enough for God? Unfortunately, the devotion that many have is not really to Christ, but rather to their attendance at church. Across America scores of people believe that because they show up to a Sunday service they are devoted Christians. I’m not saying that there aren’t faithful Christians in church, but what I am saying is we can’t believe that that alone will save us.
How about you? Is your salvation worth dying for? Throughout the centuries, Christians were dying brutal deaths because of their faith in Christ. Even today, in many countries, Christians are being thrown into prison and even killed for their beliefs. To them, their faith in Jesus means more to them than their own lives. In America we have not been faced with such situations, but one day we may.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. He taught men to repent and turn from their sinful ways. His message was not a popular message to the religious leaders of his day. They did not identify themselves with him. John was chosen to be Jesus’ forerunner before he was even born. He had a mandate on his life and he laid his life down—no matter the cost—to fulfill it. John fulfilled the will of God for his life, and he remained humble throughout. We are told he lived a humble life wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey. His life was ended when Herod gave the command to have him beheaded. John left a legacy not only through the life he lived, but also the death he died.
The depths of our faithfulness to Christ and his word will rise to the surface during the trials of life. Our commitment to Jesus must be stronger than it is to mother, father, spouse or children. In fact, it must be stronger than the worth we put on our own lives.
We should all ask ourselves how much our salvation means to us. Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). You may never be faced with the level of persecution that many martyred Christians have, but if you were, what would you do? Something to think about.
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