Counting the Cost Sermon (Suffering for Jesus)

Often people write to me about obeying Jesus and they kind of do so like it’s just a matter of trying out another church. Not everybody, mind you. Most people recognise from the start that what I’m saying is going to seriously shake up a lot of people including their closest friends and relatives. But I can usually pick it up just by listening closely to what anyone from this other group says when they first write to me. Kind of like, “Do you have a group in my neighbourhood that I can join?” The overall feel is that they are just mildly interested in a superficial change, more or less out of curiosity. Maybe they haven’t heard that Jesus taught his followers to quit their jobs sell all their possessions, and go into all the world preaching the gospel; but I think a lot of them have. That’s the surprising thing. It’s like they have heard it, and they think it sounds like a lovely idea but they still haven’t seriously thought it through, considering what the implications might be. That whole thing about “a group in my neighbourhood”, for example. Theoretically, we could be located a block away; but if you’re really contemplating a life of obedience to Jesus then going into all the world is not going to keep you in the neighbourhood for long anyway, is it? In the neighbourhood, or in a nearby country would make little difference. The important thing is just to link up and get busy working for God with others who have been doing this for a few years now. However, this new brand of authentic disciple of Jesus is obviously going to be extremely rare in today’s world and so we need to be prepared to face considerable hardship just to be able to meet up. Many of these same people do not show signs of having considered how all their friends and relatives might react to such a radical change in their lifestyle either. Can you honestly imagine your parents saying, “Oh, dropping out of college, are you? Good work, son!” or “Good work, daughter!” Or do you really imagine your pastor saying “Leaving our church to go out on the streets preaching the teachings of Jesus, are you? “Sounds wonderful! God bless you, brother or sister.” Or do you really think your friends are going to say, “You sold everything you own? “Hey, that sounds like a terrific idea. Can I do the same thing and come with you?” Jesus told his disciples to expect the exact opposite of this. He said that, if we are not ashamed of what he actually taught, those who are closest to us will turn on us. They will hate us. They will accuse us of being crazy, or demon-possessed and they will even report us to authorities in an effort to get us arrested. Just today someone wrote and said he could not meet up with one of us because his sister had threatened to call the police if he did. My first thought was to laugh. What could she possibly tell the police that would lead to him being arrested? Neither he nor we had broken any law. But then I remembered that we are getting closer every day to a time when it will literally be against the law to follow Jesus…to forsake all and live by faith. Even now, you just have to say, “My brother is running off with an extreme religious group” and suddenly all the rules change. People DO treat us like criminals. And isn’t that exactly what they did to Jesus? They ended up torturing him to death as a criminal. He said that, if people were going to react so dramatically to him and what he was teaching they are certainly going to do the same thing or worse with us but only when we start doing and teaching the same things that he did and taught. The problem is that people have never previously experienced or discovered the kind of faith that Jesus promoted a faith that challenges so radically all the values of the world in which we live. You see, you can change churches, shift from believing in a pre-Trib rapture to believing in a post-Trib rapture or go off to Bible college, and people will hardly bat an eyelash at it. Okay, so you got religion and you changed churches but it’s not like you have done anything that is going to turn the whole world upside down. But when we start living like Jesus and his first disciples lived we begin to hack at the very source of all the evil in the world. We have found the answer, and it does not leave anyone untouched when word gets out. The news and the hate spreads like wildfire. How I wish I could get this through to people…just how revolutionary the teachings of Jesus really are. They challenge the entire fabric of society. And if you are not prepared to lose everything…Do you hear me? Everything? If you are not prepared to lose it all, including your own life you may as well stop now and go back to where you left off in the churches. You see, the Creator of the universe has intervened in the course of human history with a message that is so radical that it is going to spread panic around the entire planet the kind of panic that can cause people to do unbelievably cruel things. And this panic is starting to spread even now. Tongues are wagging. Lies are starting to pour out of the mouths of people in many different countries. Look at this verse, from the twelfth chapter of The Revelation. This is the chapter about a remnant of people in the last days who follow Jesus when all the rest of the world is following the antichrist. It says in the 15th verse of that chapter that a “flood” comes out of the mouth of the devil. The devil is described as a great serpent in this chapter. And he will pour out a flood of lies against those of us who choose to put Jesus first. What we are experiencing at the moment is really just a trickle of lies from a few people who have been personally challenged by what we say and what we do. But there is coming a great flood of false accusations that will seek to justify literally killing us in order to save the world from hearing the radical, life-changing message of Jesus. That time is coming. Believe me. It’s just an extension of what is happening in little ways now. And be sure that it will happen to you too, if you should decide to leave your nets and follow Jesus with us. It’s all leading to a global showdown. But what a great cause to suffer for! Please do think about this as you consider the truth in what Jesus taught. Settle it in your mind now, that it is not for the faint-hearted. It is going to cost you everything; but here’s the good part: It’s going to result in the most far-reaching, most radical most wonderful life-changing events in the history of the human race. I wouldn’t miss it for everything that the world has to offer, and I hope you won’t either. Please write to us if you would like to be a part of this great movement. I look forward to hearing from you today. God bless you.

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