“Are you a true Christian? If your answer is yes, come along with us since we are burning all Christians at the stake!!”
Not too many years ago this was happening regularly in England. Today, in many ‘Christian’ countries of the West, we have what is called religious freedom and it is considered to be a great blessing. Christians in this country should be thankful that we can worship God without any fear of persecution, unlike many Christians in some parts of the world.
But has our religious freedom in the West brought religious laxity? Where are the stalwarts in the UK for example, who are willing to confess Christ and die for it, as some Christians do elsewhere in the world? Has the soft ‘western lifestyle’ made us flabby Christians?
Even in nominally ‘Christian’ countries, there was a time when reading the Bible was done at the risk of one’s life, yet it was read, even if it was done under the covers in the middle of the night by the light of a flickering candle. Today, in many places in the world, we can sit in our armchairs and read the Bible anytime we wish. There is no danger, no threat, and sad to say, all too often there is no reading.
In England centuries ago, small groups of believers used to meet together to read the Bible and to remember Jesus at the risk of losing their heads. Today everybody here can walk or drive anywhere they want and listen to the word of God preached to all who will hear…and they are staying away in droves.
A wasted effort?
If any of us, unlike some Christians in the world, are enjoying religious freedom, we might need to ask ourselves – did Christ die in vain for us? He denied himself and he tells us:
If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 NIV)
Are we following him? Has a ‘Western lifestyle’ – easy living, television, the internet and sport – so infected us that we are spiritually sick? Can we hope to be saved if we continue to drift? Or can we learn from Christians elsewhere in the world who – even today – live in fear of their lives for holding beliefs that are violently rejected by the people around them?
A better perspective on life
Sometimes it’s possible for any of us to lose our perspective on life, no matter where we live. We have to ask ourselves what is our goal, our mission, our purpose in life? Is it to have a good time, to eat drink and be merry, to enjoy a ‘western lifestyle’ to the full?
Count the things we do. How many things are done to please ourselves and how many are done to please God? True Christians in any country and under any government should:
…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
So, are we true Christians? We know a true Christian follows Christ. Many people who call themselves Christ’s are not following Christ at all. They don’t even believe what he taught.
I seek not to please myself but him (God) who sent me. (John 5:30 NIV)
Can we say that? Those English Christians in the past who lost their jobs, their homes, even their lives for Christ’s sake could. And even now, in some parts of the world, there are Christians who know only too well what it means to suffer for what they believe.
If suffering as a Christian is something we experience, Christ has assured us that:
Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29 NIV)
What can we honestly say we have given up in order to be a Christian? Have we really given up the things that please self? We are not called upon to be crucified for the Lord but we are told that:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 NIV)
Are we true Christians? Have we done enough crucifying?