Can you tell someone he must leave everything behind if he wants eternal life? If not, you shouldn’t be on the front lines of spiritual warfare because it takes courage up there. I don’t mean to suggest that everyone has to leave EVERYTHING behind in order to follow Christ, but there are many who have to leave a lot behind to follow Jesus. Are you willing and able to tell people that?
The truth is compromised more often by people who lack the courage to tell people who are living in sin that they must leave sin in order to be saved. A man who is shacking up with a woman has to move out to follow Jesus. A man who is living in adultery has to move out to follow Jesus. A homosexual has to renounce and quit homosexuality to follow Jesus. Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away sad, Mt 19:22. In that same chapter Jesus shows that we have to let the adulterers walk away sad if they are not willing to put away the adulterous marriage, Mt 19:9.
It’s not just sexual sin that’s hard to teach. Many religious people, like the Athenians, are worshiping God according to human traditions, they must be told to repent the way Paul did in Acts 17. When we encounter men who are worshiping God with instruments, we have to call for them to repent. Musical instruments are fleshly. They do not teach. They appeal to the senses. And they are divisive and damaging to the conscience. Likewise, when people, like Apollos or the disciples in Ephesus, have been taught wrong on salvation, they must be taught to repent the way Priscilla and Aquila did in Acts 18 and 19. When we encounter people who really believe in Jesus but they have been baptized into some denomination and not into Christ, we have to call for them to repent and be immersed into Christ for the remission of sins. This is hard and takes courage to confront people in their error. Many don’t have this courage and so they instead look for loopholes to avoid the confrontation.
Not all sin was in the past. Some sin is being practiced, daily, and this too must be addressed. It’s one thing to say, “All of those sins you committed in the past can be forgiven by Jesus.” But it’s a whole new ballgame to look at the ongoing sin that’s being committed. It’s sticky, touchy, and uncomfortable to find out that people are practicing sins that must first be put away in order to be saved. People may have to change jobs. They may have to break off a relationship. They may have to leave family behind if that family will hinder them from obeying the truth. If we are involved with many people in the work of saving souls, we are going to encounter scenarios similar to the that which Jesus did. Sometimes it will be relatively easy to confess Christ in baptism and it will seem that hardly any change is required. But often times we are going to find a Zaccheus who has wronged people and he has a lot of paying back to do to have eternal life. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish.” Are we willing and able to teach the truth when it’s hard?
I’m always reminded of the courage of John the Baptist who would not baptize people unless they brought fruits in keeping with repentance, Lk 3. And because of his courageous preaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, he was killed by Herod. So when people tell me today that it’s not that hard because God forgives every situation, I know they are not on the side of truth. Paul’s “remain in that condition in which you were called” cannot mean a person can remain in an adulterous, fornicating, or homosexual condition. They too have to repent, put away the sin, and then they may have eternal life.
So faithfulness to Jesus will mean that we Christians are courageously and lovingly telling people they must leave behind the hindrances to living a holy life of faith. To stand up for the truth is the most loving thing you can do. It is about your love for God’s will and it’s about your love for a person’s soul.
Have you left behind the hindrance to your being the very best example of a Christian?