Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – Jesus, John’s Gospel
In The Kingdom Unleashed, Jerry Trousdale tells a story of several years ago, when he was working with a missionary who was disciple making inside a very dangerous country. Jerry warned him of the extreme risk he was taking, by continuing to bring the Gospel of Jesus to a hostile people. The young missionary turned to Jerry with a big smile and said this; “when we were learning Arabic and preparing to come here, my wife and I decided back then, that we had already died to this world, and would only live for Christ. It’s okay, we belong only to him, to do his will.” It was the last Jerry would see of him, as just a few weeks after that encounter, he was martyred for his faith.
Out of the hundreds of stories in TKU, that one has remained with me since. What is it, that sees a staggering, stuttering Faith in the West, up against a Faith moving so quickly that it cannot be contained in the East. Why does the Spirit move with such force in the one, yet is invisible in the other? Surely there must be an answer.
It would seem above all else, that the contrast is found in a single word – sacrifice. In those parts of the world where the church is multiplying at breathtaking speed, believers seemingly live only for Christ. Prayer is constant and relentless, fasting is regularly practiced, and the devil is taken seriously. Jesus’ mandate to move into the world and make disciples is taken as if the follower was in the army, and the order was issued by a 5-star General. While life carries on, nothing gets in the way of devotion to Jesus, and dedication to the cause.
Compare that to you, and me. Work takes up an enormous amount of our time and energy – even within that confine though, few believers are willing to count themselves as followers of Jesus and take a stand for fear of reprisals. Most have few non-believing friends, and if so (if we’re honest) even less of our non-believing friends would be able to identify us as followers of Christ. Some would be astonished if they found out we were. Evenings are spent entertaining or relaxing, and weekends are full of activity as we enjoy the great lifestyle given to us. Our relationship with God is generally squeezed into a few hours on a Sunday, after which we are free to live pretty much for ourselves.
Further our conversion in the West generally lacks force, baptism is optional, and a simple prayer suffices to “get Jesus into our hearts.” We are taught, from the outset, that teaching and doctrine are paramount in our growth, and slowly we are absorbed into the local church’s culture. We believe what they believe, usually without question. We are taught Jesus is our Saviour (although we often have a mediator).
Compare that to a conversion in the East, where baptism is immediate (see Acts) often demons are cast out, hands are laid on for the Spirit to come on in power and a believer is told in no uncertain terms, that obedience and total allegiance to Jesus is what we are signing up for. If that conversion happens in a country where Christianity is outlawed or prohibited, we will find out soon enough the cost involved. Jesus is not only our Saviour, he is also our Lord.
So, is it any wonder we see so little of the move of the Spirit in our Western world? With our distractions, a faith that demands so little, sacrifice and obedience as options – is it any wonder that Jesus’ attention is maybe elsewhere. Where would our attention be, in fact where is it? We need to, have to, take stock of the situation. Around us, our Western world is falling apart, brokenness is all round us and people are in need of Jesus more than ever. Hell hasn’t gone away.
We must take Jesus at his word. Only if we die to ourselves, will we see fruit. But he also mentions that we must hate this world and all that it stands for. Similarly, we must take him at his word when he reminds us that on a day coming soon, many will tell him that they “knew him” at which, he will deny ever having met us before. How terrifying.
If we want to see the Kingdom Unleashed, then death to ourselves and utter Lordship of Christ amongst us, is the only way. Is he worth it in your life, in mine?