Monday, July 6, 2015

Are you following the crowd?

I'm leading a girls' Bible study through the book of John, and last week, we discussed chapter 12, where a large, exuberant crowd ushers Jesus into Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry. People were excited to greet Jesus because He'd just raised Lazarus from the dead. What a miracle! And the people were hungry for more. The Jewish religious leaders felt so threatened that they said in verse 19, "Look, the world has gone after him."

One of my students has a favorite question during Bible study: "What does this have to do with us today?"

As I sat at the picnic table with the girls in the park where we held our study, that question stumped me. Recent developments, any glimpse of the news, most of my visits to social media... All of it shows me loud and clear: The world is not going after Jesus today.

Thankfully, in my preparation for the study, I'd read farther into the book of John. After the Triumphal Entry, Jesus teaches a little more, and then we arrive at 12:36-37, which says, "When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done many signs before them, they still did not believe in him."

This is the same crowd that was so excited about Jesus and what he'd done didn't truly believe in him. Just a few chapters later, they crucify him.

Our culture isn't to the point of killing Christians, but I do think we're moving in slow motion down the same path that took the Jews of Jesus's day from the Triumphal Entry to the crucifixion.

It used to be that the majority of Americans called themselves Christians and society seemed in many ways to (at least outwardly) lean toward those standards. Today, living out the teachings of Jesus is becoming more and more of a controversial thing. Maybe it'll get worse, or maybe the tide will turn. But while we're here, in a place between being a nation of proud "Christians" and being persecuted for being one, I think we'd be wise to make up our minds about where we'll stand when and if the going does get really tough.

Will the faith we claim now be the same faith we'll claim when it could cost us our livelihoods, land us in jail, or get us killed? Or will we, like the crowds of Jesus's day, follow Jesus around without coming to true belief and then morph into one of those calling for the death of Christianity?

In the middle of John 12, Jesus says, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe the light, that you may become sons of light."

My challenge to those who call themselves Christians is to do this, to believe the light and claim it for our own now, before the going gets tough so that we'll have that light source no matter how dark the world around us becomes.

Now I don't mean this post to be doom and gloom. As my pastor taught on Sunday, with Christ we have true freedom. The freedom to do what is right no matter what is going on around us. (See Romans 8:2.) He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. (See 1 John 4:4.) God is still on his throne, and believers never have to be afraid.

But the thing is, we have to be authentic believers because God knows the difference between following a crowd and committing our lives and souls to him.

As Joshua 24:15 says, "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve [...] But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

It's time to choose for ourselves instead of following the crowd that will align with Jesus one day (or one decade or one century) and will crucify him the next. I obviously have my hopes for what you'll choose, but the point is, it's up to you. Just don't forget that either way, it's a choice and it'll determine your destiny.

Your Sister

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