And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.( Mark 8:34-38)
I used to have a pretty simplistic understanding of Jesus’ warning, that it would possible to “gain the world, and lose your soul”. My take on it was that Jesus was warning that should I ever become famous, powerful or rich,(gain the world), I could easily forget who I really was, the change could corrupt me, and I could fall away from God. All of course is true, but that is a very elementary understanding of the verse.
I pointed out in my last article my new understanding of what it means to “gain the world”, in the story of the two tele-evangelists on Larry King. The second one, “gained the world” when for a sliver of approval, by Larry King himself, the lesbian guest, and the viewing and listening audience, he opposed his brother, who was taking an unpopular stand for righteousness.
For that brief moment of being regarded by the world as ‘tolerant’, and ‘open minded’, the second preacher basked in the world’s appreciation, he ‘gained the world’. Like Peter, warming himself by the fire of the godless, this preacher took the side of ungodly men at the expense of the truth of God, and of God’s faithful minister.
There are whole churches now, who are representing themselves as being more tolerant, and much more compassionate than the ‘conventional church’, by accommodating Islam, and also by being open to homosexual ‘christians’. These churches will definitely receive the fawning press coverage, and the accolades of this godless world, but they do so at the expense of every christian who ever suffered for fleeing Islam,or of all who have agonized to come out of the bondage of the unnatural and degrading lust that is homosexuality.
Their reward is that they get to be perceived as the ‘mature ones’, the loving and understanding ministers and churches, distinguished from the ‘judgmental fundamentalist christians’ who still insist that homosexuality is a sin, and that the God of the Bible is definitely not ‘allah’. This is the subtle meaning of “gaining the world’.
In a similar and related light, my understanding of what it means to deny Christ has also matured. My earliest understanding was simple, and I believe is yet true. I saw myself lined up against a wall with several other bedraggled believers. A “Red” communist officer barks the warning, “Deny Christ or else we shoot!”. I always prayed that I would rather die than deny Christ.(I still do).
But I have come since to see that there are other more subtle ways by which Christ is denied every single day by millions of confessing believers who have no idea that they are doing such.
We currently live in a time and place,(the west) where it is still common and unremarkable for people to confess that they are christians, and even that they love Jesus. Athletes, celebrities, rap music stars, as well as everyday people all around us, frequently confess that they know Jesus, are saved, or that they ‘owe their success and fortune” to Jesus Christ.
No one is being lined up against a wall, and threatened to deny Christ on pain of death, at this point.
But there are areas in our public discussion, which are extremely sensitive and divisive, watershed issues which bring much pressure to bear upon those who involve themselves in them, one way or the other. Issues such as Homosexuality, abortion, race, the exclusivity of Christianity, Islam, are being violently thrust on people, ministers and churches.
We have been unwittingly trained to suppress our true thoughts on these issues, by decades of ‘political correctness’. Americans are far less outspoken than they once were. People have been psychologically conditioned to defer in the name of a pseudo tolerance to positions which would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago.(Unfortunately the tolerance only goes one way, all too often).
Homosexual marriage would have been ridiculed 30 years ago, Islam would have been vigorously resisted also. No American would have been intimidated or made to feel guilty by it’s false threats and accusations. Behold the power of false guilt,and of constant media conditioning, and the fruit of relentless political warfare by atheists, against the order of a once Judeo Christian nation. This goes beyond the political pressure, for this is a spiritual pressure.
Our Lord Jesus has something to say about each of these issues, which the world is contesting, therefore his servants have an obligation to witness to His “words to this generation”.
Whenever a minister or church or for that matter a christian, takes the side of the world on one of these issues, they are indeed denying Christ.
Churches which accommodate homosexuality on any level, are denying Christ. They are taking a stand in defiance of their own Lord and Saviour, who died to redeem all caught in the grip of sin. There are so many trapped in that sin who have suffered hatred, ridicule and abuse for their testimony that they once were “one of these, but (they)… are washed, …sanctified, …justified in the name of Christ and of God!”.
That a church would then affirm people within that lifestyle, is a slap in the face to those who for Christ’ sake have left it.This is how Christ is denied, and how they lose their soul.
Those who participate in the blasphemous “Chrislam” are denying Christ. They may be celebrated as “open-minded”, “Loving, and non judgmental” christians by the world, but they do it at the expense and blood of thousands of others who have for Jesus’ sake left Islam and witness that it is of the devil.
Race also is a tool of exploitation that many use for their own benefit and end up denying Christ. First of all, there is only one race, according to the Word of God. The real divisions are cultural. But there is much to be gained by the exploitation of race.
I once was part of a ministers prayer group, composed mainly of “African American” ministers. When the movie “Malcolm X” came out, glorifying an Islamic race baiter, a violent criminal who hated whites, I asked my fellow pastors if they planned on adressing the problem to their impressionable young people. “What do you mean brother Randles? Malcolm was one of our Civil Rights leaders, a man who loved “our people”!”. Little did they know they had just denied Christ.
By exalting a Muslim agitator as “one of their people” just because he happened to be black, and doing it at the expense of their brothers and sisters who are white, or chinese, or anything in between, these ministers denied their Lord. The reward was to ‘look good’, to be ‘down with the struggle’ or to keep up the nourishment of hatred and resentment,(and possibly obligation and guilt based deference of whites), but it came at the expense of Christ and His words.
These are some of the subtle ways that Christ is commonly denied, and that sides are unwittingly being taken. There is no neutrality in this final struggle, to not take a clear stand for Jesus, is the same as taking a stand against him.