Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me (RJS)

The symbolic story of tribulation and redemption is represented in this early Christian painting of the biblical story of “The Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace”. From the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy. Late 3rd century / Early 4th century. Image and description from wikipedia.

Scot made a rather sobering comment on one of his posts last week – Douthat, Bass and Christianity’s Culture Wars:

Here’s an interesting one: a pastor called me the other day, we got into a conversation about “gospel” and what churches are preaching, discipleship came up, and he said, “Who preaches the cost of discipleship anymore? I talk to pastors constantly and not one of them can preach that message without getting in trouble.”

What evangelicalism mostly preaches is the soterian gospel. Some repackage into a robust theology but most don’t.

There is a call to salvation and a call for an admission that we cannot handle the trials of life without God (although the trials are things like fiscal responsibility, ethical business practice, marital fidelity, steady employment, and  raising children), but little discipleship and no call for sacrificial commitment. This doesn’t speak to all corners of the evangelical church, but there is definitely a stream where this is the primary message. We believe that God exists and that he created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. We believe that God wants people to be good. But we also appear to believe that the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.  And, of course, we believe that people who “accept Jesus as personal savior” go to heaven when they die and thus secure permanent personal happiness.

At times it seems that every aspect of the bible story is about personal happiness for those of us living today, from the failures and triumphs of the Old Testament heroes, to the death of Christ, to the writings of Paul. The applications are legion … one fear that the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego helps us conquer is the fear of marital and financial stress (a point in a sermon I heard not too long ago). Well, no, those kinds of problems aren’t really on the radar here, and trying to make the connection does violence to the story. Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego loved the Lord their God with all their being, and were willing to be put to death rather than bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold. A profound point when one considers that Israel and Judah were handed over to captivity and exile for their failure to remain true to God and his commands, for sacrificing to the Ba’als and raising Asherah poles. Nor is the point that God will always come to the rescue and save us from death if we stay true to his name. After all, did James, Peter, and Paul suffer from a lack of faith when they were executed for the name of Christ?

Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mk 8:34-35,  see also Mt 10:37-38, Mt 16:24-27, Lk 9:23-26)

What is the cost of discipleship?

What does this mean for Christians today?

I recently finished reading God Is Red by Liao Yiwu is a Chinese dissident, critical of the communist regime. In his travels around China he interviewed a number of Chinese Christians, many of whom were persecuted quite severely for their faith. He is not a Christian, but these stories interested him. He starts with a doctor who left the halls of academe to serve the poor, but from here he moves to relate the accounts of several others who suffered after the communist victory and in the cultural revolution, including several who were executed. Many of the interviewees were in their 70’s to 90’s. In their youth missionaries were active and civil war rocked the land. In middle age the church was deemed a threat to the country. In old age things were beginning to loosen up in China. And they persevered. But not all did.

The images are quite stark, inspiring and terrifying. I’ll look only briefly at two examples here.

In the first Liao interviewed the son of a Beijing pastor Yuan Xianchen, imprisoned for 21 years and 8 months. He tried to interview the pastor himself, but was thwarted in the attempt. According to Yuan Fusheng his father was a devout Christian who believed that the church should remain separate from the state. He was not antigovernment or anti-communism, but he had to do God’s will, and that was not under the control of the government. At first things were relatively calm but in 1955 things changed. “In 1955 more than a thousand churches in China were burned down. Tens of thousands of Christians were arrested. Several thousand were executed on charges of belonging to a cult.” (p. 163) Christians struggled with what to do, some pastors signed confessions and regretted them, some recanted permanently. Remaining faithful was not an easy reflex action.

Liao: Couldn’t your father make some concessions for the sake of his family? There was no justification for your father to put his family through such suffering.

Yuan: He had thought carefully about such questions. He had also taken counsel from many friends. But the biggest misfortune for a Christian does not lie in the calamity that befalls him in this world. It is the betrayal of God for the sake of secular things on earth. (p. 167)

Liao ends with a note that “the Reverend Yuan Xianchen passed away in 2005 at the age of ninety-two. He had six children, all of whom are pious Christians.” (p. 179)

The second story I’ll highlight is that of Wang Zhiming.

Above the Great West Door to Westminster Abbey in central London stand ten statues recognizing Christian martyrs of the twentieth century from around the globe. One of those statues is of Wang Zhiming, who lived and preached in Wuding County in China’s Yunnan province and served the ethnic Miao. Arrested in 1969 for his religious work, he was executed in 1973. He was sixty-six years old. (p. 97)

Liao interviewed one of Wang Zhiming’s sons. In 1951 the government closed the churches, confiscated church property and sent Wang Zhiming, a newly ordained minister, home. Wang’s son was 11 years old. Like Yuan Xianchen, Wang Zhiming was not antigovernment. He even met Chairman Mao as part of a delegation from Yunnan in the 1950’s. But he could not renounce his faith, or fail to practice it.

The government sealed and confiscated the church property in Sapushan and ordered my father to return home and farm under the supervision of the revolutionary peasants. Since he was one of the few literate people in the region, they made him the village accountant. He obeyed because the Bible says you should submit your body to the rulers, but he never stopped his daily prayers. Sometimes, Christians in other villages would gather at our house late at night. The tense political environment made everyone nervous. All prayer activities went underground. (p. 104)

In 1966 the Cultural Revolution started. The revolutionary masses swarmed into our courtyard, ransacked our house, and beat everyone. They tied us together and paraded us from village to village. My father was forced to wear a big dunce cap with the words “Spy and Lackey of the Imperialists.” At public condemnation meetings attended by over ten thousand people, we were the targets of angry fists. The spit was almost enough to drown us. No matter how much we suffered, father never stopped praying. It went on like that for three years, until the revolutionary rebels began fighting one another and no longer had time to bother us. The daily harassment ended. My father found some former Christians, and they would gather inside mountain caves at midnight for prayer sessions. They didn’t have a copy of the Bible, but they believed it was in their hearts. (p. 105)

Liao recounts the son’s story of his father’s execution, a poignant tale, again involving crowds and taunts before the sentence was carried out.  Two of Wang’s sons went to prison a third committed suicide rather than take the abuse. The Chinese government eventually reversed the verdict against Wang, once the Cultural Revolution was over, and against his son as well. The son recalls how in 1996 the church held a memorial service for his father – “the choir alone numbered two thousand.” (p. 115) The number of Christians in the county was under 3000 in the 1960’s and had grown to about thirty thousand by ca. 2005. The son concludes…”In our society today, people’s minds are entangled and chaotic. They need the words of the gospel now more than at any other time.” (p. 116)

This is humbling. The cost of discipleship for most of us will not include torture, beatings or execution. But the stories above, and others around the world, make something of a mockery of the idea that the gospel is about health, financial self-control, personal happiness, and life fulfillment. I found the stories in God is Red inspiring – and humbling.  Inspiring in the way these men and women stood for the gospel, and humbling in the knowledge of my reaction to rather petty demands on me.

What makes the gospel worth dying for?

What should this mean for the gospel we preach today?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • Cal

    Truly, what one is willing to die for is the very thing that one is able to live for.

    For many Americans, as Hauerwas notes probably with some hyprbole, many American Christians (both disciples and the acculturated) that we’ve made martyrs out of US soldiers and blended ancient hero/ancestor worship with Christian respect for the Martyrs of old. Many may preach Health & Wealth but try and suggest a scenario where a foreign power tries to take away our American “rights” and you hear of rivers of blood. Liberty is a tree that feeds on the blood of tyrants and patriots right? Is this the Tree of Life or some other garden variety shrub?

  • Kel

    Well said. I felt much the same way after reading Paul Hattaway’s “Back To Jerusalem.” Your post also reminds me of Philippians 3:18-21.

  • I can see how this would be difficult for a pastor to “preach” in the manner we are accustomed to preaching in America. To preach self sacrifice as a command from God will not bring about true self sacrifice. To commit one’s self to Christ like this is something that must be birthed as a natural and willing response to grace and grace only comes in relationship to one who sacrifices themselves for others.

    There is grace in these stories. Thanks for sharing.

  • phil_style

    @ Cal, “Many may preach Health & Wealth but try and suggest a scenario where a foreign power tries to take away our American “rights” and you hear of rivers of blood. ”

    great insight. I read every day of Americans who are prepared to kill for their rights, to kill for their families… at the same time I read of others who would die for their faith. Somewhere in there is an odd contrast.

  • RJS

    Nate W,

    I can see how it would be difficult to preach as well. And most of us (the vast majority) will never experience any physical persecution for our faith. The persecution we complain about is rather trivial and mostly of our own making. But, and this is place where I think we do a serious disservice, no one in today’s western world can follow Christ as a committed disciple with out self-sacrifice. The values of the world are not Christian values, and I don’t mean things like Chik-A-Fil or ACA requirements for contraceptive coverage. I mean things like “servant of all”, not valuing wealth, honor, and prestige, and the command to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

    In the secular academy for example, we need Christians here – but it cannot be done without some level of self-sacrifice. Piddling little stuff compared to the stories I related in the post, but it does mean being an outsider everywhere. I think there are many other examples as well – but we hear next to nothing about the cost of discipleship, only about the benefits.

  • Robin

    I wonder how much of a problem this really is. I know it is easy to say “the church doesn’t preach this anymore…” or similar things, but unless we are talking about those congregations and movements we have actual experience with, I don’t think the criticisms are valid.

    So I’ll speak for my churches and the preachers I have read and listened to extensively. In the TGC/Reformed movement preaching the cost of Discipleship is alive and well. And in the Calvinistic churches I have been a part of it is alive and well. Bonhoeffer was the first or second author I was familiar with as a Christian. On our summer (Calvinistic) mission trip we all got a copy of a sermon encouraging us to take up the cross, even if it meant dying. I have easily heard 20-30+ heart wrenching sermons on the cot of discipleship or a similar topic in the last decade, maybe more.

    So, when it comes to lamenting the loss of “cost of discipleship” talks or sermons, are we really saying that it isn’t present in OUR churches, or just THE CHURCH in general, but we’re not really sure because though we suspect it is absent elsewhere, it is preached correctly where we worship?

  • RJS


    I was intentionally vague – and note that the post says “this doesn’t speak to all corners of the evangelical church.”

    I think TGC, for example, preaches a cost to discipleship. And as much as I disagree with John Piper on some aspects of doctrine and practice, I am as certain as one can be about another that he would stand firm even unto death and would preach this necessity. Actually I think this is one of the reasons the TGC approach is gaining so much ground (along with other similar approaches). There is real depth here and it is deeply appealing.

    But it is also important to be sure that we are standing firm over “that written in blood” and not preaching a costly discipleship in opposition to scripture. For example, I was impressed with the stories above because they were not “anti-government” but pro-Christ. (No I don’t think all, even most, TGC preaching is in opposition to scripture – but I do think it often represents a narrow take that needs to be in conversation with the larger Christian community rather than appearing to sit in judgment on it.)

  • Robin


    Let me clarify. I know that the Cost of Discipleship is preached in my circles. I see other circles of Christianity that I am not enamored with. It is easy for me to assume on the internet that they are liberal, or “aren’t preaching the hard truths”, or whatever you want.

    I have also heard multiple messages in which, though it isn’t the main point of the message, there is a substantial tangent on “Health, wealth, and prosperity preachers who are preaching a false gospel and denying the cost of discipleship.”

    I just wanted to make sure we weren’t painting with a broad brush. So, if you are from a circle where this isn’t preached very well, I would like to hear it. Who would really say that their church/denomination/sphere does this poorly? If noone will admit to such, then it is a different conversation.

  • Robin


    Also slightly confused about the “anti-government” line in your response. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an anti-government, cost of discipleship talk. They have mostly dealt with, going overseas, doing missions at homes, taking in foster children, serving in your community, or selling everything you have and retiring overseas/moving to an inner-city.

    Not sure how any of that would branch with an anti-government message.

  • Rick

    Where do we draw the line between wisdom for life preaching v. health/wealth preaching?

    Do we see Proverbs with a Christological hermeneutic that makes any “better life” teaching meaningless?

  • Rick

    Just to clarify, I am all for the Cost emphasis, and agree with Robin on the fact that many churches are doing such.

    However, I think there is a murky middle that is so subtle that it comes across a preaching wisdom, not health/wealth.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/no-super-christians

    I agree for the most part, but I wanted to push back a little bit with this great post from Chaplain Mike over at IM. We have to be careful when we’re calling for “Super Christians”. It’s ok to live an ordinary life struggling with ordinary things.

  • Percival

    Let me stir the pot a little more. Part of my work is training workers in the Muslim world where a call to discipleship starts with a call to identify with the humiliated crucified King. Some of the people I train are sent from mainland China and they understand this, better than I do in fact. In contrast, Americans try to make the cross abstract and doctrinal. Here are some other things I have noticed.

    Often, in the US, when I hear ‘the cost of discipleship’ preached, there is an appeal to commit to making the supreme sacrifice of your life. Are you willing to give up this or that? We hear and we know the correct answer is yes. I guess it is yes, but for what? Do I really need to? Why?

    The message is all push and no pull. Where is the positive message? Is there anything positive about being called to suffer, to take up the cross of pain and shame?

    What is the appeal of this side of the gospel? Yes, the call to suffer is actually good news for those who are in Christ. Because we can KNOW HIM in the fellowship of his sufferings. In fact, we will never really know him unless we suffer his suffering, share his shame, feel his pain, weep his tears. A large part of the gospel is that we are privileged to be invited to be co-sufferers with Christ.

    Sometimes in America we hear the question, “Why do we need to stay here on earth after we come to faith?” We usually answer with something along the lines that we need to do the unfinished work of the kingdom, or we need to preach the gospel everywhere. I never hear anyone give an answer saying that God wants us to stay here and suffer as we follow in the steps of Christ. In fact, the classic book In His Steps sort of misses that point too. WWJD? He would suffer. That’s what it means to follow in his steps. Look at the context of the verse. 1 Peter 2:21. Another example is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is about suffering, not about doing ‘mighty works of faith.’ It is a privilege to follow in these footsteps of Christ (and in the footsteps of these (ethnic)Muslim and Chinese believers).

  • Albion

    On a neo-reformed thread recently: “We are part of club that requires nothing of its members except they recognize they are part of club that requires nothing of its members.”

    I find this kind of sentiment astounding.

    In my neck of the woods, there is a kind of discipleship taught in Sunday School classes but not from the pulpit. Preaching is mostly about passive reception of grace without a call to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow, etc.

  • Rick

    Albion #14-

    Where did you read that, and in what context? Most neo-reformed I hear teach “get out and do”.

  • CGC

    Percival #13, Great post!

  • Cal


    I agree with the sentiment. The Martyrs were not “super-saints” or today’s “mega-church pastor-dictators”, but average people who did not back away. Though some did get into a mania of seeking martyrdom (like the circumcellions in Africa), most lived quiet and “average” lives until they came head to head with forces within the world. Martyr means witness and we’re all witnesses who say Christ is Lord; some just make that more pronounced with their lives.


    I was told a story of an American revivalist preacher who took the logical extreme by after making a convert, his brother would shoot him. He had his ticket and this way he wouldn’t back slide. Crazy thinking.

  • MatthewS

    I appreciate this post and the reflection it brings, RJS.

    When I think about the suffering that some believers around the world are experiencing, I feel heavy and wonder what my responsibility is to these, my Christian brothers and sisters. One story from Voice of the Martyrs that sticks with me was about Indian widows who saw the beaten bodies of their husbands; the widows themselves were treated roughly and their heads were shorn.

    I would say that the comment about not preaching the cost of discipleship does not resonate so much with me. I am around a lot of people who want to hear such a call; my challenge is that I’m in a context where it’s easy and even expected to make the call in such a way that it blurs into what we commonly call Pharisaism, which is about keeping the outside of the cup clean at the expense of the inside. It’s so easy to pressure people to performance that can be measured but it’s important that our words are grace-filled, even when we look with clear eyes at the cost of discipleship. That’s not a pushback, just conversation.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • RJS

    Robin (#9),

    I am, perhaps, responding to too much simultaneously – not in your comment, but the various objections and positions I hear. There is a tendency by some to equate Christianity with anti-socialism. These men were not necessarily anti-socialism, but they were anti-atheism.

  • RJS

    MatthewS (#18),

    First – lest anyone try to point fingers – the illustration of a sermon on Shadrach and company did not come from a sermon by one of the pastors of the church I attend, but it is a real sermon illustration I heard.

    I think your point about the call for costly discipleship blurring into “pharisaism” is quite accurate. It isn’t about the outside behaviors, but about the inside orientation. And it isn’t about toeing the right line on issues like inerrancy, Adam, total depravity, election, hell, or complementarianism (or even egalitarianism) and taking heat for it.

    What is the “right” line in costly discipleship?

  • SamB

    “What makes the gospel worth dying for?” Love. One of my heroes is Ocar Romero. He was a priest who was appointed Bishop of the Catholic church in El Salvador because he was thought to be someone who was conservative and one who would keep the church “safe”. He loved Jesus but in serving the people he fell in love with them and realized they had bodies as well as souls and that the gospel did include a social aspect to it. It was his love of God and then his love of the people especially the poor and oppressed that led to his murder. He shared in the suffering of the powerless with the One who said no human being has greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends.

    “What should this mean for the gospel we preach today?” I hear the cost preached but do not see it lived often in our ordinary daily living. Bonhoeffer found the message that transformed him in the Sermon on the Mount when he began to believe Jesus really did mean for us to begin to live according to it in the power of His Spirit, that it was not just a teaching that is impractical to this broken world and meant only to show us our sinfulness. Prior to that he considered himself a theologian and not a Christian. Jesus asked what good is salt if it has lost its saltiness. Maybe we should begin there.

  • RJS


    Nice observations. Romero is one of the other 20th century martyrs with a statue at Westminster Abbey. And it isn’t only the sermon on the mount. I think we should take more seriously the direction Jesus gave to the rich man who asked him, who kept all the commandments. One thing you lack, sell all you have and give to the poor and follow me. I don’t think Jesus calls us to radical poverty, but he does call us to radical love.

  • When I was in high school I sometimes wore a T-shirt that simply said “Hardcore Christian” on the front in big white punk rock letters. I did so becaus ei thought it what christian kids were supposed to do (do youth groups still call for “christian T-shirt days??). I always felt self conscious, but thought that was probably Satan trying to get me to take it off. I absorbed the jeers and teasing because I believed I was being persecuted for my faith and I wa determined to not cave in.

    I think part of the problem is that we often equate carrying one’s cross and suffering for the gospel only with outright persecution for our beliefs. We make pompous idiots of ourselves and when there is understandable backlash we cry out that we’re being persecuted.

    Persecution by people or society for beliefs is one part of carrying our cross, but the “daily” taking up of our cross is the part we miss. It’s a moment by moment denial of our own rights for the good of others that is central to the faith. Yielding in traffic even when your in a hurry. Striking up a conversation with someone rather than tapping away on Jesus Creed…. (GUILTY).

    Sometimes this self-denial leads to societal persecution, but the really difficult thing is to give up right to peace, joy, love, happiness, and comfort ai that others may have these. This is the call, right?

  • Wow, re-read my last post and thought i need to clarify, that last paragraph especially. I didn’t mean for that to sound like I was belittling these heroes of the faith. It’s obviously more difficult to remain faithful in the face of the kind of suffering they were subjected to.

    I just meant that in our country where we lack this outright persecution we tend to label things like the left’s response to the chickf fil a fiasco or the removal of the 10 commandments from a courthouse as persecution and feel holy because we take a stand firm against our “persecuters”. If we would instead be willing to give up our personal rights and let go in ever day circumstances we would be closer to carrying our crosses.

    Hope I wasn’t misunderstood. : )

  • Cal

    Nate W:

    It’s a mass delusion we suffer in America. Even though I disown most of it, they are my people: where middle-class, white christian Americans, the mass majority, wear the mask of the persecuted. Equivocating “standing up for the family” with the martyrs of old. What a charade!

  • DRT

    I meant to respond several times today, alas, I got a job and now have to work (I suppose that is a good thing, at least my wife thinks it is),

    This is an incredibly thought provoking post. I am quite ambivalent on this, so let me explain. First, I am on board with us having to sacrifice for the way of the Lord.

    But, the idea of “reaching enlightenment” is present in many schools of thought and religion, and that is, in my opinion, another way to explain what can happen to us. When we realize that chasing desire, then fulfillment, often leads rapidly back to desire (Kierkegaard?), eventually we can get to the place that we desire something that is not of the flesh, and instead is of the spirit.

    Applying that to teaching to teaching in church becomes multi-layered. At low levels it makes the point that the prosperity gospel does not make sense. It actually traps people at such a low level of morality because they do not even have the view that there can be another way.

    So I tend to think that this message is not well suited for a general church audience, without practical teaching to let people know that there is the possibility to go much deeper into belonging to a bigger picture and the godliness that comes from delay of gratification, or the cessation of gratification, and the contributions to the bigger picture of god.

    An excellent topic and I wish I could have spent all day today on it….

  • John C. Gardner

    The idea of cheap grace and costly grace can be seen in Bonhoeffer’s life and theology. Too many of American Christians seek out and avoid sacrifices for Christ. We now seem to have a faith that the Christian sociologist Christian Smith says is little more than therapeutic, moralistic deism. Black Christians during the Civil Rights movement demonstrated costly grace as did our Lord and Savior.

  • JamesT

    As an interim pastor I preach mainly unity of the church, holiness and obedience. I’m of the opinion it’s not that people won’t listen, and even hear and respond, rather it’s not preached.

  • RJS


    Congratulations on the job.

  • DRT – I can identify with your ambivalence. On the one hand we seem desperately need to regain an understanding that life comes only in giving it up, joy comes only in giving it away, finding is tied up in the act of seeking, etc. for too many Christianity is treated merely as a destination.

    On the other hand though, we can’t present these Truths as if they are a command if we are speaking to those who don’t yet have “ears to hear”, (or “enlightenment” as you said). I think this may be similar to what Paul was going through with the Corinthian church:

    1 Corinthians 3:1-2
    Chapter 3
    Divisions in the Church
    1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,

    Perhaps we could think of the milk of the gospel as the benefits of the grace of Christ and solid food as the Word that eternal life is bound up in daily death. If so, I’m afraid that most of church (that I’m familiar with) is a big comforting baby bottle. Maybe the American church at large isn’t ready for solid food. Maybe this solid food is only available within close discipling relationships?

  • DRT

    Nate W. shared thoughts, thanks.

    But then again, many who have ears need to hear, and we need to cast a wide net to snare them.

    This is a very difficult question when it gets down to implementation. Perhaps its as easy as preaching the good news. But as you said, it even seems Paul seems to recognize a process and not instantaneous understanding.

  • RJS

    Nate W.,

    This is not true of the entire church or all churches of course, but you present an impressive image:

    I’m afraid that most of church (that I’m familiar with) is a big comforting baby bottle. Maybe the American church at large isn’t ready for solid food. Maybe this solid food is only available within close discipling relationships?

    I think some streams of the church (but not all) offer a big comforting baby bottle to attract “seekers” into the church. In the right context this is entirely appropriate and reaps great return. But one cannot grow to solid food in a church, that as a matter of mission and intent, avoids offering solid food for decades on end. When a 6 year old child is still bottle-fed we know that something is wrong, and even more so an 18 year old. When a 6-year old Christian (one who has been Christian for 6 years), or 18 or 40, is still only offered the bottle we have a problem – this isn’t a physical problem, it is a structural problem in the church.

    We are not supposed to be self-feeders weaning ourselves to solid food outside of the church, but many are left with no other option. (Or change to a church offering solid food – something TGC churches do quite well as Robin noted.)

  • DRT

    …and RJS, thanks much. It does feel good.

    Far eastern thought is by far less dualistic than than Western thought, and I believe that ANE thought was closer to far eastern. FE thought thinks of thoughts and actions in terms more like afflictive and non-afflictive. Emotions and actions, in general, are not good or bad, but in any particular case can be afflictive or non-afflictive. Folks in the US think of sacrifice as bad, but it is not. It is neither good or bad. But it can be afflictive or not-afflictive. Many of the things that Jesus teaches points toward this view, and we have to go beyond the simple good bad and go into the place where the bigger concerns of his teachings can actually take something normally afflictive and make it non-afflictive to us. Quite a feat. Jesus example of going to the cross is the example we have most vividly. He was certainly stressed about the event. But the love conquers all. In the end, the most important is the love and love conquers all. The battle is internal, love must conquer our internal struggle over ourselves and others. That turns sacrifice from afflictive to non-afflictive in our life, and that is the message. The NT is absolutely chock full of this idea from Jesus through Paul and all.

  • DRT

    RJS, excellent point. I had to leave the church to find solid food. But after I returned I found that it is there.

    I have had the chance to question Dad quite a bit about this, and how he found it in the church, because I could not. I found that he simply was raised with a different perspective than me. He had a strong bias toward listening to his teachers and doing what they tell him to do without question. He got there through long and protracted participation in eating milk, and had to gradually, oh so gradually, come to the realization that there is solid food there. But this is where I see the RCC to be more like TGC in many ways, it is at least somewhat available.

    But, I think high church offers an implicit glimpse into this reality. I love high church now. Nothing gets me in the mood more than candles bells and incense. It is obvious from a sensory perspective that there is indeed a bigger thing out there that we can see, feel and smell. It is there and we need to grasp it. But it is still too hard to make that leap in most of evangelicalism.

  • DRT

    TGC offers that awe, that command for attention, the obvious teaching that there is something so much bigger than us out there. I respect that. The church plant that I was involved with for 8 years promised me that we would go down that path, but once they had their building and their monument to their success they stopped. They gave up on the wisdom of god that, at least the pastor, had in his heart and limited their implementation to flock building and monument building. I was devastated by that. I could not believe it. The flesh won. They kicked me out.

  • DRT

    As far as seekers are concerned, there are clearly two kinds of seekers. There are those who need find milk, and those looking for solid food. I was the later and know that there are many more who are like me.

  • DRT

    I also want to offer an appreciation for what goes on in China, and while not diminishing the sacrifice that the Jesus followers have shown also say that this is symptomatic of the same persecution being applied to many areas of their society. I got to work with a guy who grew up in China and his parents operated their own business in a small town. He absolutely hates, hates hates the Chinese government now. They would come into town, destroy the family business. Break up some in the family, take their posessions. When they left they only allowed one blanket per person, and broke their will. It is a sad story that is repeated across their society with a heavy hand applied to any person or group that could threaten the control of the regime. It is not just religion.

  • DRT

    My job, the world is a strange place. The company that was paying me not to work asked me to come back into another area and agreed to still pay me for the work I was not allowed to finish as well as pay me for the new job. At least for some months… The world is strange.