I had a dream. This is not unusual for me for I have dreams both day and night. My dreams are vivid and compelling, so much so, I actually enjoy them. In most cases, I am the hero in the storyline, or at least play the part of a co-worker for good. However, through most of them, there is a thread of fear and dread throughout the dream. They start out generically the same until a sense of foreboding enters into them and I begin to sense danger. What sets this particular dream apart, was the lack of anxiety or fear I typically have. In it, I see myself selling all my worldly belongings and traveling the world preaching the Gospel. Compelled by a force much greater than myself, I easily relented to His urging. In the dream, my wife and I travel to countries that are closed off to Christian doctrine. Freely and without fear, we preach the Good News. Even with the full realization of what it could cost us, we were fully invested.
John Piper has said, “Authentic discipleship may exact from you the highest price relationally and the highest price physically.”
I fear that in America, we truly do not understand what a Spirit-filled life may bring us. In fact, I believe if you asked many Christians what a Spirit-filled life looks like, they would describe one of abundance and ease. Having a lack of understanding of what Jesus has asked allows the culture to determine the cost. Yet, when we actually study the Word, we find something very different from the cultural bias. For the next few moments, I would like to introduce to you the truth of what Jesus has asked of us. Please read Luke 14:26-33, in there we find Jesus speaking to the multitudes that were there. He tells them if they love their mother, father, wife, children, and yes, themselves more than Him, they cannot be His disciple. He goes further by saying “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Using the cruelest form of capital punishment to help those understand, He makes it quite clear there is an enormous cost to following Him. He once again asks them to renounce all in order to be His disciple. For many, the cost is too much and they go away.
Matthew 8:20 says, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”
Throughout His ministry, Jesus never pulled any punches. He told it like it was. He pointed out the concept of having no place to lay His (their) head, and for all intents homelessness, with no promise of worldly abundance. He told it the way it was. Explaining that persecution was coming their way if they followed Him, He shot straight from the hip (John 15:20). Yet, we do see through Scripture there were those who would pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Counting the cost, they freely gave their lives as a disciple of Christ. With great joy, they endured their trials and tribulations just as Jesus did. Withstanding the onslaught of the political and religious leaders of the day and staying firm in their faith, they became martyrs.
Here in America, this is not a positive narrative. We live in the lap of luxury and still want more. Culturally speaking, we cry persecution the moment that a law is passed and we disagree with it. Yet, as hard as it may seem to let go of worldly distractions, we have been given the very power to do so through Him. If we have embraced the very words of Jesus and have put our faith in Him, the Holy Spirit lives within us. Setting aside those things of temporal value, we pursue a higher calling and refute the lust of the flesh. Leaving the world behind, we seek to delight in Him, and not the present age. Our treasure being Heaven, we seek and take pleasure in the knowledge of our Savior.
As I look back on my dream, I reflected on the words of Paul the apostle. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 about what it should look like if we are in Christ and are being led by the Holy Spirit. Likened to earthen vessels, we are prone to breakage and are fragile in so many ways. Yet, because of our faith in Christ, we now possess the power of God through the Holy Spirit and can withstand things we could only dream about. The strength to look adversity in the face and receive it as a blessing truly speaks to the power of the Gospel. Trials, tribulations, and afflictions are part of being in Christ and should bring us joy knowing we share in the same persecution that Jesus did. That the servant should share in the same trials as the master is an assurance of who we belong to. Just like Paul, the power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us and should bring us joy. Our fears of missing what the world has to offer should be found wanting in the light of the Gospel.
Paul’s encouraging words of how our outer self is wasting away, and our inner self is being renewed daily, should give us strength and comfort that we will be eternally rewarded. The truth is available to all who call Jesus Lord and Savior and share in His redemption. So, do not fear the loss of worldly pleasure, for it only has temporal value and possesses negative eternal consequences that are irrevocable.
Finally, 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”