My good friend and brother in Christ, David Caldwell, is the Dean of Men at Santa Clarita Christian School (Santa Clarita, CA). A few weeks ago David invited me to preach during one of the school’s weekly chapel services. Today was the day.
250 7th-12th grade students, along with some of the school’s administration, faculty, and support staff were in attendance. The small gymnasium was packed.
My sermon titled “Are You Counting the Cost?” was drawn from Luke 14:25-33, with Psalm 49:7-9 and Colossians 2:8-15 in support.
As I prayed this morning before walking onto the school grounds, even more so while preaching to the students, and more still as I drove away from the campus, I was burdened with the sense that the kids to whom I preached today, at least those who are saved or will be saved, may be some of the first Christians in America to experience authentic and costly persecution. That is, if the onslaught I believe is coming doesn’t happen sooner. I think there is good reason to believe I will see such persecution reach and infect the United States, during my lifetime.
Because the religious system commonly referred to as American Evangelicalism is now built upon the sandy foundation of the traditions and philosophies of men, a low view of God and Scripture and a high view of man, with multiple evangelistic methodologies designed to protect the Christian from persecution instead of reaching the lost with the gospel, the typical, professing, American Christian is not ready for what is coming. He is not ready because he has been raised on sermonettes based on popular movies, personal license plates, and “how to” messages that burden professing believers with a works-righteousness system for a better life. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that God loves him just the way he is and to pursue holiness and a deeper understanding of Scripture is to mire himself in the bogs of Pharisaism and legalism. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that God’s “wonderful plan” is a life void of paying any cost to follow Christ. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that the goal is to get the world to like him–a world that hates the Jesus he professes to know and love.
The typical, professing American Evangelical is not ready for the persecution that is sure to come (probably sooner than later) because no one ever told him being a disciple of Jesus Christ might one day cost him his career, his financial security, his home, his family, or his life. He was wrongly promised by used car salesmen standing in pulpits that if he prays a prayer and asks Jesus into his heart, his depression will go away, his wife will love him again, his kids will get off drugs, his bills will be paid, and he will get that promotion he worked so hard to attain.
And again, while he was told salvation is a free gift, he will work like a dog to attain things Jesus and His Word never promised–things like a purpose-driven life and his best life now. When things don’t work out as planned, his pastor might tell him to just look back to that day he bowed his head, closed his eyes, and prayed that prayer. His pastor will tell him not to let Satan discourage him. And then he will hear a new sermon series on “Five Keys to a Happy Marriage,” or “Seven Ways to a Better Career,” or “475 Steps Toward the Best Possible You.” He won’t have the biblical acumen to realize that the Christian church he attends is closer to Rome than Christ because his pastor holds his Bible at the start of every sermon, but never bothers to open it as he tells his story.
The typical, professing American Evangelical is not ready for the persecution that is sure to come because, sadly, he may not be saved.
I told the young people to whom I spoke this morning (ages 12-18) that in a gathering that size there were likely three types of people present: genuine, born-again, followers of Christ; those who think they’re Christians but aren’t; and those who are not saved and know it. I told them that those present who are genuine Christians will likely be the first generation of Christians to experience real persecution in America. And then, for the next 40 minutes, I asked them if they were ready. I asked them to examine themselves and test themselves to see if they are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). And I called them to repent and believe the gospel, if they did not already know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
As you listen to this sermon I preached to 250 12-18 year old students, I hope and pray you will ask yourself the same questions. Are you ready? Are you ready to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus Christ?