Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)Pastors are well familiar with the "failure rate" of Christianity. Teenagers who grew up in their youth groups head to college and leave their faith behind. Sunday School teachers who once taught others now drop out of church. Friendships, relationships and marriages crumble and churches lose members. It's epidemic.
I think part of the problem in contemporary evangelical Christianity is failure of many professing believers to understand the religion they allege to profess. They expect God to do things he never promised he would do and, as a result, they grow disillusioned with God.
In short, folks today think Christianity is all about them. Their problems. Their felt needs and wants. Their desires and comforts. What's important to them.
Christianity is about Jesus Christ. It is about following him, obeying him, suffering for him.
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20 ESV)If you think God's primary concern is focused on you getting in the right college so you can get the right job and those promotions so you can make more money, buy a bigger house, nicer car and install a backyard swimming pool then you're kidding yourself. You've been deluded by a false American Christianity. Such petty, pedestrian and bourgeoisie matters don't concern God. God wants to transform you into the image of Jesus.
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
(1 John 3:13 ESV)
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 ESV)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV)
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)God's primary concern is that you are holy, not happy. And happiness is a by-product of holiness, not an end in itself.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)