One of the fastest ways to lose friends is to go all the way with God. Once you become serious about spiritual matters, forsaking all your idols, taking your eyes off the things of this world, turning to Jesus with all your heart and hungering for more of Him—you suddenly become “a religious fanatic.” And soon you’ll experience the worst rejection of your lifetime.
WHY THIS CHANGE?
When you were a lukewarm Christian you were no trouble to anyone, not even the devil. You were neither overly sinful nor overly holy. You were just another of many halfhearted believers, and your life was quiet and untroubled. You were accepted. But then you changed. You got hungry for more of Jesus and you could no longer play church games. You repented and turned to the Lord with all your heart. Down came your idols of money, fame, pleasure, sports — anything and everything that was more important to you than Jesus. You began to dig into God’s Word. You stopped pursuing material possessions and became obsessed with pursuing Christ. You entered a new realm of discernment and began to see things in the Church that before had never bothered you. You heard things from the pulpit that broke your heart. You saw other Christians compromising as you once did, and it hurt you. In short, you were awakened, turned around, made broken and contrite in spirit, and God gave you a burden for His Church.
And the result? Now your friends and family think you’re crazy. Instead of rejoicing with you or encouraging you, they ridicule you, mock you and call you a fanatic. “What’s happened to you?” they say. “We don’t even know who you are anymore. Why don’t you go back to the way you used to be?”
If you’ve experienced this, don’t be discouraged—your in good company. Let’s look at several Old and New Testament faithful who knew just what you are feeling.
Moses, for instance, was touched wonderfully by God, and was awakened in his heart concerning the bondage of His people. In fact, Moses was so excited by this great revelation of deliverance that he ran to share it: “It came into his heart to visit his brethren … For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” (Acts 7:23, 25).
Moses and his vision were spurned. But why? Moses was the meekest man on earth, consumed with God. He was not acting holier-than-thou; he was acting prophetically according to God’s will. He only wanted his brothers and sisters to hear and see what God was about to do. But he spiritually offended them. They rejected him, saying, “Who made you a rule and judge over us? Who do you think you are?”
A few years ago the Holy Spirit awakened me and I began to embrace the Lord’s call to holiness. I got serious about walking in God’s truth, and His Word became life to me. I began to see things I’d never seen before, and I wanted to share them with everybody. I called ministers on the phone and explained what God was saying to me. Many came to my office to see me. I opened up my Bible to them, weeping, and pointed out the glorious truths of full surrender and heart purity.
I thought these ministers of God would see these truths too — that they would love the Word and fall on their knees with me to pray for a new touch of God. Instead, most of them just blinked and looked puzzled. They said things like, “Are you sure you aren’t going a little overboard?” or “That’s a little heavy for me.” The more I sought God, the less I saw of them. It was if they were throwing cold water in my face. They didn’t want to hear anything the Lord had shared with me.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Again, if this has happened to you since God awakened you, you are not alone. God’s Word warns what to expect if you are determined to go all the way with Him. You can expect any or all of three reactions: 1.You will be rejected. 2.You will be cast out. 3.You will be stoned.
1. You Will Be Rejected
Jesus warned, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Show me a believer who has become both a lover and a doer of the truth, and I’ll show you one who has been rejected and persecuted by the entire lukewarm Church. Rest assured, if you give up on this world, it will quickly give up on you.
Jesus had many followers—that is, until the word He preached was perceived to be too hard and demanding. The miracle-loving crowd heard His claims and forsook Him, saying, “This is too hard! Who can receive it?” Then Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Will you also turn away?” or, in other words, “Is My word too hard for you, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). No, Peter and the rest of the disciples would not walk away. They loved the word that most people said was too harsh and demanding; they knew it was producing in them eternal values. They wanted to follow the truth, no matter what the cost.
This is the question every Christian must face in these last days: Will we turn aside from truth that convicts us—that points out our sins and commands us to tear down our idols? Will we ignore truth that tells us to take our eyes off materialism, off the things of this world and off ourselves? Will we allow the Holy Spirit to probe and expose us?
Genuine truth always exposes every hidden thing. When Jesus began to shed His light on the hidden sins of the religious Jews, they sought to kill Him. Jesus said, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you (John 8:37). “You seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth” (verse 40). “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (verse 47).
Multitudes of Christians today do not love the truth. God says it is because they hide their sin and secretly take pleasure in unrighteousness. These compromising pleasure-lovers are deceived but, like the Jews of Jesus’ day, they are convinced they see clearly. They believe that they are God’s children, but they reject ferociously every word that exposes their deep, inner secrets and lusts. Something other than truth holds their hearts; they do not embrace God’s Word like a priceless pearl. Instead they coddle whatever that thing is — a hidden pleasure, idol, sin or false teaching that caters to the flesh.
You must understand that those who reject you and forsake you because of truth have good reason: It is because they see you as a threat to something they hold dear. Your separated life is a rebuke to their compromise and lukewarmness.
2. You Will Be Cast Out.
Jesus warned His disciples of the further rejection they would face: “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you think that he offers God service” (John 16:2). Jesus is saying, “I’m telling you these things so you won’t stumble. Don’t be surprised when the lukewarm church throws you out, because they don’t know the Father or Me.”
If you intend to go all the way with Christ, you must be prepared to bear his sufferings: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you … All things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know HIm who sent Me” (John 15:18, 21). Who reproached Jesus, heaped shame upon His head and vilified His name as filthy? It was the man-centered religious crowd! Just as Christ walked in this world and was subject to its rejection, so are you. If the world persecuted and reproached Him, they will do the same to all who die to self for His sake.
This is one reaction from the “religious crowd.” But then again you may find that just the opposite is true from another segment of church life: If you are in a church that is lukewarm, the people likely won’t criticize what ‘anyone’ thinks.
I have heard hungry Christians say, “My church is dead. What shall I do” Their answer can be found in the book of Acts. The apostle Paul went into every new synagogue he encountered and tried hard to persuade any lukewarm churchgoers about Christ, hoping they would hear. But the people’s response was to expel Paul from the region.
Hear this warning: Do as Paul did and get out! He ‘shook’ off the dust from his feet against them” (Acts 13:51). Paul said to these religious Jews, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it … we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46)
If you are in a fellowship or church that has heard the truth and has turned aside, “Lo, leave it.” You are not going to change anything — but they many change you! “What communion has light with darkness? … ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you'” (2 Corinthians 6:14,17).
3. You Will Be Stoned
If you hold fast to your commitment to Jesus, even in the face of being rejected and cast out, the same man-centered majority will stand ready to stone you: “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Who stoned Stephen? The most prestigious religious council of the day (See Acts 6:12). Stephen stood against the entire religious system.
Here was Stephen, a man who had his eyes fixed on Jesus yet who was hated by men who supposedly loved God … What was it about this righteous man that so angered the religious multitudes? (See Acts 7:54). It was that he preached truth that cut them to the heart. (See Acts 7:51, 53).
It was no different for Joshua and Caleb in the story of the spies told in Numbers 13-14. The Israelites wanted to stone them for calling upon the people to go all the way with God into the land of Canaan.
Why would a call to obedience provoke such a reaction? Because compromise and unbelief go hand in hand. Once the heart is captured by an idol or lust, unbelief takes hold. And after that happens, all preaching against compromise grates on one’s conscience; that person ends up fighting God, even while blindly confessing His name.
I believe that, like Stephen, we can say, “I see heaven open!” Like Joshua and Caleb and Moses we can warn, “Don’t rebel against the Lord! We can have a clear vision of Jesus—a cutting word of truth—and we can be sure it will evoke the wrath of those uncircumcised of heart.
WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?
How shall we react when rejected, cast out and stoned? We shall follow the example of our Master, Jesus, the Lamb who “opened not His mouth.” His actions say this to us: Do not call down fire out of heaven upon those who heap abuse on you. “Pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44). “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure” (1 Corinthians 4:12).
I have no sympathy for arrogant self-styled prophets who fight back, threaten or throw curses about … Humility is the mark of the soul who is totally dependent on Christ. That person has no spiritual pride, no hint of an attitude of exclusiveness.
You see, we face a cost for going all the way with Jesus, but we also will receive a reward: It is simply the blessing of having Christ stand with us. There are many other rewards as well, but I mention this one because it is all we will ever need.
The cost of following Christ was clear in the lives of these men of God— and if we are going to be like our Master, then we must embrace this cost as well. Enduring it becomes a joy because Jesus promises to stand with us in every situation. And we can face anything when we know the Lord stands with us.
So count the cost and know that your reward, in all things, is the precious presence of Jesus Christ.