I sometimes ask people if Jesus were to walk into the room in which we were meeting and said, “There are those outside on the street who, if you walk outside with Me, will beat you with clubs and pipes. You will be severely injured and may possibly die. I’m asking you now: Will you follow Me through this door?”

I ask people this question because many of us in the Church have become wimpy Christians. We have become passive believers. We go to church. We serve. We’re nice people, by and large. But we have never considered whether we are willing to literally give our lives for Jesus, as He requires of us in Luke 14:27:  “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” When Jesus talked about bearing a cross, those who heard Him knew what He meant. They regularly saw rebels and criminals dying on crosses in their homeland.

Those who have truly wanted to be disciples of the Lord Jesus have made a life-denying commitment to Him, for eternal reasons, for centuries. Christians in the early Church made it—and died. Under Roman persecution, Christians were fastened to crosses, coated in pitch, ignited and used as torches at garden parties. Men, women and children were killed by ravenous lions for the entertainment of crowds in Roman arenas. During the Reformation, Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, and drowned. In seventeenth century Scotland, a group of believers called the Covenanters refused to take an oath recognizing that the king of England was also lord of the Church. The monarchy persecuted, tortured and executed them. Two of the most famous among them were Margaret MacLachlan and Margaret Wilson, better known as the Two Margarets. At trial, the king found them guilty of treason and ordered their execution. Margaret MacLachlan, seventy years old, was tied to a post and drowned in a place called Blednoch Burn, as the tide came in. Eighteen-year-old Margaret Wilson, bound to a post that was closer to shore, watched as Margaret MacLachlan died. Then the soldiers pulled the younger Margaret out of the water and ordered her to pray for the king. A simple request, but one that meant she would have prayed for the king as the lord of the Church. When she refused, they thrust her under water and pulled her out again.

People on the shore pleaded with her. “Oh, Margaret, say it!”

Margaret then prayed, “Lord, give him repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, if it be Your holy will.”

The executioner, a man named Grierson of Lagg, yelled, “Damned bitch, we do not want such prayers. Tender her the oaths!”

Margaret again refused, and they threw her back into the water, drowning her.

On the day of his execution in Edinburgh, Archibald Campbell, ninth earl of Argyle, wrote this to his daughter-in-law, Sophila Lindsay. What shall I say in this great day of the Lord, wherein in the midst of a cloud, I have found a fair sunshine. I can wish no more for you, but that the Lord may comfort you and shine upon you as He does upon me, and give you that same sense of His love in staying in the world, as I have in going out of it.

Today in many countries, Christians are still being persecuted, beaten and killed. I have heard first-hand accounts from believers in Papua New Guinea and India who were stoned or beaten as they attempted to preach the Gospel in certain parts of those nations.

What would you do in the following situation? A man stands before you, your spouse and your eight-year-old son. He commands you to repent of your so-called heresy, or he will kill your child. He grabs your son and roughly brings a knife to his throat. Your boy’s wide eyes catch yours.

“Deny Christ!” the man yells.

You know you cannot deny Him, the One who loves you and saved you.

Your spouse is next. Then you.

What will you do?

John Piper has written:

“I am writing this book because I think the days that are coming will demand from the followers of Christ this change in the way we look at the world. It seems to me that Christians in the West are being coddled. We suffer little in the name of Christ. Therefore, we read the Bible not with a desperate hunger for the evidences of God’s triumph in pain, but with a view to improving our private pleasures.

Therefore we read the Bible selectively. We pick a text here and there to fit our felt needs. This is like a doctor who forgets how to write prescriptions for the best antibiotics because everybody seems healthy, and he has spent the last decades tweaking good health with hip-hop exercise videos, unaware that pestilence is at the door. It’s like the soldier who forgets how to use his weapons because the times seem peaceful, and he has spent the last decades doing relief work and teaching the children how to play games…

People who don’t like Christians are all around us. Only a strange providence keeps out churches from being bombed. It is only a matter of time till the reality of the rest of the world comes home. And all the while we are called by Christ to go to them, love them, sacrifice for them, bring the gospel to them. The Great Commission is not child’s play. It is costly. Very costly.

The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows? Where is the Christian mind and soul being prepared for the horrors to come? Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. God is weightless in our lives. He is not terrifyingly magnificent. His sovereignty is secondary (at best) to his sensitivity.”