Every day we are bombarded by the media of conflicting ways to think, act and live in today’s world. These opinions are so overwhelming sometimes that we have no idea what to believe, who to turn to. No matter what is going on in the presidential election, terrorism, or shifting of the stock market, one path never changes: God’s way and will.
Societal pressures comes from worldly temptation, wanting to take the easy way out, wanting to fit in instead of standing out and standing up. We naturally don’t want hardship, yet as Christians, hardship is in the job description. Our beliefs are often in contradiction with the rest of World and we have to face the fact that we will have to fight for what we believe in, which means we can’t fit in. Resisting societal pressures is often a sign of tough choices being made.
Diane Grant said, “It’s better to walk alone, than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.” Following Christ takes a certain degree of independence from the rest of the world, but know that you are never alone. It might seem at times that Christianity and tough choices are synonyms. John 12:42-43 tells about the Pharisees and “societal pressures”, “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” This really comes down to: who do you value more, where are your priorities, praise from people or from God? Ultimate peer pressure. The praise of people is temporary, whereas the praise of God is eternal. Even the hardships on earth that we have to go through in serving our eternal God are temporary.
At the Milan Cathedral, there are three inscriptions over the main doorways. Over the right-hand door, there is this motto: “All that pleases is but for a moment.” Over the left-hand door, the words are “All that troubles is but for a moment.” However, over the central door there is a simple sentence: “Nothing is important save that which is eternal”. Societal pressures should not determine our priorities, our beliefs should. Our priorities then determine our actions. This is where the rubber meets the road, are you willing to sacrifice your life to follow the One who sacrificed everything for you? For this is what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Your actions must line up with your beliefs because that is where your beliefs are tested. You need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Christianity is not a spectator sport, so stand up and fight for your beliefs, not only for others to see what Christianity is, but also to show yourself how deeply you are invested in this guy named Jesus Christ. Oh, it will be hard at first, and it will be hard later, acting on your beliefs will bring you to problems you don’t want to face, but you will be living for your Lord and Savior.
This is where it is important to know what is in the Bible, what God wants from us. We are to expect hardship, we are to expect persecution, we are to expect dark days. If you don’t know and expect that, maybe you ought to check your faith. Please don’t be offended. (Then, again, be offended, if necessary.) Jesus says in John 15:18-20a: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” The World and the Church cannot be equal. The World does not like the Church, so fitting in with the World cannot be something that a Christian will ever have. Check where your priorities lie; do your actions line up with your beliefs?
Jesus says not only expect hate from the World, but also to pick up crosses of our own. “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 A cross is a big, heavy, humbling, attention drawing object, and it shows to whom we belong. Jesus is saying, so you want to be my disciple, well you will have to do what I do. Deny yourself, meaning deny yourself the temporary pleasures the World brings and be willing to take the World’s scorn. Take up your cross, meaning fulfill your mission. That cross, is your mission. Jesus carried His mission to Calvary, to save His people from their sins. His dead body, dripping in His own innocent blood, was hanging on His mission.
Whoever wants to be Jesus’ disciple must deny themselves of what the World gives, and take up their mission as Jesus did. Jesus did not say pick up your popcorn and watch me change the world, Jesus said pick up your cross and follow me, let’s change the world together. This is God’s Word and this is God’s will, now you know it, will you follow it?