The world needs Christians bold enough to follow the truth wherever it may take them.

Weirdo fundamentalist John the Baptist was imprisoned. We know that the Romans did not have a reputation for putting up with large Jewish followings for very long. It’s possible that John’s leadership was so attractive, his baptism ministry and his prophetic truth so popular among the spiritually hungry, that the regional magistrates thought of him as a threat. Whenever any Jew seemed to get too big for their britches, the Romans would hang them on a cross.

But in this particular case, Matthew 14 says that John was put in prison because he criticized Herod for having his brother’s wife. He had the audacity to not just preach against sin, but to say to a sinner in need of repentance, “You’re a sinner in need of repentance.” John was not interested in following a theoretical God and engaging in academic spirituality. He followed the personal God whose word of truth matters.

Some who profess the faith today are refusing to do the same for much less severe consequences. They fear insults, marginalization, the judgment of the world. Some depart from the great tradition not out of fear of the world but because they love the world (and not in the way God does).

Given what is taking place in the world today, do we have any indications that to follow Christ will become more and more comfortable? The Bible Belt, long the cultural bastion of “biblical values,” has long been heading toward the spiritual ruins of post-Christendom. Cultural Christianity is wasting away. And the outside world is becoming more and more hostile to the things of faith. Even some professing Christians are becoming hostile to those who will not move according to the shifting winds of the culture. And if God is doing anything in ordaining these cultural shifts to come to pass, it may be this: We are finding out who the real Christians are. (Even today, some are announcing in anger and embarrassment that they will never again call themselves evangelical, to which we must respond with all sincerity and soberness, “Thank you.”)

Maybe he is sifting out his churches that his Church might rise up.

John the Baptist had said to Herod, “It isn’t right that you have your brother’s wife!” He spoke truth to power about sexual immorality. Which is not a very popular subject today either. The bloggers would pontificate on John’s missing the point of God’s love; the tweeters would quote him and hashtag “wow.”

Eventually John is executed in prison. Why? Because as the sexualization of the power center increased — Herod’s later watching his niece dance seductively, and overcome by lust, he promises her anything, and prompted by her mother, Herod’s sister-in-law and mistress, she asks for John the Baptist’s head — the righteous indignation of the faithful seemed more and more egregious. Not just fundamentalist but fascist. What is good is now considered evil, what is evil now good. And Herod, though he sort of admires John and thinks there’s some truth to John, complies and has John executed.

So. How far was John willing to go? While things were heating up, getting worse, John was not backing down. He was willing to follow the truth no matter where it took him, even to his death. Faithful Christians in the West do not face death but hatred, perhaps simply the death of esteem, respect. Okay, then. Gird your emotional loins, then.

What we need are bold Christians — Christians bold enough to disappoint anybody necessary for the contending of the faith. What we need are Christians so in worshipful awe of Jesus Christ, that they can spot counterfeit gospels (and counterfeit arguments) in seconds and call them out. What the world needs are Christians who love their reputations not, even unto derision. What we need are Christians so committed to Christ, that they will go to their crosses to affirm all that he said, not just the popular parts.

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20 thoughts on “Be Bold Enough to Follow The Truth As Far as It Takes You”

  1. Thank you, Jared. Wow, this is so prophetic and convicting.

    Jesus radically prepared His disciples for the persecution they would definitely encounter after His departure.

    We need to be soberly considering the same.

    At the same time I am deeply moved by how Jesus processed the grief of John’s murder (and being rejected by His own hometown). He saw a multitude of shepherdless people and taught them, healed them, and fed them….with deep compassion! Knowing full well they would soon be screaming, “Let Him be crucified.” In the face of great wickedness, Jesus did not allow His love to grow cold. This is certainly our challenge today.

    “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will wax cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world…and then the end shall come.”

  2. David Axberg says:

    Matthew 11:2-6 is very telling as to where John’s heart was. Go find out if he really is the Christ and if so is He worth dying for? As you can see that in this passage we find out that Yes He is the Christ and most definitely worth dying for. “the dead are raised up…and blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

    Thank you Jared Amen and amen.

    We need more lighthouses willing to stand on the rock(Jesus) we do not need ships tossed to and fro by the waves. Lighthouses do not move when Christ is the foundation.

  3. Flyaway says:

    Amen! I get so tired of people who hate the Bible and the people of God. But then I have to thank God for these people because they push me toward Jesus as He is our help in times of trouble.

  4. Steve says:

    What a powerful word of exhortation this is. Thanks, Jared! I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Constable Reggie says:

    So anyone who disagrees with the Gospel Coalition isn’t a real Christian. Tremendous!

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Silly.

      1. Sally says:

        Well said.

  6. Yes, this is a prophetic article, Jared. Impressive!
    Also, I love your unique and humorous style of writing, for example here,

    “Even today, some are announcing in anger and embarrassment that they will never again call themselves evangelical, to which we must respond with all sincerity and soberness, “Thank you.””

    :-)

  7. Tammy says:

    This was beautifully written, convicting, and very helpful. Thank you.

  8. David says:

    >> John the Baptist had said to Herod, “It isn’t right that you have your brother’s wife!” He spoke truth to power about sexual immorality. Which is not a very popular subject today either. The bloggers would pontificate on John’s missing the point of God’s love; the tweeters would quote him and hashtag “wow.” <> not just preach against sin, but to say to a sinner in need of repentance, “You’re a sinner in need of repentance.” <<

    I agree that we need to spread the message that ALL of humankind are sinners in need of repentance. I see no reason to limit it to sexual sin.

    Also John the baptist criticized ONE person – Herod – for his specific act of sexual sin. It frustrates me that Christians antagonise and alienate the LBGT community by preaching the far lazier and more general message "your sexual orientation is sinful". It's not just their sexual orientation, it's their human nature – which is neither limited to nor defined by their sexuality. It is defined by their humanity, which we Christians share with them.

    Being bold needs to be tempered by the need to also be loving. God calls us to spread the good news to all. We can't do that if they aren't even listening because they automatically think we hate them. Rather than condemning them, I wish all christians would show love to them as God shows his love to all the people of the world.

    - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

  9. Colin says:

    Jared, while I agree generally with what you’re saying here, I have two concerns:
    1) “And if God is doing anything in ordaining these cultural shifts to come to pass, it may be this: We are finding out who the real Christians are.” There is already too much rhetoric being thrown around by conservative evangelicals about the real Christians are the ones who fight LGBT rights, which is of course a terrible litmus for who are real Christians. You may mean not this, but I imagine many would take it to fit within that narrative.
    2) In similar vein, this would also seem to encourage the “asses for Jesus” mentality. We all know them, the guy (and rare gal) that is a total jerk in the name of defending the Truth and calling sin out. Given your GC audience, I would say they need less encouragement to be “fundamentalist weirdos” and more encouragement about realizing the implications of what they say and how they say it. For example http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/03/27/the-danger-of-what-this-really-means/

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Colin, thanks for your thoughts. Question: Do you think there is every a time to say about a particular teaching or belief, “That’s not Christian.” Even if you don’t think the subject matter you’ve brought up fits, is it ever okay to say this to someone who professes Christ or about a stand that claims derivation from Christ?

      In terms of “asses for Jesus,” I would only ask that this post be kept in the context of everything else I’ve written. I think I’ve been very clear multiple times on the need for gentleness, winsomeness, grace, and the like. It’s what I talk about more than anything, really, so I confess it feels strange to urge boldness in the historical faith every now and again and be reminded of the need for a softer tone. I think the Scriptures allow for harshness in some occasions, and we need to be okay with that, seeking to apply that allowance well.

      I also confess I find it increasingly strange when peopl put a thing before our eyes and then ask us why we’re “focusing” on it.

      1. Colin says:

        Hey Jared, thanks for your elaboration. To answer your question, yes, I think there are some times where we can say something is definitively not “not Christian.” However, most of the time I would probably say of something that it “seems out of line with what it means to be Christian.” Regardless, I would be extremely hesitant to categorize myself as the “real” Christian and them as the “false” Christians–unless what they were saying was fundamentally a rejection of Christ as Savior. “Most orthodox” Christian vs “wayward” Christian may be more apt terms, acknowledging that they are still a brother or sister who has deviated significantly from healthy doctrine.

        You’re right that it would be more fair of me to take all of your writing into context. I confess I tend to read TGC blog as coming more from a singular person than a bunch of different authors. It’s unfair for me to lump you with some of the other writers who are more prone to divisive and prideful rhetoric.

        1. Jared C. Wilson says:

          Colin, thanks, I appreciate that. And I think in general your words of caution are wise.

  10. DC says:

    We need Christians who actually believe the Bible. That’s what we need. We get too good at putting Christ and His teachings in a little bubble that reduces Christianity to something we can fit into the lifestyle we want it to fit in. How about Luke 14: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple….So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” When we read this in our “daily devo’s” or hear a preacher preach it, it comes across in terms of “we all have areas we need to grow in and maybe someday I’ll reach the point that I’m willing to not only give up my life, but maybe even that of my family.” But were those Jesus’s terms? Nope. He says if you’re not at that point, you’re straight up not His disciple. You don’t deserve to call yourself a Christian. What does James say of the matter? “14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Again, we reduce this to something wherein we “just need more growth.” But that’s not how James says it. This is not to be confused with “weaker brethren” or the sorts. That’s more talking about personal weaknesses due to someone’s past experiences with a certain thing. James is talking about doing or giving up or just plain giving what is necessary as a believer. If you’re not willing, then you’re not a Christian. So don’t call yourself one.

  11. elizabeth says:

    on the day I called, you answered me and made me bold with strength in my soul. Psalm 138:3

  12. David says:

    >> One mark of Christian maturity is knowing how to deal with sin in our own lives and in our brothers’ <<

    true.

    Except, by and large, the only sense in which non-christians are "brothers or sisters" to us is in the broadest sense – that we share the human condition with them.

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/31/how-evangelicals-won-a-culture-war-and-lost-a-generation/

    I sometimes think on Jesus' reaction to the worship in the Temple of his day, and wonder what Jesus would make of our churches. I think about the Evangelical church I grew up going to, and my sad reflection is that, while it is faithful to God's word, it is like the Church of Sardis in Revelation 3 – dead on the inside.

    I 100% agree with you that we are called to rebuke our Christian brothers and sisters in love. This is an important part of building up believers and helping them mature in their faith.

    But I can not think of anywhere in scripture where Christians are given an instruction to go out and condemn the sins they see in non-Christians. Yes – at various times, God gave various prophets specific instructions to go to a certain person or community and call on them to repent of their sins. But Jesus warns about widespread and wholesale condemnation of sin. In Matthew 7:1-5 he condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in condemning the sins of others, and in 23:27 he describes the Pharisees as "whitewashed tombs" – they appear righteous on the outside, but on the inside they are spiritually dead.

    Yes, the doctrine of sin is a key part of the Gospel of truth. But there's a big difference between preaching "mankind is sinful and therefore needs god's help" and "YOU are sinful because of the way you lead this part of your life".

    Sin is an offense by mankind against God, not an offense by non-christians against Christians. Let's leave God – the just judge – to judge the sins of mankind justly; it's his business, not ours.

    We should care about sins of Christian brothers, yes. But why should we care about the sins of non-christians? Far better to care about the redemption of non-christians. Let's get our priorities right.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      David, I hear your essential points about self-righteousness, sin-ranking, and judgmentalism, and I agree. I also agree that it’s weird to be offended that nonChristians sin (although I might quibble on whether it is inappropriate to ever be offended by sin — some sins *are* more heinous than others and are quite offensive both to godly people and any sober-minded person). Where we probably differ is in your statement: “Why should we care about the sins of nonChristians?” You contrast that with caring about their redemption, so maybe we’re on the same wavelength here, but I think we care about the sins of nonChristians because they jeopardize their eternal destiny. The right prioritization, in fact, insists we can’t preach a redemption that doesn’t address sin. Sharing the message of the cross without talking about sin is not sharing the message of the cross.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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