Philip: Crucified, Phrygia, A.D. 54
Matthew: Beheaded, Ethiopia, A.D. 60
Barnabas: Burned to death, Cyprus, A.D. 64
Mark: Dragged to death, Alexandria, A.D. 64
James (the Less): Clubbed to death, Jerusalem, A.D. 66
Paul: Beheaded, Rome, A.D. 66
Peter: Crucified, Rome, A.D. 69
Andrew: Crucified, Achaia, A.D. 70
Thomas: Speared to death, Calamina, A.D. 70
Luke: Hanged, Athens, A.D. 93
How many of these followers of Christ held on to their faith all the way up until martyrdom because they were promised that "God has a wonderful plan for their lives" or "Jesus loves you" or for any other reason that the modern Gospel gives for people to come to Christ? I can say with great certainty that these faithful guys knew that being a follower of Jesus was about righteousness and not happiness. Their sin; lies, thefts, lustful looks, any hatred, not putting God first; those were the reasons they repented and put their faith in the Lord so that their name would be written in the Book of Life. It wasn't because they were promised a better life here on earth. Don't you think that if Paul was told "God has a wonderful plan for you" and then he came face to face with the executioner's axe he mighta said something like, "hold up, my life was supposed to be made better and this doesn't look good. I take back what I said about Jesus." Carry that down the list. These guys knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world. They knew that Jesus wasn't the genie in the sky there to grant every wish and desire. Will God bless you? Yes. Is everything you have given by God? Absolutely. Should these things be the draw to Christ. Absolutely not. Not everyone has the same lifestyle, or gifts, or blessings. But we all have a conscience. That is why it is so important to use God's Law when witnessing. Appeal to the sinner's conscience so they will stand firm in the faith through trials and tribulation after their conversion. They will follow Christ because they saw their sin as exceedingly sinful and not for the promise of a better life or the gifts of the Spirit or even just as a religious duty. Are you soundly saved today? Will you go to the axe, the rope, or even the cross like these early followers? Or will you turn and run because you came to Jesus for hopes of a better life? Evaluate yourself against the 10 commandments. See where you have fallen short. Repent and put your faith and trust in Jesus today, then read and obey your Bible.
Revelation 21:27 (New International Version)
27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.