I’ve spent a good part of my week with Sundar & Sareeta Thapa, our national partners in Nepal, who are visiting the States thanking U.S. supporters for their help with earthquake relief and telling about the incredible work God is doing through them to advance his kingdom in Nepal. It’s been great for me to sit and listen to their personal stories again, as they’ve been sharing with various small groups at FCC. I can visualize each story from the times I’ve spent with them on their turf in Nepal. They are two of my heroes in the faith—people who have truly suffered for their faith in Jesus and in whose presence I feel unworthy.
There are two recurring themes in the stories this husband and wife team tell which I cannot get out of my head.
(1) Nearly everyone they talk about who has come to Christ, they refer to as their “disciples.” Sundar & Sareeta know that Jesus did not just call them to be his disciples, but to make disciples. They are not just followers of Jesus themselves, but from day one of their faith, have been actively teaching others to follow him as well. This understanding has become a way of life for them, and because of this, the kingdom of God is multiplying in Nepal like yeast which permeates an entire lump of dough, just as Jesus described his kingdom in Matthew 13:33.
(2) It’s not easy for a person to become a real follower of Jesus in Nepal, so Sundar & Sareeta don’t make it easy. Before anyone is baptized (which, by the way, is considered “the point of no return” for anyone who wants to become a Christian, like saying “I do” and “I will” at your wedding) they are asked 7 questions, the answer to each of which must be affirmative and must be signed off on by the individual. Here they are…are you ready?
- Are you willing to be kicked out of your family and your home?
- Are you willing to give up your inheritance from your father?
- Are you willing to likely lose your job?
- Are you willing to forgive those who will persecute you and tell them of the love of Jesus?
- Are you willing to give your tithes and offerings to the Lord?
- Are you willing to go to jail for refusing to deny your faith in Jesus?
- Are you willing to die for Jesus?
No one in Nepal who claims to be a Christian is taken very seriously unless they have been baptized, because then everyone knows they have also signed off on these 7 questions.
The early disciples of Jesus also had to count the cost of really following him. Many of them were witnesses of his resurrection. They knew it was all true. Many of them willingly faced death because they refused to deny their Risen Lord. The thing most of us as American Christians don’t really feel is the cost of truly following Jesus, as our eastern and mid-eastern and some African brothers and sisters do on a daily basis. What does it actually cost you to follow Jesus? Would you be willing to pay that price if that kind of bill was ever handed to you? Would you dare sign off on the 7 questions above?
This week, in history, Jesus will pay the ultimate price for you on the cross. Then three days later, on the first day of the week, he will conquer death, as the first of all of those who trust him and who will also conquer death. That is the hope for all who believe in him enough to truly follow him. Do you? Are you?
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”