I have been working very hard to improve my physical condition. Over the last few years I have made some major decisions about the foods I consume and the activities I participate in. It is not that I was over weight but I knew my health wasn't great and I have 9 children I want to be around for as long as God will allow me. But I was tired all the time, had difficulty concentrating and just felt blah! So with hard work I have gone from 218 lbs to a consistent 195 lbs and with my activity routine I have gained a great deal more energy. Currently I spend five days a week at the gym doing weights and cardio as well as cycling and walking daily as part of my normal lifestyle. I tell you this as some background to something I saw last night that got me laughing.
I was at the gym last night doing about 17 kilometers (about 10.5 miles) on the stationary bike. It is a complicated routine where I cycle at 1 level for a minute, going up a level for the next minute. I start at level 8, go to level 17, back down to 8 and so on until I have gone up and down three times. It takes me close to an hour and by the time I am finished there is a pool of sweat around the bike.
So here I was in the middle of this, going strong, knowing that this was all worth it when a commercial came on in the middle of the basketball game they were showing on the television. It was advertising one of those zero calorie soda drinks and the thought of it almost made my stomach go sour. The thought at that moment of putting one of those syrupy drinks in my body made me cringe. Note: I was once the biggest consumer and promoter of Coca-Cola.
It struck me though how many would-be athletes were watching that game who actually believed that drinking that product would contribute to their health. I refer to them as the great pretenders, those who have in their mind that they aren't that much out of shape or those who think they are actually making gains in their weight loss by drinking that stuff. Let's be honest here, that stuff is not healthy any way you want to slice it. If we were really serious about losing weight and becoming healthy we would cut all that stuff out of our life and get up off the sofa and go outside for a walk. Let's stop lying to ourselves, it costs to have good health.
It was as that thought screamed across my mind that a spiritual reality also set in.
We do this same thing to people spiritually through our church programs and other activities we label as Christian. It is true that these programs have less of the world in them and they make people feel good but it is not the stuff they need for a healthy relationship with Jesus. We train people how to live a good life, how to lessen sin in their life but we fail to get them to consume the Real Thing, who will transform them forever. It's like we think we can ease them into a relationship with Jesus Christ but there is only one way and that is to just do it.
Judas was one of these great pretenders who looked for a short cut, or so we assume. He wasn't satisfied with doing it Jesus' way, he didn't want to take the long route, and tried to consume a false product. He surrendered Jesus to the enemy thinking he would provoke something, wanting to see Israel governed by a proper king again. It is so sad to read this knowing that he was so fooled by the enemy:
So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. (John 18:3)
But are we any better? How many of us are trying to offer short cuts to the unsaved? How many of us are trying to make it easier for them by presenting a false product. It doesn't get any easier than what Jesus provided. He said that it would cost us our life, that we would have to be totally consumed by God's love and our love for God. He said that this genuine love would provoke us to love one another. He said it would cause us to hate the things of this world and to be hated by the world. He said he gave us peace for our hearts but our relationship with him would cause division with others who did not accept him. He said family members would abandon us, not understanding. He has promised us so much and he has given us so much but it has cost us what we were so we could become who we are.
Later in the basketball game another commercial came on. It portrayed lots of people doing various activities. Some were cycling, surfing, skate boarding, snow boarding, and skiing. It showed them facing various challenges and overcoming them. It looked fun and attractive but from where I was sitting I knew what it cost them to be able to do those things and I felt respect for them. The commercial ended with the familiar "Just Do It". In contrast to the previous commercial this one was encouraging people to get off the sofa, to turn off the TV and go out and do something that would benefit them. Not everyone will, but some will listen to that message and decide to change.
That is our challenge as well, not to offer a substitute but to promote the real thing. Not to allow people to be fooled into thinking they are doing something of some benefit but to embrace the real change that needs to happen. It is not good enough to know about Jesus and to live a good life, loving others the best we can. There are no short cuts. They need to meet Jesus, to know him and to make the decision to allow him to transform them through a second birth. They need to die to what they were and come alive in who God has created them to be. They need to get off their spiritual sofa, turn off the spiritual television and participate in an active life with Jesus Christ. And the only message we really have for them is - just do it!