Friday, January 27, 2012

"Selling" Jesus

Don't worry - this is not a real advertisement
Lately, the topic of "selling" Jesus has come up a lot.

I was helping with a youth retreat a few weeks back, and they had us ask the kids why someone should become a Christian. Instantly they listed of things like happiness and that it makes things easier. Now don't get me wrong, these things can be true. But I couldn't help but think about all the people in my life that had been "sold" on the idea of happiness and then their faith was completely shaken when things didn't go well. One teenager in my group had just experienced the death of her best friend. Was she happy? I asked her if being a Christian meant she was happy in the midst of this. Instantly she shook her head. So does this mean she is not a Christian? I challenged the rest of the group. Of course it didn't mean that. She is struggling so much, but she has a peace that God is in control and is still trusting Him, even on the difficult days.

So why do we try to "sell" Jesus as a great way for fire insurance, blessings and happiness.  There are tons of places in the New Testament where it says trials and tribulation WILL come in our lives. Yes, scripture has mentions of blessing and happiness for the Christian, but it never promises these things on this side of heaven.

As a young child, I was "sold" on the idea of Jesus. I didn't want to burn in hell (who does?) and I wanted  all the "good stuff" people told me about, so I prayed a prayer. I may have even walked an aisle. I honestly don't even remember the details, I was too young. When I became a teenager, I was surrounded with trials and felt hopeless many times. I realized that I had not made Christ Lord of my life, I just "bought into" the idea of Jesus. In my eyes, I was "saved" but had none of the peace that came with knowing Christ. And even worse, I didn't have the happiness and great blessings people wrongly promised came with being a Christian. It wasn't until I decided to begin a relationship with Christ that I really began to understand (as in start seeking Him for all my choices/attitude/actions instead of myself).

I've been growing in my relationship with God ever since, but I've noticed in my own sharing of my faith and in so many others we often try to "sell" Jesus as things we think people want. I shared with people who believed in Heaven and wanted to go. I told them how great my life has been since becoming a Christian (which is true, but I often left out the trials and struggles with sin) They wanted things to go well for them, so they make a choice to be "saved". Some of them to this day call themselves Christians but think nothing of their faith (after all, they are "saved") unless something bad happens. What would happen instead of approaching people with "be like me because you can have (fill in blanks)" we really explained our emptiness and selfishness without Christ. Being "saved" wasn't about my prayer I prayed, it was about realizing that I cannot and should not try to live my life for myself. I fail on my own and I need Him as my Savior AND my Lord (as in DAILY, not just at the pearly gates).

It's humility and repentance that brings us into a relationship with Christ. That is the entire reason for the cross to begin with. Jesus didn't die on the the cross just because He wanted us to feel comfortable in eternity. (Essentially, that is an effect, but not the real reason). He sacrificed Himself because we are sinners and had no way of making things right on our own. We were separated from God and He made a way. His death and resurrection is so much greater than "fire insurance" or blessings that may or may not come. He didn't want to sell "insurance"packages for a bargain of praying a prayer and walking an aisle - He wanted us to turn from our sin and seek Him daily. "Selling" people the message that they are sinners and fail on their own doesn't sound as good as "selling" Heaven. But it's the Truth. Praise God that we aren't the ones who are responsible for their belief. It is the Spirit that convicts, not us. And amazingly, the Gospel "sells" itself to those who He has convicted and called because bottom line is that it's the only Truth and the only way. We don't have to be the "salesman". We are just the mouthpieces.

What an incredible disservice we do the Gospel by leaving out the hard parts and/or trying to add our own sales pitch "act now and get this and this" type approach. Yes, a believer will be blessed, but we can't even pretend to know the ways God may work in their lives, be it trials or blessings galore. The blessings may not ever be seen on this side of Heaven.

One of my favorite songs for over a year now is Jimmy Needham's "Part the Clouds".  Needham says it much more poetic than I ever could. It's time for me to stop "dressing up" the Gospel and start sharing the Truth.

Part The Clouds by Jimmy Needham on Grooveshark

Part the Clouds Lyrics:

I like, like to be liked
And no one likes to hear the truth
And I've seen what the truth can do
So I tried, tried to downsize
The part of you that's hard to tell

But the layoff didn't go so well
I beat around the burning bush
'Til that fire went away
God was once so palpable
Before the shades of grey

We might as well just fold our hands
If we can't call a spade a spade
'Cause we will miss the heart each time
If we won't ever shoot them straight
These pleasantries have shaded me
And you too long
Let's part the clouds and show the world the Son

We think, think we're helping
By giving you a little flare
But it doesn't matter what you wear
 'Cause runways aren't your forte
You prefer the narrow road
Even though it's not en vogue
The Gospel looked so very cold one night as I passed by
So I gave it my best sugar coat and dressed it in a lie 

This living water will not quench us if it's watered down
It's not our place to hide again this treasure that we've found 

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