Near Niagara Falls, there is a “Cave of the Winds” attraction (on the U.S. side). When visiting this a few years aback with my family, we found a sign (see above) that makes it clear that, “There is no cave”1. It was still a pretty cool place to visit, but “cave” was just part of the description – it should not be mistaken for an actual cave.
In some ways, we’re used to this:
- I’m pretty sure that Mountain Dew doesn’t contain any mountains, nor any dew. And, while it does contain orange juice, that neither justifies my drinking of it for breakfast, nor does it make it healthy – regardless my attempts to claim both of these things from time to time.
- Many kids’ beverages – at least in my country – are required to disclose the amount of actual fruit juice that they contain. Some say, “Contains No Juice”, or disclose their fruit juice content in an out-of-the-way part of the carton (often 5 or 10 percent). They still come in containers that a harried parent might perceive as being healthier than Mountain Dew, though.
- Along the same line, certain brands of candy are now touted as “fat-free” or “gluten-free”, when they are composed almost entirely of refined sugar. These healthy-sounding claims may be technically true, but don’t make the candy any better for you.
In the same way, what it looks like to follow Jesus Christ has sometimes been masked, blurred or corrupted by what boils down to be “selective marketing” or sometimes downright “false advertising”. Certainly, skewed portrayals of Jesus’ teachings come from His detractors. However, well-meaning Christians – in an attempt to introduce their friends to Jesus by any means necessary, may over-sell the earthly benefits, at the expense of more enduring reasons to trust and obey Jesus.
Choosing to follow Jesus is not about suddenly becoming rich, healthy, and popular. Yes, when we surrender to Jesus as our Lord, the following should happen:
- We align ourselves with the ruler of the universe, who retains ultimate ownership rights to everything (and delegates management of some of His resources to us).
- We trade a life of sin (and thus, death) for eternal life. Furthermore, blessings from this choice aren’t all put in escrow until we get to Heaven; many are realized here on earth.
- We receive the help of the Holy Spirit, not only to guide us, but also to help us overcome our shortcomings in trying to follow God in the first place.
- We become part of a community of imperfect – but growing – believers, whose mission is to work together as the Body of Christ.
However, until we get to Heaven, life on this earth may still include poverty, sickness, and persecution. The Bible shows that many faithful followers of Jesus suffered (yet they persevered, understanding that following Him was better in the long run). Jesus said that things wouldn’t always be idyllic, but that He would overcome:
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NASB
Still, we sometimes have this idea that there is an immediate, one-for-one causality between good things that we do, and good things that happen to us (however we define “good”, in both cases). We probably know that this isn’t actually the case; however, it may still seem strange that good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. Jesus reminded us that God shows grace to all, though.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:44-45 NASB
On the other hand, following Jesus is not the burden that others think it is. No other friend can provide the same level of joy, peace, acceptance, friendship, honesty, faithfulness, and love. No other community, organization, or group can provide the blessings and purpose of being part of a body that guides human beings to their Savior and Creator, and that shows people the cure for the consequences of their sin.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 NASB
As we serve Jesus on this earth, may we – as He did – be up-front about what that means. May our lives honestly display the challenges that we traverse – and overcome – with God’s help, as well as the blessings that are uniquely provided by Him.
Be sure your life is accurately labeled, regardless of what people expect from you as a Christian. That honesty may cause a few people to resist the message of Jesus (which is regrettable), but it will at least give them the choice to evaluate Him, and not a made-up story or a false front. It is my belief that the unfiltered message of Jesus – His teachings, His example, and His nature – is the best that we can offer to a world who doesn’t know the truth about Him.
- Nothing to Prove
- You’re a What?
- Repentance vs. Ritual
- Jesus is Lord,…but what does that mean?
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- For Portal fans, that would be, “The Cave is a Lie”. ↩