by Pastor Andrew
The vast majority of us have, at some point in our lives, visited a used car dealership or lot. I imagine that each of our individual experiences at said lots would be viewed very differently by each other and that some could be described as good while others would be less than desirable. In most cases, when a customer arrives at a used car dealership, a salesperson uniquely approaches the potential customer masking their latent overwhelming desire to make a sale. The questions are fairly standard and consist of what brings you in today or what exactly are you looking for in your next car? Sometimes they even go as far as fishing for what you do not like about your current vehicle with the intent of pointing you in the direction of the right car. Needless to say, the used car salesman is eager to sell you a vehicle at price that is most often above what the right car is worth. They are usually well versed in all the high points and selling features of their cars and are adept at making something negative sound good. One of my favorite lines is: This car only has “blank” miles, and they are highway miles. While arguments can and have been made as to the impact of highway and city miles on a vehicle, a mile is 5,280 ft whether you are on a highway or a country road. Technology and advancements in machining may have improved engine life, wear and tear on the transmission, suspension and body components still have the potential to make the right car a lemon. The used car salesman will spend all the time you require telling you how good a car is but rarely will even spend a nano-second on what is bad or will cost you in the long run.
I do not believe that any part of salvation or Christian living is bad in the same sense that we view a used car in; however, I do believe that the Gospel, salvation, and Christian living has been sold to, and is still being sold to in some cases, to America much like a used car salesperson sells a lemon or jalopy to the unsuspecting consumer. Many who have answered the call to pastorate have memorized and used as a platform all the high points and benefits of salvation and Christian living, leaving them shouting from a platform of prosperity, blessings galore, and a trouble-free life when you fill a seat, turn on a tv program, and fill the offering basket. This, sounds too good to be true experience, may build a following or audience for a while, until the followers can’t understand why they aren’t rolling in dough after they have given all their money to a televangelist or multi-million-dollar minister. The follower may be left wondering why they are battling and dying from cancer or an illness after they were promised blessings, favor, and healing. Similarly to when our lemon the used car salesperson sold us breaks down for the tenth time, the duped Christian feels lied to, double crossed, and used.
Recovery from used car salesman theology is possible, but in many cases, the damage runs deep and is slow to be healed. Some may say, “well,” “that’s their problem” or, “it’s sad, but it happens.” How then does one sell Gospel, especially after lengthy periods of prosperity preaching, scandals, and division have wreaked havoc among the church in America. The first step is to stop trying to sell it. Take the proverbial 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s cliché cheesy used car salesman sport-coat/suit jacket off and be authentic. Start with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, please help me God.
What is the truth? The truth is that yes, blessings, favor, and healing are all components of the Bible and Christianity; however, there is so much more than that. While I am sure that if you dig, read, dig some more, twist some words, and squint you can paint an extravagant picture of a “perfect” Christian life filled with blessings, health, and God’s favor. If you open your eyes, stop twisting the words, and read in context you will find that adversity, challenges, and hardships are abound in a Christian life. Many of the same adversities, challenges, and hardships that you find in an unsaved life you will still experience in a Christian life. The difference in the two lives can be found in faith, hope, and love. A life with Christ introduces hope with reward, while a life without Christ offers no hope and no reward. A life of faith provides a tool to combat the inevitable adversities, hardships, and challenges while a life with no faith leaves one hopeless. Being redeemed and justified expands and encourages the love and subsequent relational growth between the believer and God while the individual who rejects Christ is not only rejected in return, but will inevitably be used by the world instead of loved. (Matthew 10:33; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2; James 4:4; Colossians 2:8).
This past Sunday’s sermon covered Joseph and part of his time in jail after being wrongfully accused and convicted of an infraction against Potiphar’s wife. It was pointed out that after the life that he had lived up to this point, Joseph probably had more cause to gripe, or wallow in self-pity more than most people. Instead of falling to pieces or squawking like a goose, Joseph chose to minister to those in the prison just has he had chosen to minister in Potiphar’s house after being sold into slavery. I found it interesting the word usage in chapters 39 and 40 traces back to the concept of ministering. Today, many Christians do not see acts of service, menial labor, or undesirable tasks as ministering; however, Jesus associated with undesirables, washed feet, and in accordance with His indication that the son of man came to serve and not be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) which in this guy’s opinion, is the greatest example of service ever. I want to highlight a few things before closing this blog. Even in Genesis, Jesus’ influence was evident, Jesus never taught or promised and easy life as a Christian (in fact, one could argue, He taught the contrary), and it is generally agreed upon that Jesus’ teachings, principles, and life are what Christians are supposed to exemplify.
If Christian’s understand and agree with the last statement made, why is it that when we face adversity, we go to pieces, or feel that we need to focus on something other than God’s work? Joseph ministered while in slavery and found favor. He ministered while incarcerated and found favor. Jesus facing perhaps the greatest adversity of all, continued to minister to humanity by giving His life, even for those who would reject Him, living lives of slavery to sin that He paid the price for us to leave. The truth is the same for the believer and the non-believer alike. Life is hard. Life in the world is difficult, but hopeless. There is no eternity worth investing in in the world. Life as a Christian is hard; however, life as a Christian comes with an advocate, a guide, and merciful father who longs to have a restored relationship with us should we endure through our adversities in reliance upon Him opposed to rejection for hopelessness. We should not only be straight forward with our explanation of Christian life, but we should also serve as an example by serving through adversity, keeping our eyes on God and our subsequent eternity. What are your thoughts…