When I was a little girl, I heard a fable about a dog that had found a big, juicy bone. He had it in his mouth and was trotting across a bridge over a stream, hurrying to find a spot to enjoy his treasure. But when he looked over the side of the bridge, he saw a dog down there with a bone that looked bigger than his. He had to have it, so he opened his mouth to take the larger bone away from the other dog and dropped his bone into the stream. That is when he realized the other dog was only a reflection of himself, just as the other bone was nothing but a reflection. He gained nothing and lost what he did have.
The moral of that fable is to be satisfied and content with what you have, and don’t be greedy, always wanting what someone else has. In his case, the dog already had what was a substantial treasure, but lost it all by chasing something as fleeting as a reflection of what was real.
As Christians, we have been given what is real and lasting, “life more abundantly”, so why are we constantly looking into the enemy’s camp for fulfillment? Could it be because we are not completely surrendered to Jesus and are playing around the edge instead of plunging fully into His Spirit? If we do not give ourselves wholly to Jesus and base our lives on His teachings and His power and authority, we will look at the world and long for what they have all because we have not allowed ourselves to experience what God has provided for us. Then we are left with nothing but a form of religion instead of the new life we can have through Jesus Christ. That religion is just a reflection of humankind instead of the reality of the pure glory of God. Religion goes stale, but an ongoing, engaged relationship with Jesus is always fresh.
Many people have an emotional experience, join the church, and become active in all the programs. But they are soon bored with all the rote rituals, so they begin to wander back into the world system. It is sad to see that happen, especially when Jesus offers much more. He invites us to go deeper in His Spirit and actually follow Him, to walk alongside Him on a daily basis. It is an adventure with eternal results, and it requires a life commitment. Yet, instead of surrendering our lives completely to walk in His kingdom, we keep looking to the ways of the world. We are like the dog with the bone, always searching for something bigger and better, totally unaware of what we have in Christ. We want excitement, entertainment, comfort, abundance of material possessions, and as few problems as possible. Jesus is on that list, too, but He is last. We cannot have it both ways. If we choose to cling to this world and fall into step with its patterns, then we choose not to follow Jesus to eternal life. Most people are not willing to let go of this world because we can hear it, see it, smell it, taste it and touch it. We understand how it operates, so it seems safe. It is anything but safe. If we could only realize the gospel is literally the good news that we can be born spiritually and live above this world. It is not a sentimental notion. It is a fact. It is a real dimension. It is not a reflection in the water, but the real thing.
Be careful what you accept as the gospel. If it isn’t what Jesus said, your eternal soul is at stake, and you will remain in bondage rather than knowing the truth and being set free. Don’t accept a counterfeit. In Galatians 1:6-8, Paul wrote “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” We are not to add to or take away from the gospel. We are to receive it just as it is. Trying to alter truth makes it false, leaving us miserable in our self-made religion.
Paul also wrote this passage to the Corinthians, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Paul was greatly concerned that the Corinthian church was in a vulnerable position to receive heresy as the truth, another spirit rather than the true Spirit of God or “another gospel” which was not the gospel at all. He wanted them to be on guard, to hold on to the Word of God even when it was unpopular or difficult.
Truth is eroding in our world, even in many churches, because of apathy, compromise, pressure from the world system, a lack of knowledge and a lack of faithfulness to Jesus. We have become so enmeshed in this world system that we look at the Word of God and think it is too hard. We say, “surely God doesn’t expect that of us.” That in itself is proof of just how far we have wandered from Jesus’ teachings. God wants pure vessels through which His Spirit can flow. I challenge you to re-read the gospels and the whole New Testament for what it actually says, without our cultural interpretation of it. Then throw out any tradition, belief or concept you have been taught that opposes it…no matter how popular it may be.
The gospel message has been made so relevant to our culture that it is no longer relevant to the kingdom of God. This “new” version of “the gospel” has removed any discomfort or inconvenience and stripped away the power it gives to enable believers to follow Christ. It is in direct opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet the true gospel stands firmly the same as when it was spoken and written. What was spoken by God will not bend to the will of man.
In Jesus’ day, He saw this dilution of God’s Word in action in the religious leaders. He said, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” He said their worship was empty and useless because they had replaced the commandments of God with their own interpretations and traditions to fit their own desires. In essence, they had created their own religion and were worshiping their own gods. What are you believing? The traditions of the church or the pure gospel of Jesus Christ? Who are you worshiping? Paul warned the Colossians, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments [elements] of the world, and not after Christ.”
Are we not too easily lured from being a follower of Jesus to follow traditions rather than His Word? Those traditions are nothing more than a reflection of something transient that promises to give us things it doesn’t possess? Have we looked over the side of the bridge and thought we saw a new teaching that would make us happy, only to lose the joy and peace that we already had?
On too many occasions, those in the world are not hungry and thirsty for what we have as professing Christians because they see little difference in us and them. They see our discontentment and don’t know it is because we are half-hearted Christians. That there really is more. That we have barely skimmed the surface of what is available to us. They don’t know that we have a big God Who gives us more than we can ask or think and that we have His power within us. The fact that we don’t fully realize it either is why we are discontent. Because we haven’t allowed ourselves to experience the power of God and walk in it daily.
If we try to keep our spiritual feet securely on terra firma, we will think that serving Jesus is too hard, too restricted, or uneventful. But when we read the gospels and the book of Acts, we find it is anything but boring. The Spirit was always at work in and through the disciples because they were fully engaged in the kingdom of God and not looking back at the world system. Were their lives uneventful? No! Because they were planted firmly in the kingdom of God, and they allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them. They gave their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is also our calling today. The principles of discipleship haven’t changed and the power of the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. We become disillusioned when we follow Jesus at a distance, because we are trying to live according to a set of rules instead of walking in the Spirit. We are trying to live in two worlds and we become frustrated. It will lead us to re-invent the gospel to suit our understanding and inclinations rather than being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit of truth. When we do that, we are deceiving ourselves and missing out on real life.
There is a certain soft drink that I like. There have been times I got one from the drive-through at a fast food restaurant and it was mixed with something else. I poured it out because it wasn’t the real thing and wasn’t fit to drink. When we try to mix the power and teachings of Jesus with the accepted practices of our culture, we get a mixture that will not satisfy us. It is not pure. We need the simple, unpolluted, undiluted gospel just as Jesus gave it to us, or it will be distasteful to us and those we share it with.
We need to know God’s Word and have personal contact and experience with Jesus. When we do, we can counter the lies of the enemy and won’t be deceived into giving up our position in Christ. Silence the voice of the enemy with truth. Be an avid student of God’s Word. Only accept the pure gospel, not what man has mixed with something else to water it down.
Many people “followed” Jesus when He was in a nearby town. They wanted to be part of the excitement, hear what He had to say, experience His healings and miracles and eat the food He miraculously multiplied. But it was then as it is today, people tend to turn away from the truth when the truth gets hard, when it costs them something, and they start looking for some easier way. But hard truth is better than soft lies. Truth leads to eternal life, lies lead to eternal destruction. Following Jesus leads to heaven. Following Satan leads to hell.