The advertising methods of the Marine Corps are (and always have been) unique. While other brands and organizations are catering to the culture by lowering standards, adding perks, and making promises, the Marine Corps is attracting new recruits through unflinching standards, exclusivity, and promises of hardship, challenge, and pain. In 1973, the Marine Corps borrowed the phrase “We won’t promise you a rose garden” for its recruiting campaign, adding, “we only make one promise – we’ll make you a Marine.”
While there are some recruiters whose number-driven sales tactics resemble that of a used car salesman, they never lie about the difficulties related to becoming a Marine. Even if they tried, no one would believe them. “Marine” and “easy” are antonyms in the dictionary.
Yet, the opposite seems to be true of Christianity. The Gospel has been reduced to empty offers of “easy living”, and there are many evangelists who promise a lot more than a rose garden if you’ll just “believe in Jesus”. Good health, financial prosperity, better marriages. Whatever you want can be yours. Just name it, and claim it.
We who are faithful to the true Gospel message (see last week’s article, The Marshmallow “gospel”) may disagree with these charlatans, but are we actually part of the problem? Why do people buy their knock-off version of the gospel? Could it be that we’re unintentionally selling a similar one?
If a Marine recruiter said, “Join the Corps; it’s easy! Boot camp is like 13 weeks of summer camp. You may be signing a 4-year contract, but there are virtually no expectations. Easy money.” People would laugh in his face.
So, why don’t people laugh when a man wearing a suit says, ” Just believe in Jesus. It’s easy! The Christian life is like one big summer camp. Jesus might be a King, but He doesn’t expect you to do anything.”?
Is it, at least in part, because we modern evangelical Christians live that way? Avoiding trials and persecution whenever possible? And when they do happen, do we see them as incongruous with the kind of faith we “signed up” for? Do we live in silent despair while chasing the wind, wondering why Jesus hasn’t made our marriages better yet?
Whether it’s their words, our lives, or both that pitch Jesus as the quick fix to all of life’s problems, it’s a serious issue. In this article, I will endeavor to show Why it isn’t true and Why you don’t need it to be true.
Why it isn’t true.
If I become a Christian, will all of my problems go away? Here are some passages of Scripture to consider:
1.) The call to follow Jesus is a call to die.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. – Luke 9:23-26
2.) Jesus, the exemplar of the Christian life, was persecuted.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
3.) The early Church suffered persecution.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
-1 Peter 4:12-13
The Bible is clear. The Christian life is marked by hardship and persecution. We are called to die to self, which (at the very least) guarantees a lifelong battle with personal sin and temptation. More than that, though, both Jesus and the early Church have given us an example of suffering and persecution. We’re told not to consider it strange if we encounter the same trials along the way.
But who would sign up for that kind of life? Don’t we need some extra promises to boost God’s popularity ratings?
Why you don’t need it to be true.
1.) The Gospel is a Promise
We don’t need to add extra promises to the Gospel because the Gospel is a promise. God made promises in the beginning, and the good news (or Gospel) is that He’s fulfilling those promises. He didn’t promise a “quick fix” to life’s problems with good health or finances. His promises are so much greater than that!
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Wrapped up in these 2 verses are the source of salvation and the solution to sin. In Genesis 3, we’re only 3 chapters into the story of everything, and everything has been undone. But God’s immediate response is promising to make it right. The pervasiveness of sin is more than Adam and Eve can possibly understand, and the solution is even more complex. So, He states it simply. A man will be the source of salvation, and that same man will also provide the solution for sin.
- The Gospel promises the Source of salvation.
The world has been invaded. A serpent has led the human race in rebellion against God. We need a Savior who will enter into his kingdom of darkness and deliver us back into the kingdom of light. Who will deliver us?
Jesus. The Gospel promises that He will one day crush that serpent’s head.
- The Gospel promises the Solution for sin.
Why not just crush him? Right there in the Garden? God came down and pronounced judgment to His face. Why not end it? Forget future promises. Execute him on the spot. The problem with that, though, is Adam and Eve need to be saved from God too. They stand guilty of treason. Their sin has to be dealt with. In order to save people, God has to provide a solution for sin.
Jesus. The Gospel promises that He will one day be wounded for us.
God has seen our helpless state, and rather than putting a Band-Aid on a corpse, He has made us new creations, given us new hearts, and made us alive together with Christ. He has forgiven our sin and paid our debt. While we were yet sinners and enemies of God, He died for us. One day, He’ll finish what He’s started. Whether we die or He comes back, God will make us whole and without sin. We will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. With promises like these, who needs worldly comforts? We don’t need to add extra promises to the Gospel because the Gospel is a promise.
2.) The End of Every Man
Healthy, wealthy, and dead? You don’t need to add promises to the Gospel because anything other than the Gospel is vanity in the end. The rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, everyone dies in the end. Where is the promise of health or financial gain at a funeral?
It is good to share memories of the deceased. It is right to honor the good things they have done. But, ultimately, the Gospel is the only thing I want to hear at a funeral. I want to know, is God still keeping His promises? Is there a source of salvation and a solution to sin?
If you want to be a follower of Christ, you should expect salvation to be free. Jesus has purchased it with His own blood. You only need to turn from your self and believe in Jesus (who He is, what He did, and why He did it).
But, I won’t promise you a rose garden.
The road to heaven is narrow and hard. It is marked by persecution and trials of various kinds. Jesus is KING, and submission to His reign and rule is expected. But He is kind, and His ways are best. Not easy. But best.
If you believe that you are a follower of Christ, but you value ease and comfort above holiness and evangelism, I would challenge you to examine your heart. The daily battle with sin is an essential part of the Christian walk. Are you striving to be like Christ? Are you gently and strategically sharing your faith with others? Are you enduring trials joyfully, knowing that they produce steadfastness?
I won’t promise you a rose garden. The Bible only makes one promise – if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. -Romans 10:9
photo credit: http://www.mckinleyparkcenter.org/mckinley-park-rose-garden/