Note: comments are enabled again; I found a better filter.Â
Today we passed a church marquis that read, “For a happier year, try Jesus in 2009.” I understand the mentality that wants to ask people to try Jesus, but something about that statement really bothered me. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not pleading or begging. Jesus is offering because he has something tremendous to offer. And his Father is commanding. As Paul put it, “God . . . now commands all men everywhere to repent.”
Then my wife added an even more pertinent point. “They ought to try telling such-and-such to try Jesus. I think he’d have something to say about it making you happier.”
Yes, it’s true that Jesus said that he came to offer abundant life that would make our joy full. It is also true that he himself was a “man of grief, acquainted with sorrow.” Paul was once “pressed out of measure, beyond strength, so much that we despaired of life.” No wonder he said, “If we have hope only in this life, then we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Trying Jesus isn’t going to work, and his goal is not going to be to make you happy. He is going to ask you to take up your cross and deny yourself. Otherwise, according to Jesus himself, you cannot be his disciple (Luk. 9:23; 14:26-33). Do you understand what it means to take up your cross? Picture Jesus stumbling down the Via Dolorosa, a crossbar the size of a railroad tie across his striped and bleeding shoulders, and you will have an idea of what he’s asking from you. Not exactly the picture that’s painted by “for a happier year, try Jesus in 2009,” is it?
True joy has nothing to do with what American Christians mean when they say to try Jesus. According to Scripture, it was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured that torturous trip down the road to Golgotha. It is that joy that Jesus wants to give us. “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” Jesus’ brother said. Paul so realized that suffering was the route to joy thatÂ he spoke of suffering as a promise of God. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him but also to suffer for his sake,” he wrote in a letter to the church in Philippi. And he sought after it as though it were a gift himself: “I have suffered the loss of all things . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.”
Are you really ready to try Jesus?