It’s Monday Grace!
The truth is not enough.
How many times have you seen an advertisement that goes too far? It promises too much, or the actors over-respond with joy about the product, or the presentation is full of lies? It’s called marketing, but it’s just another form of lying. If you catch it, you realize that the product itself is not good enough for them to sell. The truth is not enough. It has to be augmented, enhanced. When the truth is not enough, the lie makes it sound better.
Now, I confess that I would find it very difficult to sell a product that I knew was inadequate. If it didn’t perform the way it was supposed to, if I didn’t believe in the product, I would have a terrible time trying to convince someone to buy it. Maybe that’s why I never became a salesman. I know people and can connect with people, but I can’t make an inferior product sound good.
What if your faith is inadequate? What if your hope and spiritual promise is not what it should be? What if you see the gospel as something that really doesn’t deliver?
And what if you will be judged on the basis of your evangelism? What if you are required to speak with joy about the Lord and the gospel? What if you are supposed to be a person of great faith in order to enjoy the favor of the Lord?
See the struggle?
The performance system doesn’t work. The cause-and-effect formula sounds logical and right, but it isn’t the truth. Too many Christians have tried to do this in order to get that, as they were promised by the church, only to find that they didn’t get what was promised. They tithed, but they didn’t get rich. They prayed in just the right posture, but they didn’t get healed. They confessed their sin, but didn’t feel accepted.
Of course, sometimes it does work. That’s the “problem” with cause-and-effect. There is a logical caution that warns “correlation is not causation.” Some people who tithe do get rich. Some people who pray on their faces do get healed. Did one cause the other? Probably not. But the success story is brought to the foreground, and the formula is taught.
Once the people of the church realize that the performance system doesn’t work, that they will never be good enough to rest because the standards change or increase, they have to enhance the message in order to share it. We joke about the glum and angry evangelist who tells people to come to Jesus so they can enjoy life like he does. He has convinced himself that there is nothing more than the droll life, so he has to present it as joy. We cringe at the faith-healer who explains healing as contingent on the faith of the receiver so that he has an excuse for failure. We despise the presentation of the wealth of the mega-church teacher who suggests that his listeners could have what he has if they just send more money to him.
So they lie. But once lying is acceptable, it becomes part of the system. It is shocking to hear people claim superior spirituality on the basis of falsehoods. I remember people who claimed they never watched television, but were lying. I remember people saying that they dressed a certain way because of spiritual conviction, but were lying. I remember moms boasting about the superior spirituality of their children, but they were lying. And, yes, they knew they were lying. The lies of the legalist system were many.
And they have no qualms against lying about you. That’s when it hurts. When they make up stories, enhance the facts with lies, you hardly know what to do. A reasonable discussion might be profitable, but the lies make that impossible. When they know that their facts are not enough, they win by adjusting the facts to fit their goal.
Under grace, no one has to lie. The message we have is truly good news. The love of God is sufficient. He has provided everything you and I need “for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) There is no way to oversell what Jesus has done for us. It is a joyful and honest message.
And yet. There are people who think even this message is not enough. They seek to enhance it by applying it to all people who have ever lived, rather than to those who come to Jesus in faith. They deny the Scriptures as they teach their version of universal salvation. They add a lie to the good news because they do not accept that the good news is enough.
But we can relax. The simple message of the great love of God that offers salvation through the work and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is good news. It offers this gift to anyone who will receive it, no matter what they have done or where they have come from. The message is inclusive, joyful, and true.
We don’t have to lie about each other. We don’t have to embellish the truth. We can speak love and truth with such joy and hope that people will want to understand it.
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