August 7, 2020

Try Before You Buy?

By Chaplain Mike

Today’s Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

Many products these days are offered on a “try before you buy” basis. You go to the grocery store or warehouse club and there are tables set up where people are stationed, ready to give you free samples of foods the store is promoting. Likewise, you can taste the wine at a winery before purchasing just the right kind to go with the dinner you are planning. Or, if you want a software program that will do certain things a certain way, you go online and download a free trial version, work with it for 30 days and decide if it suits your needs.

You want a new driver to improve your golf game. So, you go to the sporting goods store or pro shop and they hand you a sample club and let you go whack a few on the range or into the simulator to see how it feels. In the market for a new car? You go to the showroom, kick a few tires, talk to the salesman, and take a test drive.

Maybe you want to learn a new skill or hobby. Gail and I took some dance lessons a year ago. We tried it out. I’m not sure when I grew a second left foot, but I know now I have one. You who have children realize that you have to let them try certain activities sometimes before you know if they will like them or want to participate for the long haul. Music lessons. Gymnastics. Baseball. Art. You try it out. You give a try for six weeks, or a summer. Maybe you find something you like, maybe you don’t. No problem. You experimented. It didn’t cost you much.

I find something interesting about this “try before you buy” phenomenon.

In life, it seems like the bigger, or more expensive, or the more important the commitment is, the less you get to actually try something out before having to make a decision.

Think about it. You can get samples and trial sizes of a whole variety of foods, products, and services that you use routinely in daily life. You can try them out all you want. You can try out hobbies, and take lessons or classes or join a club with a minimal commitment, drop out any time you like, and not feel like you’ve lost much.

But now think about the biggest thing most people buy—a house. Do you get to try that first? Oh sure, you walk through it, you have it inspected, ask questions, try and get assurances, but one day, without having lived in that house, you have to go into the bank and sign a whole sheaf of papers and make a costly commitment. Then, and only then, can you actually move in. That, my friend, takes a lot of faith.

Or think about marriage. Now I am fully aware that many people are practicing a form of “try before you buy” today by living together before they marry. Setting that practice aside for a moment, it still amazes me that two people can stand before a minister or justice of the peace and make a promise that they will have and hold each other, “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” You know what? You never get a chance to “have and hold each other” in all of those kinds of circumstances ahead of time. There’s no “trying out” a lifetime of experiences together! When people marry, they really have no idea what they are getting into. Marriage is a lifelong commitment that costs everything you are and have—and there is no chance to try it out first.

Hey, you didn’t get to “try out” going to school, did you? You didn’t sample school, decide “yes,” it’s for me, and then make a commitment to kindergarten and all that followed. Heavens no! Mom took your picture, put you on the bus, and the course of your life was set for the next 15-20 years.

When I turned fifty, I had hoped to do some skydiving. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I thought that would be a good way to celebrate the half-century mark. For a variety of reasons, it never happened, but it’s still on my list. The thought of skydiving scares a lot of people. Kind of the ultimate “high risk” activity, as they see it. And guess what, there’s no way to “try it out” first without taking that risk! You either jump or you don’t. That’s frightening.

Or let’s talk about the biggest decision a nation has to make. Think about what the leaders of a country must consider before deciding that they must go to war to defend themselves or an ally. There comes a time when they must simply say “yea” or “nay.” You can’t really “try out” going to war. At best you can try to get good intelligence reports, learn from history, and consult with your friends around the world. However, in order to effectively mobilize all the forces necessary to launch a war effort, there comes a point where you just have to do it. It’s a huge commitment with high risks, certain losses, and no guarantees. And no opportunity to “try before you buy.”

And that brings us to Jesus and his word to us today.

Two years ago, a well-known pastor and author got in some hot water with a lot of people by going on a cable news show and suggesting that people give Jesus a 60-day trial. That’s exactly how he put it: “Give him a trial,” he said. “See if he’ll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 60 days. Or your money guaranteed back.”

That quote takes me back to the early 70’s, when I first started following Jesus. In 1972, there was a huge week-long conference in Dallas, Texas called “Explo 72,” which some saw as “the Christian Woodstock.” This event—“The Great Jesus Rally in Texas”—made the cover of Life magazine. Explo 72 came at the height of what was being called “The Jesus Movement” and it seemed like young people were coming to faith in Jesus everywhere. Campus Crusade for Christ organized this event and taught nearly 100,000 of them about Jesus and how to share the Good News.  I remember that one of the evangelistic programs that came out of that conference was called, “Try Jesus.” You could see those buttons and bumper stickers everywhere—“Try Jesus.”

Except you can’t. You can’t try Jesus. You can’t sample salvation. Being a Christ-follower is not a product you can fiddle with for 30 days, or a hobby you can explore. It’s not like tasting food or taking a test drive. It’s not like seeing if you enjoy playing the piano. It’s more like jumping out of the airplane with a chute on your back. It’s more like forking over more money than you ever thought possible and signing that final paper for your new house. It’s more like saying, “I do.”

I think that’s what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel.

  • Making a commitment like getting married changes everything. All your relationships, the way you have lived your own life up until now. So does becoming Jesus’ disciple.
  • Building a house means planning ahead and making sure you’re ready to go through with a long-term, costly commitment. So does becoming Jesus’ disciple.
  • If you’re the leader of a country, and you’re going to declare war, you’d better make sure you have enough forces and firepower to win, because there is no turning back once you’ve made the call. That’s what it’s like to be Jesus’ disciple. It’s a huge commitment with high risks, certain losses, and no guarantees. And no opportunity to “try before you buy.”

Following Jesus is actually most like the ultimate challenge we all face—being born into this world and simply learning to live life. You and I didn’t get to “try out” life before we were born. We didn’t get to sample being babies, learning to walk, going to school, dealing with zits and falling in love as teenagers, and making all the decisions we have to make as adults. We didn’t get to choose our families from a shelf after having tried a number of other families first. Nope. We got what we got. We were born into this world with no chance to try it out first. No instruction manual was given to us. Just a family to help us, a world of knowledge and neighbors to help us, and a God to be our Shepherd, with goodness and mercy every day of our lives.

And that’s what it’s like to be a Christian with new life in Jesus. In Jesus, we are born into a new creation by grace through faith. Born anew. Born from above. We are brand spanking new creatures in Christ. It’s a new life. A new world. New relationships. New opportunities. New challenges. We didn’t choose it, he chose us for it. We don’t get to try it out first, either. We just take it day by day, learn to walk, and try to grow into respectable adult disciples.

Now, thank God, when we arrive in this new life, we find that we have a family provided for us. A Book to guide us. His Spirit within us. His provision to nourish and strengthen us. His promises and his presence to keep going.

But in the end, it’s life. There’s no trial period, and there’s no turning back.

Following Jesus does not come with a 30 or 60 day trial. You can’t sample it or take it for a test drive. When you take up the cross, it’s like stepping out of that plane. It’s like saying, “I do.”

It’s like being born again, with a whole new world and life in front of you.

Luke 14:25-33 (NRSV)—

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.’

Comments

  1. Mike,

    While it’s true there’s no trying Jesus out, there is an extremely important emphasis placed on counting the cost in the bible. How many gospel presentations that we hear all the time include that same emphasis?

  2. Right!

    Jesus told us that we too, will go to the cross.

    The fact that we ‘do look back’ occaisionally (maybe more than occaisionally) exposes the lack of seriousness in us all.

    But it’s not really our seriousness that we are counting on…is it?

    But rather, His. And He is.

    Thanks be to God that He loves and died for REAL sinners…like me.

  3. “You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins” – Ephesians 2:1.

    Kenda Creasy Dean may really be onto something with this “mutant” Christian” analogy. If one is dead in transgressions then made alive in Christ, then comes to the conclusion, “Gee, no thanks, this isn’t working for me”, what next? Does one become RE-dead? This could be cool. Think of the movie titles: “The night of the living re-dead”; “Zombie Church”; “Dead Afterglow”. We could come up with the ten commandments of Zombie Church, similar to the rules of Zombie Land.

    Hebrews 6:4-6 probably does not apply here, because I don’t think anyone who “tries” Jesus really “tasted the heavenly gift”. I think they tasted churchianity, but not Christ. But when churchianity fails the trial period, such people will conclude that Jesus failed to deliver. Greater judgement will be on those who so perversely misrepresented and maligned Jesus with such an absurd marketing scheme.

    • “The night of the living re-dead”…! Wow! That’s just BEGGING to be the title of a new movie!!! Someone, quick, write the script!

      And I agree, with this, dumb ox: “…because I don’t think anyone who “tries” Jesus really “tasted the heavenly gift”. I think they tasted churchianity, but not Christ.”

      I think many people have tasted churchianity, but somehow missed the flavor of Christ. Even myself, to some extent, eat mainly what my church feeds me, and miss out on what Jesus wants me to eat. The danger being, of course, that when rough spots come, Jesus is the one who “fails.”

  4. “Since about 1900, a new method of packaging the gospel has now come to into evangelicalism. We are to make the gospel readily transferable so as to get the mental assent of the hearer. This lead to the idea of ‘the simple gospel’…But this approach encourages us to think of the gospel as a pill that will cure all. We, as doctors, dispense it freely. We need not worry about the patient’s symptoms…Thus, many of us abridge the analysis of the disease (sin), instead of taking time to expose the person’s sinful nature which creates the sickness…They do not need to know the problem – just the answer. Such treatment, however, makes the gospel vulnerable to being molded by the carnal desires of the sinner or the fads of the secular world.” – Wil Metzger, from “Tell the Truth” (first published in 1981…and we still don’t get it).

  5. I agree 100%. However, there are certain ways in which God actually does ask us to “give Him a trial” of sorts. I was reading in Malachi today and there in Chpt 3, God tells the Jews to test Him to see if by doing what they’re supposed to (in the realm of tithing specifically but I think a broader sense of giving God all the honor He’s due and following His commands without trying to skirt the edges is implied), He’ll bless superabundantly, beyond their ability to even receive it all. So properly understood and limited, there is a sense in which we can give God a “trial”—-but in the case you’re talking about and as a general principle for what it means to be a disciple, I fully agree we can’t have a mentality which allows us to make non-lasting commitments, abandoned as soon as we’re no longer happy, excited or getting everything we want.

    • You may have uncovered an inherent problem in the “give Him a trial” methodology. It’s not God who is on trial, but us. It becomes dependent upon our perfect execution: taking the medicine as prescribed, following the instructions precisely, fulfilling our part of the service contract.

      When God doesn’t deliver the lifetime supply of chocolate, we are directed to section 37B of the contract, stating quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if – and you can read it for yourself in this photostatic copy: “I, the undersigned, shall forfeit all rights, privileges, and licenses herein and herein contained, et cetera, et cetera… Fax mentis incendium gloria cultum, et cetera, et cetera… Memo bis punitor delicatum! ” It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal!You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!