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035 Forget None of His Benefits

Once there was a very caring and effective social worker named Jesus who was working with kids in the ghetto in X City, XX. One day he got a tremendous deal on tickets to the nearby amusement park, Six Flags Over X City. He gave tickets to all the kids he knew in the neighborhood where he was working. He had plenty of tickets left over, so he called the Six Flags concessions and got them to appoint somebody to hand out the rest of the tickets to whoever wanted one. Then he told all his local kids who to see if they wanted tickets for someone else.

On the appointed day, dozens of kids left the neighborhood for the amusement park. Some focused on roller coasters, bumper cars, and spinning rides. Some others went to see the musical shows that went on nearly all the time. Some others really liked the food, the fried dough, the cheese fries and sodas. And there were others who were thoughtful of the needs of others, who focused on finding people who wanted tickets and making sure they knew where to get them before they started enjoying the rides themselves.

But there was one group of kids who really wanted to thank Social Worker Jesus for buying them tickets. They grabbed a pavilion and organized a "Praise Jesus" party where one by one they stood up and testified to how generous it was of Jesus to give them free tickets to Six Flags Over X City. Then they sang songs to Jesus expressing how grateful they were to have received tickets. And they did other things as well to express their gratitude.

Jesus came to walk around the park and find his kids so he could see how they were enjoying their day. Some crowed about the roller coasters, others about the games, others about the food. A few bragged about how many tickets they gave away to others.

But when Jesus came to the last group, he was surprised to discover that they had not ridden any rides, eaten any hot dogs, or listened to any music. "No, we spent the day thanking you for the free tickets." "What?" Jesus queried in shock. "I got those tickets so you could enjoy yourselves!" "Oh, no," they replied, "We did not want to be selfish. We spent the whole day thanking you for the tickets." "But you didn't get to enjoy the benefits of the park," Jesus observed. "That's not the point," they answered. "You're great because you gave us free tickets. We're going to praise you forever."

There's a church near me where just about every sermon, every prayer, and every meeting is focused on how Jesus sacrificed Himself to redeem us from our sins. I've met other believers online who say with complete seriousness that nothing is important besides the fact that Jesus forgave our sins. Some of these people are really wonderful people, and I enjoy being around them...but truly, their sermons bore me to tears. I hate to say it, but it's true.

This is the sort of Christianity that is common in Protestant circles, where "I'm going to heaven when I die" is the only benefit they recognize coming from their association with Jesus, and the only one that they believe exists. In fact, they'll call other believers "selfish" who acknowledge any of the other benefits that accrue from serving Jesus. "I'm going to heaven" is the only benefit they are permitted to enjoy.

Folks, forgiveness of sins is merely the price of admittance into the Kingdom of God. Any Christian whose focus is on the ticket that got them in is missing the point.

They're like those kids who were given tickets to the amusement park but spent the entire day, not enjoying the amusement park, but thanking their benefactor for the free tickets. They don't realize how completely they're thwarting Jesus' purpose in giving them the free passes. They were supposed to enjoy the park. Gratitude is important and appropriate, and there's nothing wrong with thanking Jesus for the free passes--but they were supposed to enjoy the park. That's not selfish, it's the point of the doggone exercise.

Psalm 103:2-6
"... forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle."

Romans 8:32
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"

There is redemption in Jesus, and yes, He should be thanked for that. There is also growth, maturity, empowerment, healing, provision, all from the favor and love of a God who created His entire creation for the benefit of His chosen sons and daughters and wants them to enjoy it. He should be thanked for those, too--and then we should enjoy those things. "The chief purpose of Man," says both Protestant and Catholic catechisms, "is to love God and enjoy Him forever." Starting right now.

I'm just saying: don't frustrate Jesus by refusing to enjoy all that He's provided. The Christian faith is about a lot more than just forgiveness. It's not selfish to enjoy God's love and provision. It's the point. 

And then, of course, make sure you're helping others take advantage of what's available from God as well. That's also the point.

Enjoy God until next time.

Phil Weingart


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