PASTOR'S PEN: The easy path and the true path

As I was walking the aisles of Walmart recently to get some exercise — something I do frequently during the winter months when I’m unable to walk outside — I kept coming upon a large display of a certain supplement that has been advertised for weight loss.

The genius of this particular supplement, which starts with the letter “L” and ends in something that rhymes with “obscene,” is that all you have to do is take the pill and lose the weight.

No diet involved. No exercise. Just take the pill and lose the weight. Simple as that.

In fact, the TV ad for this particular supplement shows former Detroit Lions quarterback Rodney Peete holding a plate of hamburgers and french fries and asserting that you don’t have to change your diet or eating habits for this supplement to work. The magic pill is guaranteed to take off pounds because it has ingredients that attack those unwanted fat cells — ironically, the very kind you get from eating food like hamburgers and french fries.

Does it work?

I don’t know and I’m not going to find out. The problem with this particular magic pill is that even if it does kill some of the fat cells, as advertised, it won’t do much to help with things like diabetes and heart disease. The magic pill won’t make you any healthier because any truly positive benefits in your body only come from the hard work of controlling your appetite and exercising regularly.

The magic pill, in fact, could actually do more harm than good, it seems to me, because it may give a person a sense of false security about their health and they may choose to eat even more of the kinds of foods they should avoid.

Why do I bring this up?

Because a lot of people take the same kind of approach to Christianity — and that can have very bad results.

Some people profess belief in Jesus and think that’s enough. Yes, they will confess that Jesus is the Son of God, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for their sins, that He rose from the grave on the third day and is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

But that’s as far as it goes.

They’re duped into thinking that’s enough. As long as I believe, I’m saved, and I have my place reserved in heaven after I depart from this world — which, by the way, may be sooner rather than later, if I consistently eat hamburgers and french fries every day.

They’re like the folks who purchase the magic pill thinking that’s all they have to do to lose weight and be healthy. No diet. No exercise. No changing of eating habits.

Just take the magic pill and everything will be OK.

Except it’s not OK.

There are no healthy benefits without changing lifestyle habits. It requires purposeful sacrifice.

That’s the way it is with the true Christian path as well. We enter the path when we accept the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf by faith, asking Him to forgive our sins and cleanse us from the inside.

But it requires something of us more than just giving mental assent.

We must be willing to repent of our sins. That means turning away from our sinful lifestyle, whatever it may be. It means walking in a different direction, taking up our cross and dying to ourselves as we learn to live for the Lord. It means actually embracing Jesus as the Lord of our lives, our Shepherd, not just acknowledging Him while continuing to live for our own selfish desires. It means coming under His authority, seeking His will above our own. It means following His commandments.

I can say with certainty there is no greater way to live in this fallen, broken world. The Christian way is the path to true satisfaction in this life, true fulfillment, true contentment, true peace.

Ultimately, it is the one path to eternal life, a place in heaven where Jesus said there are many mansions, the one place where there is no more death or suffering or crying or pain. It is the place He longs for us to come and welcomes us to come ... if we’re willing to truly trust Him and come under His authority.

This Lenten season, I hope many will consider the path they’re presently on and where it leads. The path you’re on now may promise to lead to heaven but will sadly lead somewhere you don’t want to go. I hope many will consider the sacrifice the Son of God made on our behalf, the bridge Jesus created for us through His atoning death on the cross.

It requires more than just belief to enter this path and cross that bridge. It takes a heart commitment to the Son of God, a willingness to submit to His will in this life.

It’s not an easy path the Lord call us to, but it’s the best path.

It’s the only path to genuine peace in this life and eternity with Him after we die.

Enter the narrow path, Jesus said in Matthew 7, because wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction and many are on that path. But narrow is the way that leads to life and few find it.

Are you one the few? You can be.