Remember this old Dr Pepper jingle with the young man racing through the city, leaping off buildings and singing:
"I'm a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, we're a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?"
The result was that people swarmed to follow him, all drinking their Dr Peppers and joining the dance.
It was a very effective commercial and ran for years. It was happy, enthusiastic, and gave the impression that everyone was a part of this wonderful Dr Pepper craze. You could be too, if you'd only drink Dr. Pepper.
Consequently, Dr Pepper sales soared and have kept that soft drink at a top slot for the last 3 decades.
Unfortunately, many Christians employ this same marketing approach when they present the Gospel. If it works for soft drinks, why not try it as an evangelism tool? Ignoring the deep teaching of Christ, they reduce His message to a jingle:
"I'm a Christian, he's a Christian, she's a Christian, we're all Christians,
wouldn't you like to be a Christian, too?".
They glibly peddle their favorite buzzwords: "abundant life," "victory in Christ," "Heaven," "God is your helper." All of those are true, but just as the Dr Pepper ads failed to mention obesity, tooth decay, and expense in their peppy ads, the the Christianized jingles often mask the real message of Jesus:
"If any man would come after me,
let him take up his cross and follow me."
A cross? Ugh. Not very peppy. Mention of a cross would never make the cut for a 30-second commercial. A cross signifies death and we're all about life.
Contrary to our popular promotion of Christianity-lite, Jesus didn't come to make us better people. To improve our selfish lives, make us rich, or separate B.C .from A.D. He didn't leave Heaven, walk about in sandals, and face eventual murder so that we could all like ourselves more.
The message Jesus brought was one of death. A cross symbolizes death and when he told us to take up our crosses, he was not referring to His cross. He's already carried that. It's OUR cross he means.
To call ourselves disciples of Christ and to lay claim to all those happy buzzwords we have to die. When we come to him we must be willing to exchange our old sinful nature for His perfect one. Just as he died physically on the cross, we have to be willing to die to our infatuation with ourselves. Our way. Our opinions. Our right to control our lives. We have to be willing to lose our self-life and take on His Spirit-life.
And unlike the Dr Pepper ad, this exchange is not always a skipping and dancing event. Jesus' obedience led him down a road lined with mockers who couldn't wait to see him crucified. But he went willingly because he was more interested in God's plan than his own. Rather than the dancing man on TV, the image of Jesus staggering under the weight of the cross is our model of what it takes to be a Christian.
That's the Bible's image. Unfortunately, we don't hear that preached much anymore, and it's a travesty. Millions are being led down a pansy-lined path to destruction, singing their catchy jingles and believing themselves smugly ensconced on their heavenly journeys. Their lives are spent on themselves and their own pursuits, chasing worldly gods just as hard as those who carry no such false religiosity. They trust that God is satisfactorily impressed with their efforts to "live a good life" and believe that is all that is required.
How about you? As you examine your own relationship with God, how much Dr Pepper theology have you bought into? Have you considered your relationship with Jesus more like a get-out-of-Hell-free card? Have you approached salvation as a way to get God on YOUR team rather than the other way around?
How far we've come from that lonely road to Calvary and how distorted the meaning. In our attempts to make the message more attractive, we've stolen the truth and life right out of it. How many are being led astray by the peppy, commercial-worthy version of Christianity?
I pray you are neither a promoter nor a victim of the Dr Pepper Jesus. You won't find Him anywhere in Scripture or anywhere in Heaven.