Scratch & Sniff Christianity

Jon Burgess


41“The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.42The queen of Shebawill also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. Matthew 12:41-42


Jesus is not pulling any punches here. He uses examples the Pharisees and Jewish crowds would be all too familiar with. Look at how a pagan people like Ninevah responded so quickly in repentance to a reluctant prophet likeJonah. Yet, the Messiah is standing right in front of them and, God's own people, choose to settle for so much less and harden their hearts against so much more. Jonah didn't even want to be there with Ninevah, while Jesus chose to leave the glories of Heaven to be there with them! The paganQueen of Sheba came from a foreign land just to sit at the feet of Solomon with a hunger for wisdom and ear to hear. Yet, the Messiah,the source of Solomons wisdom, is standing right in front of them and they can't be bothered to go the distance in their hearts to recognize the answer to generations of prayers is right there! They were content to settle for a facsimile, a shadow, a hint of the Messiah rather than submit through repentance to have a real relationship with Him. The author of Hebrews explained it this way,The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.(Hebrews 10:1)


Why settle for a shadow when they could step into the light? Why settle for a hint when they could have the whole? Why settle for less when they could have the best? It's all about control. To have what Jesus was offering meant to yield control of their current system and to admit there was something better. This would require a great humility and essentially the loss of a job for the Pharisees. Status Quo is so much easier to control. Jesus was making the point that like Ninevah and the Queen of Sheba we don't know everything and God will send someone to enlighten us to the truth. We then have a choice to stay shallow or go deep. To stay with what we know or humble ourselves to learn something new. Jesus is saying, it's worth the work to have the real. Let me give you an example. If you were a child of the 80's like me you grew up in the glorious days of Scratch & Sniff stickers. When you did a good job on your grade school paper you would get rewarded with a sticker that looked like cotton candy and once scratched, smelled like it too... sort of. The stickers started expanding beyond your normal bowl of fruit variety into full-on meal options like fried chicken or pizza. They never smelled exactly like the real thing, but it was a fun novelty none-the-less as we each passed ourpapers around to share in the scents of success! How ridiculous would it be to have a cotton candy sticker while refusing actual cotton candy from the Fair? No, that's ok I don't want to go through the effort of eating and possibly getting sticky, I'll settle for scratching and sniffing this well containedand easy to control sticker. Here's a crunchy red apple for you to enjoy. No thanks, I might grow weary inthe biting and the chewing and sticky with the fresh juice so I'll be content with this apple smelling sticker. Here's a fresh pizza from the oven with all the toppings... None of us would do that. Even as a kid in the 80's I knew the real thing was always better than the sticker. The scratch and sniff stickers were fun but, it could never satisfy. It teased something better. I can picture Jesus scratching His head with this generation wondering why so many Christians have settled for a scratch and sniff Christianity instead of contending for the real thing He provided for us through His sacrifice on The Cross! Why do we settle for a Christianity we can control, a faith on our terms, a belief on our timetable rather thanthe all-consuming, never-ending, radical love of God? The same reason they did in the first century. We don't want to repent. We don't have time to seek. We don't like to relinquish control. So, we keep our collection of church smelling stickers and we scratch away whenever we feel a pang of guilt over our distance from Christ. Sing a worship song here, read a Bible verse there, post a quote and picture from a preacher on Instagram. All good. Now back to what I was doing before conviction so rudely interrupted me!


Tony Robbins once said,“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Lord, we need a change in Your Church! We need to grow so dissatisfiedwith our facsimile of faith that we are willing to fall on our faces and repent. We need to see how we have settled for so much less than Your real and Your best simply because we want to remain in control of our lives. There's a hunger deep inside of us for the real, the honest, the truth! It requires moving away from our scratch and sniff shallow faith and into a place of surrender. It's time to trade the neat and tidy for the near and true Holy Spirit! I'm willing to get messy if it means I get You and all You have. I'm willing to admit I've been wrong and have settled for a version of You if it means I get the True You in my life!

Devotions for April 25

1 Samuel 30,31
1 Chronicles 10
Matthew 12

Start Doing Devotions

Devotions are an important part of everyday life. Click here to learn how to do devotions.