Are We Making This Too Complicated?

Over the past two years I have lost about thirty pounds. When asked how I used to joke that I had a radical new diet book idea called “The Burn More Calories Than You Consume Diet”.

Now I realize that I was on the cutting edge of dietary research! I could have penned that book and finally achieved my dreams of writing a bestseller. Admittedly I would have had to add a bit of filler since the entire book could have been summarized with the phrase “eat less, exercise more”. Now a group of sober people with doctorates and lab coats have carefully evaluated all of popular diets and published their findings.

“The hidden secret is it doesn’t matter if you focus on low-fat or low-carb,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the research. Limiting the calories you consume and burning off more calories with exercise is key, she said. The study, which appears in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Harvard School of Public Health and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.

See? I was right! You don’t have to go to Harvard to have a keen sense of the obvious. In fact, I suspect an elite education can be a real hindrance to that endangered skill. We seem to take comfort in making the simple complex. Perhaps if we make dieting so complicated as to be impossible then it becomes less guilt inducing to simply give up.

I wonder if we do the same thing in our journey with Jesus? Go into your local Christian bookstore and look at the volumes and volumes of books about how to follow Jesus correctly. There are over 85,170 titles that come up under Christian Living at Amazon.com. Without my modest contributions there would only be 85,168 choices to confuse you. I am not saying the Christian life is easy. Clearly it is not. But I do wonder if we have made it so complex that we give ourselves an excuse to give up.

Noted theologian and lawn mower racer Dave Barry once wrote that you “you can only be young once but you can always be immature”. We are only new believers in Jesus once but I am sad that so many remain immature in their faith for years and perhaps a lifetime. There are all kinds of books and articles about fixing that problem. We read them and do better. For awhile.

Perhaps that is the real problem. We have made the simple complex. I have written at length about the importance of understanding theology. We need to understand the Gospel and what happens theologically when we put our faith in Jesus. But after that I wonder if the enemy doesn’t revel in complicating our journey? Jesus gave this not so complicated command several times in the Gospels.

Follow me.

That’s it. Any questions? Good night everyone! I found nearly three dozen times in the Gospels that this simple command appears. A sampling…

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matt 4:19

 But Jesus told him, “Follow me….   Matt 8:22

 ”Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matt 9:9

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Matt 16:24

Then come, follow me.”   Matt 19:21

Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”   John 1:43

When Peter was concerned about the one who would betray Jesus he was simple told to do this task.

“As for you, follow me.”  John 21:22

Peter tried to make it complex but Jesus was keepin’ it real and very simple when he told Peter to “follow me”.

 In John’s Gospel we read this.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

So perhaps we should simplify. Quit trying so hard to figure it out in our own strength and ability. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump…”I’m not a smart man”. But like Forrest I do have a keen sense of the obvious. I have surmised (brilliantly) that Jesus is asking me to follow Him. The rest of it we will figure out together.