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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

Following Christ: "It Don't Come Easy"

Updated: Jan 17

Following Christ isn't a hobby and picking up the cross is easier than putting it down. So be sober-minded before you start. "It don't come easy." This post is Part 1 of a personal reflection that expresses my deep concerns for the state of Christianity today. I'm sure it will offend many, but remaining silent is no longer an option.

Most of us have ridden bicycles. In 1971, when Ringo Starr (yes, of the old Beatles) recorded "It Don't Come Easy," the bike was my primary (all-weather) source of transportation. It was a blessing. It even got me to my friend's house, where I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But little did I know how the title of Ringo's song would capture the essence of my walk with Christ over 50 years later. Perhaps you can relate to this in your way.

In 1972 I started driving and stopped riding the bike. Why? First, it was easier to drive than to ride. Second, all my friends were driving, and my girlfriend wasn't comfortable riding on the bicycle handlebars. No car, No girlfriend. No way.

The world and the California culture I grew up in began defining my lifestyle. I was assimilating. However, I was conflicted because my parents were "old school." They believed freedom and responsibility went together like peas and carrots. It's all good, no matter how bad it tastes. I quickly learned that lack of personal responsibility reacquainted me with the "freedom" of my bicycle. So, the simple takeaway was this:

Irresponsible Behavior = Freedom to Ride the Bicycle (or walk if I complained about the bike).

Responsible Behavior = Freedom to Drive the Car and listen to "It Don't Come Easy" on the radio with my girlfriend.

In either case, my conflict ended. Responsibility and Freedom became my peanut butter and jelly. Responsible behavior opened up a world of new opportunities and freedoms, even with all the rules and restrictions. I realized, "It don't come easy," but paradoxically, hard is easy, and easy is hard. I really learned this in the military. These "old school" lessons relate to "new school" (i.e., progressive Christianity.)

Following Christ: The Path of Least Resistance

There are many parallels between the California freedom-without-responsibility lifestyle of the 1960s-1970s and today's progressive (and prosperity-oriented) Christianity. Essentially, it is following Christ on the path of least resistance. And, unfortunately, it has become the default, the easy path, for weak (lukewarm) Christians. I offer no apologies for blunt statements. Call it tough love if someone is offended. Someone's salvation may be at risk. It's time we all awaken to the seriousness of God's Word.

Following Christ on the path of least resistance is especially troubling because the enemy exploits this weakness. It's no wonder Henry David Thoreau said, "The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men." But, of course, we could also add wolves in shepherd's regalia and goats in sheep's pews.

Remember: Peas and carrots weren't necessarily palatable as children, but our parents knew their nutritional value. So Christians metaphorically need to eat peas, carrots, and peanut butter and then get the jelly. Today, it's all about the jelly.

The Gratification of Needs and Wants is Easy and Immediate. Both progressives and prosperity-oriented Christians subscribe to the easy and immediate gratification of human wants and needs.

For example, consider the five basic human needs and wants as conceptualized in Reality Therapy. They include:

  • Power

  • Fun

  • Freedom

  • Belonging

  • Survival.

Next, think about how easy it is for the enemy to exploit our human needs and wants through progressive and prosperity-oriented churches. Some may say I'm using hyperbole, but as a former church hopper, I've seen more truth than fiction in these statements. But, of course, I could be wrong. God will be the judge.

Do you want money and the POWER that comes along with it? No problem! Flip to the Sunday morning service on TV that assures you that if you give first--in abundance--God will bless you in abundance. Then, the sky is the limit for how much you will receive; money will fall from the heavens, especially if you are the pastor of a mega-prosperity church. Before long, you'll live a rich and famous lifestyle because you trusted enough in Jesus to give. That is unless you go broke first. If so, you needed to give more.

Do you want to have FUN at church? Why didn't you say so?! Most progressive churches will have more activities and entertainment than a Princess cruise ship. Best of all, you don't need to be bummed out by talk of sin and repentance. Jesus will meet you at the pool for the BBQ. He is just like the fun big brother you never had!

Are you desperately in need of FREEDOM from the oppressive dogma of the Bible? Well, you are lucky because the progressive Christian church is making that old book more relevant for today's liberated seekers of truth and wisdom. We've taken the liberty of adding key points that align with modern worldviews while subtracting the non-essential antiquated verses (most of the Bible). As a result, you don't even need to read the Bible because we'll tell you what is appropriate for your life today. How hip and accessible is that?!

Do you want a true sense of BELONGING? If so, look no further than your local progressive Christian church. No matter where you live, chances are good that you'll find one quickly and easily. You can come just as you are and remain just as you are because we love you "JUST AS YOU ARE." We believe God loves you unconditionally, and so do we. "Sin and Repentance?" Not welcome in this church! We will never hurt your feelings with such talk. So, if you have sensitive ears, come, and listen to what we have to say. You belong with like-minded believers.

Do you want assurance of SURVIVAL, that you will go to heaven? Well, that's easy. All you need to do is say you believe in Jesus. That's it. Love is love, and that's all God expects of you. Did we mention that Bible reading is optional; actually, we frown on it because it is inherently racist and offends too many of our members. So, please leave your Bibles (if you still have one) at home, preferably in the closet.

The Path of Least Resistance is the Wide Gate

But note the warning in the Bible about the gate we enter and the way we choose.

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." Matthew 7:13

Concluding Thoughts: Part 1

Picking up the cross and following Christ isn't a hobby. It is a new way of life that denies the self and subordinates to Christ. It respects "old school" values of freedom and responsibility. Freedom is the "reward" for responsible behavior.

But most importantly, picking up our cross as a lifetime commitment is how we show our love for Christ; the Bible describes how we demonstrate our love by following His commandments.

Many prosperity-oriented and progressive Christian churches try to rewrite or reinterpret the Scriptures, but God's Word will not be subverted.

Our salvation is assured when we enter through the narrow gate (Jesus) and do not take the path of least resistance, the wide path. The enemy understands how weak we can be in the flesh. Thus, it makes sense that he would exploit those weaknesses using psychology and twisting the basic human needs and wants to meet his purposes.

In Part 2, we'll talk about Following Christ: The Narrow Path. We'll discover that "It don't come easy" and the paradox of what seems easy is hard, and what seems hard is easy. I pray that God helps you see His narrow path ahead. Hope to see you in Part 2. God bless you and yours!

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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a Missile Launch Officer with I.C.B.M's during the Cold War (1980's). Today, I'm an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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