My wife and I just got home from a vacation in Disneyland with our daughter, her husband and a friend. As you know, attractions that simulate real life adventures are a favorite at the popular resort. Star Tours uses “state-of-the-art technology – including a flight motion simulator vehicle, digital 3-D video, Audio Animatronics character and in-cockpit special effects – to transport you to a galaxy far, far away.” Recently, the ride’s been re-tooled and now includes multiple story lines and locations. The effect is so stunning that I’m sure if someone who had lapsed into a coma before technology had advanced to this level awoke and got on this ride they would have no doubt that they were experiencing the real thing.
I was reminded that many Christians today are living in an illusion that’s as convincing as Star Tours would be to the awakened coma patient. The ride first began immediately after they repeated “the sinner’s prayer.” They were taught that the Bible is their road map and that attending church is essential to their spiritual journey. At church they would learn correct doctrine which would keep them on the road of righteousness. At times they become inspired by motivational speakers on Sunday morning, and since they agree with the principles, they think they’re living accordingly. Occasionally they may experience an emotional high during the worship service and tears may even come to their eyes when a touching testimony is shared. They believe this reflects their heart for God. Faithful church attendance and tithing demonstrate their commitment. Learning more about the Bible tells them they’re growing spiritually. If they achieve a leadership position, they know they’re going places fast.
The sad truth is that these people are living in a kingdom that has absolutely no relationship to the kingdom of God. It’s simply a worldly system that seeks to simulate a reality that is far, far away from the religious world in which they live. Fundamental truths of discipleship that Jesus set before his followers are a completely foreign concept to most Western Christians. And how could any of us “abandon all to follow” Christ if we don’t’ know him? Who would be willing to “lose their life” for his sake? Why would we deny ourselves and take up our cross daily to follow one who invites us to die with him unless we’ve experienced resurrection?
The rich young ruler knew about him and his miracles, but he hadn’t experienced his love. He probably knew what Jesus taught and gave intellectual assent to it, but he had no relationship with the Person. Yet, as he went away with a sad heart, Jesus looked at him and loved him. And that’s the bottom line. Responding to the love of God is the only reality that has the power to transfer one from virtual Christianity into the kingdom of the son of his love.
In Disneyland we walked back toward our hotel on a brisk evening after a day filled with good food and tantalizing illusions. We were surprised to come upon a candlelight ceremony featuring a 500 voice choir singing “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him!” After the narrator read the story of the nativity from the Bible and emphasized the true meaning of Christmas the choir broke into the Halleluiah Chorus. For a moment, illusion was swallowed up by reality. Jesus.