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Pogo Stick Jesus

One of the most hurtful beliefs I have seen plaguing the sons and daughters of God is The Pogo Stick Jesus Syndrome.

Are you familiar with the recreational toy? As a boy I’d set my feet on the pedals and grab hold of the handle bars, thinking that maybe I could even spring over my dad’s car if only I could get enough bounce on my pogo. I had a lot of fun, except when I got a little sideways and ended up in the thick hedge along our driveway.

“Ralph, why is your shirt torn?” my mother asked. “Ah, my pogo threw me in the hedge,” I answered. With a nod of her wise head, my mother concluded, “Maybe you should take it easy on that thing.”

In the years since, I have often found that many have a sort of pogo stick relationship with God. Make the right move, do the right thing, and God is in their life along with all of His benefits. Do the wrong—let a swear word drop, raise your voice in anger, give in to lust or greed or envy—and He’s out. Pogo stick Jesus. However, you could get Him to pogo back in response to a proper repentance, a public re-dedication, or a heartfelt re-commitment and tah-dah! God and favor restored.

Although many failed to get the hang of the pogo stick Jesus game and gave up on Christianity (As if!), some learned to live a sin-focused life of repentance. I’m not kidding. In essence their behavior and their ability to regulate it determined God’s level of comfort and happiness with them—and His presence and blessing. If either went missing, one had only to figure out what offense had sent Him pogo-ing away. This marvelous pogo stick theology made them responsible for God and accountable to themselves. “Did I blow it? Has God left me? How have I upset my sensitive God and frustrated His plan for my life?”

I don’t mean to imply that pogo stick Christians are foolish or stupid—they’re not! I do want to save them from a deception which denies the grandeur of the gospel and the greatness of the new covenant, and which robs them of resting in Christ. There is no rest when one is trying to bring to pass what God already has!

To be blunt (merciful?), sin is no longer the defining aspect of our relationship with God—Christ is! Grace is! God did away with sin, yours and mine, by the sacrifice of His son. We have been brought into union with Him and nothing, NOTHING can separate us from Him ever again. He has already given us every good gift and perfect fullness in Christ. What’s left out of every and fullness? God has made His home in you and in me, and He will never, NEVER withdraw Himself or forsake us. He has made us righteous royalty in His family, and even if our radiant robes should drag in the mud of this world, like the father of the prodigal, He will never lawyer-up and prosecute us for waywardness or distant country visitations.

Has it struck you that the prodigal’s father never even asked a question of his returning pig crap encrusted son? Not one! There was no interrogation. Nothing had changed about his father and what he knew to be true of his son. The only thing different was that the son was home where dad could again lavish himself upon him.

While the son might have believed the lie that his terrible behavior and return home would change the way his father treated him, would throw the farm into shocked chaos and force his father to make a harsh and disciplined example of him (early pogo stick theology), his dad was unaffected—except for the party! In my view, the only protestor of such unparalleled largesse was the elder brother religionist. “He can have his hollow party. I’m going to earn mine.”

The lie of religion suggests that while God has already given us everything in Christ, we might have lost a little of the all we never earned—here’s how to get it back. Slaves are made in the here’s how. So evil and destructive is this suggestion that the apostle Paul made a wish for those who spread the lie (Gal 5:12).

The lie says, “Well, yes, but it doesn’t come with an unlimited warranty. Here’s what you’ve got to do to keep up your end of the deal.” Do you recognize it? In two words, that’s pig crap.

Our Father tore up the records and every regulation! No debt remains—we cannot pay Him back, neither does He want it. That would be insulting to Him and the staggering display of His love and grace, which He still likes displaying. It’s His thing! It’s the new covenant. (And our Father asks no questions!) At the risk of adding to the story, the prodigal’s father threw a parade in front of the nasty neighbors as if to say, “He’s MY son! He is for me, and I’ll give him all that I want no matter how scandalous it seems to you!”

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col 2:13-15, italics mine.)

Essentially, the good news is this: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom 4:25). If you believe that by bringing your sins before God you’ll get Him to pay great attention to them, think again, pogo stick breath. He already did. And He’s pretty satisfied and happy with what He has done about sin. If you believe that behaving perfectly will earn favor with God that would otherwise be threatened, think again. You’ve got Jesus on a pogo stick.

He’s not there. He’s settled and happily at home in a lavish environment—He’s in you.

Ralph Harris

About the Author

Ralph Harris is the author of “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” and President of Lifecourse Ministries. Ralph has been in the ministry since 1983 and has spoken to groups all over the world. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), and of Life Pacific College. Prior to launching LifeCourse Ministries in 2004 with his wife, Sarah, he served for ten years as Senior Pastor of The Lighthouse Church of Long Beach in California.