Friday, June 17, 2011

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. 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.


  1. Brenda Kalas9:44 PM

    This is wonderful!

  2. Barbara Howald Carlan9:44 PM

    Wonderfully up liftng Ralph, thank you for posting this~

  3. Matt Gill9:45 PM

    Amen Ralph, never stop preaching this!

  4. Cliff Gableman10:08 PM

    Thanks soooo much Ralph! I've worn out many pogo's my brother, and am so thankful for people like yourself that define the new covenant. Thanks for tag. Reposting, I have many still buying pogo's

  5. Victoria Gaines10:09 PM

    Some of your best writing, Ralph, and a joy to read. Was feeling kinda "punk," to borrow an Aussie phrase, but this caused my spirit to soar. We've been fed a load of pig crap (lies) but the truth is, we can't possibly keep our end of the deal up - that's not even the deal. The deal is, Jesus already did everything to secure our relationship with Him. A done deal. We can't add or take away from what He's done, just receive. Thank you SO much for writing this, Ralph.

  6. David Borum10:10 PM

    Yes, Yes! A thousand times YES! Lived it...never going back to it. Thanks Ralph! Though you may catch hell from those who want to keep our savior on the pogo stick never let up, my friend.

  7. You all can't know how encouraging your notes are to me. Whew! The emotion by which I wrote this came out of frustration and sorrow, so you know your welcome of it lifts me up.

    Thank you!

  8. Bekah Fendzlau Russell10:12 PM

    Brilliantly said Ralph!

  9. Julie Belshe10:13 PM

    Most Excellent! I had a pogo stick when I was young too. I went as high as the roof of the house then slipped on the way down in a tiny spot of water, right on my knee, it blew up and had to have it drained. A very good comparison I was also taught pogo stick Jesus in the early church I attended in the early 80's, that hurt too, even worse! Nope no more pogo stick Jesus for me! Thanks Ralph!!!

  10. Denise Maynard10:13 PM

    I could use some lavishing right about now lol. Good reminder.

  11. Nancy Gilmore10:14 PM

    beautiful! I shared it in "Seeing God Only", too. And Twitter. : )

  12. Mark Vilen10:14 PM

    Wonderful, Ralph. I have to share it ... :)

  13. Chris Pennington10:15 PM

    Excellent word! Thank you so much for the tag, I love this!! ......I love how "the pogo stick threw me in the hedge" ...religion will do that... :-)

  14. Jim Tedford10:48 PM

    YEAH!!!!! awesomely written!!! sharing...

  15. Don Curtis10:49 PM

    Great article.

  16. Rich Buonocore11:55 PM

    Much wisdom in this message Ralph, I hope many people not only read this but pass it on to their Wall's.

  17. Mary Villanueva12:03 AM

    Love it! Needed to hear it today. Thanks.

  18. André van der Merwe11:38 AM

    Pig crap and pogo stick breath, haaa-haaaa! Man you've got a way with words bro. Thanks for the tag - loved it!!

  19. Nancy Gilmore11:39 AM

    We love, and support your great love of the Lord ♥ !

  20. Robin Sampson11:46 AM


  21. Nancy Mercedes Peralta-Reed Smith11:47 AM

    Amen, wonderful illustration! Thanks Ralph!

  22. Rene Trabu12:00 PM

    Amen Amen ! ♥

  23. I am thrilled to see how this post resonated with so many people. It's wonderful that God is already doing this work of revelation for His children. What a burden lifter He is!

    I've even called Him "My Trash Man" in another post. Perhaps I'll dust that one off. . .

    Thanks to all!

  24. John Farmer12:04 PM

    Ralph, What an awesome article! TY 4 sharing!! It's right up my alley and essentially where I've been recently in my walk with Christ. For years I've been stuck in a pogo-stick paranoia, having fallen off so many times, to the point of apathy that, why should I keep on trying all the while knowing that sooner or later the hedges of sin would be there to comfort me when I get a little too sideways.

    The Bible says, "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him" (Col 2:6) but the problem my whole life is I've been presented a "different Jesus and a different gospel" to quote the apostle Paul. Praise God he has led me to faithful teachers of the gospel of grace and acceptance, of mercy and total forgiveness, that have helped me to finally see that the "who I was in Adam" has now been replaced by the "Who I am in Christ".

    Gone are the days of pogo-sticking Jesus, "Dow-Jones" Christianity, as my pastor Greg Albrecht put it once, where God is pleased with you when the stocks are up, but turns a jaundiced eye when stocks head South! Now my stock and my walk are firmly resting on the solid Rock of Christ, knowing He suffered my eternal fate in Adam that I might share His eternal glory in heaven forever. And nothing can ever change that!

    So kudos's to you & all who continue to champion the message of God's amazing grace, acceptance & love. I will join you in your heroic efforts to rescue others from the "flames of religion" to help guide them safely over to the peaceful shores of His unfathomable love!

  25. Hettie Beyer12:06 PM

    It is finished!!!!

  26. Rodeen Williams3:05 PM

    Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of the relationship you enjoy with the Father! :)

  27. Christa Durand3:10 PM

    Your writing made SO MUCH sense thank you Ralph!!! Very creative, unique and understandable the way you wrote. Touched THIS heart, thank you. Keep it up!!!!

  28. Teresa Courter8:36 PM

    Love this analogy! it is sad that some just don't understand their new life in Christ!

  29. Bertha Harmon8:38 PM

    Very, very, very GOOD...WORD!!!!!

  30. Ted Loeffler8:39 PM

    Thanks Ralph! We are slow learners, but we've got a patient teacher!

  31. Ann Reeves8:39 PM

    I grew up learning "Pogo stick" Christianity - but I call it "Catholicism." Which is why I haven't been Catholic for a long time. It took me years to undo it, and every once in awhile I have to remind myself of the Truth.

  32. Jeanet Elders10:44 AM

    Thanks Ralph, you put it so clear, the difference between the 'here's how you'll get it' and the closeness of God.

  33. Elsa Ferreira10:47 AM

    Love the way you write, could just picture this kid jumping in the driveway....tah-dah, God and favour restored....thank God it is finished in me! \0/ had a BIG lol

  34. Teresa Lynn Dennis10:50 AM

    Brilliant! thanks for the tag...

  35. I am beginning to believe this message (if fact I already do). I am moving out of state soon so I will be looking for another church. God's timing could not have been more perfect. I really like the people in my congregation. They are good Christian people, sons and daughters of God, but sometimes our focus on the law, and "holding up our end of the covenant" is really scary. Thanks to the message of grace I am learning to relax with God, and trust Him, even more.

    Thank you Ralph for your encouragement.


  36. Charlie Pendergrass9:49 PM

    This may be the longest post I've ever read...entirely. Beautiful truths, brilliantly told.