By B.J. Funk –
Have you ever been to the Church of Cotton Candy Christianity? Hopefully, there’s not one in your town, though they sometime show up in the best of neighborhoods. Cotton Candy Christianity is a belief that holds no substance and a whole lot of sugary fluff. It dresses up in beautiful pastel colors, enticing you to taste its delicious flavor. However, the contents melt in your mouth as soon as you take your first bite. You are left with no nourishment. But your senses have been stimulated, making you want to ask for more.
Most people go to church looking for real answers to their heaviest needs. The church seeks to teach people how to journey deep down inside themselves, into that black pool where pain dwells, into those places that cannot find satisfaction with entertainment, technology, money, or food. In those places, the church’s input becomes paramount. There, life and death understandings take on a 911 call. In those wilderness places, the message of Christianity is the only answer that will bring peace. In those hungry places, the Bible touches us with solid guidance and real soul food.
My friend’s five-year-old granddaughter encourages me. Savannah says, slowly and seriously, “It just grieves my heart when my friends don’t know Jesus.” We may smile at her sweet sincerity, but Savannah has caught on to something essential. The difference is Jesus.
Jesus Christ cannot live inside of Cotton Candy Christianity. He lives inside of you, inside of the real, live, beating hearts that hurt, cry, and seek answers. We cannot afford to settle for teachings without substance. Hungry sinners need solid food. The nourishment we need is found in only one place: Jesus.
By comparison, fluff dangles the colored, tasty cones over your face, brushing you with the delicious smell until before you know it, you are a believer! A believer in fluff, that is. No one bothers to tell you that fluff doesn’t last. Only Jesus, and him crucified will bring lasting satisfaction. But you don’t know that. The Church of Cotton Candy knows, but they’re not talking.
You pick up on the hype, the chants glorifying fluff and the songs that bring a twisted message of Christianity. All of the people around you are so happy that it doesn’t take long before you are happy too. You’re just not sure why. The organ music reminds you of those days long ago when as a child you went to the circus. When your daddy took you, and he bought you candy apples, popcorn, and, of course, cotton candy. You indulged with what looked good, just as this church does for you now.
Then, a more serious moment comes, as fluff worshipers take their seat for the morning message. It doesn’t really matter what the preacher says because you have already committed yourself to this preacher’s view. When you walk out today, you have received exactly what you came for: nothing.
But that’s okay with you. You like to live life on the safe side. If you take away something from the sermon and if by chance … God forbid … you begin to think, then you stand to lose. You might be ridiculed for taking a stand. You might begin to feel a stirring in your heart. Each of those variables is way too risky. You leave satisfied. You got what you came for.
But you missed everything. Here’s what Streams in the Desert says you missed by attending the Church of Cotton Candy: “Yet the heartstrings of their old nature have not been broken, and their unyielding character, which they inherited from Adam, has not been ground to powder. Their soul has not throbbed with the lonely, gushing groans of Gethsemane. Having no scars from their death on Calvary, they will exhibit nothing of the soft, sweet, restful, victorious, overflowing, and triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.”
Lord Jesus, take my love for you into the deepest places of my soul. Break my heartstrings, ground my old nature, and hold me accountable. Pull me into a deeper hunger for you. Grant me the scars of Calvary, and if I even get on the outskirts of a church that doesn’t proclaim your holy name, grind me even harder. To thine be the glory. Amen.
B.J. Funk is Good News’ long-time devotional columnist and author of It’s A Good Day for Grace.