I found this story about a professor who talked to one of his students about doing push ups for donuts. Sounds weird, I know. But the moral of the story was good so I used it in class the other day. I talked to David Van about doing 10 push ups for for every person who walked into our Sr. High Youth class on Sunday. David told me that he had a bad wrist but would still try to do the pushups so I could teach my lesson for the morning with a little more emphasis.

What I did was make up some fresh homemade cinnamon rolls (36 of them to be sure I had enough.) I told some of our Senior High Students that David was going to do something “unique” the next week in class and if they came to class I’d give them each a homemade cinnamon roll. I make these cinnamon rolls with special orange glaze and cream cheese frosting. They’re really good, but I don’t think we had the crowd we had that Sunday because of my cinnamon rolls. I think it was because David’s friends wanted to support him so they came to see what this was all about.

Before class started, David checked with me to see if I could get him something to make it possible for him to do push ups on his fists, since it hurt him to bend his wrist. I found him an old gnarly exercise pad from the daycare and he went and sat in the room with his friends while I worked with my daughter Megan to finish putting the cinnamon rolls on individual plates. When I came in the room at 9:20, we had 15 people sitting and waiting for class to begin. 150 push ups. That’s a lot, David is a strong guy and he said he’d done around 200 before but that had been during a soccer practice time frame, and, today he was injured. I left the room to check on the cinnamon rolls and when I returned there were now, 20 people present. We were at David’s max on a good day. He looked at me and I knew he was counting people too. I announced that I just needed to go get the cinnamon rolls and I’d be back, then class could begin. When I returned, our class had grown to 24.

I started class by asking how many people wanted a cinnamon roll. Most of the hands went up but a few people said they had already eaten or were not into cinnamon rolls. I said, “Well, I made these for each of you as a gift. They were made just for you. You can give it away if you like but I want to give a roll to each of you,” and so we began. The next thing I did was tell them that the rolls were a free gift to them but I did require something from them to receive the rolls: ten pushups.

One young lady was in a dress and her friend realized that was not going to work. I said, “that’s OK, you don’t need to do the pushups, because someone has already agreed to do them for you.” That’s when I asked David if he would do 10 pushups so that McKenzie could have a cinnamon roll. He did them. She got a roll. This went on over and over until all the people in the room had cinnamon rolls and David had done 10 pushups for each and every person. David did over 260 pushups that morning in just a short period of time.

Some students didn’t want a roll if it was going to mean he had to do their push ups… he did them for them anyway. Some students laughed and joked as he struggled through another set, and then another. One student offered to do their own push ups so David wouldn’t have to, but that wasn’t a possibility You see, David and I had discussed this all ahead of time, and David had agreed to pay the full price for EVERY person, whether they wanted the gift or not, and no other option would work. I think you know where this is going.

Let me just say that it was emotional to see David work through those push up over and over. He was determined to do them all. At one point he asked, “Is that the last one?” Then someone asked me, “Does he have to do 10 for you too?” I looked at David and said, “Would you be willing to do 10 pushups for me if I asked you to?” He just turned back to the floor and set his mind on finishing the last 10 grueling pushups, and then collapsed on the floor. He had done what he had set his mind to do, and it was finished. He had won! That young man exhibited courage, determination in the face of pain, and a desire to achieve his goal. I was so proud of him! I was also moved by his commitment.

We talked about Paul’s words to the Ephesians for the rest of the class period. In chapter 4:17-32 we have recorded for us a portion of Paul’s letter to his friends in Ephesus. This portion of the letter is about living a real Christian life. It begin’s with: 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

Paul was telling his friends, ‘Hey, if you really want to call yourselves Christians, then change your way of thinking. Quit trying to be in the world and in the family. It doesn’t work.’

You know if we really take the time to read the Bible, in context, isn’t that message just as real for us today? How many times do we see Christians blurring the lines between freedom in Christ and a lisence to do evil things. It could be obvious stuff like being involved in immorality or filthy language. But it can also be those subtle, invisible sins like bigotry, pride, greed or jealousy. Even sins like worry and unforgiveness rob us of the joy God has intended for each of us. We need to ‘change the way we think.’ We need the determination to finish strong like David did. Like Jesus!

I’m sure you realize that the cinnamon roll analogy was a portrayal of a real event that happened a few thousand years ago. Jesus stepped out of His Spiritual realm and into the temporal world to fulfill a debt that only He could pay. We’ve all been given the grace we need to spend eternity in heaven. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to take the gift. Some of us don’t think we need it. “No thanks, I’m good.” “I’m doing ok on my own.” Or you might hear someone say, “Jesus isn’t the ONLY way to God.” Maybe even that, “this whole religion thing is just a crutch for weak people.”

The problem with this mentality is that this life isn’t all there is. God IS real. We see the amazing details of nature in this temporal world, the intricacies of the animal world, the complexity of the human mind, and instead of seeing God’s hand in all of this, we formulate all sorts of ‘other’ options. Just not God. It’s can’t be possible that there is this supernatural being who has infinite wisdom, power, and love for us. With all the brokenness in our earthly realm we just can’t imagine God. I didn’t say there aren’t real questions, but erasing God from the equation doesn’t bring about the peace and comfort we’re looking for.

I can’t see the wind but I can see its effects on my surroundings and I can feel the air in my lungs. I know that without that breath, I would be nothing but particles and dust. The message behind the cinnamon rolls is that God cared so much that he determined to make a personal life with Him available to EVERYONE. I have no deeds to do, no prayers to offer, no works to perform to make Him pick me. He already did. And my sins committed tomorrow haven’t kept him from still calling me HIS child, His masterpiece, His most precious possession.

Our lives are a reflection of the relationship we have with our Creator. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 16, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven.” My life and the good I do or the evil I turn from won’t save me, but it does reflect that Jesus’ sacrifice is real to me. He gave up pleasure for pain. He took on the cross to win back his creation. He demonstrated his love for us in sacrifice. He is the definition of REAL LIFE.

There is a song by Sidewalk Prophets that explains the message of Ephesians 4 perfectly. I challenge you to join me in a day by day revival this year. Let’s take it slow, but let’s start today. Don’t walk away from the gift he’s made just for you. Take it, consume it and let it change you the way He intended it to. I want to live like that. How about you?

Sidewalk Prophets – “I want to Live Like That”