Read Luke 15:11-32
A few years ago one of the men of our church shared with me his experience of the prison ministry retreat he had just been a part of. One of the things he told me was that, because the prisoners don’t often get to eat any sweets in prison, many of them attend the ministry retreat, “for the cookies.” In other words, they want a less stressful weekend… some cookies and other good food… but not necessarily Jesus. Jesus just happens to be there, with the cookies.
My friend then commented about how amazing it is for the men who work the retreat to watch the transformation of these same prisoners over the course of the weekend. On the first day of the retreat some prisoners almost boastfully declare that they are there only for the cookies. However, over the course of the weekend, as the Spirit moves in and through the men, the Word, prayer, fellowship, testimonies, etc., those same “cookie-seeking” men (at least many of them) really do encounter Christ and are truly changed by his Spirit.
Stoops to Conquer
For those who “come to Christ” and his church for dubious
reasons, God often “stoops to conquer.” That is, God will often show
up and lavish his grace upon a person, regardless of why that person
“thinks” he or she is there. When a person, even unwittingly, puts
himself or herself in the way of grace, Spirit-led change can take
Just think of these examples…
- People who “come to Jesus” to fix their marriages.
- Christmas Eve and Easter worship attenders who come to church twice a year, “religiously.”
- People who start going to church because they’re trying to get out of trouble with their spouse.
- Parents who go to church because their children, “need religion.”
- Folks who are trying to make business connections.
- Fill in the blank with 100 other examples.
Judge or Rejoice
It’s easy to judge
such people. We think we know what’s going on in their hearts. And it
is true that some people might do all of this and more,
and then leave the church, only having eaten a few cookies. Yet,
instead of judging such folks, let our hope be that they brush
up against God’s grace and that God’s grace will be filed away in
that person’s heart for God to use at a later time. That should be
So let folks come for the cookies. And let us pray that they genuinely meet our Lord and come to know, love, and follow him… and then stay for the feast.
- I confess, I am often judgmental when it comes to those whom I perceive as having ulterior motives for coming to church. God continues to do a work in my life of filing down those sharp edges and softening my heart so that I can rejoice instead of judge. Do you struggle with this? Why do you think that is?
- I recently heard another person express this attitude as the “attitude of the older brother” in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Read Luke 15:11-32. In what ways are you like the older brother in the story?
- What are some ways we can cultivate the attitude of the father in the parable and rejoice when we see a “prodigal” return, or when a person whom we deem to have ulterior motives begins attending church? (hint, repentance on our part is involved)
- Think back to when you first came (or came back) to Christ. Were you met with judgment or with grace and joy? What difference did that make in your life?
- Talk with two or three Christians about these questions. Pray that
the Lord will help you become one who welcomes folks who “come for the cookies”
and rejoice that they’re there, even while speaking the truth in love to them.