Let's face it. Mike, aka "The Situation", from Jersey Shore is a lot more disciplined at a lot more things that don't matter than we Christians are in things that have eternal value. Owen Strachan wrote a neat little post to this end at the Gospel Coalition recently called, "Lessons in Faith from 'Jersey Shore'." The article made me uncomfortable right from the beginning, and although Owen made some convicting points about the lack of discipline in the lives of most Christians, I thought it was important to emphasize and elaborate on the fact that the acts of neither the pagan, nor the Pharisee are commendable, because neither do so by faith in Christ.
As someone who spent about a decade (my 20′s) living in New Jersey and NYC — before being saved — I’m not at all surprised to read about the discipline of Mike “the Situation” or other young folks on the Jersey Shore. I lived as a perfectly debauched pagan for many years before meeting Jesus and can tell you that I was one of the most disciplined people you’d meet. Always on time, always looking neat and clean, and always in shape. You know, the outside of the cup was polished up pretty well, meanwhile the inside was full of the equivalent of rotting corpses.
From my standpoint, the Jersey Shore example is just one more illustration that goes to show that merely keeping external commandments gets us exactly no-where. Whether we derive our external law-keeping from pop culture or the scriptures makes no difference apart from repentance and faith.
Mike "The Situation" lives like he does because he is a slave to his tanning, his gym and his appearance. He doesn’t know any other way and without Christ he is incapable of becoming ontologically different in any significant way. "The Situation" can replace his gym with his family, his tanning with his church attendence, and his laundry with daily devotionals, but without true heart change, all he has done is exchanged idols.
This is why the Gospel matters! Gospel truth convicts us of our own works, which are done in the flesh and are nothing but filthy rags in God's sight. The Gospel causes us to turn toward Christ, and seeing His righteousness, we are able to do His works from faith.
If we do not act from the position of faith, then we will be acting like the Pharisee. We'll either get burned out because we’re white-knuckling it and doing stuff that we really don’t want to do, because we’d rather be lifting weights or drinking; or we will be despairing and feel condemned because we know that no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot measure up to the standard by which we are measured. God is perfect, we are not. And idols are cruel masters. Wait until this one hits home for Mike, the Situation, as it has for Hollywood’s past discarded hereos.
Let us focus on the finished, perfect work of our savior, Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Otherwise, our highly-disciplined regimens will simply mimmick the practices of pagan idolatry, and we will be doomed to their same end:
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” – Jonah 2:8
Let’s not forfeit the grace of the gospel that IS OURS!!!