"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Standing-Room-Only Crowd"

In baseball, a "standing-room-only crowd" is a good thing, at least from the franchise's perspective. There is a situation, however, in which it will not be a good thing, especially if one is found within that crowd.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:31-46 ESV)
With that crowd being packed to standing-room-only, one wouldn't be surprised to discover the admission price is absolutely zero. "You get what you pay for," is trite but, tragically, true. Tragic, because God had already paid the infinitely high price to admit each of those "goats" to a much smaller, exclusive crowd, but they had refused to accept his offer.         Even more tragic is humankind's penchant for crowd-following. Like so many lemmings, we thoughtlessly fall into lockstep with the majority, assuming they have some kind of corporate insight we individually lack, when in fact they have no sight at all. Jesus wisely advised his disciples concerning the religious leaders of the time, ""Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Mat 15:14 NASB) In this case, the pit is bottomless and eternal. And when Jesus spoke of the Gentile, Roman Centurion whose simple faith he recognized for all time, "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 8:11-12 NASB) Jesus' reference to "the sons of the kingdom" certainly included God's erstwhile chosen people who willingly gave up their prefered status by murdering their Messiah. Does today's church presume to think Jesus limited his reference to "the sons of the kingdom" only to the Jews? That, my crowd-following, church-going friend, is a dangerous assumption. As a matter of fact, God's Holy Spirit said in the letter to the Hebrews, For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb 6:4-6 ESV)         Once again, God presents the terrifying doom of those who ultimately presume upon his grace. If that were all God's word spoke on the matter, none of us would have a word to say in our defence at the judgment. But because of his love, he gave us the overarching promise of 1 John 1.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:5-9 ESV)
Finally, just a word about the process of confession. We've come to view confession as a simple act of grudging admission, calculated to get us off the hook for an offence; "copping a plea," if you will. The word God used, that we translate as confess, meant anything but. The Greek word used in the original manuscripts was a composite of two other words:same and say. This means that in confession, we say the same about our action and our selves that God, in his infinite insight, would say about us and what we did. Does our confession of sin shock God? Is he suddenly disillusioned about our presumed sainthood? On the contrary, our confession reveals nothing to God. Instead, it is our formal admission of what God already knows about us. Think of it as our filing a tax return with the IRS. Don't imagine for a moment Uncle Sam has no idea what we earned. Just try fudging on that return ...         Standing room only before God's court of judgment is infinitely worse than standing before Uncle Sam.

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