June 2, 2014
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
If you’re not comfortable with paradox (“a self-contradictory statement”), you’ll have a hard time with the Bible. So much of what God has to say runs in head-on conflict with what we have spent a lifetime confirming.
It’s enough to get some people signing-off and going about their daily routines – lived in sync with the culture’s baselines – with a plan to figure it out once they get to the “other side.” That’s one of our Bible-light references to the reality beyond death; unlike the uninformed, we – Christians, through faith in Jesus Christ – know with certainty that we’ll be with God the Trinity forevermore.
Here’s an interesting field-test: find a friend who is most-definitely headed to Eternity with the Lord Jesus, and ask them this question: where will you be – 1000 years from now – and, what will your daily routine be?
Don’t ask them until you’ve asked yourself; use a yellow pad (or, Dragon dictation on your smart phone) to capture your answers. What does Eternity mean – in tangible, practical terms – for you?
I’ve been taking that survey myself the last few weeks, and let me tell you what I’ve discovered: most Christians are more informed about their vacation destination – the place they’ll spend two weeks this summer – than they are about their ultimate destination!
I spend my life with Christian capitalists, who are citizens of God’s Kingdom through the portal clarified in Paul’s Ephesian letter: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
My wild discovery: Christian Capitalists who describe a destination reigned by a God who is a Cosmic Communist!
How so? They paint the picture of an eternal environment where all of God’s children – the Kingdom’s citizens – anticipate God’s “fairness” as an endless party where we’ll all sing all the hymns and choruses ever written… and then do time-outs in matching suites where the goody-bags have the same number of M&Ms in the snack pack and the same channels on the in-house cable. Where did we get that confused – and, inaccurate – picture?
Paul didn’t have that confusion: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
In Paul’s portrayal, we’re all runners, but we don’t all win. There are no lost people in the race Paul describes; you don’t “win heaven” through performance. It’s a gift received by faith, from Jesus.
But, Paul understood Eternity to be a place populated by saved people whose lives created the competitive environment in which winning and losing were the only two ultimate possibilities.
This month, graduations will distribute diplomas to the majority… while awarding honors to the few who approached their schooling with seriousness. There is a graduation in your future with the same kind of segregation planned; are you getting ready for that event?
During June, that’s going to be my Point of View focus: what should we be doing to assure that we’re closer to first than to last, at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Stay tuned…