Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wake Up!

Lent #2 2004

Some wake up calls are loud and over the top, while others are a bit more subtle at first.  My eight grade English Lit class had a sign over the clock that read, "Time will pass...will you?"

Paul was trying to wake up one of his troubled and slipping churches when he wrote in II Corinthians 6:2b, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."  The emphasis is on now, today- not tomorrow!

Jesus, too, was inclined to offer wake up calls.  Especially when He sensed over-confidence.

Read Luke 13:22-35

The opening question comes from a person who assumes because of his breeding and upbringing that he is "in."  His question amounts to something like, "How many, if any of the lesser breeds are going to be saved?"

Jesus' reply is a wake up call with a jolt.  The Christ-life is not the kind of life people are born into.  It is a kind of life that is too vigorous to take for granted.  Presumption of personal merit or entitlement is a symptom of a deadly drift.  Hebrews 2:1 also says, "Pay more careful attention...so that we do not drift away."

This is not a problem specific to one race or ethnic group.  Listen to the words of Jesus, as He speaks to a Gentile congregation in Revelations 3:17, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked."  Their overconfidence blinded them to their 'wretched' spiritual condition.

Jesus' answer to this person's question certainly feels pessimistic.  He does not give a clear cut answer in terms of numbers.  But He suggests grim possibilities.  One question that is raised is, "Does the narrow door limit the number of people who can enter- or the number of opportunities people will have to enter?"

What we know from the general tenor of scripture is that God blesses those who genuinely search for Him.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote, " You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you."

The one time that an all out effort always fails is when it comes too late; after the door is closed.  In the life of The Spirit there are seasons-providential moments-when circumstances and sensitivity are ripe, made so by God's Spirit!  When those intersections pass, we never know when the next appeal of God's Spirit will be. Ultimately the door will close permanently when we die or Jesus comes again.  We know that for sure!

We also know the opportunities given to us are valuable gifts.  In the days before modern harbors a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could enter port.  The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu, that is, a ship standing off a port waiting for the moment when it could ride the tide to harbor.  The English word opportunity is derived from this Latin phrase.  The captain and the crew had to be ready and waiting for that one moment.  They knew that if they missed it they would have to wait for another tide to come in.  Shakespeare turned this meaning of opportunity into one of his most famous passages.  In Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3 Brutus says:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
Why does Jesus endorse the idea of all out effort?  For one thing Jesus knows that there will be significant opposition to your surrender to Him. There is that fallen nature we live with when we first come to Him that still thinks sin is a good time.

Most of the secular world thinks that forbidding sin is an unfair prohibition of fun.  They see it as a life long "initiation."  If you join a fraternity or sorority you may have to eat a few worms or perform a few humiliating stunts for the entertainment of those already in.  But that is the price you pay to enjoy the advantages of the organization.

The world sees giving up sin as the initiation that lasts and lasts.  It is the price you pay for enjoying eternity.  Give up fun today for joy later.

For those who have entered into a life long and close relationship with Jesus, we begin to understand that Jesus has rescued us from a life of destruction- from a life in the pig pen.  God calls us to a different lifestyle because He loves us.  Like a parent who wants their teens home at night before the criminals come out to take over the streets.  Our kids think we hate them and want to ruin their lives, even when we explain it to them.

It may take a long pull of strenuous effort to break our attraction to sin and to learn that right living has many happy rewards.  Jesus encourages us to make the effort.

He also understands that many folks live their lives under the false hope that salvation is available to the vast majority, just for being a decent person.  Eternal lost-ness is only for those few monsters- serial killers, molesters, etc...This false hope lulls many to a dangerous spiritual lethargy.  Jesus says, "Wake up!"

But Jesus called us to extra vigilance because He knew there would also be outside obstacles: moral integrity may cause you to lose your job.  Your friends may ridicule your new life with Jesus.  You may be a target for abuse because you're a Christian.

In light of the attractiveness of sin, problems with false hope, and real kinds of abuse, it is necessary to make every effort to be vigilant.

In many ways, because the warning is so strong, this is a dark passage.  There is an undertone of strong compassion, but there is more here on missing the way than there is on the comfortable yoke we wear with Jesus.  There is not as much about the joy of salvation as the cost of salvation.  Jesus is focusing His teaching like a laser on the problem of misplaced confidence.  There is only one entrance to spiritual life, and there are limited opportunities.  A lot of people are going to try a different way- rather than surrender to Jesus.  Then after the whole world has seen their error, all efforts at the right door will be too late.

But if the narrow door seems difficult for the person who becomes Jesus' apprentice- it is much more difficult for the teacher.  For Jesus it is the way of the Cross.  In verses 33 and 34 the word Jerusalem is repeated three times with only punctuation breaks.  It is an expression of compassion for those who rejected Jesus.  And these words describe the weight of the burden Jesus would carry for the world when He arrived there at Jerusalem.  Jesus has an incredible desire to rescue those who would be lost for eternity (all of us), but when a person or group rejects the extraordinarily HUGE gift of salvation, all God can do at that point is mourn.

There is something profound- heart rending about the Son of God standing at the edge of Jerusalem, tears streaming down His face and His chest heaving in grief, because they would not accept the only hope He could offer them.

When a nation or person persists in rejecting Jesus, then even God can only mourn and weep for their fate.  There is no hint of bitterness or "you rejected me, now you get what's coming to you."  There is only the grieving cry of a parent over a child lost forever."

Wake up before it's too late!!

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