Acts 17. 31|
The day of God’s judgment is the day we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. It is a day when Christ will judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom. The question is, who among us will be saved? None of us? Some of us? At this point we don’t know. How about me? Will I be saved, you might ask. Shall I have overcome the world? Will I receive a crown of life? These thoughts are not selfish ones, only realistic, when we think of what Paul told us, that although all run in a race, only one receives the prize, (1 Cor 9. 24). We are on our own, so to speak. In the final analysis, every man must bear his own burden.
In this business of ‘overcoming’, some things don’t seem as relevant as they once were. Over time we learn that sometimes our interpretations may foil us, and we must constantly re-evaluate our behavior. For example, when the Psalmist wrote, Man that is in honor and understands not is like the beasts that perish, (Ps 49. 30); said differently, no matter how good you are, you have no standing for a future life without God’s truth. So a perfect understanding of God’s truth is paramount. That’s true. But a mastery of His word must encompass more—it must involve our heart as well as our brain. Good theologians are not always good Christians, any more than a good medical student becomes a good doctor. The main ingredient for both comes only when learning ignites a fire within that stokes an overriding compassion for fellowman, kindled by faith and continued good works—this is what is relevant. The writer to the Hebrews analogizes the Kingdom of God to the REST that the children of Israel found when they finally entered the Promised Land. You may recall, some did not gain entrance. In the Kingdom of God to come there remains a REST for the people of God (Heb 4. 9). It’s logical to believe that some will fall short of reaching that REST. However, Christ and his friends will support us. Keep in mind that were it not for the shed blood of Christ we would have no standing whatsoever with God. It’s up to us not to allow ourselves to fall by the wayside.
We have to face up to the possibility of failure. How often do we try to hide from the vicissitudes of life? Hide behind frenetic activity? How often do we realize we can’t hide, even when we only stay busy to keep from going crazy. There’s no need for us to hide—we’re not without hope. If we pattern our behavior after Christians who have gone before us, we can adjust our lives accordingly. I know thy works are the words that appear in all the messages to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation. If you’ve always been a little hazy about what works really consist of, the Bible is explicit. Israel couldn’t figure it out, even though told many times through His prophets what God wanted from His people.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me;
I am weary to bear them . . .
Cease to do evil. Learn to do well;
Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Is 1. 14 – 17)
In the New Testament the the Lord Jesus himself defines works in no uncertain terms. It might be instructive to figure how much time you spend relieving the oppressed, looking out for widows and orphans, and doing justice, tempered with mercy. And how much time do you spend feeding the hungry, taking in strangers, clothing the naked—not to mention preaching the gospel? It’s easy to become self-righteous in our efforts, and so difficult to discern that what we’re doing is helping people, not judging them.
Are we ready for the long pull? It’s unlikely we’ll do better and better unless we develop certain essential qualities. Think of what it was that Christ emphasized to the seven churches in Asia: patient endurance, sticking to the goal, to not be weary in well doing. Hold fast til I come, he said, He that overcomes and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations. (Rev 2. 25 – 26). Paul, in a particularly reflective mood, his end near, said in words we would all aspire to emulate,
The time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me
A crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
The righteous judge shall give meat that day;
And not to me only, but to all them also
that love his appearing. (2 Tim 4. 6 – 8)
Christians are supposed to have durability of character, an
unswerving attitude, and an ability to bear and overcome tribulation. Modern day tribulations are different today—no torture, or being torn asunder, but more like too much money and worldly distraction. When we observe the patient endurance of the many people around us who are known as good citizens, dependable, and willing to serve, we might do well to compare ourselves. We’re Christians, citizens of the promised kingdom to come. Are we good citizens? Do people around us notice? How do we act? You know the truth. Let your life show it.
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility,
Not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life
But as those who do. Make the best use of your time,
despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague,
But firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord. . .
(Eph 5. 15. PHILLIPS TR.)