Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Sorry Lot

If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
1 Cor. 15:19 & 20 
Our pastor launched off this verse for his sermon this morning. We may think it noble to declare that even if there wasn't heaven, living for Jesus now is fulfilling and enough.  After all, didn't Jesus say that he came to give us abundant life?

Not according to the apostle Paul. The scripture above says we'd be a sorry lot. Other versions or translations say we'd be "most miserable above all men", or, "of all mankind be the most to be pitied!". There isn't enough compensation in this life to be worth the sacrifices that Jesus asks us to make to follow him. The New Testament is full of references to living for and expecting heavenly rewards.

If we tolerate or condone someone in their sin because it seems the easier thing for them or what makes the most sense, or even what seems to be reality for them, we are short changing them out of eternal rewards. The truth is that we may never see the reward of our actions or sacrifices here on this earth, but God has promised us reward in heaven. There will be reward for giving and praying (Matt. 6), sharing a cup of cold water (Matt. 10:42), loving enemies, doing good, lending without getting back (Lu. 6:35), our labor, our work, our confidence (Heb. 10:35), seeking God (Heb. 11:6) and more.  

GREAT reward is in store for those who are persecuted:

Lu. 6:22-23 (Phillips) “How happy you are when men hate you and turn you out of their company; when they slander you and detest all that you stand for because you are loyal to the Son of Man. Be glad when that happens and jump for joy—your reward in Heaven is magnificent. For that is exactly how their fathers treated the prophets.

How many of us Christ followers live with this perspective? Do we consider our life here in light of eternity and what is to come. As I looked up verses about what we have to look forward to from here, it didn't take long to acknowledge that this is an underlining theme of the New Testament writers. 
How did we lose this emphasis?

2 Cor. 4:15-18 We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.

Maybe when life is good and we are enfolded in comforts that reward us every day, and we can easily lay hold of quick fixes to numb most pain and suffering, we are lulled into thinking God is always good. Add  in our consumerist culture and we believe we deserve happiness; it is placed above all virtues. 

What happens then when trouble comes that is beyond fixing; when life goes horribly awry and chaos replaces control? Will this Christ follower be scandalized? Yes! 

I've thought about this lately, in relation to my grand kids. Are they being taught the offense of the gospel as well as the good news? What about self denial and selling all to follow Jesus? Persecution? Not just for the sake of suffering, but realizing there is reward someday, "out of all proportion to our pain". That it is worth it to hold on to our salvation and profess faith no matter the circumstances. It is becoming more realistic to believe that our grand kids and certainly their children will be faced with, at the least, a world where they will experience--
"when they slander you and detest all that you stand for because you are loyal to the Son of Man"

This generation is not free from pain -think broken homes and sexual abuse- and the world they know has terrorist attacks and threats of gunmen in schools . These can be opportunities to learn faith in a God who gives courage and hope and who gives peace in the midst of trouble.  This God says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"; have they heard that being persecuted is a time to leap for joy because there will be great reward in heaven? Do they know that even if they mess up, they don't have to give up? But that they can call on this God in repentence and He will forgive and set their feet on the path of righteousness? Will they see us, in an older generation, leading the way through our obedience and love for a God who gave all for us?

Father, may I love you with all my heart, my soul, my mind and my strength. This love comes from you. Fill me with this Love and teach me your ways that I might walk in your paths.  Unite my heart to fear your name. Use whatever I have gained in you to point the way to a faithful life.  Thank you for those who have gone before me and lived, not perfect lives, but lives that were unswerving in their devotion to you.

From one who has gone before me:

 Thoughts from my Grandmother's journal were often focused on heaven and the salvation we have, not just now, but what is to come.  Like this one:

"Alpha and the Omega

Christ must return to complete his work.  The second coming will complete the work of the first coming, [it] may be seen in regard to redemption.  Paul says we have our reemption through His blood. It is for the day of redemption that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.  

It is a wonderful thing to experience now the redemption that is in Christ, to be blessedly redeemed from the curse of the Law.  But it is a matter of experience that we wait for the full effect of that redemption.  Our bodies are not yet redeemed...The Christian life and experience always has an eye on the future...God gave unto us eternal life. John writes that ye may know that ye have Eternal life.  From the depth of our sins, Christ has raised us to life.  In Christ we have been made alive.  Living daily with Christ is a precious reality.  Paul says that if we endure, we shall also reign with Christ.  He is confident that the Lord will deliver him and save him unto his heavenly kingdom...."


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