Monday, July 27, 2009

Judgment Day

“You’re going to Vegas!” And with those words some of America’s most talented citizens move on to the next round.

It’s all pretty subjective, isn’t it? If the three judges like your act, if they’re swayed enough by the audience’s engagement and if you’ve got the style to go along with your skills, then you’re on to Vegas.

I suppose it’s the same with sports like diving, gymnastics and ice skating. Sure the judges are trained. Most are former superstars in their field. But still they’re human. Preferences creep in and weigh into their decisions. It’s subjective.

And don’t even get me started about the college football polls!

Personally I like competitions where the numbers decide the winners. Like the guy who eats the most hotdogs in 10 minutes wins. The team that scores the most points wins. The person who answers all the questions correctly gets to be a millionaire. The driver who crosses the finish line first drinks the milk. There’s no human judge factor there. You don’t walk away saying the judging is unfair.

Listen, do you realize there will be a day of ultimate judgment for every person that’s ever walked the face of this earth? And there will be a Judge, all right, and His judgment will be right and true. There will be no crying foul. None can offer any defense against His verdict. The perfection of His justice will be clear to everyone.

The Bible speaks about two different judgments. One will be at the point where unrepentant sinners will be judged to eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12ff. says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Please don’t blame God or think Him unkind for judging justly. God has gone to the utter extremes to show His love and salvation to mankind. He has revealed His glory, His power and divine nature in the world that He’s created, so men are without excuse. He has given to mankind His written word, the Bible, by which we might know Him and be saved. He has given us His final Word, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He put His love for you on display when He sent His Son into this world to die on the cross for sinners.

This judgment is simple. “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil” (John 3:18-19). There’s no subjective bias at all here. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

If you’re not sure where you stand, then you’d better be quick to find out – and come to Christ!

Then there’s the “judgment seat of Christ” judgment day. Standing here will be those who have been called by God, repented of their sins and believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is where Christians will appear, “that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). This is the judgment where “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).

Christian, that ought to highly motivate you to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ Jesus! It’s not your works that will save you, but your works will be judged, and those works give evidence of your faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

That Day is drawing near. May we be ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coming Through in the Clutch

When the game is on the line, who do you want at the plate? Down by one, runners on first and third, two outs, bottom of the ninth. If you could choose any player from any team to step into the batter’s box, who would you take?

This summer I had the privilege of helping to coach my son’s baseball team. If I had a dollar for every time we won this season I’d be flat broke. We’re still working on things like knowing which base to throw the ball to, when you can force a runner out and when you have to tag him, and not swinging at pitches over your heads. We were pretty much out-sized and out-skilled by all our opponents, but I think our boys gave a great effort. I hope they had fun playing and I hope they learned the game, at least a little.

If our team was down by one in the bottom of the ninth and I could have any player I chose up to bat, I would want the kid who would be most likely to take a walk, or hope that he’d get hit by a pitch. But in the Bigs, who wouldn’t want Number 5 from the Cardinals at the plate with the game on the line? Nobody’s going to come through like Albert Pujols. The guy’s an amazing hitter and a terrific clutch performer – without the aid of steroids, I might add. I wonder if I’d be a better preacher if they came up with some PED’s I could take (Preaching Enhancing Drugs)?

If you watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game from St. Louis, you probably saw how good of a baseball player Pujols is. I’m writing this before the game, so I’m predicting a single and a home run from Albert, though the American League will win its 13th in a row.

But did you know that Albert Pujols is also a devoted follower of Jesus? You may not hear the announcers highlighting that about him, but I want you to read the testimony he has written on his website.
It’s quite a lengthy statement of his faith along with an invitation to trust Jesus as Savior. Here’s a portion of his post:

People have said, “Albert, I would give anything to be able to play baseball like you.” They may look at my abilities and think that being a great baseball player is the goal of my life. Believe it or not, baseball is not the chief ambition of my life. Becoming a great baseball player is important to me, but it is not my primary focus. Because I know the Hall of Fame is not my ultimate final destination.

My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His will. God has given me the ability to succeed in the game of baseball. But baseball is not the end; baseball is the means by which Dee Dee and I glorify God. Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I would also rather be known as a great husband and father than an All-Star baseball player. Perhaps one day I could be honored with an invitation into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. That would certainly be a boyhood dream of mine come true, but it is a far greater honor that one day I will be in heaven with God to enjoy Him forever.

How do I know that I will spend eternity with God in heaven? It goes back to the original discussion – Faith. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is my faith in Jesus Christ’s work in my life that grants me eternal life with God. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the mission of this Foundation is “Faith, Family, and Others.” It is because our faith is at the heart of everything we are and everything we do.

Wow, now that’s a life lived for the glory of God! Friend, even with Pujols at the dish with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, you’re not going to win every time. He’s not always going to knock it out of the park. But our God is always faithful and true. His word will never fail you. His mercies never come to an end. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. When eternal life is on the line, why not turn your life over to the One who will come through in the clutch for you?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Every Knee Shall Bow

The Bible says “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

One day Jesus will be revealed in all His glory among all mankind, the living and the dead. One day there will be no more doubt about who He is or what He has done. One day it will be crystal clear to all that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life,” and that “no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6).

One day all other “gods” will be exposed as frauds, all other religions shown to be false and all other “paths to heaven” proved empty. One day all the praise due the name of Christ Jesus will be given to Him from every corner of His creation and from every mouth of every creature. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6).

In the heavenly realms the angels and all who dwell there will greatly rejoice that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will worship in glad adoration, filled with awe and delight as the King of kings and Lord of lords comes to take His throne.

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Rev. 5:11-13).

Even the demons of hell will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. Even the most wicked and vile men who have walked upon this earth will know that He is God. They will recognize His power and authority over all things.

This does not mean that they will be offered a second chance at salvation, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). And it’s not that they desire to serve Him as Lord, but they will indeed realize the utter folly of their ways and will be forced to acknowledge as true the One who is Faithful and True – the One whom they so arrogantly rejected. They will bow their knees in fear and trembling before Him in light of the eternal wrath they shall soon receive and the everlasting shame that shall cover their heads.

Friend, that day may not be far off. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 20). Indeed He will come again in the twinkling of an eye, like a thief in the night, at the trumpet call of God, and all those who are “in Christ” will rise to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever. “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).

The question is this: Are you eagerly awaiting the return of your Lord Jesus Christ? This world seems to be spiraling toward the day of Christ’s return. Will you be found longing for Him, or will you be put to shame? You can bow now joyfully before Christ as Lord, or you will bow later sorrowfully. But mark this: you will one day bow down to Jesus.

Let me urge you, dear friend, to bow now! Acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only One who can save you from death and hell, and turn your life over to Him today. Believe that He is the Son of God who came from heaven to earth, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died upon the cross of Calvary – the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. Believe that on the third day God raised Him from the dead, because it was impossible for death to keep Him bound. Believe that Jesus is now exalted at the right hand of God and that He will one day – soon and very soon – come again and receive all who believe in Him unto Himself, that where He is, there we also may be.

Will you confess Him now as your Savior and follow Him as your Lord, to the glory of God the Father?