Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Playing Pretend

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.
Luke 13:22-30
I don't know if you like football, but I do. Ever since my college buddies talked me into playing fantasy football with them, I can't get enough of it. I do "research" before the season starts to make sure I have a good draft. I follow all of the NFL news very closely to see how it will impact my team. I love it! (How big of a nerd am I?) And this is the part of the season when I really get excited because we are coming up on the playoffs. But the truth is that even if my fantasy team comes in first in my league, I don't really win anything. I'm not really playing football, and it isn't the Superbowl. At the end of the day we're just playing pretend... a really awesome and fun game of pretend, but pretend nonetheless.
But it's one thing to play pretend as a hobby, it's something else to play pretend with God. Unfortunately, there are people who do. They may spend a lot of time with Christians. They may be members of churches. They may even be in leadership positions at the church. But they are just playing pretend. They put on a front and try to blend in. They try to do all of the things that a Christian is supposed to do without having experienced the life-altering power of saving faith for themselves. The truth is that many of them do fool us, but they won't fool God. He sees them for who they are, and He knows them perfectly.
Jesus calls these people out in the above passage of Scripture. He issues a bold warning. There will come a day when it will be too late. "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." On that last day you wont be able to blend in and your game of pretend will be over. Jesus says that many will try to enter heaven this way. It's hard for me to understand why this will be the case. Why are there so many who try to fool God? So far I have come up with two answers.
First, I believe that many are confused about exactly what makes a person a Christian. Often when I have asked people if they are a believer I have received responses like "Yes, I believe in God." or "Yes, I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins." So let me be clear. Believing in God doesn't make you a Christian; it makes you religious. Believing that Jesus died on a cross doesn't make you a Christian; that is a historical fact. Even believing that Jesus died for your sins doesn't make you a Christian; it just makes you right. Romans 10:9 tells us what it takes to become a Christian. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." It's not just believing that Jesus died for your sins but it is also believing that God validated Jesus' sonship by raising Him from the dead. If there is no resurrection, then "we are of all people most to be pitied" (I Corinthians 15:19). But in addition to believing in the resurrection we must confess "Jesus is Lord." I believe wholeheartedly that this amounts to a bending of the knee to Jesus. I see it as a submission of the will. We are not merely declaring that Jesus is Lord, but we are also acknowledging that as Lord He has claims on our lives. We owe Him repentance and we must surrender our lives to Him.
The second reason follows closely on the first. The truth is that some people do know what it takes to become a Christian and they are simply unwilling to surrender their will to the Lord. People often say that salvation is free. In one sense that is true. Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness. But at the same time that statement is very misleading. True faith in Jesus will cost you everything, because God demands nothing less than all you have. Check out what Jesus said about it. "Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Jesus demands our all, and that is simply more than some people are willing to give.
So what are you? Are you the real thing or are you just playing pretend? If you are playing the game, then I encourage you to confess Jesus as Lord today. One day time will run out on your game. No one knows the day or hour when they will stand before their Maker and have to give an account of what they did with Jesus. Don't leave your eternity to chance. Stop kidding yourself. If the Holy Spirit is tugging on your heart today, don't fight Him. Confess Jesus as Lord and experience the real thing.
For further reading...

No comments: