Wednesday, September 10, 2014

For What Do You Strive?


In this post I will share a real story from the life of a close friend. I am thankful for her boldness and humility in allowing me to write this because I believe, if we would be honest with ourselves, that most of us who wear the name Christian, have fallen prey to this lie at one time or another. **Note: I have edited the original version with permission.**

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A few years ago, a dear friend of mine was enticed to compete in a harvest festival contest held at her church. She had her eye on the prize - an Ipod Touch. She designed the costumes for her and her family and spent weeks creating elaborate works of art. She decided that her family would represent the Arc of the Covenant. She would be Lot's wife dressed as a Morton's Salt box; her daughter would be the hand of God; and her husband and son would be the 2 angels on top of the Arc.

For weeks, everything in her life was put on hold, including housekeeping and homeschooling, as she spent her days gluing, sewing and grouting tiles onto a refrigerator-sized cardboard box. When her family arrived at the harvest festival in their life-sized ornate costumes, her friends ranted and raved at the magnificence of every costume. She was assured repeatedly by the spectators that her family was sure to win the contest, without a doubt!

At the awards ceremony, all the contestants stood on stage anticipating the obvious results. The third place winner was announced, then the second place winner. You could have heard a pin drop when the first place winner was announced and handed the coveted Ipod Touch. Stepping forward to receive the prize was a small boy dressed in a prefabricated costume purchased at the local Christian bookstore. Gasp! The judges explained their controversial decision, telling the stunned crown that one of the criteria for the contest was that the person wearing the costume had to be completely mobile and able to move about freely. The portion of the  remarkable costume that my friend had designed for her husband and son was the Arc of the Covenant - Each of them stood as angels, sprayed with gold spray paint, on either end of the box that represented the Arc. This made them all one piece; attached to each other. Though they were able to walk (one going forward, one going backward), they were not able to move about freely, therefore disqualifying them from the prize. The Morton's Salt box and the Hand of God had the same mobility problem.

My friend learned a very valuable lesson that day. She said that her experience reminded her of what the final judgement will be like. Many people are going about their daily lives striving to be successful by doing what they believe will give them the best advantage in life. They are working hard to get good grades or promotions, participating in Christian activities, investing in their physical appearance, making lots of friends and keeping up with all the latest fads. They are doing everything that this world would count as success. And yet, when they come before the Ultimate Judge, God Almighty, they will find out that they are losers because they didn't take the time to comply with the criteria set by the Judge. They did things their way. Even though they were praised by their friends and their image and successes were coveted by others, their efforts were all in vain because they did not conform to HIS rules. Just like my friend in the contest, all of those hours striving to make the perfect costume were completely in vain because she didn't comply with the rules. Not only did she not win the prize, she was disqualified!

Are you consumed with making sure you look good or have the right friends? Perhaps you are caught up in doing the Christian thing - going to church, attending youth group or bible study, wearing a cross around your neck, raising your hands when you worship, praying before meals... Do you fully understand the criteria by which you will be judged?

We aren't just talking about winning some contest and taking home an Ipod. We are talking about how we spend eternity. It is vital we comply with God's criteria for salvation. Jesus tells us in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." In John 15, Jesus explains a way to identify whether or not we really know Him, He says that it is to His Father's glory that we bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be His disciples by abiding, remaining in close, constant contact with Him. You must repent of your sins and trust in our Savior, Jesus, for the forgiveness of your sins. No amount of work or church attendance will get you to heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God - not by works, so that no one can boast." It won't matter if you have everyone else's approval. There is only one opinion that will count on that Day and that is God's opinion. He made the rules, now you need to be sure you know them before it's too late.

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A simple story with life altering implications. I think the take home message here is, do you have a personal relationship with Christ (repented of and turned from your sins, received His forgiveness, and are now living for Him) or are you just going through the motions, hoping that in the end, your good will be good enough? If you are putting anything or anyone in a position made only for your Creator, you can confess it and change it right now. 

I pray God's richest blessings for you!

Jeanne