Stop What You’re Doing

Not too long ago, an egotistical brute played on the basest elements of human nature to gain power. Since that time, he’s stomped around recklessly advancing his agenda, authoring oppression and spreading division. But on the horizon, there is hope. Another is coming to dethrone that arrogant hate monger. He’s a justice warrior. He calls out the powerful and entitled and advocates for the poor. Surely he will bring an end to the long night we’ve endured along with its seemingly endless nightmare. Get excited!

No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. I’m talking about Satan and Christ.

If you profess to believe the gospel, you must acknowledge that every leader is a sinner and that society is hopelessly broken. When Christ returns, every earthly cause will become instantly irrelevant. When balanced against the world to come, not only politics but every human endeavor – building a career, amassing wealth, courting fame, winning fair maiden, buying a house or things to go in it, etc. – carries a significance akin to reading a magazine in the doctor’s office waiting room. So, in the wise words of 38 Special, “Hold on loosely.” And, in the wiser words of St. Paul, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 

When we are too busy to give ourselves to helping our spiritual family, proclaiming the gospel, sharing our means, hosting table fellowship, showing mercy to unbelievers and so on, we’ve become mired in the present passing system of the world. We no longer long for Christ’s coming. We don’t even think about it. If we already have no time for Christ’s kingdom, we’ll experience his return as one huge inconvenience.

The Jews in Jesus’ day also claimed to be looking forward to the coming of their Messiah. Informed by passages like Isaiah 25:6-8, they also expected that he would invite them into a great victory feast which Bible scholars call, “The Messianic Banquet.”

One time, Jesus taught about the kingdom during a dinner at the home of a Pharisee. After his message, one of the other guests replied, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 

In response, Jesus told this parable:

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:15-16 NIV)

The man who spoke to Jesus celebrated a fantasy. He wanted Jesus to dream with him about a distant time and place where he’d enjoy some pie in the sky. For Jesus, the kingdom of God wasn’t a far away wish, but a present invitation to live in light of the coming day. Only those who value that invitation over every lesser commitment will get to taste Christ’s banquet.

What’s worth your time? That will determine how you spend eternity.

At the End of the Day

My best thinking happens in the shower. I suppose that’s the one time that I’m not distracted by other input. On Sunday, I was rehearsing some failures and disappointments (as I do too often) when I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart something like this:

You live in a fallen world which will always be fallen to some degree until Christ comes to renew all things.

Wow, that’s liberating! I want us to love each other as Christ taught us how. This isn’t what Bonhoeffer calls, “visionary dreaming;” it’s a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus has promised that this hunger will be filled, but all too often I find inequity and strife among God’s people. I see myself and other disciples clinging to our time and treasure while others suffer or do without. The world continues to rush toward judgment falls unchecked by us, and believers continue to carry their burdens alone. These observations do and should grieve us. But they needn’t take any of us to the point of despair or despond. Results are not our responsibility any more than they are our merit. What’s more, they are assured!

Christ is coming back at the time set by the Father. When he returns he will call our names according to his promise. He will destroy death and offer up his kingdom to the Father in the rewed earth where the justice we long for will be the norm.

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13 NIV)

This doesn’t mean that we sit on our hands until he comes. It means that we can dive into his work doing all the good we can, knowing that at the end of this Day of Salvation, he will use all of our efforts for the advance of his cause and that they will be remembered with a hearty “Well done!”

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58 NIV)