Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cramming for the Final Exam

There are many Christians today who want to keep quiet about Jesus’ coming, about the fact that he is coming to judge the world with all of his warrior angels, that he will be accompanied by all the saints and gather every person—living or dead— on the earth to judge them (Matthew 25:31-33; John 5:25-29). We do not know when he is coming, only that he could come any time. We see signs and possibilities all the time that his coming could be right around the corner. The question is, are we ready?

The final day is like a final exam. We have studied and worked hard all of our lives, but we still aren’t sure how we’ll do on the last test. We will be tested on everything that we’ve learned—but are we really ready? Can we cram in the last few minutes, in order to pass? Is there a bribe we can pass to the Examiner, to make sure we pass?

But the real question is: What is on the test? We need to know what will be on the test, so we can pass. If we pass the test, we will have great joy and reward from God. If we fail the test, we will live in eternal torment. So what is on the test is exceedingly important—it means life or death for us. So how can we be prepared?

Although many people make many grandiose claims of knowing how to help us through the Final Exam, there is only one person who has already passed through it, so he KNOWS. That is Jesus—he has already been tried by men and God, and God declared him righteous. Jesus knows what the judgement is going to be like, and he knows the reward. No one else has had this experience like Jesus, because no one else has been given their final reward already. So let’s listen to him, and let him tell us what he knows about the judgement day:

Content of the Final Exam: Our lives
a. We will be held account for every action and speech, no matter how unimportant seeming
The first principle of judgement has to do with the content. What will be examined? What is the content of the test? We need not carry pencils around or be gathering up bits of knowledge. The fact is, we are taking the final exam every day. Jesus says, it is our whole lives—our words and deeds (Matthew 16:27; John 5:29). Not just our lives in a general way, but a specific sifting, looking for every single pertinent act or word—no matter how small or carelessly spoken (Matthew 5:22, 28; 12:36). We may think that a single action is too small to be noticed, or that something is just “small potatoes” to God—but God is concerned about every small step, and will hold us account to it all.

b. Anything we repent of in Christ we will not be accounted for
This sounds so harsh of God, to not overlook anything. But God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, not of judgement. He doesn’t want to condemn us unnecessarily. So he gave us the Giant Loophole to judgement: the Cross of Jesus. Because Jesus died on the cross, we will not be judged for our sins. We have only two requirements: we must commit ourselves to Jesus, so the cross will wash away our sins. Secondly, we need to repent of our sins. Any of the sins we repent of in Christ, under his authority, will be wiped away and completely forgiven—if we would only repent. We need to depend on Christ and His Spirit to lead us into repentance, and then all the evil things we have done will be cleansed, never to be spoken of again. More importantly, these things will not be brought up on the judgement day. (Ezekiel 18:30; Luke 13:5; Luke 17:4)

How to get prepared for the Test : the principles of judgement
The next question then is: How will God look at our lives? Does he have a list of secret sins that no one knows about that he will insist that we have all repented of? God is also merciful in his examining of our lives.  There are three basic principles that he will follow in looking at us.

c. However you treat the Lord, that is how you will be treated
First of all, He will examine closely how we treated Him and His Son. And however we treated Him, that is how He will treat us. Did we praise Him before others? Then he will also praise us. Or did we curse his name? Then he will also curse us (Matthew 10:32-33). Did we take his word seriously and listen and obey him? Then he will listen to our cries. Or did we disregard his commands and teachings? Then he will also not listen to us, and our needs. (Zechariah 7:13; Matthew 12:50; Luke 11:28). Were we completely devoted to God, serving him with a single mind? Then he will be devoted to us and reward us. However, if we were not devoted to him, but desired other powers before Him, then he will not be devoted to us, but punish us. (Matthew 5:8; Judges 10:10-13). Thus, to pass our Final Exam, we must treat the Lord as he deserves.

d. Whatever you give to others, that is what you receive
The second principle that God will use in examining our lives is an extreme version of the Golden Rule—However we treat others in our lives, that is how God will treat us on the judgement day. Do we treat others with mercy, with concern for them and their ultimate benefit, giving others what they need? If so, then the Lord will treat us with that same merciful care and give us what we need (Matthew 5:7). Do we forgive others’ of their weaknesses and take the difficulties they give us without any harm back to them? Then God will treat us with forgiveness and care (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 6:35-37). Do we treat those with lowliness around us with care and assistance—then we will get such assistance from God when we are lowly before Him (Matthew 25:35-40). On the other hand, if we judge and condemn others, then we will be judged by God (Luke 6:37). If we hate our enemies, and treat them wickedly—with insults and threats— then God will visit evil—insults and punishments— upon us (Matthew 5:22; I John 4:20). If we cause others to sin, and show no care for their needs, then God will throw us in prison and show no compassion on us (Mark 9:42; Luke 12:45-46).

e. Whatever you receive from others, you will receive the opposite
The third principle that God will examine our lives with is one that isn’t thought of as much, because it seems to have little to do with things under our control. However the principle is clear: However we have been treated by others, especially while doing God’s will, we will receive the opposite. It is assumed in Jesus’ teaching that anyone who is truly following God and his ways will face opposition, oppression and anger from those who oppose God. Thus, if you are struggling with oppression or hatred against you; if you are suffering because of poverty or injustice; if you are in terrible circumstances in life because of following God; if you are disenfranchised or outcast—Jesus says then to be glad! Because God will reward us so greatly in heaven, that all of this life will be but a distant memory (Matthew 5:3-6, 10-12; Luke 6:20-23; Luke 16:25; Luke 14:7-11). On the other hand, if we are greatly praised by everyone—even God’s enemies; if we live in comfort and entertainment all the time; if we are considered important and take the opportunity to command many for our own good—then God figures that we have had enough of the good life. We have sought out salvation on our own, worldly, terms, and so have rejected his salvation (Luke 6:24-26; Luke 16:25; Matthew 6:1-5). Again, we may feel—how can I control what circumstances give me? But it is clear, if we follow Jesus’ way completely—confessing Jesus publicly (even if it is not acceptable), sell our possessions and give to the poor, reject the ways of our family and friends—then we will gain much disrespect and even hatred. So we can control it somewhat.

f. The more you have, the more is required of you
God is not severe with us, but he is completely just. If we know much of God’s will and desires, he will judge us more severely. However, if we do not understand much of God’s will, God will show us mercy, according to what we know. That doesn’t mean that he won’t judge us according to the above three principles—he will. But the severity of the judgement will be lessened if we don’t understand it all. (Mark 4:25; Luke 12:47-48)

The last thing we need to remember about these three areas of examination by God—we need to pass in all three areas. If we do not repent in any one of these areas, then we will fail our exam. We must seek to be completely devoted to God, completely merciful to others’ and always lowly before others. If we fail, then we repent. But if we reject any of these ways, we reject our hope of success on judgement day

What are the grades?
g. It is eternal satisfaction, or eternal torment
Perhaps this seems too difficult, too other-worldly for you. But remember the cost that is at stake—it is your eternal soul. Our lives right now are but a small, paltry thing. It is little for us, compared to all eternity. Eternity is forever—that’s not just a long time, it is the real Reality. A bit of suffering or self-control or repentance for a few years on earth—maybe sixty, maybe twenty years, whatever you have left—is nothing compared to a thousand years, a million years, a hundred billion. The numbers of eternity are so large, that you can realize that our current life—in comparison—doesn’t even exist. And we have a choice—follow these principles and gain eternal life and joy and contentment (remember, this is FOREVER), or ignore them and face eternal torment—unhappiness, suffering, fear, frustration. These are the consequences (Matthew 25:46; John 5:29; 3:36)

It isn’t too late!
Perhaps you think that it is hopeless. But God is so merciful, so kind, he is willing to bend over backwards to help you pass the Final Exam. All you have to do is ask. He has already given his Son to die for us, so we can be delivered from judgement—won’t he give us more so we can make it the rest of the way? Of course!  He promises to give the Holy Spirit—the Helper—to anyone in Christ. He will give us all the resources in heaven and earth to help us pass. All we need to do is ask, and allow Him to give us the help to pass!

Judgement Day is serious,

But God is merciful

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