What concerns me most in this season is the degree to which I see us, the Church, engaging in self-saving. In as much as we are people who are looking for and hastening the Day of our Lord (2 Peter 3:12), and inasmuch as we are people who know and testify to the uber-depths of our Lord’s abundant mercy (we’ve tasted and seen, and it’s been applied in our own lives…) we, of all people should be fearfully confident in the promised power of the Lord’s blood to affect the work of human redemption. It’s what our whole sin-drenched world is dying for a lack of…
It’s also incumbent upon us to remember that in numerous places in the New Testament we’re told that on the Day of Jesus’ appearing the secrets of our heart will be disclosed. (Luke 2:35; Mark 4:22; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 14:25) This dynamic is what the judgements of the Lord are all about today, in 2020. The Lord is graciously using pressurized circumstances in our social structures, relationships, governmental systems, and ecclesial debates to disclose the attitudes that we really have toward Him, ourselves, and others in our world. He wants us to align the deep (even secret) ways of our hearts with the deep ways of His Son’s heart, so that in that Day, “when He appears”we can “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11) because we have become “like Him” (1 John 3:2) And so that we’re not the ones who are surprised about the reality of what He exposes in our hearts. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
One of the most tragic things that will happen in the Day of the Lord’s return will be the massive carnage of souls that will crumble under the weight of the true and righteous judgement of the Lord: “Though you prophesied in My Name, though you cast out demons in My Name, and though you did many wonderful things in My Name – you and I never knew each other.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Beloved, the excruciating reality of millions of Christians on that Day will be that they short-changed the Lord’s many (temporal) “thlipsis” judgements and left themselves unprepared for the Lord’s final judgement.
As a simple pastor who has been in professional ministry for 35 years I can say with some perspicuity, the Church in the west has chronically tended toward minimizing the work of the cross in our lives in the short-run, and it has left us largely and tragically impotent in the long-run. In far too many instances we’ve “sought to save our own lives”, when the Lord of the resurrection was urgently calling us to “die to self-saving; self-justification, self-correction and self-promotion” for the sake of being united with Jesus in the likeness of our death.
Friends, Jesus’ maxim “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it” (Luke 9:24) isn’t a ministry principle open to debate. It’s a promise from the Lord of Life Himself. To apply this Word of the Lord in all aspects of our lives is what (Galatians 2:20) means when it says: “…and the life I now live, I live by faith in the One Who loves me, and gave His life up for me.”
This one statement, especially in a year like 2020, when the judgements of the Lord surround the Church at every turn, should fill each of our hearts with holy fear. This is no hour to fiddle with the straw of self-saving. Better to have been thorough before the Lord in righteousness, and lay the fruit of our work at His redemptive feet than to be found shallow before the Lord and tragically compromised and fruitless in ministry in the years ahead. Our world needs the witness of the integrity of the gospel solution in Christ. Those who hear the word of our testimonies have a right to expect that. In the end, which is where we’re all focused, our Lord will demand it. “He who does not take up His own cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38)
The Lord’s deep, thorough and authentic work of the cross to us all – unto His resurrection power.
JSB • September, 2020