Would you be concerned if God himself told you he was going to cancel your fire insurance policy?
You know the one I’m talking about. It’s that “once saved, always saved” public profession of faith in Jesus Christ you made years and years ago. It’s that “ticket to heaven” baptism your parents obtained for you when you were a child.
No, I’m not talking to earnest “seek ye first the kingdom of God” Christians. (But y’all please keep reading anyway, just in case you need to hear this too.)
Who I’m talking to are all the other church members, everyone from nominal “ECO” Christians (Easter Christmas Only) to sincere but complacent “RCA”s (Regular Church Attenders).
Hey, y’all, the Lord has a truly terrifying message for you:
“You think you have made a bargain to cheat death, a deal that will let you dodge the grave, but I am going to overturn it. The refuge you have built for yourself is made of lies and deception. You are going to be trampled into the ground. The floods will come and keep coming, until you are swept away. I am going to crush the whole land.”
Millions of you have met your church’s entrance requirements. You were sprinkled as a child. Or you walked an aisle and got dunked. And it was sincere. Now you are just going about your life, minding your own business, expecting to go to heaven when you die.
In a way, it’s hard to blame you. That’s what your church teaches. Your pastor/priest had a vested interest in getting you on the membership roster. If he doesn’t offend you, perhaps you’ll give some time, talent, or treasure to his organization. Perhaps, if you actually like him, you’ll give more than the 2.6% the average RCA donates.
So your pastor/priest welcomes you into the refuge carved out for you. A smiling, friendly Jesus greets you at the door. God’s Son wants you to be happy and comfortable. He puts on an entertaining show. He doesn’t make unreasonable demands. God is, after all, all about love. He’ll work it out so everyone who isn’t a genocidal maniac gets to spend eternity in heaven.
You are in for such a shock on Judgment Day. Maybe even sooner.
It’s all right there in the Book. Your pastor/priest doesn’t preach on passages like these. But it would be hard to read much of the Bible for yourself without coming across this message. It’s all over the place.
Like, for example, here:
Isaiah 28:12-23 (NLT ‘04)
12 God has told his people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen.
13 So the LORD will spell out his message for them again,
one line at a time,
one line at a time,
a little here,
and a little there,
so that they will stumble and fall. They will be injured, trapped, and captured.
14 Therefore, listen to this message from the LORD, you scoffing rulers in Jerusalem. 15 You boast, “We have struck a bargain to cheat death and have made a deal to dodge the grave. The coming destruction can never touch us, for we have built a strong refuge made of lies and deception.”
16 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.
17 I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness. Since your refuge is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away.
18 I will cancel the bargain you made to cheat death, and I will overturn your deal to dodge the grave. When the terrible enemy sweeps through, you will be trampled into the ground. 19 Again and again that flood will come, morning after morning, day and night, until you are carried away.”
This message will bring terror to your people. 20 The bed you have made is too short to lie on. The blankets are too narrow to cover you. 21 The LORD will come as he did against the Philistines at Mount Perazim and against the Amorites at Gibeon. He will come to do a strange thing; he will come to do an unusual deed:
22 For the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, has plainly said that he is determined to crush the whole land. So scoff no more, or your punishment will be even greater.
23 Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention.
The deception the Lord is talking about is the lie that you can have salvation without justice. Isaiah hammers on that message all the time. God is, indeed, all about love, but he also is all about justice — and he requires his people to be all about justice. People who aren’t all about justice aren’t his people — or they won’t be for long.
The Bible makes it very clear: On Judgment Day, the people going to heaven are the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the prisoner. (Matthew 25:34-40) In Isaiah 28, God warns judgment is coming, but he isn’t clear about exactly when it will come. The way verses 17-22 read, it could be about any time now.
Israel’s judgment certainly didn’t wait until the End Times. It didn’t even wait until they had an opportunity to meet Jesus in person.
So we can’t be sure of the timing of God’s judgment, but we can be very sure God will hold us all accountable. We also can be very sure that the measuring stick he uses is marked off in increments of justice and righteousness.
So, ECO and RCA Christians, when was the last time you personally fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, or visited the prisoner? (Paying someone else to do it isn’t exactly what God has in mind.)
For the rest of us (if you’re still here), when was the last time you heard a sermon that said “doing justice” has something to do with getting into heaven?
We are preaching a truth: You must be born again. But it’s only half the truth. There is a truth many are not preaching:
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)
“Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment ….” (Matthew 25:45-46a)
If a pastor/priest fails to teach that “doing justice” has something to do with getting into heaven, he winds up filling his church with goats — members who have no fear of God in their eyes (Romans 3:18) — rather than sheep.
Go on, believe your half-truth, but when God applies a plumb line of justice to your life and finds you come up short — when you find yourself facing the terror of judgment — don’t say he didn’t warn you.
The Lord has been saying it to us over and over — “one line at a time, a little here, and a little there.” He offers us a place of quiet rest, but we have settled for a home-made bed that is too short to even lie down on. He offers us a foundation stone on which it is safe to build, but we have settled for a house built on sand — and it won’t be able to withstand the storm headed our way. (Matthew 7:27)
It’s not complicated. You can do this. God promised he will write his standard of justice in his people’s hearts. His heart is for people in desperate need. God himself promises that if you set your heart on his kingdom and his justice, he will take care of everything else. (Matthew 6:33)
And he won’t be canceling your fire insurance.