16 December 2014

Jesus Wants Our Focus

Lot's Wife - Lassetter Reeves
Luke 17:20-37

We have the wisest, most loving commander in the history of commanders. Good commanders give their subordinates information on a need-to-know basis. Our Father, through His Son, has given only the information that we need to know to those who place their faith, their trust, in Him.

In regards to His return, He gives us blinders and urges us to wear them. Blinders are given to many race horses. Blinders keep the horses focus on where they are going on where exactly they are supposed to strive toward in running the best race possible. Blinders keep the horse from becoming distracted by the other horses, by the cheering crowds, by whatever would keep that horse from the singular focus of running the race.

We Christians seem so easily distracted from walking after the Lord, from running the race. Some of us seem obsessed like Indiana Jones stooping excitedly over a map or through a book trying to match clues in order to find the treasure. We want to find the next prophet who will truly be able to point us toward the spiritual realm. We want to find out the specific identity of the Anti-Christ. We want to know the exact timing of how the apocalypse will occur. We want to be able to predict exactly when the Lord will return.

The problem with us trying to solve these mysteries is that none of it matters. The pursuit is pointless. Jesus did not tell us about these answers because we don't need to know. Why? Because it has nothing to do with what we are to be doing right now. Because they become distractions that would keep us from the singular focus of running the race.

When it comes to the ultimate subject of the Kingdom of Heaven, it always comes down to whether we trust our Father in heaven or not. Do we trust His revealed Word or not? If we continually look for answers outside of what He has said through His Spirit through His prophets through His Son as has been meticulously recorded in the Bible, then we demonstrate our absolute lack of trust in the Living God.

Another reason why we become obsessed with specific eschatological (second coming of Jesus study) answers is none of it has to do with our specific responsibilities within the Kingdom of God. Who the Anti-Christ is does not change how we are to walk with God. How the resurrection of the dead occurs does not dictate how we are to live out our faith in Christ. Knowing when Jesus is returning does not teach us how we are to love our neighbour. All that information is used for is to con money out of anxious Christians and/or to fuel self-righteous attitudes from those with "special" knowledge over ordinary brothers and sisters in the Lord.

How do I know this? Because Jesus tells us plainly in this teaching. First of all, we should not listen to others who would point elsewhere to the Kingdom of God. Jesus says plainly, "The Kingdom of God is in your midst." In other words, when the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, we saw the infant sprouts of the Kingdom. Because He restored our relationship to our Father by taking our punishment and enabled each of us to receive His Holy Spirit that transforms us from the inside out; producing Kingdom fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, we are able to see and be full participants of the Kingdom of God.

But, in this era, there is still frustration. There are still tears, pain, sorrow, selfishness, great evil in our midst. As Jesus correctly predicted to His disciples, we long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. It's the hope, the finish line of every follower of Jesus: to see Him face to face. If our focus is on that hope, that assurance, then He strengthens our faith as His Spirit propels us thundering toward that finish.

But, He warns us that not only can we distracted by false prophets and false teachings, we can be distracted by what we are leaving behind as we thunder toward the goal. "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Sodom was a vile, evil place. So vile, that its citizens, so taken over by lust, expected to have sex with whoever came into town. It was so vile that God destroyed it while rescuing one family. But, that's where her stuff was. That's where her friends were. She may not have liked everything about it, but it was...still...home. And, she looked back and was turned to salt.

At the church's infancy, following Jesus' teachings, the apostles were clear: In order to live for Christ, we must die to self. We have to allow Him to put sin to death. We must repent. We must turn. We must leave the old life completely and utterly behind. There is no other way.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted by the trophies and the rewards of the kingdom we are leaving behind, then how expectant are we of the Kingdom we are to be running toward, really? If we long to bring what we have gained from our old way of life into our new way of life, then we must not believe the new way of life is that necessary, do we?

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind, and ALL our strength. He demands nothing less. He deserves nothing less. What has going our own way gotten us? Is God to blame for all the pain and sorrow of this life? Or, are we? To live for Christ is to throw our hands up, tossing aside everything else, giving up our claim to everything else, trusting that whatever He does give to us is to be used for His ways and His purposes -- and the second commandment is like the first, to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Christ lovingly gives us blinders. Put them on. Run the race.

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