Thursday, September 24, 2015

Who’s In and Who’s Out

By Allen White

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:10-12

To put this in context, the centurion, for whatever reason, believed that he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus in his home. Rather than Jesus appearing in person to heal his servant, the centurion, understanding that Jesus had the authority to heal, told Jesus that He didn’t need to come, but just needed to give the command. Today’s verse is Jesus’ reaction.
[Rope line pic]

Now, before we get nervous about which subjects of the kingdom get thrown out, we need to take a breath and consider when and where Jesus said these words. Before Jesus’ coming, God’s kingdom was limited to His people, the Jews and those who converted to Judaism.

Those who followed the traditions, the Law and the sacrificial system were invited to the table. The problem was that people can perform religious rituals, yet their hearts can be far from God.

Jesus used this occasion to point out that the agreement or covenant between God and man was on the verge of change. Once Jesus fulfilled the Law through His death on the cross providing atonement for everyone’s sin, the Roman Centurion may very well become one of God’s people. This was a completely foreign concept to the people of that time.

Those who thought their place with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, particularly their descendents, thought their position was secure. Their heritage and their pedigree were impeccable. Who would challenge them?

This situation is in a culture and a time that is 6,000 miles and 2,000 years removed from us. It’s a great bit of history, but how is it important to us?

People today can fall into the same trap. Rather than possessing living faith, they cling to nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong. Our history is important. My family has been a part of the same church since 1969. In fact, I’m an “Honorary Member” of that church. Yet, if I depended on honorary church membership to claim membership in God’s Kingdom, I would be dishonoring God.

Faith is not something we get once and put in a safety deposit box. Rather than longing for the places where we used to meet God, we should meet with God.

Position and pedigree have very little to do with belonging to God. Not long ago, I met someone for the first time at church. I asked what he did for a living. Then, he asked what I did. I told him that I was a pastor. He asked, “Where?” I thought, “Oh brother.”

It’s sort of the feeling we get when someone knocks on our front door to witness to us. What’s our first response? “We go to _____ church.” If someone came by offering a free sample, would we say, “No, thank you. We shop at Aldi.”

It doesn’t matter what Bible-believing church we attend. What matters is that we belong to Christ?

How do you know that you’re part of God’s family? How is your faith growing? What assumptions do you need to rethink?

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