Daily Update #145

There is a general assumption among many people that everyone automatically goes to heaven when they die, regardless of whether they have actually paid God much attention in this life!   Sadly, this is far from the case as the Bible reveals very clearly.  

Psalm 24 The lovely words of Psalm 24 contain a challenge which we do well to heed.  We are accountable to God for the way we live. 
After reminding us that it is God’s earth, the Psalmist goes on to tell us (in verses 3 and 4) that before we can enter God’s holy place we need clean hearts.
No-one can have a clean heart without the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit Who has the power to change us inwardly, so that we have the inclination to do what is right and walk in His ways.   
Because God is a gentleman He does not force Himself on us, but waits to be invited.   This involves a definite decision on our part.  Being a Christian is a matter of choice, not something automatically conferred on everyone.  

Luke 12: 54-end The crowds following Jesus were not ready to enter God’s holy place because they were not paying attention to what He was doing.   
They were familiar, as we are, with weather variations.  Without the benefit of television and the internet they were very much more dependent than we are, on the observation of their eyes, looking up at the signs in the sky, or seeing dust and sand blowing around them, warning them of impending conditions.   From that information they decided when to plant and harvest their crops, and no doubt move their cattle around if they had them, and make other important decisions.    
Unfortunately, their observational skills did not extend to focussing their minds on God, so they had not seen the most important moment in history up to that point, right before their eyes.   They missed the signs of the times in which they were living, attending to everyday concerns to the exclusion of their eternal position.  
Jesus’s presence among them signalled the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven.    The new Kingdom would bring judgement and they needed to be ready.     People who had accepted His message would be separated from those who had turned away.   Everyone does not automatically go to heaven.   No-one could afford to be complacent.   
Likening God to a judge in a law court, Jesus warned them to put their relationship with God right while they still had time to do so. Hearts needed changing.   One day it would be too late and the consequences would be disastrous.

OURSELVES I wonder how focussed we are on the signs of the times?      I don’t claim to have the gift of prophecy, but the times in which we are living surely must arrest our attention.
Since the excitement of the Millennium we have seen disaster after disaster.   I don’t want to sound over-simplistic but much of it results from human beings turning their hearts away from God, defying His instructions for healthy living and trying to run things our own way.   When people leave God out of their thinking and look only for humanistic answers to problems, the present situation is absolutely terrifying.  No-one really knows what to do.   

Times of stress reveal weakness.     We are seeing the very structures on which our society is based, being tested and found wanting.     Whatever God is doing, there can be little doubt that judgement is near.  
As Christians we can look to God and know that He is far bigger than our present concerns, and is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).   Of course, we don’t know what difficulties we may experience along the way, but we can remain confident that God is our rock which nothing can shake, as long as we stay on track with Him.

This brings us back to the condition of our hearts.    How focussed are we on discovering God’s will and making sure we stay within it?     Do we spend time with Him building up our relationship and asking what He wants us to do?    Trust and obedience always work together.   If we trust Him we will choose to obey Him and we can have peace then, even in the midst of pain and uncertainty.  

While people around us are fearful, we have a hope that is steadfast and certain.   But we do need to pray that “the crowds” out there who are not focussed properly on the signs of the times, and not seeking to know what God is doing, will pay attention.
Let us also be ready to give a reason for our hope when we are asked to do so.  

“Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the grace to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth.   Lead us to repent of our sins, the evil we have done and the good we have not done; and strengthen us to follow the steps of your Son, in the way that leads to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(From Series 3 Funeral Service material)