Stunning

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Drawing to an end

The year 2007 draws to an end. And what else?

None of us knows what the next moment holds. "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring" (Proverbs 27:1). Whatever the next day brings, all the preceding days bring their mounting weight to bear on us.

Consider now the final words of Benazir Bhutto:

"Long live Bhutto," Benazir Bhutto shouted, waving to the crowd surging around her car. They were her last words before three gunshots rang out and she slumped back on to her seat.

"She did not say anything more," said Safdar Abbassi, her chief political adviser, who was sitting behind her.

"Long live Bhutto" — bang! — dead.

And then? Then Benazir Bhutto found herself facing her Judge (Hebrews 9:27). Was she prepared?



At the moment, I'm less concerned about her than about you and me. The only difference between Bhutto and us is a tick, a moment, a flash. We all stand before the Judge just as surely as she. We don't know the time on the summons, but we do know that we won't miss our court appearance date by so much as a second.

And what do we bring? In the best movie version of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge hears Marley's lament about the many and heavy chains he wears, and murmurs "You have my sympathy." Marley's response:

"Ahh — you do not know the weight and length of strong chain you bear yourself. It was full as heavy and as long as this seven Christmas eves ago and you have labored on it since. Ah! it is a ponderous chain!"

Whatever the theological shortcomings of Christmas Carol (and they are many and serious), I appreciate this: Scrooge is vividly shown to be utterly unaware that he is judged, as he stands; that his life has already borne fruit, and that fruit is bitter, woeful, deadly.

This is the state of men today. We read, "whoever does not believe is condemned already" (John 3:18). Worse, and more ominously, John reveals that "whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36) — now, at this moment, as he draws this fleeting breath which, for all he knows, may be his last. What Daniel said to Belshazzar, he might well say to us: "the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored" (Daniel 5:23).

"Long live me!" — poof! — gone. Gone to judgment.

Someone has just read those words, and they are for you. Your condition is just so. Whatever your pursuits and distractions over the past year, the reality is that you are a step away from a judgment that is absolute, final, inescapable, irrevocable, and incapable of appeal. Were you to die now, the ax would fall, and that would be that. Forever. You need to come to know God, now.

But lest my Christian readers (and self) feel too safe, consider that the same principle applies to us equally, and perhaps even more so. Never forget:

"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more" (Luke 12:48)

Perhaps you read this blog daily, and other writings of men far better than the current one. Good, and God be praised. But never forget: as you and I read, our responsibility-index goes up. It is happening now, right now, to you, and to me.

The words of Hebrews 9:27 ("it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment") do not bring a message to unbelievers alone, but to us as well. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10). And how does this consideration affect the apostle who wrote it? Does Paul go on to say, "But never mind that, the blood covers all, I'm eternally secure, so I'm going for what I see to be my best life right now"?

[Counting down....]

Not so much. Paul's very next words are, "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:11). The apostle of free forensic justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone found the reality of God's judgment both sobering and motivating.

So I call us all, as the year draws to a close, to consider the judgment of God, and to consider our lives in that context. The statistics are pretty good that not all who read these words now will be here to read any similar post next year's end. Nor may I be here to write one. Benazir Bhutto's last words were a futile wish for earthly longevity, words that were instantly given the lie.

John Piper's idea is better. Piper uses New Year's Eve as a dress-rehearsal for his own death, considering his year in the light of God's judgment, and eternity.

Do that, or use another idea. But do something.

Tick tick tick.....

"For man does not know his time.
Like fish that are taken in an evil net,
and like birds that are caught in a snare,
so the children of man are snared at an evil time,
when it suddenly falls upon them"
(Ecclesiastes 9:12)

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