As you might have noticed, I get the most out of sermons when I isolate the one thing that resonates with me. Sometimes it has to do with the sermon being preached, others not so much. This morning, Ed Bousman was speaking on the "service" that brought the Phillipian jailer to faith. Along the way, he told this story:
"... a man came to me and said, 'Do you mean to tell me that my parents are in hell, just because they were never immersed?' "
At this point I must interject that Bousman is a strict immersionist; IOW, he believes in baptism, and that said baptism is full body dunking in the water. For years, I've had problems with that. After all, the thief on the cross wasn't baptized; and the Egyptian eunuch that Phillip the Evangelist led to Christ, when he said, "Here there is water", could have just as well been pointing at a puddle as a pond. But now, let me get to Bousman's answer:
" I told him, 'It's none of my business; we are told to preach the gospel of Christ- and Christ will do His own judging.' "
And this got me to thinking of the various way that this statement applies. I have heard people say, "I can't believe a loving God will send anyone to hell." I equate them with people who don't believe in punishing their children, and then wonder why there is so little discipline in the schools anymore. But you can focus on the phrase, "loving God." He is a loving God, but is also a God of Judgement. There are people out there who say that the Catholic church, by skirting the Bible, adding tradition, and ignoring the concept of being saved (along with the thing about infant baptism), leads people to hell. And yet, my mother had faith in God. Every morning she was with her prayer book before she started her day. And at least four of her five children have come to knowledge of Christ. My dad never missed a week's mass, even after mom died. Were they saved by the "classical definition"? Probably not. Are they in heaven? Maybe.
Because here is my point this morning- many people who say "I believe in God" but not organized religion don't believe in strict judgement, that good people might still go to hell, and use that as a reason to keep a deeper faith at arms length. That concept of judgement they TAKE INTO THEIR OWN HANDS, and use it to define their concept of God. By focusing on the "I'm good enough, I lead a good life," they don't bother to dig any deeper. And I say to you this morning, whether you are good enough or not is none of my business, and IT'S NOT THE POINT!
What is the point, then?
Bousman had mentioned somebody who died outside the faith because "He told me he would believe and be baptized if I could tell him who Cain's wife was. I told him what I knew, but it wasn't good enough for him." IOW, the guy challenged him to answer an unanswerable question. Off the track here, but it made me think about Cain. God never spoke to Cain about judgemnt. God told Cain, in Gen. 4:7:
"...If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
And with this, God gives us the two things that we REALLY need to focus on. First, we should be about finding out God's definition of "doing well". And second, we need to learn how to "rule over" our sinful desires.
So, my friends out their who are depending on "living a good life" to secure your afterlife, I ask you- stop doing God's job of judgement, and do your job of learning of what "doing well" consists.