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STRANGERS TO GRACE
"That's when you'll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace. You'll watch Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets march into God's kingdom. You'll watch outsiders stream in from east, west, north and south and sit down at the table of God's kingdom. And all the time you'll be outside looking in - and wondering what happened. This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so-called first ending up last." Luke 13:28-30 (The Message).
This makes terribly sad reading for those who have experienced grace, the unimaginable favour of God that takes worthless sinners and makes them over into beloved sons because they have taken seriously what Jesus was saying.
Imagine getting to the end of the road, so sure you are right, only to find that Jesus was right and you were wrong and now there's no going back. The Pharisees and religious leaders were so cock-sure of themselves that they exterminated Him on the strength of their conviction, only to find that what He predicted happened - He rose from the dead and proved them dead wrong!
"Consider, therefore, the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness." Romans 11:23 (NIV).
God's offer of kindness in forgiving sin, wiping the slate clean and starting you all over again is extended to everyone without exception, but He never forces His kindness on anyone. He has provided the sacrifice - His own Son, Jesus - and made the offer, but it is up to us to take what He offers seriously or pooh-pooh His grace and face the consequences.
God's sternness is reserved for those who are foolish enough to brush aside His provision as though He were either a liar or irrelevant. If His warnings fall on persistently deaf ears, we have no-one but ourselves to blame when we hear His sorrowful words, 'Go away. I never knew you." For those who have a conscience (and who hasn't, except that many pay no attention to it), there is no excuse because conscience is God's inner voice built into us at conception.
"When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong..." Romans 2:14,15 (The Message).
God has no pleasure in tossing people onto the eternal rubbish dump (called hell), but He has no option but to uphold His word and confirm our choices. Like seeds, God has put endless potential into every life. Look at an apple. What do you see? A tasty fruit, or a forest-in-the-making? It depends on our perspective. God looked at Abraham and saw a nation. It's all about potential. His greatest sorrow is to have to discard people eternally because of wasted potential.
He has woven into human beings (that's us too), the potential to become sons of God with all the rights and privileges Jesus has as God's Son. He has actually named His sons heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, reigning with Him in eternal glory! Why pass that up for a stubborn refusal to take Him seriously?
Hence Jesus' warning, "Before your day-to-day choices are confirmed forever," He said, "take the trouble to verify My credentials, My trustworthiness and My promises, and act on what you discover." Once again, it's your choice...
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