When USAToday offered a chance to win a flat screen TV for picking the winner of the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I entered the pool and took my best shot. After the first three games were played, I was drowning in red ink. At the end of the first round, I mentally removed the flat screen from our bedroom wall, for I had twelve incorrect picks. Halfway through the Elite 8, I checked my standing in the pool and found I was in the dead man’s float position – 8,633 behind the leader, who, by the way, had the call name hoops4him. He was either a brother in Christ or his wife/girlfriend knew more than he did and picked his bracket for him. Bottom line — I was far from being perfect. The leader did have ten wrong picks after the first round, but he was much nearer the mark than me.
My sentimental favorite was West Virginia, and when it was announced that they would play Southern Illinois in the first round, I figured they would advance easily. Actually, I had the Mountaineers beating Texas in the Sweet 16 but losing to Duke in the Elite 8. My friend, who attended both Pitt and Ohio State, picked Southern Illinois to beat West Virginia. I said, “Ain’t no way no mountain man is losin’ to no Saluki.” After WVU caged them, I asked him, “What’s a Saluki?”
He replied, “A loser, obviously.”
Over the past year, I’ve talked to many people who still believe that God will allow them to enter Heaven when they die because of the life they lived while here on Earth. Although they admit their life has not been perfect, they still believe it’s been pretty good, especially when compared to suicide bombers, drug pushers, or prostitutes. So, in their minds, they still have a good shot to enter His courts. Their doctrine, or belief, is firmly established in God’s word, but the outcome of their belief, according to Scripture, leads only to Hell.
Paul calls their doctrine works, even though God’s word makes it perfectly clear that our salvation is a gift of His grace. Our own goodness is not what God demands. Yet, many continue in their march madness. They storm the gates of Heaven boasting of their own efforts to be good people, but they carry a bogus ticket, for they have placed their faith not in Christ – the Author and Finisher of our faith – but in their own ability to please God.
They will still play in a big game, but it will be one on one against the sovereign Judge of the universe. God will either let them in because of their faith in Christ or send them packing for lack of it. There is victory only in Jesus. He sought us and bought us with His blood. He is the only ticket that brings us from the far reaches of our sinfulness to the sinless courts of the Big Dance in Heaven. Make sure His righteousness has been stamped on your ticket. Substitute Jesus for yourself now, or you’ll be a loser, wailing and gnashing your teeth.
Mountain Time Moment
But now in Christ Jesus,
you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
Ephesians 2:13 HCSB
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