Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Barbecue Judging and The Gospel


Last weekend I took a class to be a judge at BBQ contests.  I have a wonderful wife who purchased the class for me for Valentines Day.  It really was a great time and I learned a lot.  They have some very strict rules where violations mean automatic disqualification.  When teams prepare food for a competition, nothing is held back.  They spent a lot of money on the best ingredients, they use the best equipment, and they have recipes that they have refined for years.  Beyond that, they spend hours preparing a box of food for judgement.  It is a tremendous amount of work where any mistake can cost you everything.  In reality, it is a lot like trying to earn your way into Heaven. 
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NKJV
I know this message may seem a bit far-fetched, but please bear with me.  I know entering into an eternity with our Lord has no comparison to creating the perfect BBQ meal, but if I can show how hard it is to just cook some perfect food, I hope that I can show you just how impossible it is to live a perfect life. 

First let's start with the rules for disqualification.  You see, even if you cook some ribs or chicken as close to perfect as humanly possible, you can still lose by disqualification.  For example, if you place those amazing ribs on a bed of red-ripped lettuce, those ribs are disqualified.  If your BBQ sauce is the best that has ever been made by man, but you put a little cup of it on the side, your meal is disqualified.  If you smoke the most expensive cut of the best beef brisket that has ever been created by man and a little tiny piece of tin foil gets left on just one of the pieces, your brisket is disqualified.  If you make pulled pork that is so good it literally redefines what is meant by pulled pork and you hand it in just 1 second late, it does not matter, it is disqualified.  Even if you get past all of that and you simply leave a little string of meat connecting two pieces of chicken you cut apart and they just stick together by that tiny little string so that one piece is picked up by another leaving one judge with two pieces and another judge with no piece, your food is disqualified.  And those are only some of the rules for disqualification.

Now if you happened to make it past disqualification, your food actually gets to be judged on its merits.  This is no easy task.  While there are certain rules giving the judges certain things that they can not penalize for and while there are certain guidelines given as to what characteristics are considered good, it really comes down to the opinion of each individual judge.  One judge may think something looks good and the other may think it looks terrible.  As for texture, even if it looks good, it does not mean it feels good.  It may be dry, too soft, too tough, overcooked, or even undercooked.  There are so many factors that come into play it is impossible to get it perfectly right.  Then there is taste.  Taste is the most subjective area as some people like sweet, some like savory, some like spicy, some like salty, and some like some combination thereof.  Not only that, people like all those different characteristics to different degrees and at different levels.  One person might like something a little salty while another might want to feel their mouths shrivel up.  One person may think that mild is hot and another thinks that hot is mild.  There is no way to please everyone and so you hope to please enough to bring up your score.  The best score a judge can give is a 9 and there is no way to guarantee that everyone will judge all your food a 9 in all categories.  In fact, it is nearly impossible. 

Speaking of scores, as I said, the best score a judge can give is a 9 (excellent).  There is no 10 (perfect) as there is no way to quantify perfection.  Perfection is impossible because to make something perfect for one person, you take away what another might think was perfect.  You will never be perfect in all areas to all judges.  Because that is impossible, they do not even allow the score.  There is no way to not have something imperfect about your food and so you will never present a perfect meal.  And so what you are presenting is an imperfect meal to judges hoping for the highest score. 

What if your soul depended on that meal you prepared?  What if you were the best cook among men, would that be good enough for God?  What if you even got all 9's in all categories and won ever competition, would that be good enough?  I will let the Bible answer.
But we are all like an unclean [thing], And all our righteousnesses [are] like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.   Isaiah 64:6 NKJV
The answer is that your best would still not be good enough for God.  This is true whether it be barbecue or life.  Even if you follow all the rules perfectly and have no disqualifications.  Even if you prepare a meal that tastes as good as it looks and feels.  Even if you get all 9's in every category, it is still not good enough for God.  The problem?  God requires 10's and not just in one competition but in every competition.  God requires a standard we can never live up to.  No matter how well you live your life, the best you can ever get (and even that would be a long shot) is a 9.  A 9 does not get you into heaven. A 9 does not make you right with God.  God does not want excellent, God demands perfection.  It does not matter if you are better than every man that ever lived, you still are not good enough. The best of our best of nothing but filthy rags to God.  Our souls are so stained and filthy there is nothing we can do to wash it away.  It does not matter if you are the best person in the world, your soul is still filthy to God. 

You see, one other part of BBQ judging that applies today is that judges are not allowed to judge comparatively.  I can not give one item a better score because it was better than another.  Each meat must face the judge alone and be judged on its own merits.  It does not matter if it is better than every other contestant, it is judged on its own and the best of that bunch may still be below average.  The best may still taste horrible. 

And that is how we will stand before God.  We will stand alone and be judged on what we did with what knowledge we had of God and the gospel.  It will not matter if the person judged before you was a mass murderer and you told one lie your entire life, you will be judged for your lie. God does not grade on a curve and His own standard is complete perfection.  That is a standard impossible for us to reach.

That is where Jesus comes in.  He lived that perfect life we can not to be the perfect sacrifice that we desperately need.  It is only the blood of Jesus that can wash away the stain of sin on our souls.  It is only the sacrifice of Jesus that can pay the penalty for our sins due to God.  It is only the righteousness of Jesus imparted to us through our faith in Him that we can meet the impossible standards of God.  Jesus is the only way and it is only through faith in Him that we can be saved.  If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you will be judged by God's perfect standards and it is a test you will fail.  I urge you, accept Jesus.  You may not receive a blue ribbon, but you will receive a crown of glory as you make your entrance into an eternity in paradise with your Lord. 

What this has to be with barbecue, I do not know.  Perhaps I just needed something to write about today.  I will say this, though, when we enter into eternity we will have a glorious feast known as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  I am not sure what will be served at that occasion, but if there is barbecue, I can guarantee it will be that elusive 10.  I am not saying to come to Jesus to try barbecue prepared by God Himself, but I am saying that good barbecue is only the beginning of a glorious eternity of unimaginable wonders and beauty prepared for those who call upon the Lord. 
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed [are] those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."  Revelation 19:7-9 NKJV

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