Monday, September 10, 2012

Barbecue Judging and The Gospel

This past weekend I had my first opportunity to be a judge in a Barbecue contest.  It was a lot of fun and I had the opportunity to try more delicious food than anyone should ever be allowed to eat.  In fact, I did not eat it all of anything I was served, but enough to judge it and a couple of extra bites if I really liked it.  In the end, I judged 5 pieces of chicken, 6 spare ribs, 5 helpings of beef brisket, and 5 helpings of pulled pork.  What is even more amazing, is that not only did I get to try all this food, but it was up to me (and the other judges) to determine how good it was.  Each judge has his or her own tastes and so even among the standards given, the scores can vary widely.  What one judge things might be sickeningly sweet, another may think is delicious.  What one judge may think is overcooked, another may like how the meat just melts in their mouth with no real bite at all.   Not only that, you have no idea whose food you are judging or even how it was made and the chefs have no idea who is judging their food or even what their personal tastes may be.  Making things even more confused is that a judge's tastes may be different on any given day.  That may be fun for barbecue, but I am so glad that our lives are not judged by God in the same way! 
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay [here] in fear 1 Peter 1:17 NKJV
God is not partial.  God does not change His standards day by day nor does not He use different standards against different people.  We do not ever have to go to God and wonder if we are good enough or if your lives were pleasing enough for His standards.  God does not use a committee made of up different people, or even heavenly beings, with different standards where we hope with all our hope that we get a group that likes what we have to offer.  Furthermore, we know God and God knows us.  We are not trying to please some unknown God with unknown standards who does not even bother to know us.  We all have the same exact standard set by God as to what qualifies our lives as acceptable and pleasing to God.  Of course, this may sound comforting, but it is not.  You see, if our lives were barbecue, none of what we have to offer would taste very good.  In fact, the Bible tells us how our lives measure up when judged by God's standards.
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
None is us even come close to measuring up to God's standards.  That may sound morbid, but its actually a positive.  It is not until you realize that the life you will hand in to God will be unacceptable that you really realize the need to change.  Then when you realize that whatever change you make, your life will still be unacceptable you truly begin to feel that need for a savior.  For anyone out there thinking that you can do it on your own or that you can live a life pleasing to God, you need to realize just how wrong you are.  The best you can possibly hope for are filthy rags when God is looking for perfection.  This is why you can not even change to make yourself good enough:  Once you sin just one time, you are already less than perfect.  You can not wash away a sin by doing a lot of good things.  It is there, as they used to say in school, on your permanent record.  The sin was committed, the stain is there, and there is nothing you can do about it.  You are imperfect and therefore unworthy of anything other than the judgement that is coming your way.  Maybe you do not like or agree with this reality, but that does not change the fact that it is reality. You are hopelessly filthy and lost before God.

Enter Jesus.  That name changes everything.  His blood changes everything.  What you can not do, He has done for you.  What you can not wash away, His blood stands at the ready to take away any stain from you no matter what sin you may have committed.  There is no evil you could have done that the blood of Jesus can not cleanse and there is no one not filthy enough where they do not need His cleansing.   As we learned earlier, God does not show partiality.  Everyone needs Jesus and anyone can come to Jesus.  The worst thing you can possibly believe is that you are good enough or that you are there are many others worse than you.  God does not grade on a curve and you are not good enough.  Even Mother Theresa needed a savior. 

I want to also remind fellow believers that this message of impartiality implies to you as well.  Just because you are Christian, God does not automatically accept your sin.  Yes, your sins past present and future are forgiven.  However, they are not forgiven because God suddenly does not care about them, they are forgiven because Jesus died on the cross for them.  Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins.  That is why our sin should matter.  Jesus suffered and died for each one.  If we love Jesus, that really should matter to us.  I am not saying we will live perfect lives, but we shouldn't live as though our sins do not matter.  We should appreciate His sacrifice and not take it for granted.  God hates sin no matter who commits it.  Coming to Jesus gives you freedom from sin and its punishment, it does not give you freedom to wantonly sin your life away. 

In the end, on our own, we are all filthy and unacceptable to God.  If you die in that condition, nothing will save you from the judgement to come.  In Jesus, we are cleansed from all our sin and when we stand before God, He sees us as perfect.  This has nothing to do with anything we have done, but it is all about what Jesus has done for us.  Everyone needs Jesus and anyone can come to Jesus.  If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, please understand that He is truly your only hope and He offers that perfection you need as a free gift.  If you have received that free gift, live as though you truly appreciate it and not as though you just take it for granted. 
Therefore, as through one man's offense [judgment came] to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act [the free gift came] to all men, resulting in justification of life.  Romans 5:18 NKJV

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