I am honored to share my guest blogger with you, Elizabeth Jones Johnson. Thank you Elizabeth:
All is Forgotten
There is a common analogy that is stated when you first get to college. Many times it’s the dean of students that will say, “Look to your left, now look to your right. One of you won’t be here by the end of the year.”
This statement was initially a testament of high expectations and rigorous academia. In other words,”Our expectations are so high the requirements will selectively weed out those who are academically weak and only the strong will survive.” This philosophy of prestige and elitism counts you out before you even get started.
As discouraging as this statement may be. It seems to have some truth. As I look back on my freshman year in college, sure enough there are many people I started out with that didn’t make it to graduation, at least not at the same university. However, it wasn’t always because the work was so tough. There were some that came to college for the wrong reason. They didn’t have the right focus. Truth be told they were just there to socialize and party. Others wanted to graduate but found the discipline of studying a daunting task. They wanted to be there put lacked the study skills to maintain an acceptable grade point average. And what’s worse, they could have made it if they knew how to ask for help. However, there are a few that make it through. They know how to manage their time to study. They know how to get in a study group. They go to class. They make sure they find a seat in the front. They know how to listen and take notes, then compare notes with a study partner. They know how to get in the face of the professor. They know their advisor’s office hours. They understand that though some classes are tough and require extra study time and effort, this thing called college is temporary and they know that on the other side is graduation. On the other side of college is access to higher paying careers and benefits (I’m not so sure how true this is these days). They make sure they use every resource available to graduate.
Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of each “student”.
Student A The Not so Good Student – Ezekiel 33:10-11(CEV)
10 The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, the people of Israel are complaining that the punishment for their sins is more than they can stand. They have lost all hope for survival, and they blame me. 11 Tell them that as surely as I am the living Lord God, I don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. So if the Israelites want to live, they must stop sinning and turn back to me.
Obviously, this student won’t make it. We all see the signs of the late night parties, skipping class, lazy days in bed. But if ever this student got in their mind and spirit that there is a more successful path. If they ever buckled down and got focused. They can turn it around. They can begin to go to class to get to know the professor and make their way successful (Joshua 1:8).
Student B The Good Student – Ezekiel 33:12-13
12 Tell them that when good people start sinning, all the good they did in the past cannot save them from being punished. And remind them that when wicked people stop sinning, their past sins will be completely forgiven, and they won’t be punished.
13 Suppose I promise good people that they will live, then later they start sinning and believe they will be saved by the good they did in the past. These people will certainly be put to death because of their sins. Their good deeds will be forgotten.
Student B seems as if they have together. In fact they seem to do everything right. But there is that one class, that one really tough professor that sidetracks their progress. And because they have been successful in the past. Because things have always been easy for them they have an especially tough time conquering this particular subject matter. The content seems unattainable. They just can’t seem to wrap their head around this one. It stops them. They feel defeated. And they don’t know how to ask for help. The feeling of failure is too much to bear. So before they ask the professor for help…they walk away. Shame has plagued their mind. So even though they started well, they were faced with a reality too big for them, so they started pretending. Because living in a make believe world of success was easier than a real world of setback.
Believe it or not both students, A and B, both have a very real commonality. They seem so different. One seemingly already defeated before beginning and the other defeated in the last stretch. Regardless of the timeline both students missed it. Why? That sneaky spirit of pride will trip us up every time. Both students decided to do things their own way and in their own strength.
But there is a third type of student. One that is humble, knows their strengths and weaknesses, knows how to study and most importantly, how to ask for help. This student knows how to see the warning signs and adjust. This student knows how to approach the throne of grace.
14 Suppose I warn wicked people that they will die because of their sins, and they stop sinning and start doing right. 15 For example, they need to return anything they have taken as security for a loan and anything they have stolen. Then if they stop doing evil and start obeying my Law, they will live. 16 Their past sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they have done right.17 Ezekiel, your people accuse me of being unfair. But they are the ones who are unfair. 18 If good people start doing evil, they will be put to death, because they have sinned. 19 And if wicked people stop sinning and start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 20 But the Israelites still think I am unfair. So warn them that they will be punished for what they have done.
If we look at it, it does seem unfair. No one is exempt. Somehow sin has seeped its way into the lives of the righteous and sustained the lives of the wicked. There seems to be no real safe ground. No man whether “righteous or wicked” can stand on his own. Either place brings the possibility of destruction and death. Someone can seem to get everything right, but fail see their need for God and miss it or someone can spend a lifetime missing it and get that one “right thing” right. It’s almost like that “look to your right, look to your left” statement. But to understand what God is saying we have to look at it from His heart. If you look carefully, the Lord is not looking to use unattainable standards to weed people out, no He doesn’t enjoy seeing wicked people die, but rejoices when He sees people turn from sin and turn to Him.
As I was meditating on this passage in Ezekiel 33:10-20, I saw in the spirit, God sitting on His throne and a man approached his throne broken and contrite. He was so broken he could not stand but buckled to his knees with tears in his eyes. Like the Good Father He is, He was filled with compassion. I saw the Lord leave His seat on the throne and kneel down with the man. Cradling the man in his arms. As father and son.
I saw another man approach the throne. He walked up to the Father. But this interaction was quite different. There was not a “need” for the Father. Therefore, God stayed seated on His throne. The man was standing right in front of the Father, in the midst of all His glory and splendor but he missed out on the intimacy, the love, and the compassion God has for him.
This is how people will believe that they have heavenly rights, calling out, “Lord, Lord! Jesus says:
“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ (Matt. 7: 21-23)
All “work” is forgotten. All sin is forgotten.
Grace abounds more.
I am not moved or impressed by your works. I am moved by your heart. Don’t you realize that I will put down what I am doing and rush to you like a toddler that just fell and skinned his knee. There must be a need, a desperation. This is the key to the third type of student. This student was willing do do whatever it takes. This is the key to My heart, which is the very essence of heaven.
Prayer: Lord, I humble myself before you. I realize that I don’t have all the answers. I cannot make it on my own and I don’t have enough good deeds to approach your throne. Everything I have done in my own strength will be forgotten. Only what I do in your Spirit and your power will last. I need your help. I need you. Where I am weak you are strong. Lord, I am so grateful that you are a loving father and that I am a priority in your eyes. I am humbled that you would leave all your glory for intimate moments with me. This gives me the boldness to approach your throne of Grace.
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