A Christian's Carol
It has been called "The Greatest Story Ever Told." It most
certainly is that. The message of human redemption. In it we see love and hate;
tragedy and victory. We see God, at tremendous cost to Himself, reach down His
hand to save those lost in sin, blind, wretched, lame and dying. "Father,
forgive them, they do not know what they do." cried out the Son of God as He
paid the cost of human redemption.
Our Creator loves us very much. What a gift! What wonderful mercy! What a bright hope we have in Jesus, our friend! So, why are so many of us spiritual Scrooges? Bah! Humbug!
"But Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.'" (Exodus 5:2). There is not much respect in these words, nor in the actions of the man who said them. The pride that shows itself in this refusal of God's commandment is still alive and well in today's world. The Lord invites the sinner to "come" so that we may be saved from eternal darkness, and often man replies, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?"
The reasons for this ungracious attitude are several. Sometimes, it is because man without God thinks he or she does not need God at all. Sometimes material wealth helps paint the illusion that we are self sufficient. Sometimes we just do not want to yield to another even if it be God Himself. So, many will look at what Jesus has done on the cross, and quickly turn away saying "Who needs You?" All the while, the bitter consequences of living in a fallen world are so evident all around us. Many have become spiritual Ebenezer Scrooges. God offers grace and eternal life, and the response: "Bah, humbug!"
It's too bad folks do not have the benefit of the three ghostly visits that Scrooge received in the story "The Christmas Carol"
Ghost of Lifetime Past
We look back on our lives and there is one common ingredient to them all. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23). Everyone of us were created upright, innocent and pure. "Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices." (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Whether we talk of the individual or the world, it all began well, and became otherwise by our own doing.
Sin brings death! It brings physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death. Each of us have been sharers in this death by our own sin (Romans 6:23; see also Genesis 2:16,17; 3:4;15;19; 5:4,5; James 1:15).
When it comes to our lives, what began with so much potential for good instead brought forth death. The innocence; the trust; the confidence and security; the joy and happiness of purity are so distant to us, almost forgotten. Sadly, like Paul, we try to remember those days before sin was awakened in our lives (Romans 7:9-11). Those days are gone. If we could possibly began on a road that would lead back to purity and life instead of sin and death, would we not want to take it?
Ghost of Lifetime Present
We are only promised the present. The past is gone and we cannot go back and change it. Tomorrow may or may not come (James 4:13,14).
There is a parable of a rich fool that many of us are all too much alike. He built his life on temporal things and was completely unprepared for eternity when the end of his life came. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' (Luke 12:20). His lands had been very productive, but not his spirit. He thought he could live "by bread alone." He had run out of days.
Running out of days is not so bad if one is prepared. What can I do in the present to be prepared?
I can be rich toward God. I can do that today. I do not have to waste the present. Jesus explained, concerning the rich man, "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21). I can live my life for God, seeking to do His will and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. I can be "rich toward God."
I can teach and show others the way. Even if I have a tomorrow, my friend may not. I can be unselfish with my time and accurate in the Christ-like example I show. I can love my neighbor as myself. These are the greatest two commandments: "Jesus answered, 'The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.'" (Mark 12:29-31).
I can do this with my present. But will I?
Ghost of Lifetime Future
"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? " (Mark 8:36-37). For what are you willing to trade away your soul? What can Satan offer you to cause you to sacrifice eternity? Many are willing to settle for far too little! The fact is, he cannot make it worth your while. Can Satan convince you to be ashamed of living for Christ? "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38).
On the final day that marks the end of time, the end of the present system, and the beginning of eternity, we will find ourselves standing before God in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). Our "ghost of lifetime future" shows us two visions what might possibly be.
1) Condemnation. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:31). Judgment will be eternal. It is described as a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). It is as lost as anyone can ever be. But the "ghost of lifetime future" shows us another possibility:
2) Eternal life. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18; see also Revelation 21:4). This is the future God wants for us, and offers us through faith in His Son.
As Tiny Tim put it: "May God bless us everyone."
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.12; December 2005