Essentials 2 – Reject
Essentials 2 – Reject
Discover what Jesus thinks of our spiritual condition.
Learn the truth about how we have treated God and the resulting consequences.
It would be completely ridiculous for me to go to a hospital when I was feeling perfectly healthy. Emergency Departments are busy, and so unless there is a problem we keep our distance. But just suppose I did turn up when I felt in top physical condition. I wait my turn, and the doctor eventually says, What’s wrong? I say I feel great, everything seems to be working normally. Well, since I’m there she carries out a few tests anyway, and says, Come back in a week. I come back, and the results are in, and I know there’s a problem. She sits me down and looks at me in the eye, and with compassion she says, I know you diagnosed yourself as okay, but the results have revealed a growth. It’s cancer. But don’t worry, we’ve caught it early, and so we can treat you. At this point I have a choice. Either I can stand up in protest, ignore what the doctor has said and storm out of the hospital, angry that my day has been ruined but confident that my verdict is true. Or I can remain seated, believe the diagnosis and entrust myself to the care of this knowledgeable physician.
Because Jesus is the Son of God, he can accurately reveal our spiritual condition. Listen to what he says in Luke’s Gospel: Jesus is making an obvious point. Only sick people need medical intervention. And he says the same is true spiritually. It’s only sinners – that is, those who have rejected God – who are in need of a Saviour. Which of course begs the question, who are they? Imagine you live in a country that is ruled by a generous King who loves to provide everything for his subjects. Now, one day every citizen decides to reject his loving authority. En masse we decide to commit treason. Now, of course we don’t call it this: we talk about self-expression and personal freedom but essentially what we’ve done is to reject the loving authority of this King. Now, everyone’s rebellion doesn’t look the same. Some people actively slander the King. But most of us simply ignore him and get on with our lives. And on the whole, this doesn’t lead to violent conflict between the people. The majority are still quite nice. The majority still say, Good morning. But fundamentally, what unites us is our rejection of the King.
A sinner is someone who is guilty of cosmic treason. It is someone who lives in God’s world but not God’s way. Now the way I rebel may look differently from the way you rebel. But fundamentally we are all the same: we are sinners who love to receive God’s gifts but reject the Giver. Now, of course we hate to think of ourselves like this, and so what we do in order to make us feel better is to compare ourselves with other people who seem to be worse sinners than us. And then we get reassured because, although we know we’re not perfect, at least we’re not like so-and-so over there. But that’s like intensive care patients arguing about who is the sickest! We often complain about the cost of living, but what is the cost of sinning? Well, consider what happens when someone rebels against the authority of a person in charge of a classroom or a company or a country. Some form of punishment follows our defiance. So we should expect the same to happen when we rebel against our Creator.
Now in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reveals the consequences of rejecting God. He says: Hell is the place where guilty sinners will suffer the punishment they deserve. And the punishment is to experience God’s anger forever. Now, is this fair? Does the sentence match the crime? Well, consider how you would respond if you saw me in the park, and I was cutting a caterpillar in two. Suppose you come back an hour later and I’m cutting up a cat in two. That’s more serious, isn’t it? Suppose you come back again, and I’m cutting up a child in two? That’s even more serious. Do you see the logic? The consequences of an action get more severe the higher up the moral categories we go. So why do we deserve hell? Because we have rebelled against our infinite Creator. Many of us live in cultures which dislike hard truth. That is, we hate information that makes us feel bad, even if it is factual.
This strikes me every time I watch Strictly Come Dancing. The celebrity may have forgotten the dance, or dropped their partner, or crashed into the band, but the judge who mentions any of this as a negative is likely to be booed! Now, living in such a sensitive culture means that any talk about hell will be even harder to hear. But Jesus loves us enough to tell us what is ahead so that we can appreciate and then take advantage of the rescue that he offers. This means we’ve got an important choice to make. Either we stand up in protest and disregard what Jesus says, confident that we are good people on the road to heaven. Or else we believe the diagnosis of our heavenly physician and entrust ourselves to his care.