Details matter. They always have, and they always will. There’s a reason every contract you enter into has a dozen pages of fine print they’re hoping you don’t have the time to read. By the time you figure you should have, it’s already too late, and you’re selling a kidney to get collections off your back, all for something they told you would be free. Technically, it was free, but only for the first thirty days. After that, the monthlies kick in, and you’re stuck paying fifty bucks a month for a beeper you never use for the next thirty-six months. As your momma tried to teach you way back when nothing is free but the love of Jesus, and other than salvation, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Have you ever gone through a Bible passage and then days
later thought back on it and felt you missed something? It happens to me often.
It’s just how my mind processes, and for the last couple of days, I’ve been
returning to a passage we discussed in 2 Thessalonians, feeling there was
something crucial that I missed or overlooked.
Sure enough, after rereading it for the umpteenth time, I
realized what I’d missed. In his letter to the church of Thessalonica, Paul
refers to three classifications of people who will incur the wrath of God:
first will be those who trouble the people of God, second those who do not know
God, and third, those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2
It would be an easy thing to clump those who do not know God
in with those who do not obey the gospel of Christ, but that would be sloppy
work, and there’s enough of that in the church today.
Why is this distinction important? Because churches today are
full to overflowing with individuals who know the gospel but do not obey it.
The tragedy is that they’ve been reassured that obedience to the gospel of
Christ is optional, a take-it-or-leave-it sort of proposition, which has no
long-term consequences. It’s like doing the extra credit homework when you were
in school. Except for the Asian girl with the coke bottle glasses, no one did
it, but somehow that selfsame girl got a free ride to an ivy league school and
glowing letters of recommendation from all her teachers.
Obedience to the gospel is not optional; it is mandatory. You
can’t choose not to obey the gospel of Christ and claim it is well with your
soul when the Bible says the opposite. Those who did not obey the gospel of
Christ cannot claim ignorance of it. They knew what it said, yet did not follow
through and obey it.
All ten virgins got a lot right. All ten were virgins, all
ten had a bridegroom, all ten had their lamps lit, all ten fell asleep, and all
ten woke up, but five were left to knock on the door and be refused entry. The
point isn’t to have a lit lamp; it’s to have a lit lamp until the end. That’s
the only place the two groups diverged. Five had enough oil until the end; five
had to scramble and try to find some outside, and while they did, the
bridegroom shut the door.
In order to have your lamp burning until the end, in order
for the fire to keep burning and not sputter out, we must know the gospel of
our Lord Jesus Christ and obey it. A superficial knowledge of the gospel will
only take you so far. Partial obedience to the gospel will likewise only take
you so far. Sometimes obedience is hard. It requires sacrifice, self-denial,
and forfeiting the vision you had for yourself for the one He has for you. The
choice seems easy when it’s in the rearview, but when you’re in it, when you’re
at the crossroads of life, and you have to make the conscious decision to walk
away from your plans and surrender, it’s a bruiser. Especially when you know
what’s in store because you saw it play out in the lives of your mentors and
elders. I didn’t go into ministry wearing rose-tinted glasses, thinking it
would be glamorous and enchanting. I knew what I was getting into, I knew what
to expect, and I had to come to terms with the reality of what my life would be
and accept it joyfully.
When the Bible tells you that you’ll be hated and rejected,
when for the better part of a decade you saw how people confronted with the
truth lash out at the messenger, when you know full well it’s a thankless job
that will tax your psyche endlessly, you don’t make the choice lightly.
Even Jesus admonished His followers to count the cost because
there’s no point in starting out with a lit lamp only to finish in darkness,
being told that He never knew you. Anyone who takes this journey lightly has no
understanding of the stakes. Anyone who thinks they can fake it until they make
it, without ever submitting to the will of God or obeying the gospel of Christ,
has fallen into the enemy’s snare and is become prey.
Are you counted among those who endure persecutions and tribulations, thereby being counted worthy of the kingdom of God, or are you counted among those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? There is no in-between. There is no third option. It’s binary, as is the soon-coming separation of the goats and the sheep.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.