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Saturday, January 13, 2007

What's Your Temperature?

These evangelism postings are for you to print if you like and share with others. The one about temperature was for our Christmas Cards in 2006, and we attached a small disposable thermometer to the bottom of each. We also printed them on paper with all the relevant Bible verses framing the outside, but that will not copy here, so if someone needs the verses, just leave me a note.

What is your Temperature?

temperature- n. The degree of hotness or coldness of a body or environment

We use thermometers to check the temperature of our foods, the air outside, and our bodies. The information these tools give us help us better understand what we need to do in order to make a situation 'right'. If the thermometer inserted in a turkey does not register a high enough number, we know the turkey is not fully cooked. If the temperature outside is not understood to some degree, we can end up not being prepared- dressing too warmly or not warm enough. And a high temperature in a person indicates the presence of some internal struggle. The body responds to invasion of germs or stressors by raising the heat, hopefully destroying those threats.

There is a temperature we often ignore or avoid, even if we have never considered it in such a way. There is a measure of the temperature of our spirit or soul. It is not comfortable to compare ourselves to what we are told is required by God. We like to try and interpret the Bible in our own way, or make statements to the effect that 'God is forgiving' or that 'I am a good person'. But these statements are false because they are incomplete by themselves. God does forgive- but there are parameters around that forgiveness. It does not require a repayment by us, any action to earn it, or even a complete understanding of it. The forgiveness of God requires admission of our wrongs and knowing that we cannot be good enough on our own- we need an intercessor.

If we can earn eternal life through efforts, or if God forgives man because he is flawed, the crucifixion of Christ was unnecessary. And if his death was not necessary, celebrating his birth is meaningless as well. God is a just God, meaning he requires things to be made right. We could never make right what we have done wrong because the fair punishment for sin is death. But God is merciful in that he provided the way for us to get it right- Christ. The story of the nativity is just a sweet story unless we realize why Christ was born- to live a sinless life and then offer himself as the payment for the sins of the world. That is the gift offered, and it is free, but we must receive it. We must consciously understand what he is offering and take it BEFORE we stand in judgment. Regardless of what we might pretend, God will not hand out free passes to those who were "good", but instead will only spare those whose names are in the Book of Life.

How can we get our names in the Book? Jesus tells us very clearly that unless we are born again, we will not see heaven. But what is born again? The very phrase makes many people cringe because of the connotations that go with it. Regardless of what it appears to be or has been said to be, this requirement is the realization of the truth- that you have sinned before God and stand condemned, and only faith in Jesus can save you. It is born again because the heart of man is deceitful from the beginning, telling him that God will not really punish sin, and the new heart that comes from being honest about sin does not try to justify itself, but rather clings to the one hope in light of the alternative. There is a new focus, a new understanding, a new man. A man who has been born again- different.

Well, what if your sins are not that bad. I mean, you've never murdered anyone or robbed a bank, right? If you look at it that way, you are using your own measuring device- one that you invented to suit your own desires. I could make up a thermometer of my own, but if it does not have the same informational value as the one used by the National Meteorological Society, my information will not be considered useful because standards have been established by those who created the weather tracking system. God, creator of all, created his standard- perfection- and try as we might, we will never 'sell' him on our own ideas. Not fair? Would a just judge let a murderer go free because he was good in every other aspect of his life? Would he allow a thief to continue to steal because that thief felt he 'wasn't really hurting anybody' or felt that the government was impeding on his right to expression? No. A just judge will prescribe justice. And none of us can claim innocence- has anyone besides Christ ever kept all of the 10 Commandments?

Sometimes we pretend to be secure in our eternal destiny when we are not. We assume that a one-time acknowledgement of who Christ is was enough, or that we might believe in what the Bible requires, but that we should keep it to ourselves so as not to offend anyone. Does that sound like a different man? Are we truly convicted if we are still trying to stand in the middle? Jesus warns that not everyone who believes they will be saved will enter heaven. He talks about those who are 'lukewarm', neither hot nor cold toward him, and how those pretenders are so vile that he will spew them out of his mouth. Certainly not the 'forgiving God' we have heard about who winks at sin and considers only how unavoidable we think our wrongs are.

So, what is your spiritual temperature? Do you know what you believe and why, or are you easily influenced by the latest trends in spirituality and morality? Are you prepared to answer for yourself, or are you still planning on comparing yourself to others whose sins are 'worse'? Are you leaning on an invalid system of determining temperature? You don't have to believe in God's wrath in order for it to be real. You will face it some day- maybe a day when you are not prepared for it. And ignorance will not be excused- God has told us everything we need to know in his Bible. He has promised answers to those who truly seek them. Just like the weather man, whose concern is to be sure people are prepared for what is to come, God is warning the world that he is going to decide, and there is no middle. It's a clear yes or no- with him or without him. No luke-warm. Measure your temperature by the Author's standards. It's the most important check-up you will every have.

- Amy Brookover 2006

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