Meet with the Everlasting God
Message by Pastor Eric Chang, April 21, 2000 Joint Camp in Hong Kong
I would like to thank the Camp Committee and my co-workers for letting me preach in this first message because, as you know, normally I preach the last message. Why did I request to preach the first message? That is because I hope I can spend more time with each one of you during the camp. Practically, that may be almost impossible because there are more people in this camp than previous ones. But you might see me wandering around the camp. I am hoping to fellowship with you. I think that is very important to me.
Someone Ready to Meet God
Today we come to a very important subject. We see here in big letters the camp theme: “Meet with the Everlasting God”. And we will have to spend time to understand this theme more fully. Before I go into the main part of this message, I would like to say a few words about our Sister Sandra who has gone to meet the Everlasting God less than 3 weeks ago. It looks like the Lord wants to use Sandra as a way of speaking to us in this camp. When I went to see Sandra in the last few days of her life, I remember she looked at me very earnestly and she said to me, “I am ready to meet the Lord.” I wonder how many of us who have come to this camp can say that we are ready to meet God. Those words brought tremendous comfort to my heart. But in the course of our conversation with one another, I said to Sandra, “You know, I am not very happy with you.” And she looked very concerned and said, “Why?” I said, “Because you jumped the queue. You should wait behind me first. How come you go to see the Lord first? I’m supposed to go first!” She is much younger than I am; how can she go first? I said, “You should wait your turn; wait in the queue.” A smile came over her face. Well, she beat me in this race. Sometimes I wonder, since she’s much younger, why did she go first? I think that it is very likely because she is a much better person than I am, in the sense of spiritual quality in the eyes of the Lord. I think that she was very truly ready to meet the Lord. Certainly there was a struggle in her heart earlier on (we know that), but very quickly the Lord gave her the victory. Our main concern is that when we unexpectedly have to go and meet the Lord, there often is a sense of regret. This also passed through Sandra’s mind, which disturbed her as well. “So many things I would like to have done for the Lord, and now, I can’t do them anymore.” We know that she even had in mind to serve the Lord full-time. But that was not to be. But our Father knows the situation best, where she can serve best - in the eternal life, the everlasting life.
You know that the funeral service will be after this camp. She thought of this fact, that being still young, the things she wanted to get done for the Lord will not get done. And the question in her mind, like in the mind of many people who had to go early in life, is captured in a song, “Must I Go and Empty-Handed?” and in this way to meet with the Lord. This song was written, as I recall, because those were the words of a young person who, when she was dying, had this in mind. As she was dying, she said, “Must I go and empty-handed to meet the Lord?” And she was so distressed by this thought. She had nothing to bring to the Lord. The Lord had given everything and she had nothing to give in return. “Well,” somebody said, “I am going to put your words in a song, so that others will bear this message in their hearts to use such time that they have, the short life that we have on earth, to do something or bring something - some fruit to the Lord when we see him.” Can you live without regret? The worst thing is when we are dying; we regret so many things. Can we go without regret? And that is why Sandra’s passing away and today’s message, this very camp theme, is linked together. It is not just her - all of us must prepare to meet with the Everlasting God.
This theme, “Prepare to meet the Everlasting God,” what does it mean? When Sandra said she was prepared to meet with God, how come she was so confident, so sure and ready? When I looked at her, I could see she was very sure. Who gave her that certainty? I think no one can give her that certainty but God. That certainty must come from God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. But do we even understand what that means - to meet with God? I pray that the Spirit of God will so work in you that you will also understand what that means. I find that it is truly amazing in people who love the Lord that are ready to go, there is a special presence of the Lord with them which conveys something special to them that people who are not close to the Lord will not understand. What does it mean - the Everlasting God? There are so many words here - do we know what they mean? What does everlasting mean?
What Does Everlasting Mean?
I was watching a program about the planets, where the topic of discussion was the universe and the vastness of the universe. One of these astrophysicists was saying that he had just seen a special star, using the most advanced equipment. He said that the light of that star, according to the measurements that they have made on it, has traveled 5 billion light years to come to earth. 5 billion? What does that mean? Remember this: the distance is 5 billion light years. ‘Light-Year’ means the distance light travels for one year. You know how far the light travels in one year? If you remember from school time, you know the speed of light. Nothing goes faster than the speed of light, according to Einstein. You switch on the light here, and immediately light is seen far and wide in a flash. In school we even learn the actual distance it covers in one second. When you talk about the distance traveled in one year by light, i.e., the speed of light travelling, that is simply mind-boggling. But if we talk about a thousand years, a hundred thousand years, a million years, that distance is no longer comprehensible. We begin to hear whatever everlasting means in terms of the speed of light in the universe. Now the God who created this entire universe, He is everlasting. (In Montreal I used to conduct a Bible study on Genesis chapter one for scholars. Because in our church in Montreal at that time, and even now, we were a church full of scholars; many of them were at the doctoral or post-doctoral level. So you can imagine what an interesting time we had discussing Genesis together. So we had some doctors of physics, doctors of chemistry, and doctors of mathematics. This wonderful group of people and I were having a good time discussing the universe. Most of them were non-Christians at that time. What an exciting time of study!)
What does everlasting mean? Well, it seems they have a better understanding of everlasting than most of us have. Maybe they are used to dealing with these figures - of billions of billions - that we are not used to dealing with. I have problems talking in terms of millions, never mind billions. I remember long ago, when we needed to buy a meeting place in Shatin - New Territory, Hong Kong where you are now in Pai Tau Village and they said, “The price is $1 million something.” One million! What kind of figure is that? I was not used to thinking in terms of millions. I said, “If it costs one million, how are we ever going to buy a place like that?” Well, as you know, some brothers and sisters got together; they understood one million better than I did and they managed to buy the place.
Grasping the Idea of Meeting an Everlasting God
Everlasting - it is a figure of greatness and vastness that we can not even understand. But what does it mean to meet a God like this? Can we grasp this - to meet a God who is everlasting? What does it mean? Well, if we were going to meet the Queen of England or the President of the United States, we are just meeting a fellow human. You look at this man, he is a president, he is important, but he is a man like us. Last year, in my travels, I had a chance to meet President Carter in the United States. As I shared with the 8th Full Time Training Team, I surprised them one day when I showed them a picture of myself together with President and Mrs. Carter. They thought it was some kind of a trick photograph. I told them, “No, that is a genuine picture, no tricks in it!” What is Mr. Carter like? He is a very nice man, a very humble man, you could say, a very true Christian as well. We met in the church where he normally worships and where he leads the Adult Sunday School where he actually gives a message. In that meeting, to my surprise, he asked me to open in prayer. But though he was a president and is still called President Carter (because past presidents are not called Ex-Presidents, but still addressed as President), once the most powerful man on earth, but meeting with him you know you are talking to a fellow man; you can relax with him. But meeting with the Everlasting God, we do not know what to expect. Actually it will not be so terrifying, that is, if you are ready to meet Him. If you are not ready to meet Him, I think it will be a very terrifying experience. Do we all have to meet Him? Oh, yes. Everybody has to meet Him. Why? Because we have all been created by Him. The life that you have, you do not own it. That is why you have to give it up when you die. What does the Bible tell us? It is appointed to man once to die. It is appointed - it is not up to us to choose. It is appointed unto man once to die, and then what? And then the judgement! Don’t say to yourself, “Well, with death then everything is finished. Everything is over. If you have too many troubles, shoot yourself in the head and all your problems are gone. “ Oh, no. That is foolishness. Listen to what the Bible says. Death is not the end. After death, there comes judgement. You say, “I don’t believe in judgement. I don’t even believe in God.” So you think you are free, right? If you did not believe that Australia exists, do you think that because of your unbelief, Australia disappears? As I have said before, what you believe affects only you. It does not affect any facts. If you do not believe there is such a man as President Carter, President Carter does not disappear because of that.
I remember that as teenagers, a group of us used to get together and we would sit in a room in the evening and chat and talk about all kind of things. And we would tell each other stories. You know what we like to tell from time to time? We like to tell ghost stories. (Have you ever got together with your friends and started to tell ghost stories?) They would say, “Come on! I don’t believe this nonsense.” I would say, “You don’t believe it? I tell you what, I saw a ghost.” “Ah, don’t tell me this nonsense. You really did?” “Yeah, I really saw a ghost.” He does not believe it, but as you describe the whole scenario about this ghost, the next guy says, “Oh, yeah, I also did see a ghost.” The first guy still does not believe it and says, “You guys are all dreaming.” Then each tells his ghost story. Suddenly one fellow jumps on the guy who says he does not believe in ghosts and he almost passes out for fright. In fact while these two fellows are telling their ghost stories, this [disbelieving] fellow’s face is getting whiter and whiter. He is still muttering, “I don’t believe all this.” “So, why is your face getting white?” “My face? Getting white?” And then the next guy jumps on him and he is frightened out of his wits. He is so angry at this fellow who played this joke on him, jumping on him. He says, “How could you do that? I could have had a heart attack?” “You said it would not do anything to you since you don’t believe in ghosts. Why are you so frightened?” Well, what do you believe? Many of you, I think, have had ghost experiences. It is frightening enough. But meeting the Everlasting God?
My mother who was not a Christian at the time, who did not believe in anything, told me that one day she saw a white figure going through her bedroom. She was wide awake, so she stared at this figure walking slowly across the room, watching it. It then left her room and went into my room. As a mother, of course, she got frightened. What is this ghost going into my son’s room for? So she rushed out of her room into my room to see if I am alright, and found me sleeping very peacefully - no problems. What was that she saw? Was it a ghost? Was it an angel? But the reaction on her part is fright. If it is only a ghost - what can a ghost do to you? If people are so frightened of a ghost, how about meeting the Everlasting God?
Sandra said, “I am ready.” Why is she not frightened? That is interesting, isn’t it? And when she said it, she said it very peacefully, as though she was looking forward to seeing Him soon, as going to see her father maybe. Yes, to one who knows God, He is not just Everlasting, He is our Father. I don’t know if all of you in this camp know the Lord. Maybe many of you do not. So there are two ways you can meet with God. You might meet with Him as your Father, or as your Judge, and then there is reason to be scared. What will be the outcome of the judgement? It is appointed to man once to die. If you are going to meet Him as your Judge, [how would you feel]? In a sense all of us will have to meet Him as Judge as well. That is what Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:10, “We must all stand before the Judgement Seat”. We, including the Apostle Paul, must stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ. But if the Judge is also our Father, with whom we live in fellowship of joy, we will not have too much to fear. However, we should not be over-confident.
Judgement - Like Having the Final Exam
Now when we use the word judgement, this word may be foreign to many of us. For me, I have never been in a court of law; I have no personal experience of judgement. Nowadays, you might see a lot of movies about court cases and so on, but most of us have no personal experience of this. Unless you studied Law, you may not have had such an experience. But most of us have experiences of examinations. Most of us have been through school - primary, middle and university - so we know what examinations are like. So, it may be better to say, that after death will come the Final Exam. Now how important is this final exam after death? Oh, it is very, very important. If you take an exam in school, it is a question of graduating or not graduating from school. If you take an exam in university, it is a matter of getting or not getting a degree. That may be very important for your career, your future - everything hangs on the outcome of this exam. But what happens at this Final Exam before the Lord? It is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. This is the one exam we cannot and dare not fail. Do you remember, when you were in school, how important the exam was? Wow, you worked and worked to pass the exam. Sometimes, when you think about it, what was so important about the exam anyway? Here, at some places, if you fail, you might have the chance to do the exam again, but not this exam. In this Final Exam, if you fail it, there is not a second chance. You have to prepare to meet your Examiner, and you dare not fail, because everything hangs on the outcome of this exam.
How do you prepare? That is the essential point of this camp, isn’t it? When you are taking subjects in college, you know what to prepare. Usually they tell you exactly - you are going to be examined on this and that, so you have to study for that. But when I look at most Christians or look at most people in this world who are going to face this Final Exam, they do not seem to even bother. Can you say, like Sandra, “I am prepared to meet this Final Exam. I am prepared to meet the Examiner”? Can you say that? Are you sure you will pass? The cost of failure is absolutely unthinkable. I beg of you in this camp to think carefully on it. What is at stake is the difference between eternal life and eternal death! Everything that has to do with God is everlasting. He does not have time for temporary things. It is the everlasting that matters. I ask you again, each one of you: Are you sure you will get through this Judgement, or this Exam? The question now is, how? How are we going to get through?
Passing the Exam Depends on Whether We Are Sheep or Goat
I began to touch on the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in the Singapore Christmas Camp 1999, because this parable is precisely about meeting the Everlasting King. If you are not a Christian, let me tell you what this parable is all about. Actually the scholars point out correctly that this is not really a parable. It is a very important teaching about meeting with the Lord but using parabolic language. The parabolic elements are simply the sheep and the goats. Instead of talking about people the sheep and the goats where used to represent them because there is a reason for that picture. But we have no time to expound the details. I just want to stress one thing before leave this, that is, there are two types of these people; all those in the church are going to be divided into two. Everybody here today, according to this parabolic picture of the Lord is either a sheep or a goat. You have got to be one of these. Which one are you? You may be very confident that you are a sheep and therefore will pass the test with flying colors. Please wait till I finish this message before you decide whether you are a sheep or a goat.
I had a friend in Cambridge (I did not go to school there but my friend did. I was in London.) He was a brilliant scholarship student. Now, it is hard enough to get into Cambridge, but even harder to be there as a scholarship student, which shows you how good he was. And he was studying engineering at the time. He was so good at his studies that he was a problem to some of us. Not because he was hard to relate to, but just because of the fact that he was so good. What do I mean? Well, sometimes I went up to Cambridge to prepare for my own exams, because it was very hard to study in London for it was so busy in the church. It is so quiet up there so I went up there to study. Hence, some of us were preparing for this final exam. What about my scholarship friend? While we were studying hard, he was walking around as if he were on holiday. We said to him, “Have you not got anything to do? The exams are coming up. What are you doing walking around?” “Well,” he said, “I finished all that. I am all prepared for the exam.” “Well,” we said, “that’s nice. How about you leave us in peace so we can get on with our study?” He was so confident that he just walked around days before the exam. You know what happened? He failed! He could not believe it. And he failed in his best subject. I tell you this just to show you: don’t be so sure. The strange thing is most of us passed and he did not. And he was supposed to be the best of the best. His problem was that he was too confident. The Scripture warns us about this kind of confidence. Paul says, “Beware! If you think you stand, you will fall.” The question then is - the all-important question is - how are we going to get through this life-and-death deciding exam?
Let us go back to this parable. The parable says, on that day of the Final Exam, the Final Judgement, the examination to decide who are the sheep and who are the goats, the Judge, the Great Examiner, the King sits on His throne and then He points out who are the sheep. You would have thought the sheep know who they are. Then He has to tell those who apparently did not realize what they really are [whether they are sheep or goat]. Maybe they did not have a mirror, so they could not see whether they are sheep or goat. He points to those who are the sheep, and says, “Come! Come to my right side! You are blessed by My Father. Why? Because when I was hungry, you fed Me. When I was thirsty, you gave Me to drink. When I was suffering in cold, you gave Me something to wear. When I was a stranger, nobody welcomed Me. You welcomed Me. When I was sick, lying there in distress, you came to visit Me and you cared for Me. And then when I was in prison, you came to comfort Me.” You know what? The sheep could not remember that they had done any such thing. They said, “Lord, when did we do such a thing? Lord, when did we see You hungry? When did we see You thirsty? We don’t remember seeing You in any of these circumstances.” And the Lord said this: “Insofar as you did these things to one of the least of My brethren - one of the least people who know Me - you did it to Me.”
Then He said to the goats, “You go to this side.” And He goes through the list again and says, “When I was hungry, you didn’t give Me anything to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave Me no drink.” And the whole list goes on. And they say the same thing. “Lord, when did we see You...?” “Insofar that you did not do it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did not do it to Me.” Then He says the awful words, “Depart from Me, into hell which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” They failed the one examination that absolutely mattered, and they did not even know how they failed. The interesting thing is that the others did not know how they passed either. Is that statement correct? Not quite, as we shall see. Because, as I said, Sandra knew that by God’s grace, she would pass the exam. The only thing is she may not know how she passed. That is beautiful, too. You know why there is this statement here? Because if we take these words incorrectly, we are going to get the wrong teaching altogether. These days it is difficult to get the right teaching, isn’t it? You can read the Bible, and read it wrongly. When I was looking at this passage again and again even last night, I said, “Lord, show me Your heart in this passage. What do You want to say to us?” Do you know when the Lord spoke this parable? It was three days before He died. He also died. He died for us, but He did die. Three days before His death, He spoke this parable. Everybody knows the well-known saying that, “When a man is about to die, you best take his words very seriously.” He is not joking with you. He is not telling you fairy tales. The last words are very important. So, I said, “Lord, what do You want to say to us?” How do you read your Bible? People say, “I don’t read my Bible. I don’t even understand what it is saying. It’s so boring.” That is sad. You still do not know what the Bible is, do you? That is, if you think in that way. The Bible is where the Lord is opening His heart to us. He is saying, “Look into My heart. Don’t just look at the words. Look at what I am wanting to say to you.” If you read the Bible in this way, you will see the Bible is very, very different.
Pitfall of Misunderstanding the Parable - A Salvation by Works
What happens if you just look at the words written in this parable? Then you can draw a conclusion like this: “If this is the case, then from today onward, I am going to run around to see if there are hungry people in the church, maybe in the whole of Hong Kong. I’ll just walk around and see if there is anybody who is hungry, because I want to pass my Final Exam. So, quickly, I look for all these hungry and thirsty people. I would be carrying a big bottle of some drink with me, and on the other side a big bag of food. And I will be hunting around in Hong Kong to see where these hungry and thirsty people are, and if I see one, I will be so happy. So, when I see him, I grab him and say, “Here’s the food. Eat it! Quickly! Eat it!” He is wondering what is going on. You say, “I want to pass the Final Exam!” You see somebody not so well dressed, so you quickly buy some nice clothes to put on him. Then of course I will quickly go around and visit in the prisons and in the sick wards and everywhere. I will be very busy from now on. So after this camp, you will all become very busy people because you all want to pass the Final Exam. Well, there is nothing wrong in doing all that.
One problem is that in Hong Kong you are hardly going to find anybody who is that hungry. You are hardly going to find anybody who is that thirsty. You are also going to have a hard time finding anybody who does not have enough clothes to wear. You say, “Lord, I can’t pass this exam because there is nobody to practise this thing on.” See what happens when you take these words literally, then it becomes a salvation by works. You are trying to work your way to pass that exam. That is the problem. But now we understood. We now understand something that these sheep did not understand. They did not understand that by doing these to every insignificant person in the church or even in the world, they were doing it to Jesus. But now, we have the secret. We know that by doing these to the insignificant people, we are doing it to Jesus. We have misunderstood. This shows you that reading the Bible incorrectly can be dangerous. And this will indeed mean that we are going to expect to save ourselves by doing all these good things.
Is that what Jesus is saying to us? Is it that these sheep were sheep because they were rushing around all their lives doing all these kinds of things? So, I waited again on the Lord and said, “Lord, what is it that You want to say to us? Then, I began to understand more clearly that this was not what He was saying. What is He saying then? Well, He explains Himself already on an earlier teaching of His, if we had any ears to hear. He said this: “A good tree brings forth good fruit.” A very good tree not only brings forth fruit, but also a lot of fruit. There are some trees which bring forth fruit, but not so much. But a good tree, just look at it, it is loaded with beautiful fruit. So abundant! Both good and abundant! Does that look like your spiritual life? But a bad tree only brings forth bad fruit. He even pointed out: “Can you expect figs from a thorn bush? Can you get grapes from some other kind of tree other than a grape vine?” That is why we have to understand correctly that what you do, your work, does not make you a good person. A good work does not make you a good person. A good person produces good work, without any effort. It is the life within that is producing this fruit. He will do these things because of what he is. The important thing is not what you do; it is what you are. A sheep is a sheep because that is what it is. It produces wool because it is a sheep. The goat cannot produce wool - it is not a sheep! Let us understand this very clearly. You produce that kind of work because you are that kind of person. In other words, if you run around giving drinks to the thirsty and food to the hungry, that is very good work, but that is not going to get you to pass your Final Exam. What is more: the question is whether you are the kind of person who would do these things even unconsciously. The person who does good work concentrates on the work he does. The good person does the work which he would do as part of his nature; he would not think about it. Later when you thank him for it, he does not even remember. You say, “Thank you for the food you gave me.” He will say, “What food?” This is because he is doing it all the time. He does not remember he gave it to you. It is not something that registers on his mind because he does not concentrate on the work. That is the vital difference! That is why those who were called sheep could not remember that they did any of these things. It comes naturally. Maybe naturally is not the right word - but supernaturally! What they do is the fruit of the Holy Spirit within them. Not because they are trying to work out these things out of their own effort. These are two totally different things.
What Do We Have to “Do” to Pass this Exam?
This brings me closer to the core of this message. What is very important to notice is that it is very difficult to prepare for this exam because you do not know what it is that is going to be required, in terms of the work you actually have to do. Many of these things that the Lord Jesus said is not possible for us to do in this present society. The higher the standard of living, the more impossible to do. In Hong Kong when was anybody arrested because he was a Christian. So when are you going to visit somebody in prison? If somebody is sick, it does not depend on you to take care of him - the hospital takes care of that. So all you can do is visit the person, sit helplessly beside his bed, and say, “How are you?” If that is what you call ‘care’, then we can do that. That is why I said it is virtually impossible to pass the final exam if it depends on these things.
What you will have to notice and what is important to notice in this parable is about the people (the goats who were sent to hell). Did you notice that not one of them was charged of committing a sin? Isn’t that surprising? And if you sit there thinking, “I will pass this exam because I have not done any major sin - I did not rob a bank, I didn’t steal anything, I didn’t do this or that - I am fine! I am a righteous man. I am going to pass the exam.” The fact that you did or did not do it is never even raised. It is not the sins that you committed that is even discussed. It is the good things, the right things that you should have done that is the issue. Now that is the scary part, because we do not know what are the things we are supposed to do and did not do. We are willing to do all these things, like giving to the poor and so on, but there is no chance [of knowing this beforehand]. So how are we going to live the Christian life? Bear this in mind very carefully, because here again I stress: in the Judgement, nobody was charged with, “Oh, you go to hell because you did this or that bad thing.” Read the parable again and you will see this very strange thing.
The other thing you need to look at in this parable is that no question was asked as to what you believe or do not believe. The Judge or the King did not say to the sheep, “You have everlasting life because you believed in Me.” He did not say a word about this. “You believed in all these doctrines that were taught in the church.” He did not say a word. The goats also addressed Jesus who is the Judge in this parable as ‘Lord.’ They also addressed Him as ‘Lord’, but they have to go to hell. Nobody was charged among the goats, “You did not believe this and you did not believe that!” The question of believing is not even raised. You believe in a lot of things, very good! But do not trust on that to pass the Final Exam. You think your doctrines are so pure, or we may think we have the best teaching in the world that we are bound to pass the exam! Do not trust in having the best teaching and having the best faith. Notice there is something that is hardly ever observed concerning the teaching of the Lord Jesus. I almost would like to compare it to the unpredictability of quantum mechanics or quantum physics. There is an unpredictable element here. That is what is so scary. In fact that is quite disturbing also to the scientists - the quantum theory. That is not surprising, because the same God who created the universe also gave us the Scriptures. And what do I mean by this? It is precisely the problem of what is called the sin of omission. What you should have done and did not do - that is going to be the determining factor at the Final Exam. There is only one way to get past this problem. And that we have to consider in a moment.
A Question of Quantum - The Sin of Omission
What do I mean by this omission part? I will point to you very briefly. You see, the goats failed because they did not do what they ought to have done. Keep this point very clearly in mind. They did not know what is this unknown factor, this quantum problem. But this one comes through so much of the Lord’s teaching that I would like you to notice it in passing, very briefly, because I do not have time to expound on it.
Take the Parable of the Talents, for example. Well, one person was given 5 talents, another 2 and another 1. What happened to the one who only got 1 talent? He was cast out into utter darkness - for what sin? Again, notice that surprise element. In the Judgement, when you meet the Everlasting God, there is nothing cut and dried, so do not be so sure! He was condemned not because he committed any sins - robbery, murder, whatever. He is not even condemned for small sins, whatever the small sin might be - stealing a small amount of money, being rude to other people. He was given one talent and he simply returned the talent that he got, so what is wrong with that? He did not lose the talent; he did not steal the talent. He said, “Here, Master, you gave me one talent, I give it back to you.” The outcome was what? It was the same as that of the goats. He did not do what he should have done - the sin of omission. This is very important. I beg of you to understand it very well because this element goes on and on through the Lord’s teaching. And for lack of a better way to describe it, I will just call it the quantum element. Now, bear in mind that the Parable of the Talents is also found in the same chapter, in Mt. 25, with the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. And then in Lk. 19, in the Parable of the Pounds, it says exactly the same thing. The person in that parable who was condemned was the person who did not do anything. He neither did anything good nor bad. He should have been all right. He played it safe - at least in his own mind, but it was a failure.
Take the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. Here I am speaking mainly to Christians because I want you to understand that there is this element - the sin of omission - and it is all in the Lord’s teaching everywhere, not just in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Five bridesmaids had their oil lamps burning, waiting to meet the Bridegroom, in this case also the Everlasting Lord. Notice these parables all concern the Judgement - did you notice that? And what did the other five do? Well, they also had their lamps burning. But then after a time, their oil was running low. And when the Bridegroom came, when the Everlasting God arrived, there were five whose lamps were still burning. The other 5 had their lamps still burning - very low. Still burning, but not enough to last until meeting with the King. What was their sin? They did not commit any sin. They were also meeting [the Bridegroom] with the other 5. What happened to these other 5 when the Bridegroom arrived and their oil was out? They were left out of the kingdom. Did they not have enough faith? What was their problem? Something was omitted. The oil - the sufficiency of oil was not there. It is not what they did, but what they did not do, that was the problem. They did not have enough oil. How do we read the Bible? Are we understanding what we read in there?
Let us take another parable - The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Every Sunday School child knows this parable. Three people saw this injured person that the robbers left on the roadside as dead. A priest came by - what did he do? Nothing! He just walked past. He was not going to defile himself with this possibly dead person. The next person came by - a Levite - what did he do? The condemnation was not that they did anything bad, it is that they did not do anything. I do not know how many things the Lord has to say to get at this point, before we understand it.
Take the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, Luke Chapter 13. The barren fig tree was to be cut down. What was the crime of the fig tree? Nothing! It was just that it did not produce any fruit. It did not do anything. It is not what it did; it is what it did not do.
Let us take another case - the Rich Man and Lazarus - in Lk. 16. The rich man went down to hell. What was his crime? He did not do anything - that was what his crime was. This beggar outside his gate - he just did not take any notice of him. That was his condemnation. In the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Lk. 18, what was the crime of the judge? It says there that he did not want to hear the case. It is not what he did, but he did not want to do that was the problem. In Jn. 15:2 - the Branches and Vine - what does the Lord say there? “Every branch that does do anything, that does not produce any fruit, My Father takes it away.” It is cut off. The sin in the church - your sin and maybe mine - is not that you did a lot of bad things. It is that you did not do that is going to be against you on that Day. That is the disaster. Think carefully on this. That is what the Lord is trying to tell us; I am not going to condemn you for what you did, but what you did not do. The sin of ‘not doing’ is going to be so serious that there is not even time to talk about what you did. You will be condemned already for what you did not do; there is no time to talk about what you did do. This is a very different concept of judgement from what we are aware of.
Are We Fulfilling our Life and Death Role?
Look at your life, brothers and sisters, look at it carefully. Will you go empty-handed? The answer is very likely, yes. And do not say to me, brothers and sisters, do not say to me, and do not even say it to the Lord, “I was very busy in the church.” The Lord was not asking that question. He wanted to know, “What did you do for the least of His brethren?” Now, if in the church your service is from that attitude of serving the least of the brethren in the church, fine! But never imagine that because you are busy doing this and busy doing that, that it is going to get you past the Exam, it will not. To some of those in the church, I say you are too busy! It is about time that you stop being so busy and get on with doing the things that will count before the Lord. As I said, I was looking to the Lord to understand more clearly what He wants to say to us, and the Lord tells me this: “I want a certain kind of person in the church.” What kind of person? The kind of person who does these things without even thinking about them. They are so transformed by the power of God that they will do these things without any consciousness of the work, but simply letting God work through them. I want in the church a new man: the kind of person that Jesus can call my brother. The least of these my brethren, that is what matters because that person is a ‘brother’ with Jesus. We talked about Father, now we are talking about Brother as well. You have become a brother of Jesus’. You can call God ‘Father’ when you become by the power of God a new person. And when you have become this new person, that is what the Bible calls as being “born again” by the Spirit of God. You are born from above. You have a life that comes from above, and that is why you produce this fruit unconsciously. It is amazing how God works when you let Him live His life through you. When you are born from above, then you are indeed a brother of Jesus. He too in a different, but also similar way, was born of the Holy Spirit. Just as the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and what is born from you is the Son of God.” There is only one kind of true Christian and that is the kind that is born through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is this kind of person who is called a sheep in the Bible because the Lord Jesus is also called in the Bible “the Lamb of God.” That is how you are like Him. I want to tell you something: the Lord wants to take us even further than that. How far does He want to take us? He wants to take us so far that how people react to you will decide what happens at the Final Exam. Did you understand what I said? Probably not yet. Let me try to explain a little bit more.
I have been reading recently about the great Indian servant of God called Sundar Singh. I have read about him before, but I have gotten a book recently to read again. My attention was drawn to this book because it was written by no less a person than a professor of New Testament at Oxford. Though he is a scholar he was very interested in this person of Sundar Singh. In his book, he shows what a person is like who is a new creation who lives in relationship with God. In one account that drew my attention, Sundar Singh was walking in a place in India. In the distance he saw two men. After a while one of them disappeared and one of them approached him, and said to him, “My friend, my friend he has just died. And I have no money to bury him. Can you please help me?” Now Sundar Singh is a holy man of India. He was dressed as a holy man in a kind of gown, and actually he owned nothing. There were only 2 things on his person usually - one is his blanket, which he uses to sleep at night and the other thing is his New Testament which he always carries with him.) But on this day, he actually had 2 very small coins on him, because he normally does not take any money either. So when this man said, “Can you please help me?” Sundar Singh out of his compassion gave him his blanket and gave him the only 2 coins he had, which was given to him actually to pay for a toll booth that he had to pass later on. So having given him basically all he had, then Sundar Singh walked on. After a while this man he had given the coins and blanket to was running behind him. Having caught up with him, the man said, “Sir, my friend is dead.” Sundar Singh replied, “That is why I gave you the blanket.” He said, “Sir, I have to confess to you what the truth of the matter is. You see, my friend and I, this is the way we make our living: we cheat people by the two of us taking turns lying there dead covered with a sheet. That is how we get money from passers-by.”
In India, you know (if you have been there), is full of beggars everywhere. And they are very skillful at cheating money out of you. They can think of the most unimaginable things and I have had some personal experience of that. But now what happened was this. For several years, they took turns - one would beg for the money and the other would lie there covered with a sheet as if dead. This time he ran up to Sundar Singh, and said, “My friend is really dead. What kind of a man are you? We tried to cheat you and the consequence is death.” He added, “Please, please forgive me. I am actually happy that today was not my turn to lie under the sheet. Otherwise, I would have been the one dead.” Then he said to Sundar Singh, “I know now that you are a man of God. Please take me as your disciple.” And the result was that he followed Sundar Singh around. Later, Sundar Singh sent him to a mission station to be baptized.
Are We a People in Whom God Lives?
This illustrates to you what happens when you are a person in whom God lives. Whatever a person’s attitude towards you will be determined by what his attitude is towards God. What the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 10, which we often do not understand, is: “He who accepts you, accepts Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me.” In other words, a true Christian is one who represents Jesus in this world. And Judgement begins now. This poor man died because he thought he could cheat a little bit out of a man of God. The Lord did this to save the other person. The other person repented and became a disciple. Did you ever understand this point, brothers and sisters that, if you are a true Christian, you are as Jesus in the world? This is what the Apostle Paul has been trying to tell us all along and we do not understand. You are the Body of Christ. The church is His Body. If anybody touches the Body, he has touched Jesus. Anybody who beats that body beats Jesus. That is what the first lesson that the Apostle Paul learned in his life. What happened on the Damascus Road? Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Paul did not think he was persecuting Jesus, only a bunch of Christians. The Apostle Paul said something very important when he said to the Corinthians, “We are the savor of life to life” - the savor, the fragrance that carried life to other people. Or, “we could be the savor of death, the smell of death to others.” This is illustrated exactly by this case of Sundar Singh. One died, the other lived. Both came into contact with him, but one perished. He was the fragrance of life to one, but death to the other. Did you understand the Scriptural teaching: “You are the light of the world”? That is what we are called to be. And on the Day of Judgement, when you meet the Everlasting God, He is not going to ask you, “Did you believe this and that doctrine? Or how many good works have you done?” He is going to ask you this question: “Were you the light or not? If you were not the light, you are guilty of the sin of omission.” You failed to be what you ought to be. How important is light? It is a matter of life and death sometimes.
I remember when I was a teenager, I went on a mountain in Hangzhou. I enjoyed the view so much up on the mountain. As I watched the sun go down, I saw all the lakes down below - oh so beautiful! I was almost in a dream. As I said, I watched the sun go down because it was so beautiful. And when the sun went down below the horizon, what happened? It was dark; there was no more light. It was getting darker and darker. And I had to come down all the way from the mountain. As I went down, I suddenly realized, “Yes, I enjoyed the view, but now I might break my neck on the way down.” There was only a small path going down. And now I could hardly see it anymore. One mistake - because I cannot see the road for there was no light - and I would fall over the side of a cliff and kill myself. For me, the light became a matter of life and death. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I finally got to the bottom of the mountain. So when Jesus says, “You are the light of the world”, you are the one who brings either life or death.
What about salt? Do you think that we are salt just to make some nice flavor for people? The more important and immediate concern in those days is, since there were no refrigerators, you needed salt to preserve things, to keep things usable and edible, to preserve them from rotting, from being destroyed. Again it is a question of either being rotten or remaining intact and usable. When we listen to the Lord, we do not understand what He is saying, “You are called to bring people to life.” But if you fail, you will answer for it. The Lord Jesus taught me this early in my Christian life. As I have from time to time shared, one of the servants of God that I met in China, in Shanghai, was a brother called Brother Yang. The Lord used him to impress deeply in my mind this very truth. When I first met Bro. Yang I talked with him but on nothing important - he was just thanking me for sharing my room with him, that I was willing to share and it was his privilege to share with me as I was staying in the home of a friend. So these were just a few words of thanks, and then he said, “I look forward to moving in in a few days and we will have more time together.” That was about all he said. And then as I walked away, after that short meeting with him, I said to myself, “This man, he looks ordinary in his outward appearance, but this is no ordinary man.” I could not understand why there was something unusual about this man. That was the lesson the Lord wanted to impress on me. I kept walking down the road, and kept saying, “This is no ordinary man.” Yet I could not explain in what way he was not ordinary. I did not as yet know or understand the teaching in 1 Pet. 2:9 which says, “You are a special, an extraordinary, a peculiar or unique people.” I noticed in him that there was something unique about this man but I could not tell what. Only later did I understand. This was a man in whom God lives! This was a man in whom the Holy Spirit was manifesting Himself even when he talked the most ordinary words. This man belonged to what Peter speaks of as a ‘unique people’. You see Sundar Singh was extraordinary, simply for the same reason. When you meet with a man in whom God lives, you know you have not just met with a man, you have met with the God who lives in this man. To me, it was an extraordinary privilege to live with this man for several months. A man of God!
If We Are the Right Kind of Person - Then We Are Ready to Meet God!
Now, let me ask you this: Are you then the kind of person that you should be - as light, or salt, or as fragrance - the kind of person that when people meet with you, they say, “Hmm, there is something extraordinary about this man!” Let me tell you that if you are that kind of person, you are ready to meet with the Everlasting God. You do not have to be afraid of any unknown quantity, because He who sits on the throne on the Day of Judgement is the One who lives in you. When you walk into the Judgement Chamber or the Great Examination Chamber, He will say, “There is My brother.” God has lived in this man all his life. You, He will speak to as to the sheep, “Enter into the Kingdom of My Father, prepared for you.” Unfortunately there is another sense in which most Christians - I am sorry to say, most Christians - are the kind that makes the difference between death and life, but in a different sense. They are so ordinary, so below average, of such poor quality, that indeed they make the difference between life and death and the difference will be death, not life. Because people who meets with them would say, “If that is a Christian, forget it! I don’t want to be a Christian.” Have you met this kind of Christians? Are you one of these? I hope not! That was what put me off from the Gospel for so many years. I knew so many of these so-called Christians. I said, “If that is a Christian, forget it! I don’t want to be a Christian.” Now you would be guilty in this case when meeting with the Everlasting King not of omission, but of commission. You have stumbled somebody so that they do not want to become Christians anymore. Are you one of these Christians who lose your temper? Who speak rudely? Not to speak of qualities, but you have all the things that even a non-Christian would be ashamed to have. Let me tell you, if you are in that category, do not even think about what will happen at the Judgement. You know what will happen. You will go with the goats. Do not say to yourself: “I am in Disciples Church; I believe all the right doctrines.” That will not save you, believe me! There is no use telling Jesus about Disciples Church or, for that matter any other church. All He wants to know is: Have you been the light? The fragrance? The salt? What are you?
This then is the message and our time is gone. I hope you understand now, how you are going to meet with the Everlasting God and how you are going to pass this Final Exam. You have become above all things a new man. “The old has passed; the new has come.” One of the things that pains me most, never mind the Judgement, but right now, is the behavior of so many Christians. It is so unbelievably shameful that I wonder how they got into the church in the first place. It is so far removed from the Lord Jesus’ description of the church: “The church is a city shining with the light on the hill.” It is a total disgrace. Oh, may the Lord have mercy upon us! May we be that kind of person like Sundar Singh, that when people have met with such a person, or like my friend, Bro. Yang, they know they have met with somebody who walks with God. Such a person of course, as you saw, in his kindness if anyone had a need, will give everything he has, even his blanket - the only possession of value that he has. That comes not because he wants to do good works, but because that is the kind of person that he is - God lives in him!
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