First foot forward

At the last census in 2011, the town of White River in Mpumalanga recorded 16,639 residents. Along with several other missions students, I happened by there in 1997 and was impressed by the agricultural lifestyle: colder in the morning, fresher, less noise, physical labour, but surrounded by green things and iron-rich soil that is just about burgundy.


We saw a little publisher in the town called Emmanuel Press, at that time managed by a gentleman that resembled Colonel Sanders, but without the dark framed spectacles.


David Newington has since fallen asleep.


Strange, all these years later – and because we’re in a lockdown – I decided to make use of free online courses that they offer and I’ve been at it fairly regularly. For a long time I’ve wanted to study theology. I’ve heard it described as the ‘queen of the sciences’ because it lies at the summit of a type of Unified field theory, that collates everything that can be discovered about God from all the other scientific disciplines and in fact leaps over the barrier of what we can discover about God from logic and observation of his creation and into the territory of what God says about Himself in Scripture.


So, I’m happily studying the first module and its basic stuff. But what I like about Scripture is that one verse can slam through your eyelids, cause you to suck in your breath, fire up your brain and tug some nose hairs on its way out.


A verse can have a profound effect. Because the Word is alive.


I read a lot, and Scripture is the only place where I find this happens.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”


The context is Paul contrasting our earthly bodies with our heavenly home, and us wanting to please Him, whether in our tents (earthly bodies) or at home in His presence. And then Paul reminds us that we have to give an account for the things we have done in the body, whether good or bad.


The unbeliever appears before the great white throne of judgement. The Christian appears before the bema (judgement seat of Christ). As Paul notes, when apart from the body the Christian is at home with the Lord. There is no question of his or her eternal destiny. It is heaven. The judgement seat of Christ resolves the issue of what the Christian’s reward looks like.


Faith is expressed in actions and those actions are judged. The apostle James wrote that faith without works is dead. I figure, works without the right motivation is just sweat.


The Father knows our motivations and in the light of His word, he evaluates in all the things that we have done.


I read this verse and wondered…any of the things that I have thought and turned into action, or have said, or have actually done, how much of it has been ‘for Christ’? It’s a question without my being able to resolve it. How do I know what my motivations are? I’m capable of deceiving myself and only He can show me.


When I first ventured to White River, it was the year when I remember asking the question, what would He say to me at the end? Would it be ‘well done’?


Well, I could obsess about the question and sigh and pace around like Hamlet, or I could do what Paul wrote about: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for Christ, the goal, the prize, I strain towards what is ahead.


The lazy servant in the parable (Matthew 25) didn’t do anything with his Master’s investment but buried it in the ground. I can briefly engage in some contemplation about what my motivation has been up to this point…have I done it for Christ? Or what have I done for Christ? But sooner rather than later, contemplation has served its purpose and I stop looking into my own heart (yuck) and I start looking into Scripture and then put the first foot forward again.

Forgetting what lies behind…straining towards what is ahead

In this lockdown, would it be hard to convince you that it seems I’ve taken as many steps backwards as forwards?

Obsessing like Hamlet

And then I start looking into Scripture and then put the first foot forward again.

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