Thursday, 7 March 2013

Passionate Spirituality 7: Holiness at the Last Chance Saloon.

Passionate Spirituality: Holiness at the Last Chance Saloon.

Repent or Perish

Luke 13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

The Last Chance Saloon: "At least, that's the way it had been until Monty arrived, although I have to admit we all thought: Here we go again. We've heard it all before. But he and everybody else knew very well that this had to be the last stand. We were definitely in the Last Chance Saloon." Quote from World War 2 diary extract., [6]
The Last Chance Saloon is a place of: Growing up, Holiness, & Challenge.

Growing Up. When you were growing up – Ok when I was growing up – you got to learn what would “sell” to parents, teachers and anyone in authority. You learnt that “don't care was made to care”. You learnt that there was such a thing as being “too clever by half”. You learnt that it was possible to “wipe that smile off your face” and to “laugh on the other side of your face”. The “worthy dolt who is trying but struggling” gets a better deal than the stroppy striker. The “repentant sinner determined to do better” does better than the one who tries to offer excuses. But even then there was a limit. You found yourself drinking in The Last Chance Saloon. It's called growing up. If we don't teach it to our children we reap a terrible harvest. The message of this passage is to all those of us who, like the people in Jerusalem, are less fruitful than we could be. It is that time is not limitless for us.

Holiness: Spirituality addresses our need for personal transformation and trains us in godliness. It will include times of self examination, confession and forgiveness as well as seeking amendment of life. It understands that we are in the last days – at least of our own lives. How we live. How we think. How we talk. All matter to God and affect our walk with Him. Its not that He keeps his distance from us, but we instinctively hide away from His presence when we are guilty, like children with jam stained t-shirts. Holiness also reminds us that there is a consequence to our sin, both now in its effects on ourselves and others but also in eternity. There is an endpoint. There is a judgement. There is a last chance saloon – and we are all in it. No fruit for three years? The result is removal from the orchard. We are not just to “use up the soil” in the kingdom. We are to produce fruit, not just greenery, however beautiful to look at. If a schoolboy manages to escape detention by being able to get round the teacher's strategy – in the end it is only he who will fail the examination. “It's your own time you're wasting” they say. We're drinking in the last chance saloon.

Challenge: surely, we think, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” Rom 8? Our Passionate Spirituality exercise this week is about grasping the truth that the power of God's love for us can overcome all opposition. Whatever may assail us from without or from within: “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” Rom 8:35 cannot do it. All of these things are overwhelmed by God's love – like standing under a waterfall. And yet – yet it is possible to take your umbrella into the waterfall with you. Take your habitual sin, your selfishness, your self-reliance, your bitterness etc. and to keep out of the flow of God's love. Holiness stands before God naked. Me. Just as I am. Yes, God is good. “ ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” its as if Jesus is pleading for a last chance from the Father. But still, fruit is the saving grace. This is the last, the very last, chance. It's now or never. We're drinking in the last chance saloon.

Conclusion: Have a close look at your lifestyle, your choices, your values. Are they things that open you up to God's cleansing love – or do they help us to hide from His presence? If this were the last chance saloon, what drink will you order? Cheers!

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