Ready to Applaud

The idea that, on Judgment Day, your life will be projected on a giant movie screen, has got to be one of the most terrifying urban legends within Evangelicaldom. Even people confident they are forgiven live in horror in the expectation that every sin will be portrayed in glorious technicolor. (I suppose that dates the myth; now it would be 3d or virtual reality).

But the Lord seeks love and is a faithful friend: “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17.9). He is not a slanderer, but is rather trustworthy in spirit: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proberbs 11.13). So He has no intention of embarrassing you in front of your family and friends. The movie screen isn’t going to happen.

But I think we need to go further. Not only is he not going to display your faults on camera, he watches you with another intent entirely. As Paul tells the Romans:

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Time and again audiences crave movies and TV shows about an unrecognized hero or heroine who overcomes great obstacles. We root for such a protagonist all the more when everyone else in the drama is oblivious to their personal trials and ultimate triumphs.

God is your audience.

Paul couldn’t tell us that a true believer’s “praise is not from man but from God” if he wasn’t indeed ready and willing to praise us. God doesn’t watch us to catch us in sin. He watches us to reward us.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This promised reward is not hypothetical–dependent on some impossible level of sinless behavior. In context Jesus is talking to people who are sinners but who God is eager to reward:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

God is quick to reward people who are evil. He isn’t looking to catch us in sin but to reward us for our good deeds. And, while we don’t often have enough faith to do this; God sends circumstances into our lives so that merely enduring is the most amazing thing.

And we’re tempted to think that we are friendless and no one cares or knows what we’re going through.

But God’s rooting for us.

6 thoughts on “Ready to Applaud

  1. Donovan Lipham

    Yes yes yes!!! Why is it that Jesus is screaming this from the mountaintops and people would rather believe the voice of shame and condemnation and claim that it’s the Gospel…instead of the gospel itself?

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply
  2. Mom/Ruth

    Mark, when Dad just read this he reminded me how he would carry a pocketful of those very Chick tracts when he had to go into Monrovia on business, especially when he rode his scooter. He was often approached by a cop who would ask, “Do you have a little something [translation: bribe] for your good friend?” Dad would say “Sure” and hand him one of the tracts…most times the cop then figured out he was dealing with a missionary and would give up.

    Aside from the historical trivia, we both appreciated this post, since we grew up under this oppressive view regarding God and his attitude toward us.

    Reply
  3. pentamom

    I never quite get how the same Christians who sincerely say things like, “When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sins, because those are gone, He sees only His love for Jesus” can say within the next couple of breaths things like, “When you stand before God, and He asks you…”

    What? What would He ask Jesus? I think He’s just going to say, “I’m so glad you’re here!”

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Do legalists care enough about God to boast to Him? » Mark Horne

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