“Sinners in Heaven, Saints in Hell”
October 04, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: Job 1:1; 2:1-10 Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 Mark 10:2-16
Has your life ever taken a wrong turn?
What I mean is, have events in your life ever unfolded much differently than you expected them to?
Life is like that but sometimes, as Christians, we struggle with it. In fact, unbelievers often struggle with the same thing without having a good scriptural understanding to fall back on. When (my wife) Patti returned from the recent Kairos prison ministry, she told me that one of the very powerful things that happened that weekend, was when the women who were volunteering, shared some of the problems that they and their families were having. Many of the women in prison simply assumed that these church ladies had it all together and that God was making their lives run smoothly.
But life isn’t like that at all.
Moreover, the Christian life isn’t like that.
Just because we follow Jesus, and have put our faith and trust in him, doesn’t mean that life always treats us with kid gloves. Too many of us have suffered from cancer, rebellion, unemployment, under-employment, abuse, disease, divorce, disaster, death and a host of other things. Just because we trust Jesus to welcome us to heaven doesn’t mean that believers do not sometimes live through little pieces of hell right here on earth.
During those times, the story of Job reminds us that even the best among us have faced suffering and hard times. (Job 1:1; 2:1-10)
1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
2:1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
Job lost his money, his home, his children, and finally even his health despite the fact that he was “blameless and upright.” He was a moral and faithful follower of God. He did nothing to deserve the things that happened to him. But they happened all the same. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes terrible, awful, horrible, indescribable things happen to good people. And sometimes those things happen for no reason (that we can discern) whatsoever. God may have a hand in it, God may allow it, God may have a plan for it, God may use it, but whether he does or does not, it may be years (if ever) before we discover why. All we know is that the followers of God, regardless of how faithful or blameless, sometimes suffer and for reasons that we do not always understand, God allows it.
What is perhaps worse, is that virtually none of us are as good as Job was. There are few of us who can even come close to calling ourselves, “upright and blameless.” In fact, in Mark 10:2-16, Jesus raises the bar so high that destroyed even the Pharisees, and these were men who dedicated their lives to following rules that were intended to lead them to perfection.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
These were times that were, in many ways, much like ours. They were times when divorce was common and accepted both culturally and within the church. The Pharisees were, morally speaking, among the most morally “upright” in society, and they accepted divorce as normal, natural and acceptable before God and man. They tested Jesus because different factions among the church leaders argued over what was an acceptable reason for divorce, but Jesus raises the bar higher than any of them expected. Jesus says that divorce, for any reason, is sin and what’s more, insists that remarriage is also sin. In one moment, Jesus raises the bar so high that what is normal and acceptable becomes sin and meeting the standard become almost impossible. In a single moment, Jesus exposes many of the church’s “upright” leaders as sinners. Jesus then explains to his followers that the faith of a believer has to be like the faith of a child. Genuine faith must be trusting, teachable, humble, open, and accepting of others. In fact, if we kept reading for another couple verses, Jesus states quite emphatically, that no one is good, except God alone.
No one is good.
The bar has been set too high.
The standard is too difficult for us.
None of us is good enough.
All of us are sinners.
But there is good news.
And in Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12, Paul reminds us what it is.
1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
Paul zeros in on the core of the issue.
God’s standards are set impossibly high.
We are not perfect.
None of us are good enough.
But Jesus is the one who provides purification of sins.
Jesus is the one whom God has placed over all things.
Jesus is the one who suffered and died in our place.
And Jesus is the one who makes us holy.
We are all sinners.
But sinners like us will go to heaven if, like children, we put our trust in him.
Saints, like the Pharisees, those people who do all the right things and seem to follow all of the rules, will end up in hell if they place their trust only in themselves.
It is Jesus that makes all the difference.
Have you put your trust in him?