It sounded like an ultimatum when he said it, and I never liked ultimatums. Ultimatums never did come equipped with enough options to suit me, and this one had that same deficiency. My friend from Tennessee insisted that we had a decision to make, and that we ought to make it right then. We had capped off a long day of classes at Lynchburg Baptist Bible Institute by attending a lengthy evening chapel service and were sitting on the steps of Thomas Road Baptist Church watching the crowd dwindle down to a few stragglers heading for their cars. It was late, and my mind, like the rest of me, was tired and ready to go home. Pondering what to do about Dr. Falwell’s unexpected offer was not something I really wanted to do right then, but my friend was persistent. In his down-home Tennessee accent he drawled out, “It’s ‘crunch time’, Gallagher, and we’ve got a decision to make.”
Incredible Offers Can Still Be Challenging ~
We were about halfway through our Associate Degree program at the Bible Institute, a two-year training program for ‘want-to-be’ preachers who didn’t consider admission to a college or university to be a realistic option. Institute students were being offered a limited, one-time opportunity to transfer to Dr. Falwell’s brand new college, and all our Institute work would be accepted and applied with full college credit. It was an incredible offer, but one that included adjustments I wasn’t sure I was ready to make.
“Look,” I objected, “I don’t think I’m college material. I’m the first kid in our family to graduate from high school, and I’m not convinced I can get through this Institute program without flunking out.” ‘Tennessee’ thought for a minute and then offered this gem of wisdom… “Well… if you’re gonna flunk out anyway, wouldn’t it be a lot more impressive to flunk out of a real college than just a Bible Institute?”
A Simple Question ~
“You realize,” I said, “that everything’s going to change if we do this, and there won’t be any going back.” “That’s why we need to do it together,” he urged. “Otherwise, we’re liable to chicken out.” Then he said, “I think this is from God. Now are you gonna be in or out?”
It was a simple question, but it drew a line in the sand that demanded that I stand on one side or the other. Simple questions can demand answers that affect everything. I chose to be ‘in’ that night, and I was right when I said that life wouldn’t be the same after that. Almost nothing in my life was left untouched by that decision in some way. Tennessee’s simple question stripped away all the paralyzing complexity and condensed the issue into two options, “Are you gonna be in or out?”
Let’s Simplify ~
We live in a world filled with mind-bending complexities, and it’s easy to lapse into thinking that nothing is clear, and that nobody’s really right or wrong. That’s especially true when it comes to spiritual issues—too many questions, too many conflicting dogmas, too many opinions. The world was no less complicated when Jesus came into it, yet He didn’t struggle with the complexities, and it might be a good idea if followed His example. When we step back and abandon our convoluted religiosity, our ecclesiastical conditioning, and our theological conundrums, it’s amazing how profoundly simple the gospel really is.
It’s all About that One Powerful Little Preposition ~
There are at least two places where the little preposition ‘in’ helps strip away the complexities and get us down to the basic issue.
- “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Romans 7:18a NKJV). Paul’s assessment applies to us as well, and that’s a problem.
- Even if the things we consider to be ‘good deeds’ are really good, they still have no power to delete, diminish, or re-classify our sins and failures.
- Then there’s Jesus, of whom the Scriptures declare that “In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9 NKJV).
- And further, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).
Turning from sin, and putting our faith ‘in’ Jesus Christ, is all it takes to be ‘in’ Him and ‘in’ His Kingdom. Without Him, we stand before God with only the stuff that’s ‘in’ us.
So, there’s another very real and compelling ultimatum to consider here. There are only two options, and my buddy from Tennessee said it well… “This is from God. Now are you gonna be ‘in’ or out?”
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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