What would happen if we were subjected to an annual spiritual review similar to a performance review on our jobs? Would we be kicked out of the church for dereliction of duty or placed in remedial classes for not applying ourselves? Most of us would be able to pass marginally because we have the routine down, but are not challenging ourselves to attain new heights in the Lord. Is that good enough for God? Thus says the LORD:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16).
God not only reviews us constantly, God also urges and empowers us to corrective action by the Holy Spirit.
What are God’s performance standards?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
What amuses me in scripture is that whenever people find themselves at the judgment, they are utterly astounded at their final destination. Will we marvel at the grace extended to the homeless and crackheads we looked down on as church goers and evan-publicans find themselves in hell with all their self-righteousness?
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?’And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’
“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
The big money question is: Who is checking up on you?
The typical pastor has not a clue about the disposition of the spirit of their congregants, but they can testify to church attendance, lifestyle, and financial contributions. Rare is the eulogy where the spiritual leader can honestly attest to the quality of the spirit of the deceased and bless the memory of it. Usually, it’s more like a generic speech with a blank with “insert name here” printed under it at defined intervals. In the same manner, denominational leaders assess congregations on their membership rolls, finances, and activities. These are not God’s performance metrics.
I challenge you to maintain three relationships: one with a spiritual leader who guides you in the way, another with a peer with whom you share similar challenges, and one with a person growing in the faith who you disciple. This is not about people being all in each other’s business. These relationships are to be accountable to one another, bear one another’s burdens, and being the stewards of God’s love that we are all called to be. Check in regularly with each to ensure you don’t find yourself in shock when that great day comes. Your eschatological fate is non-negotiable.
Theologian Martin Heidegger postulates that there is only one sin and that is not living life authentically. We all have something God requires of us personally. Let’s not complicate the simple with meaningless resolutions. Losing weight is fine, but it won’t get you in or keep you out of heaven. Do you worship with the object of your faith in spirit and in truth? Do you know and heed His word? Is there another vocation you should be engaging? Are you in love and charity with your neighbor?
I remember being in graduate school in North Carolina the first time I heard a sermon that shocked my consciousness. Critical sermons were typically directed at people other than those in the pews. Down south, they give up the fire and brimstone freely. That day I realized if I met my end right then, I was going to hell. It was terrifying in the moment, but I didn’t change course right away. Thank God for sufficient life remaining to get on the path of righteousness.
Each New Year is an opportunity for a renewed relationship with God. Let us seriously examine our spiritual direction, devotion, and disposition to develop a plan for doing better continuously. There is always room for improvement for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Do not greet the next year in the same form that you entered this one or you might find yourself short when He comes again.