As we continue this series I’ve titled Key People at the End of the Age, a little background is in order. A number of years ago I went into the hardware store to get a key made. The man took me to where the key machine was and then he somehow morphed into “Infomercial Man”. He began to speak louder as if to draw a crowd…which he did.
He said, “So you want a key eh?” He then showed me small carousel of what appeared from a distance to be keys. He said, “The first step is to Present a Blank.” He took one off the carousel. “Now this looks like a real key but as you see it is a blank.”
For our purposes let’s liken this to our initial experience as disciples of the Lord. We hear the gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our need for a Savior. We are born again. Now what?
This Sunday I had one of the happiest days of my life. I was visiting the Church my son and his family attend. The occasion was the dedication of their baby boy Noah. Protestants as a rule don’t believe in infant baptism. There is however often a ceremony in which the parents present their baby—as if to say “We are dedicating ourselves to raise this child in such a fashion that he or she will walk with God, and follow Him all the days of their lives.”
Hannah in the Old Testament brought Samuel to the Temple and ‘gave him’ to the Lord. Mary the mother of Jesus along with Joseph brought the boy Jesus into the Temple to offer a sacrifice and to acknowledge that the Boy belonged to God.
Back to our ‘Blank Key’ analogy. The blank looks ‘like’ a key but won’t be a functional key until it is shaped into the use determined by the one who is making a copy of another real key. I’ve been conducting retreats and speaking to groups of young people about this lately. Somehow in our fiercely independent, autonomous age, we’ve gotten the wrong idea of what it means to be a person who follows Jesus.
I’ve heard it many times that the goal of Christianity is to GET…more success…more money…promotions and favor with the world. Listen to what the Apostle said in Romans 12:1
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable will of God”
The Greek word translated present comes from 2 Greek words which means to stand beside, to proffer, to exhibit or to yield (Strong’s Dictionary of the New Testament) Paul uses a derivative of this phrase in the last letter he ever wrote, Second Timothy. He tells his young lieutenant Timothy
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and kingdom.
Preach the Word, Be ready (or Instant) in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires—because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and will turn aside their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” II Timothy 4:1-1-4
The word translated ready or instant means “to stand UPON. To be present…to be ready to take a stand” Strong’s Greek New Testament Dictionary op.cit
The image that comes to mind for me is the scene at either The Marine Recruit Depot in Oceanside California or its counterpart at Paris Island, South Carolina. A young man or woman has raised their hand and taken an oath. Up until now the Marines the new recruits have dealt with have been very friendly and the exchanges were very positive. Now they are picked up at the airport and taken by van or bus to boot camp. The moment the Drill instructor enters that van. Life as they knew it has changed forever.
They are screamed at and goaded prompted and otherwise scared into lining up on a curious set of footprints painted on the concrete.
The message is painfully clear that they will no longer walk as they please. They will walk in tandem and literally in formation with others who have “presented themselves.” The very command for a military salute is PRESENT ARMS. Nothing is easy by design. It is the most rigorous experience many of them will ever endure in their lives. Yet the history and the lore and the mystique is clear. They are literally standing where countless other Marines have stood… on the very same footprints!
To be a Key Person at the end of the age, I think we would do well to understand that we begin by presenting our bodies as a blank…submitting to the will of God—that yes, may involve suffering and reproach and even death for some. But in order for the Lord to use us we must understand that there is a cost involved.
Jesus didn’t call fans to celebrate his renown. He called disciples to share in His reproach and suffering. Any takers?
Maybe our salute should be “PRESENT—Blanks”?