Living in Jeopardy
Jeopardy! is a game show in which the point values of incorrect responses are deducted from a contestant’s score. I’d be more likely to walk on water (especially in February in Pennsylvania) than be a Jeopardy! champion.
I’m not a trivia whiz. I’ve tried to play the game at home. The points I lose on incorrect responses usually cancel out those I gain on correct ones. For me, responding to each clue as a real contestant would be like betting my life savings on a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Jeopardy! isn’t my kind of game. I avoid Jeopardyville. I prefer safety over risk-taking.
I minimize the time I am vulnerable to getting a speeding ticket. I report all of my income to the IRS. I don’t ignore a summons for jury duty. I don’t drive without auto insurance. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I don’t buy lottery tickets.
Not everyone is wired as I am. Some people are as safety-averse as I am risk-averse. They take chances. They ride motorcycles without a helmet. They don’t wear seatbelts. They don’t stop at stop signs. They don't get flu shots. They text while they drive.
Without realizing it, most people on Earth are living in jeopardy. As naturally as breathing, they prioritize independence, fleshly pleasures, riches, and personal glory above God. That makes them His enemies (1 John 2:16). Perhaps unknowingly, they figuratively spit in God’s face and disregard His priorities. That’s 100 times more foolish than spitting in Vladimir Putin’s face.
God is gracious, compassionate, and rich in love (Psalm 145:8), and Putin isn’t. But God is also unimaginably holy and set apart from all sin and is not to be trifled with (Isaiah 6:3). It is a dreadful thing to fall into His hands (Hebrews 10:31).
Someday, someone more powerful than Putin may rise and spit in his face without negative consequences. No one more powerful than God will ever exist.
Those who persist in self-centered living in a God-centered Universe are in perpetual jeopardy. Their lives are more fragile than they imagine.
They hang by a thread over the abyss of eternally suffering God’s wrath (John 3:36) while they pursue their independence, fleshly pleasures, riches, and personal glory.
How does one escape such jeopardy? The preachers of my youth pointed me toward the forgiveness God offers. But it wasn’t clear what my response should be.
Their central message was my need to receive Jesus as my personal Savior to remove myself from the jeopardy of hell (eternal separation from God). My decision to respond to an altar call at the end of the worship service was how they said I could remove myself from jeopardy.
Of course, the decision to kneel at an altar didn’t make me a Christian any more than walking through the White House in grade school made me the President of the United States. These preachers explained almost nothing about following Jesus as a way of life. They portrayed salvation as decision based. A list of things I shouldn’t do accompanied it. That was all I needed to know to be a Christian. But it wasn’t.
The unsettling truth was that even after I took a trip or two to that altar, I still felt like I was living in jeopardy. My understanding of the gospel was partial and twisted.
I believed I had to live my life up to a certain standard for God to accept me, and I didn’t know how good I had to be. However low the standard, I wasn’t confident I would be on the gold side of the pearly gates.
I felt no longer in jeopardy only when I trusted alone in what Jesus had done for me on the cross to make me right with God (1 Peter 3:18). Gratitude motivated me to follow and serve Him. Not because I had to but because I wanted to.
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