Pay now or pay later

Chuck Tabor

Chuck Tabor

A friend of mine, Ken, was a staunch Dallas Cowboys fan, almost as much as I am an Ohio State fan. Every Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys’ game was being broadcast Ken would change the arrangement of furniture in his living room into more of a theater concept, several rows of chairs and couches facing the big screen television set, in the days before big-screen TV sets were popular. He would pull out all his Cowboys attire and paraphernalia to set the atmosphere for the game. He would invite friends over and even had jerseys for them to wear if they came without one.

But the most amazing thing about Ken and his passion for the Cowboys was that even if the game broadcast was delayed – which it sometimes was, he would go through the same ritual as if he were watching the game live. He would insist that no one tell him what the outcome of the game was. Ken wanted to experience the game as if it were live.

Have you ever watched a game where the outcome was already known? I used to videotape all of the Ohio State-Michigan games, and the OSU bowl games, somehow thinking I would like to watch the games again. But I never have done so – not even once.

You know, watching the game is one thing – but betting on it is quite another.

Suppose you had been out of the country when the recent NBA championship took place. But before you left the country, you had asked me to record the series and save it so you could watch it when you returned. And suppose I had fulfilled your request and saved the recorded series – all seven games. But also suppose that when you returned, I proposed we place a $100 bet on the series, and I would even take Cleveland. Would you take me up on it? Only if you wanted to give me $100. Why? Because the outcome is not in any doubt. That would be a very foolish debt, would it not?

And yet millions of people bet their eternal destiny against an outcome that God has declared absolutely certain. In Philippians 2:9-11 we read: “Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and is ascended to the right hand of God the Father where He awaits all of His enemies to be made His footstool (Check out Psalm 110:1). God’s Word assures us that every knee will bow to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.

And yet people go on betting their eternal destiny against this sure word from God, living as their own lords and saviors, as if God’s Word were uncertain or not true. In our text, the apostle Paul assures us that because Jesus humbled Himself through the cross, God has exalted Him above all, so that all will submit to Jesus as Lord.

This powerful truth is the fundamental truth of all Scripture, yet here in these few verses it is crystallized for us to more clearly see and understand the depths of its significance. Here we see three thoughts which spring out of the text: 1 – Christ is supremely exalted over all creation (2:9); 2 – Every creature will bow before the exalted Lord (2:10); 3 – Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (2:11).

These three truths demonstrate that no matter who wins the presidential elections this fall, no matter how the stock market performs, or no matter whether Great Britain exits the European Union or not, Jesus Christ is exalted over all of his own creation.

My friends, that should help each of us to have confidence in where we are. Well, if we are true followers of Jesus Christ, that is. But, alas, not everyone follows Christ. That is where the next principles in this passage come to bear. For every creature will eventually recognize that Jesus is Lord, and every knee will bow before him, and every tongue will confess him in that role.

There used to be an old commercial on television advertising Fram oil filters. The 30-second spot featured a weathered, old auto mechanic, with hands and face covered in grease, standing before a broken down vehicle with the hood raised. With sadness in his voice and a Fram oil filter in his raised hand, he faced the camera and uttered those inimitable words, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” Obviously, the point of his comments was that if the vehicle’s owner had used a Fram oil filter and changed it regularly, he would not be having the much-more expensive engine problems he was currently facing.

You know, the same is true here. The fact is that every individual – it does not matter what you believe – will eventually bow before God and confess that Jesus Christ as Lord. If you and I have trusted Christ in this life, before we die and before He comes again, that confession will be one of worship and adoration. But if we insist upon living our own way in this life, we will find that our bowing before him is in judgment. He will be judging us. We then will be pleading our case before him, and it will be futile.

The point is that Christ in his supreme exaltation has won the victory over sin and death. You can pay him now by simply trusting Jesus as your Savior or you can pay him later, when he comes to declare that victory and taking no prisoners.

Which will it be for you?

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.

Chuck Tabor Tabor