Read Psalm 87
Focus on verse 4-6
Are you in or are you out? Did you go to an Ivy League college? Do you have the right circle of friends and do you make enough money, or were you born on the wrong side of the tracks? These are just a few of the many ways that many people in our our society quantifies the value of an individual.
In America we would like to believe that every person has equal rights and value simply because they are human, and there are a few examples of people who have crossed these boundaries demonstrating that it still is possible, but for the great majority of people it would seem that beginning in elementary and grade school we soon discover that if we happen to be born into the wrong family or neighborhood, it becomes much more difficult to rise to top of the class.
In Psalm 87 the Lord seems to be reminding us that He does not measure us by the same standards. The people of Israel were special to God and I believe they still are, however, it seems there seem to have been times in history when they tended to develop a mentality of entitlement and exclusivity. They began to assume that they somehow had first dibs on God’s favor just because they were Jewish, and that all those other people out there were second rate. In this psalm God reminds them that He has people he loves in every nation. Yes, He does have a special place in His heart for Zion (Jerusalem) and there are some who know Him there as well. The point is that it is the Lord who measures us and He does it by His standard not ours.
It is unfortunate that we have not been able to avoid this kind of measuring and classifying within the church either. It becomes very difficult to help people feel welcome in a church when we imply by our actions and attitudes that unless they become like us they really don’t belong. Its not that people do not have to change when they meet Jesus or that He transforms their life, its just that we sometimes get a little too enthusiastic about helping Jesus out with the transformation. Perhaps part of the issue is that we are looking for signs of transformation on the outside of the person, while Jesus is primarily concerned with transforming the inside of the person first. We like to draw lines between behaviors and actions legalistically because this is easier to measure. I don’t see Jesus doing that as I read of His interaction with people in the Gospels. He was less concerned with how close or far a person was from him in proximity, and more concerned with the direction the person was moving. Jesus wants to know that wherever we are – whether we are inside the walls of the church, or a long distance away from His church – He is interested in seeing that we are moving toward Him rather than away from Him.
I suspect that most churches have people within their membership, possibly even within their leadership that are inwardly rebelling. They might be doing and saying all the right things on the outside, but their heart is cold to Christ. At the same time there are people outside the church whose words and actions are not right, but they have a heart that is seeking after God. They desire to move toward Christ but they have been deceived into believing they are not good enough because they do not measure up to the standards of the ones doing everything right on the outside.
So who is really in and who is really out? If you were to ask either one of these people they would likely tell you that the people in the church are in and that the people outside the church are out. I have a hunch that God (who measures our hearts) might have a different opinion.
The bottom line is that I don’t know and it’s not my place to try to determine whether or not you or anyone else is in or out. What should be of concern to me is whether I am truly in or not. Ultimately, God will be the judge, but I believe His desire is for me to know with certainty that I am in, and He has also provided a way for me to be assured of that. In 1 John 5:13 the Apostle writes “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I don’t have to hope, guess or wonder. I can KNOW that I have eternal life because I have chosen to believe in the name of the Son of God and all the things that have been written about Him in the Bible. Whether you are in or out is not for me to judge. It is however, a concern to me or I would not be wasting my time attempting to convince you to make that choice, but I cannot make the choice for you nor can anyone else. Ultimately each of us must choose whether or not we will believe in the name of the Son of God. That is the choice that determines whether we are “in” or “out”. Please choose wisely.