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12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (emphasis mine)

Philippians 2:12-13

Naema stepped out of the lecture hall with confidence. As she approached 6 classmates, she noticed they were discussing the exam. “Guys, how did the paper go?

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Diem eyed Naema while friendliness lifted the corners of her mouth into a smile. 

“We know you’ve raised the bar already. So why are you asking? Diem quizzed. Naema smiled back and pointed at David. 

“There’s your bar raiser. Look at him smiling! David saw her gesture, turned and made a face. They delved straight into question 3b“All fish are mammals. Discuss”

As they discussed that question, it became increasingly clear that the lecturer meant more than just that question. In class, it was confirmed that anyone who dealt with it at face value lost half the mark even if they did that excellently. That means they could not afford to be oblivious to the obvious intent of the question.

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Whenever the Pharisees related with Jesus, they lost sight of the forest for the trees. So while He focused on eternal issues, they were fixated on browbeating Him for the moment. Whenever they pried into Him, trying hard to twist Him into knots and get Him to make punishable mistakes, He would instead look earnestly for disciples from among them. He was on to eternal things but they were on to mundane intricacies. They were obviously oblivious to what should be obvious.

He was giving them unlimited opportunities, but they saw nothing like that. Instead, they only looked for rebuttal arguments. One such painful event is in Mark 3:5 when at church, He wanted to heal a man with a withered arm, hoping they would see that God is more interested in saving His children than in just obeying human laws. So Jesus posed a question simply asking what they considered was a better activity on Sabbath for them. Was it making someone smile or being the reason for them to cry? To avoid admitting the obvious, they just kept mute. On another occasion, in Matthew 21:23-27, they came to Jesus with a quiz. To answer them, Jesus asked them a simple question requiring honest feedback. Was John’s baptism from God or man? John had worked among them, preaching and baptizing. Many lives, including non-Jewish soldiers, had been changed for the better. Was it from God? The Pharisees said they didn’t know. Simple question, simple answer. An honest statement, honest feedback. But they were fixated on looking good, unruffled and confident. They answered that they did not know if the Holy Spirit led John so as not to commit themselves. 

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God was reaching out, but man was only interested in staying politically, socially, legally, academically, personally, and even religiously correct. Jesus gently pried into their lives, uncovering possibilities. He was already aware of all their hidden unfortunacies, but they only saw an enemy to their entrenched, self-destructive habits. Heaven had thrown its gates wide open, but men and women only busied themselves looking calm, intelligent, and unmoved. They hesitated and tried to gauge what they would lose by becoming Jesus’ disciples. These rather were their priorities!

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Today, Jesus uses His word, people, circumstances, dreams, inspired counsel, opportunities, unfortunacies, and even our mistakes to let us know He expects us to work our salvation with fear and anxiety lest we lose out. In the brief moments, we get it. Then we remember something and halt the process of change for the better.

Eternity signals at us, and her face is twisted into a puzzled frown. She still asks herself, “¿¡Can’t they realize what I’m offering them?! 

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No Eternity, they are blinded by their own parochial interests, including looking out for what they stand to gain. They are obviously oblivious to what is obvious. Eternity is beckoning. Can’t you see? Do you understand her gestures, kindness, words, and offers? Eternal life is smiling at you and extending her hand to you. Please take her hand and assess the peace of knowing that your future is sorted. I beg you.