Saturday, January 16, 2016

How I Won the Lottery

            For the past week or so, my Facebook feed was filled with posts and memes about the Powerball lottery. I couldn’t help but think about how I’ve already won the lottery. Yes, you read that right. I’ve already won the lottery. I won the lottery when I was “chosen according the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood” (1 Peter 1:2). I won the lottery when I responded to the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and said, “Yes, Lord, I choose to serve you instead of myself.” Okay, hopefully the one reading this has caught on to the fact that I didn’t actually win a money lottery; but I won Jesus, and that is the best lottery to win. In this post, I would like to continue to explain the similarities (and some differences) between winning a money lottery and winning the Jesus lottery. (I acknowledge that this is just an analogy, and it is an imperfect one. Take whatever wheat there may be in it, and let the chaff be blown away by the wind.)
            In the first place, not many people in this whole world will win a money lottery. It is the same with the Jesus lottery. Matthew 7:14 says “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Knowing this, I appreciate having won the Jesus lottery all the more.
            Next, in terms of the way that the money lottery is won and the way that the Jesus lottery is won, there is one key difference, but some similarities. In order to win the money lottery, one has to go out and buy a ticket. There’s effort needed. Not so with the Jesus lottery. In John 3:1-21, Jesus has a conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (v. 3). He goes even further in verse 5 to say that “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” [emphasis mine]. Think of a baby that is born naturally. Does he have anything to do with his birth? Does she control when she will come out of her mother’s womb? Of course not! Jesus summarizes this thought in verse 8, saying, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Instead of one having to go out and buy a ticket for the money lottery, the Jesus lottery just happens. It is like walking along the street and having the winning lottery ticket blown into your hand.
            Yet, what happens when one has the winning lottery ticket? Does one automatically get money in the mail? No, one has to either mail in the winning ticket or go in person. What if one doesn’t redeem the ticket? That person does not get any money. The Jesus lottery is similar. When a person senses the Holy Spirit working in his life, he has the choice of saying, “Yes, Lord, I want You to rule my life. I want to die to myself.” Or he can go on with his life and throw away Jesus. When the Jesus lottery ticket blows into your life, will you be the one to redeem the ticket or the one to throw the ticket in the trash?
            Another way that winning a money lottery is like winning the Jesus lottery is how it affects all of life. When one wins the lottery, one’s life changes, in that one can now afford a new house, a new car, new clothes, etc. It wouldn’t make sense for someone who just won the lottery to have a nice house but be unable to pay his doctor bills. (This assumes that the person who won the lottery is somewhat responsible when it comes to money management.) Just as lottery winnings overflow into all areas of life, the Jesus lottery winnings do so as well. The Jesus lottery doesn’t make bad people good, and it doesn’t make good people better. No! It makes dead people alive, and this aliveness ought to flow into every area of one’s life. If it doesn’t, I must be frank: I don’t think that you’ve actually won the Jesus lottery. If the Jesus lottery only makes it so that you go to church on Sundays and so that you’re a “generally good” person, you need to rethink whether or not you’ve actually won the Jesus lottery.
            Because of the Jesus lottery, I have peace that comes from following God’s commands and that comes from knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Because of the Jesus lottery, I have victory in mental health, whereas before dark and suicidal thoughts had a stronghold in my mind. Because of the Jesus lottery, I have a huge spiritual family, so I don’t have to be lonely, even if my own family members were to ever reject me (Mark 10:29-30). Because of the Jesus lottery, I have purpose in life and can give generously of my time and resources to others. Because of the Jesus lottery, I have never-ending joy, even when trouble comes. (And expect trouble if you win the Jesus lottery, because Jesus declared in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” But Jesus also goes on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”) Because of the Jesus lottery, I work at Oakridge Christian Camp in Anadarko, OK. Because of the Jesus lottery, all of my life has changed.
            At this point, I wish to make one last clarification. I am not talking about Jesus as the lottery ticket to heaven, although John 14:6 makes it clear that Jesus is “the way, the truth, the life” [emphasis mine]. Heaven as a place would not be great by itself. It is great because Jesus is there. Heaven isn’t the lottery winnings; it is Jesus! And God so graciously lets us taste the goodness of Jesus here on earth as we submit to Him in response to His love demonstrated for us on the cross. That is how I’ve won the lottery!

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