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The Most Important Question

By J. W. Jepson, D.Min.

Life In Christ Center, 3095 Cherry Heights Road, The Dalles, Oregon 97058

(541) 296-1136

copyright 1998 by J. W. Jepson

All rights reserved, including the right to grant the following permission and to prohibit the misuse thereof:

The Author hereby grants permission to reproduce the text of this article, without changes or alterations*, as a ministry, but not for commercial or non-ministry purposes.

*Permission is given for publication of excerpts and condensed versions.

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(First published in The Pentecostal Evangel, April 12, 1981)

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It is early morning. A milling, murmuring crowd has converged on the governor. Their mood is ugly. They are after blood. The atmosphere is charged with high drama.

The mounting tension has become explosive. A strong security guard stands poised for action in case the situation gets out of hand.

Near the governor stands a serene figure in a white, seamless robe. It is Jesus.

Pontius Pilate is under intense pressure for a decision. He cannot avoid it. His wife has urged him, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man." But who can do that? Who can ignore Jesus? Who can avoid the vital issue?

No, Pilate must make a decision, the big decision, and he must make it now. So with a clear voice he throws out to the multitude the most important question that human lips can utter: "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"

For a moment there is dead silence. Then from a host of venomous tongues the answer comes crashing back into Pilate's ears: "Let him be crucified."

What a crucial question. What a sad, heartbraking answer. Sacred Scripture preserves the record of it in Mattew 27:22.

But Pontius Pilate and the Judean crowd assembled that fateful day were not the last to face this question and be forced to answer it. The question has echoed and reechoded down the corridors of time from generation to generation, confronting human hearts everywhere with its inescapable challenge. And its demand is just as imperative today as the moment it first pierced the human conscience that far-off morning in Jerusalem.

"What shall I do with Jesus?" Everyone must respond personally to the question. We were born to answer it. This is life's most vital issue.

Everything depends on our answer. Why is the matter crucial? First of all, because Jesus Christ is God. He is Lord. This has tremendous moral implications to each of us. His interests are infinitely valuable. He claims and deserves our supreme love with total obedience.

Some people consider Jesus to be a good teacher, a great religious leader, a moble martyr, the highest example of human virtue, but nothing more. Jesus will not accept that. He claimed to be God.

Now if He were not what He claimed to be, He was either an audacious lair or a psychotic megalomaniac. If Jesus of Nazareth perpetrated a fraud, we can dismiss Him. If He suffered from the world's worst messianic complex, we can ignore Him. But if He is God, as He claims to be and as His resurrection proves Him to be, we must worship Him.

Again the question is crucial because Jesus Christ is our only Savior. His death on the cross is the only way whereby God can wisely and justly forgive our sins. Acts 4:12 is clear: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Once we are confronted by the claims of Jesus Christ, we can never be neutral about Him. He leaves us no middle ground, no third alternative. We either accept Him or reject Him. He said, "He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30).

Rejection is hostility, enmity. This usually is not an emotion, a "hate feeling." Most often it is a quiet resistance. It is possible for a person to have good feelings about Jesus and yet resist His claims. If the heart does not submit to Him, this indicates hostility. Continued rejection is continued enmity. Love is surrender, not just sentiment.

And we either confess Jesus Christ or deny Him. He said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Mattew 10:32,33; see also Romans 10:9,10.)

This is not a mere lip-confession, not the mechanical recitation of a creed or catechism. It is heart-confession, involving full commitment to Christ as Savior and Lord.

Such was the confession of Thomas. Upon meeting the risen Christ he responded wholeheartedly, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). It is the heart reaching out and embracing Jesus by faith.

So we have two alternatives: the throne or the cross. Either Jesus Christ is ruling upon the throne of the heart, or self has usurped His righful place and nailed the gentle Savior to a cross. Money, peer pressure, pride, pleasure--whatever it is, if it rules the heart, it is a cross where self has wounded the Lord of glory.

Someone may say: "I'm not religious, but I'm an honest person. I'm generous, well liked. I work for a living, and I try to treat others right." Fine, but that is not salvation. The issue is, "What am I doing with Jesus Christ?"

Another says: "I have joined the church. I pay my dues. I try to fulfill my religious duties." So did the people who crucified Jesus. The deciding question is still, "What am I doing with Jesus Christ?"

What is your verdict? The throne or the cross? Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in" (Revelation 3:20).

And when He comes in, He goes straight to the control room, the heart. That is where He belongs. Jesus Christ is Lord. On that basis we must respond to Him.

Someday we shall all stand before Him. Then the momentous question will no longer be, "What shall I do with Jesus?" but, "What will He do with me?" What He does with us then will depend on what we do with Him now.

Let us not wait but open our hearts and receive Him today.

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