You Schmooze, You Lose

If there was one thing Guy knew how to do well it was to schmooze. He was charming, polite and always practiced proper etiquette. His smile was as infectious as love in the springtime and his handshake was firm. He was a man who honored the rules of chivalry. He opened doors for the ladies and offered his seat to the elderly. Though he didn’t smoke himself he always carried a cigarette lighter as a courtesy for those who did. To the unsuspecting he was a dream. Those who to his lure soon found that Guy was a nightmare. Behind the sweet smoke and flattering mirrors lurked an evil predator. Sure he was a gentleman who would offer his seat to a senior. But he was also listening for a jingle in the old man’s pocket as he lowered himself. Certainly, he would hold the door for a lady… all the while checking for a brand label on her backside. That’s how Guy operated. That’s how he paid the rent. He was a con.

Guy was slick and grew increasingly more confident by the day. He had convinced himself that he could talk anyone into or out of anything and I must admit that he was quite successful – most of the time… but not all of the time.  There were those rare occasions when charm would disappoint and finesse would leave Guy out in the cold. Such a time was when he attempted to make an appearance at the Academy Award Ceremony in Tinsel Town.

Oscar Night. It would be the ultimate date with the girl he so desperately longed to impress. Sure she would go with him. After all Guy was an actor, though not the kind she was led to believe. Barbara was flattered by the invitation. She got dolled up in her flashiest evening gown. Guy wore that familiar suit with giant lapels and dowsed himself with the sweetest fragrance Thrifty Drugstore had to offer. Then off the darling couple went. Can’t you just picture the two of them zooming away together in his shiny red convertible MG? So can I. But that’s not how it went down. His car wouldn’t start so… they took mine… without permission, by the way. Now can you picture them? Can you see them rolling up alongside the Limos and Bentleys in my oxidized white 1960 Rambler? Can you see these crazy characters cranking down the window to wave at Jack Nicholson?

I don’t know how far away they had to park. I don’t know how close to the red carpet they came. What I do know is this, Guy and his lovely date weren’t admitted to the Academy Award ceremonies. All the charm in the world could not open doors for these two to join the glitz of Hollywood’s most celebrated event. Finesse could not get them seated among the rich and famous. Sometimes you win and sometimes you schmooze. But on Oscar night, schmoozers are losers. There is only one way to get on the red carpet, your name must be recorded on the guest list. Unfortunately, Guy’s wasn’t. Neither was Barbara’s. That was that.

The Kingdom of God operates in a similar fashion. You can’t schmooze your way in. It won’t matter how polite you come across or how fancy you are dressed. Nor will it matter what you are driving or how close to the red carpet you may be. Unless your name is on the guest list you won’t make it in. These aren’t my rules; they come straight from the Word of God. With regard to that heavenly paradise scripture states, “Nothing unclean, no one who does anything detestable, and no liars will ever enter it. Only those whose names are written in the lamb’s Book of Life will enter it.” (See Revelation 21:27) The obvious question at this point is: how does one get their name in the Book of Life?

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This might come as a shocker but many religious leaders do not have their names written in the Book of Life. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. And if that weren’t shocking enough, there are oodles of unsavory sorts who somehow get their names inked in on God’s guest list. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? The reality is, if we were able to flip trough it’s many pages we would discover a host of unlikely candidates listed. Honestly, we’re talkin’ real questionable characters here. A rap sheet on just one of these low-lifer’s would be enough to Paper Mache’ the entire planet! One might even be tempted to tip God off on offenses He seemingly overlooked on some of these rascals. (Before you get any ideas, though, you may want to check out your own rap sheet.)

Jesus informed the religious leaders of His day that they weren’t on the guest list but that hookers and swindlers were. (See Matthew 21:31) He didn’t actually use the terms ‘hookers’ or ‘swindlers’ but that’s how we might express it today. Jesus actually referred to these creatures as harlots and tax collectors. In New Testament times you couldn’t stoop much lower than to be a hooker or a tax collector, they were bottom of the barrel. Both were predators, neither had an ounce of dignity. Tax collectors took cash against a person’s will while harlots took it against one’s better judgment. One stole money for pleasure while the other sold pleasure for money. They enriched their livelihoods at the expense of others. One forced while the other flirted but the end result was always the same, somebody got taken. That is why, at least in Jesus’ day, they earned the scorn of all society.

How could it be that God would prefer tramps and thieves over such noble gents as priests, scribes and temple elders? Scarier yet, does He still operate this way today? Who is on the guest list? Is it the good reverend with the white collar? Or, Bambi the streetwalker who won’t even button her collar? Who will it be; the priest who prays at the parish? Or, the bamboozler who preys at the pool hall? Hold on… wait a minute… what was that verse again? “Nothing unclean, no one who does anything detestable, and no liars will ever enter it. Only those whose names are written in the lamb’s Book of Life will enter it.” Now, let’s make some sense of this. Aren’t harlots unclean? Is not the work of a crook detestable? Yes and yes! One lies in the sack while the other lies through his teeth! We appear to have stumbled upon a gross contradiction here. Jesus unlocks that mystery in the following parable:

“What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go to work in the vineyard today.’ His son replied, ‘I don’t want to!’ But later he changed his mind and went.  The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go. Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”  – Matthew 21:28-30

This second son sure was an agreeable young sort, wasn’t he? He definitely could talk the talk. But like my friend Guy, he was nothing but a schmoozer. When it was time for the rubber to meet the road he back peddled all the way. It was the first son that ultimately threw himself in gear by submitting to his father’s will. Yet, it took a change of heart to move him in the right direction.

Two sons. Two pictures. With the first son we see a marvelous picture of repentance which is evidenced by a change of heart. He regrets the poor choice he initially made and goes to the vineyard where he reaps fruits of righteousness. Not so with son number two. He is an example of the unregenerate life. Pleasing the father is low on his list. This fellow is nothing but a yes-man. Though the intention may initially be there, the follow through is not. He’s more interested in doing his own thing and avoids the vineyard without any regret whatsoever. He, too, will reap what he has sown.

Two sons, two kinds of people. Those who do and those who don’t. The repentant and unrepentant. However you slice it there are just two kinds of people. Those who have their names recorded in the Book of Life and those who do not. In the big scheme of things it comes down to this: you schmooze, you lose. No one gets on the guest list by being a yes-man. A yes-man says ‘yes’ on Sunday but his actions dictate otherwise on Monday. He prays like an angel but plays like the devil. He’s got enough religion to make him look alive on the outside but he’s dead on the inside. You’ll find his name on the church roster but not in the Book of Life.

The Kingdom of God is reserved for those who’ve had a true change of heart. With a change of heart the doors of heaven open wide for the harlot, the crook, the adulterer and the drunk. Without a change of heart neither the pastor, preacher nor Sunday school teacher makes it through the pearly gates. That’s just the way it is. There must first be brokenness. There must be repentance, a turning from ‘my will’ to ‘thy will’. Then and only then do our names appear in the Book of Life. You see, it’s a family album. You must become a child of God. We do that by surrendering to the Father and accepting His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Once we do that we are given a new heart and that’s when the heavenly Bicâ goes click. Then our name is written where no eraser can ever remove it. The only thing that gets erased is our sin.

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Like Oscar night there is a huge award ceremony in heaven. The major difference is that everyone on God’s guest list is a winner and we all receive handsome awards. Another distinction would be that the Academy generally invites an elite group of actors. Chances are you’ve been excluded. I know I have. But God’s invitation goes out to everyday people. Not those who put on a great performance but sincere people who are ready to get real with the Lord. If that’s your desire He’s eager to roll out the red carpet for you.

 

From the Book ‘There & Back’ by Terry Michaels

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