CDPCKL · The Fifth Test In the Wilderness: Reconciliation (Exodus 18:1-12)

The Fifth Test In the Wilderness: Reconciliation (Exodus 18:1-12)

The Fifth Test In the Wilderness: Reconciliation (Exodus 18:1-12) 

The leader of yet another foreign nation approaches God’s people, but this time the nature of the test is not as clear. 

We last saw the Israelites camped in the wilderness of Rephidim, alongside a river flowing down from the foothills of Mount Sinai in the distance. They have been drinking that water, they have been eating the bread from heaven, they have been taking a break from their travels every seventh day — in short, they have been enjoying all the rights and privileges of being God’s firstborn nation. 

And last week, after three failed exams in a row, we finally saw God’s children pass a test without grumbling, manipulating, or trying to test God in return. When Amalekite desert raiders began to prey upon the weak who were trailing behind, God commissioned Moses to fight back, Moses commissioned Joshua to fight back, and Joshua led Israel’s ill-equipped army into battle. Everyone obeyed. Everyone did as they were told. And Joshua’s men returned victorious. 

And maybe Israel’s high score on this particular exam makes sense. The first three tests — thirst, hunger, then thirst again — were situations where the people were completely helpless: they could not do anything at all to help themselves. So they responded badly. But the fourth test — the test of war — was a situation where at least the people could try to fight back. So when God told them to send Joshua out with his hand-picked army, at least he was telling them to do something they already wanted to do anyway? 

Or could it be that Israel is actually growing up past the dangerous adolescent rebellion stage of their relationship with God? 

Time will tell. 

At any rate, through that test of war Israel learned that God really is committed to fighting their battles for them. True, God does not fight against his enemies directly: he used the Red Sea to fight against Egypt’s army; he used Joshua’s army to fight against the Amalekites; but it is God who fights through these secondary causes. 

But we also noticed that last week’s episode was more than just a random attack by some desert raiders hoping for an easy score: the Amalekites are actually related to the Israelites. Israel is descended from Jacob; the Amakekites are descended from Esau. Now, there had been a split in the family about 500 years earlier: Jacob went one direction, Esau went the other. But they separated as friends, not as enemies. So this point here, during the Exodus, would have been a great time for these two branches of the family to finally be reunited. The Israelites are enjoying fresh water and daily bread and even rest in the wilderness; if the Amalekites had approached them as long-lost relatives and said, “Hey, brothers, remember us? May we come and share in these blessings from God?” the Israelites would have welcomed them alongside all the other nations that have followed them up out of Egypt. 

Instead, the Amalekites tried to steal God’s blessings for themselves — even though they knew better — and as a result they fell under God’s curse. 

Well, today, as we read on, we find that God is not yet finished testing his people, because: [1] Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 

Okay. At first reading, this does not seem like much of a test. We already know Jethro, we met him way back in Chapter 2 of Exodus, and he is Moses’ father-in-law, so surely he is friendly to Moses? 

Well, not necessarily. For instance, when we look back at Jacob’s life we see that his father-in-law Laban was not friendly with him. In fact, Laban first became jealous of his son-in-law Jacob when he saw how much God was blessing Jacob, and he tried to rob Jacob of those blessings. Now, in Exodus, Jethro has just heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. In other words, Jethro has just heard about how his son-in-law Moses has been richly blessed by God. As readers, we should be wondering: is history about to repeat itself here? How jealous and greedy is this father-in-law compared to Laban? 

And this relationship between Moses and Jethro is complicated further by the fact that they are both the religious leaders of their nations: Moses is the priest of Israel; Jethro is the priest of Midian. So what we have here is not just two different nations, but two different religions. And the last time the Israelites got tangled up with another religion back in Egypt, that other religion tried to wipe them out. So: again, when we read this, we should be wondering if this whole situation is about to go very badly. 

Even more significant, however, is the fact that the Midianites are actually related to the Israelites — just like the Amalekites last week. The Amalekites were descended from Isaac through Esau; the Midianites are descended from Abraham through his second wife, Keturah, with whom he had six other sons other than Isaac. Now, again — just as in Jacob and Esau’s time — there had been a split in the family during Isaac’s time also: about 600 years earlier, before he died, Abraham deliberately sent his six other sons away toward the east so they would not be able to threaten Isaac’s inheritance in the mountains. 

In other words: before he died, Abraham made sure to give all the good land to Isaac, while he gave all his wilderness territories to his other sons — including his son Midian. And sure enough, all these centuries later, the descendants of Midian are a wilderness people: they are bedouins of the desert, just like the Amalekites last week. And it is possible that the Midianites resent this division of the inheritance: why should Isaac’s nation get all the firstborn blessings, while their own nation gets nothing but wilderness? 

As readers, then, we should be wondering if this nation is about to try to kill Israel and steal their firstborn nation blessings, just as the Amalekites did. This introduction, mild as it seems, does suggest that Israel’s fifth test in the wilderness will be another test of war against a jealous foreign nation. 

But first, Moses pauses to give us a little background: 

[2] After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her [3] and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”; [4] and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” 

So, this is interesting: the last time we saw Zipporah, way back in Chapter 4, she was travelling with her husband and her sons toward Egypt. And through her quick-thinking obedience at that time, she performed an emergency circumcision on Moses’ firstborn son Gershom and saved the whole family from Moses’ disobedience. And when we looked at that episode together, we realized Zipporah was actually Moses’ first convert to the worship of the true God, she was the first foreigner to join herself to Israel and receive firstborn nation status. 

Well, apparently, between then and now, Moses sent her back to her father, along with his boys. We do not know when, or why. One theory is that, since the Egyptians were extremely racist — they feared people from the mountains, like the Israelites; they also feared people from the desert, like the Midianites — it could be that Moses showing up with a Midianite wife in Pharaoh’s court was not going to help him make his case, so he sent her back. We do not know for certain. 

It is also interesting that it is only here that Moses’ second son is named. We knew Moses had a second son back in Chapter 4, when Gershom was introduced. But why are both boys named here when they were not both named back there? 

Well, as usual in Moses’ writing, he is making a symbolic call-back into history. Almost 500 years before this, Jacob’s older sons sold their younger brother Joseph to a caravan of passing Midianites. And those Midianites sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Now, you all know the story, I’m sure: after many miserable adventures, God eventually lifted Joseph up to become Prime Minister of Egypt. At that point, Joseph was given a wife: the daughter of a foreign, pagan priest. And that wife gave Joseph two sons. The firstborn he named Manasseh, which means Forgetfulness. The second he named Ephraim, which means Fruitfulness. And the naming of Joseph’s boys at that point symbolized how Joseph had settled into Egypt for the long term: he was glad to be alive, but he did not have any hope that one day he would have a chance to return to his mountain home and family. 

Here, history is deliberately repeated — but also reversed. Like Joseph, Moses has also married a woman who is the daughter of a foreign, pagan priest. She has also borne him two sons. But this time the naming of these two sons officially marks the end of Joseph’s exile in Egypt — these names are a reminder of just how far Israel has come since those dark days. At the same time, learning these names at this point also reminds us that the Midianites played a key role in Joseph’s exile to Egypt in the first place. So it is no coincidence that now, just as Israel is escaping from that long exile in Egypt, they run into the Midianites again! 

So we are supposed to be wondering how these Midianites are going to respond this time? Last time they profited on Israel’s misery; are they going to do the same again? 

To make matters even worse, Moses’ little background note here has also helped us realize that Jethro is not just the religious leader of a slave-trading nation, Jethro also has Moses’ sons under his power: Jethro symbolically holds the future of Israel in his hands, just as his ancestors did back in Joseph’s time. 

How is Jethro going to use this power? 

Let’s read on and find out: 

[5] Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. [6] Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.” 

Okay. That could be a friendly message. That could also be a threatening message. Did Moses SMS Jethro and say, “Hey, dad, it’s safe now, can you bring Zipporah and the boys?” and Jethro just replied: “On d way”? Or could this be two large nations in the wilderness approaching one another cautiously, and Jethro saying, “Moses, tell your people to lay down their swords, or your kids get it!” 

Well, apparently Moses thinks that Jethro has come in peace, because: 

[7] Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. 

So far so good. 

And then [8] Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them. 

So earlier Jethro had heard from a distance about everything God had done for Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now he gets to hear the detailed version from the man who was at the center of events. 

But Moses does not just tell his father-in-law about the good stuff — the gold, silver, jewels and clothing, all the flocks and herds and everything — he also talks about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them. The privileges of firstborn status are great! but so are the responsibilities that come with firstborn status: it is usually the firstborn son of a family that is disciplined and trained most severely, and Moses is honest about all that. 

So now, how is this Midianite father-in-law going to respond? 

[9] Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. [10] He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. [11] Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” 

So he is not jealous at all of Israel’s good fortune. This Midianite leader is nothing like the Amalekites last week: he has not come to take, he has come to receive. And now that he has received, we find out that Jethro’s response is to give: 

[12] Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. 


So, that was our episode for today. Very nice, of course. 

But what just happened here? What does it mean? And what kind of test was this for God’s people? Did they pass, or fail? 

Well, at the very simplest level what just happened is this: like Zipporah back in Chapter 4, Jethro just converted to the worship of the one true God. 

He has known Moses for many years. No doubt during those years they had many conversations comparing Moses’ monotheistic religion to Jethro’s polytheistic religion. But it is only here, when he was presented with evidence he could not longer argue with, that Jethro finally admitted, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods.“ And he immediately entered into worship. Even more importantly, he joined himself to God’s firstborn nation by eating a covenant meal with them. 

How do we know this meal was a covenant meal, that it symbolized Jethro’s new membership in Israel? Because this meal is the mirror image of another meal that Jethro ate back in Chapter 2, when we first met him. Back there in Chapter 2, Zipporah brought Moses home to eat with her father, and that meal symbolized how Moses was joining Jethro’s family. Here, Jethro brings Zipporah home to eat with Moses, and this meal symbolizes how Jethro is joining Moses’ family. 

And through this, Jethro proves himself greater than the Pharaoh of Egypt, greater even than the Israelites. Because even though Pharaoh and Israel both witnessed these events firsthand, Pharaoh refused to believe that Moses’ God is greater than all other gods until too late, and Israel struggled to believe. But Jethro believes based on Moses’ testimony. 

So that is what happened here: Jethro just converted to Moses’ faith. 

But what does this mean? Why is this significant? 

Well, because Jethro is the priest of Midian, his conversion and covenant with Israel also marks the reconciliation of the Midianites with the Israelites. Remember, these are two sons of Abraham — Isaac and Midian — deliberately separated for centuries to give the firstborn a chance to grow up. Now that the firstborn son, Isaac, has grown up into a firstborn nation, Israel, and now that Israel has begun receiving the inheritance due to the firstborn — bread from heaven, water from the rock, the weekly Sabbath rest — now Israel can afford to be generous to every long-lost relative who returns and asks for a share. 

This is the offer the Amalekites rejected last week. They also had an opportunity to reconcile with Israel: Esau and Jacob reunited after so many centuries apart. But the Amalekites were jealous of Israel’s status as firstborn. For them it was not enough to share in the inheritance; they tried to take it all: the status and the blessings. And so they became the enemies of God. 

But this week, because of Jethro’s wisdom and humility, now the Midianites have an opportunity to come and join and share in all the blessings that come from firstborn nation status. 

So that is the significance of this moment. 

But where was the test for God’s people? Last week’s test was a test of war, and Israel passed the exam for once. This week’s test looked like it might be a repeat of last week’s — but suddenly everything turned out okay. So: what were the Israelites supposed to do here? What lesson were they supposed to learn? And did they learn it? Did they pass this exam? 

Yes, they did. Last week’s test taught the Israelites how to respond when a foreign nation attacks God’s people. This week’s test was designed to teach the Israelites how to respond when a foreign nation comes in peace to join God’s people. 

Last week, Israel responded correctly: they let God fight through Moses and his elders, who fought through Joshua and his chosen men — and so Israel was saved. This week, God’s people also responded correctly: they let God make his offer of peace through Moses, and they sat down to share a meal with Jethro’s people through their elders — and so Israel has just expanded. 

If last week’s test was a test of war, we could call this week’s test a test of…reconciliation. The Israelites have reason to be upset with the Midianites: these are the slave traders who essentially kidnapped Joseph and kicked off Israel’s misery in Egypt. The fact that everything turned out okay for Israel in the end is irrelevant: what those Midianite merchants did to Joseph back in Genesis was wrong. 

But instead of holding a grudge against the Midianites, the Israelites embraced them. Jethro approached with humility, he listened to Moses’ testimony, he repented of his people’s sins and submitted himself to Moses’ God, and the Israelites forgave. Through Aaron and the elders, the people accepted Jethro’s people into a covenant relationship with them. With Moses the messiah acting as the mediator — with one foot in the Israelite nation through birth, and one foot in the Midianite nation through marriage — the dividing wall between the nations was broken down and the two became one. 

So that was the nature of the test, and the lesson Israel learned: it is possible to reconcile, even with nations that have mistreated them in the past, as long as those nations repent. 

Which means that this might be a good time for us to ask the question we like to ask every week: what does all this have to do with us? We are not the ancient Israelites travelling through a physical wilderness, the governors of Malaysia are not asking us how the whole nation can come and join CDPCKL. So, are we modern Christians being tested in this same way? And if we are, what lesson are we supposed to learn from this passage? 

Yes, we modern Christians are being tested in the same way. God tested Israel with thirst, hunger, and war in the Book of Exodus, and if you have been reading with us through the book then you know that he also tests us with thirst, hunger, and war. So it makes sense that we must also be trained in how to respond when people who were once abusive ”foreigners” to Jesus’ Church come and want to reconcile with us and with God. 

And the reason we have to be tested and trained in the art of reconciliation is because it does not come naturally to us. It does not come naturally to anyone. If you are familiar with the history of ancient Israel, then you know that it did not come naturally for them, either. Sure, they accepted Jethro in this case, and ate with him — but they continued to struggle with the concept. 

In fact, they struggled so much with this idea of reconciliation with the nations that, when Jesus of Nazareth showed up claiming to be Moses reborn — God’s final Messiah — the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus because he kept eating with sinners. 

But really, Israel’s leaders should not have been surprised. Because in the Gospel of Luke, during Jesus’ very first recorded sermon, he basically gave them advanced notice of what he was going to do. He said, “Look, if you — my own firstborn Jewish nation — reject me as your Messiah, then I will just go ahead and give God’s firstborn blessings to all the non-Jewish nations instead!” 

And then, in the Gospel of Matthew, we are told about a Canaanite woman — a Greek woman — who had a demon-possessed daughter. She heard about this powerful Jewish healer and exorcist named Jesus, and even though she knew this Jesus guy would probably reject her as an undeserving foreigner, she went to him and begged him for mercy on her daughter. And Jesus says to her, “…sorry, but for now I am only here to help the lost sheep of Israel. It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. It would not be right for me to take the blessings of the firstborn nation and give them away to the lastborn nations.” 

But the woman says, “Yes, it is right, Lord! After all: even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed in that moment. 

By saying and doing these things, Jesus was proving that he is, in fact, Moses reborn, the Messiah sent from God to finish what Moses began: the reconciliation of all the lost nations on earth, the sharing of Israel’s firstborn inheritance with all mankind. 

But the ultimate proof came at the end of Jesus’ life, when he submitted to death on a cross. His own firstborn nation did reject him: the sons of Israel sold him to the Romans, just like Jacob’s sons once sold Joseph to the Midianites. But because Jesus was both a son of Adam and the Firstborn Son of God — because he was fully human and fully divine — his death did not work as expected. Instead of sinking down into the underworld to be lost in darkness forever, Jesus’ Spirit returned to his body and resurrected him, transformed him, binding humanity and divinity together into one body in a way that had never been done before. 

It was the later writers of the New Testament who explained all this to us. For instance, the writer of the Book of Hebrews points out that, just like Moses, Jesus was a mediator. Because he was fully human and fully God — because he had one foot in the spiritual world, and the other in the physical world — he was able to bring heaven and earth back together. Through Jesus, the two great branches of the family — the sons of God in heaven, and the sons of God on earth — could be reconciled, the broken family healed. 

But that is not all. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, goes on to point out that, when Jesus reconciled heaven and earth, he also reconciled all the lastborn nations of the world with God’s firstborn nation. In Moses’ time, it was very difficult for other nations to come and join Israel: they had to physically move, they had to physically change their bodies through circumcision, they had to center their lives around one particular sacred mountain on earth. But through Jesus’ death and resurrection, Moses’ system was taken and turned inside-out, decentralized. Like a seed, Moses’ system broke open in Christ and exploded outward in every direction, blossoming and spreading, transforming people spiritually from the inside out wherever they happen to be on the face of the earth. 

We could say it like this: in Moses’ time — in the Old Testament — a man like Jethro had to climb inside the very small seed of Moses’ system if he wanted to share in Israel’s firstborn blessings. But after Jesus’ time — beginning in the New Testament and right up until today — the vine that has burst out of Moses’ system now grows up aggressively to surround men like Jethro with all the blessings of the Firstborn. And so, as Paul says, “Jesus came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” 

And all this is just a continuation of the concept we discussed two weeks ago when Jesus declared that only through his death could he release the water of life into the world, the transforming Holy Spirit. 

Okay. So we have established that we modern Christians are tested with the test of reconciliation. We have seen that Moses’ generation passed this exam, but the generation that was alive in Jesus’ time failed it. And through their failure — because they rejected their Messiah — the blessings of God’s Firstborn have been extended to the rest of us. Which means we all have the opportunity, today, to be reconciled with God’s true Israel just as the Midianites were. It also means that, through the Holy Spirit, we all have the opportunity, today, to be reconciled with people we have seen only as enemies until now. 

So let’s get practical here: what are we supposed to do in order to pass this test? 

Well, if you are here today and you are not a Christian, then this is what you should do: listen to Moses’ testimony and believe, as Jethro did, that Moses’ God is greater than all other gods. Listen to Jesus’ testimony: that there is no other God like this one, who sent his own Firstborn Son to die so that you might be healed and reconciled to God and to those around you. 

Now, the bible does not say that you should “just believe” or anything like that. Jethro believed Moses’ testimony because he could also see the evidence of God’s deliverance right there in front of him: the nation of Israel, along with many other people from many other nations, alive in the wilderness where just a few weeks earlier they had all been slaves to the Egyptian empire. In the same way, we call upon you to believe Jesus’ testimony because you can also see the evidence of God’s delivering work right here in this church, in this community. Look around at all the different races and cultures represented here — there is no other organization on earth that is more international and multi-national than Jesus’ Church. Talk to the people here. They will tell you how they were once like you: excluded from citizenship in God’s family, foreigners to God’s covenant promises, enslaved by broken relationships, living in constant tension and grief, without hope and without God in the world. But now we are being build together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. 

Please, listen, and believe. And when you have believed, come and eat with us, just as Jethro did when he joined God’s firstborn nation and began to share in their blessings. 

But if you are here today and you are a Christian…what are we supposed to do? 

We are supposed to reconcile with strangers — people who used to be strangers, people who used to be enemies. Notice that I am saying, “Used to be.” Scripture does not say we should reconcile with unrepentant enemies. Yes, we are called to love our enemies, but that is a call for us to be generous and patient, resisting the temptation to take revenge. Reconciliation rises to a whole other level: it requires humility and repentance on the part of those who approach us. 

Now, how can we tell if a former enemy is sincere in their approach? This is an important question, because it is possible that they are merely trying to infiltrate our community — seduce our community — in order to steal God’s blessings from the inside. 

There are many examples of this in scripture and in history. In fact, the Midianites themselves are an example of this. Today, Jethro opened the door of opportunity for his people to come and share in the blessings of the firstborn nation. He, himself, entered with his family. But most of the Midianites did not follow their high priest within. We know this because, about two years after this episode, they make their own aggressive move against Israel — but they do not attack, like the Amalekites; they seduce Israel instead, and end up causing far more damage than the Amalekites ever did. 

And this is why scripture tells us to be on our guard even as we try to be generous with every long-lost relative who returns and asks to share in our Father’s inheritance. 

So what should we be looking for? 

Well, Jethro is a good example of what sincere repentance looks like. First: he listened carefully to the testimony of God’s messiah Moses. Second, when he was convinced, he said so out loud! Third, he acted upon his conviction: he joined in worship with God’s people, and ate this symbolic meal with them. 

These are the things we also need to be looking for in those who come and say, “Tell me more.” We need to ask ourselves: are they even listening? If they are listening, are they being convinced? If they claim to be convinced, are they being changed? Are they drawn to worship among the children of God? Are they drawn to baptism? Do they long to eat this sacred symbolic meal alongside us? And here is a big change we should be looking for: are they growing gradually more conciliatory? If they were angry and divisive before, are they learning to live in peace and unity now? If they were an ethnocentric, racist, caste-ridden, focused on status kind of person before, are they learning to consider others as better than themselves? 

Of course, now that we have mentioned these things, it is only right for us to test ourselves by the same standards! 

So let us examine ourselves, and one another: how racist am I? If someone from another ethnic group comes to church, and that ethnic group is the traditional oppressor of my ethnic group, how willing am I to worship alongside them, to eat with them, to open my home and family to them? How angry am I? Do I forgive those who repent, or am I the kind of person who nurtures a secret spirit of vengeance, a desire to make them pay for what they have done? Here is a practical one: if my daughter comes home with a boyfriend of a different race, a different social status, a different education level, a different level of success, how willing am I to look past all that to what God cares about: the young man’s Christian character? 

Clearly, creating one new humanity out of many is a costly and humbling project for us all! — and we all fail in many ways. 

So, seeing that we ourselves are not yet very good at this whole reconciliation thing, how can we proceed? Where is our hope? 

This is our hope: Jesus is fighting this war for us. We do participate, yes. We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling: we are called to reconcile, to crucify every divisive sin that springs up within us. At the same time, it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. The fact that Jesus’ global Church is the most diverse and yet united organization in all of history is not evidence that Christians are not racist, but it is evidence that the Holy Spirit within us is not racist. The existence and character of Jesus’ Church proves that the Holy Spirit shines even through communities as flawed as ours. 

Now, a closing exhortation: when someone comes and asks us to clarify, from our own experience, the rumors they have heard about Jesus, let’s be careful to follow Moses’ lead here. We have noticed that Moses did not just tell Jethro about the good stuff, he also talked about all the hardships they had met along the way — hardships that their own Heavenly Father had brought upon them. 

We must do the same. 

There is a temptation, always, to just talk about the blessings that come from being the firstborn nation — because we want to win people to Christ, right? But what we sometimes leave out is the reality that being the firstborn nation also comes with greater responsibilities. And greater responsibilities means greater discipline, stricter testing. People who join the military suffer things in training that ordinary people do not. The child who is destined to take over the family business is schooled in ways that ordinary employees are not. It is the same way with the children of God. 

The problem with leaving out this truth is that we end up giving people an incomplete picture of our relationship with God. If people hear about the blessings without the responsibilities, they will get the impression that God is a god of cheap love, cheap grace, that he gives without requiring anything in return. Not only is this not true, but when those new “converts” discover that it is not true, they are much more likely to just leave the Christian faith — never to return, since they have just been inoculated against Christianity by an incomplete truth. When someone tries to preach the complete Gospel with them, their attitude will be, “Tried it. Didn’t work.” 

Brothers, sisters: let us tell the whole truth from the beginning. We will gain fewer converts. But those who hear the whole Gospel, count the cost, and decide to join anyway will be true converts. They will be true Christians who will not fall away when they are tested. 

And they, in turn, will be an encouragement to us when we are tested. 

So let us press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

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