The statisticians tell me that the 0th and 100th percentiles are not possible on the normal, bell-shaped curve. It's not theoretically possible. One and ninety-nine point nine are the limits.

So by that reasoning, that places Jesus at the 99.9th percentile on my curve, at least. To put him at the one-hundredth percentile takes him out of the population of humans, and Hebrews says that He is "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning" (4: 15, RSV). Jesus faced every temptation that all of us faced and maybe some that were peculiar to His divine nature as well. To deny his humanity is to deny one of His greatest victories over Satan, that of having lived a perfect life while experiencing all of the temptations of being human.

The world lives between the first and forty-nineth percentiles. One Day their sentence will be short and swift. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16: 16, KJV). Also I Corinthians 5: 12, 13a--"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church who you are to judge? God judges those outside . . ." (RSV). And "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (I Peter 4: 17, KJV) Message to anyone who values his soul: stay out of that bottom half.

In some ways Cornelius was at the 49th percentile. He was very religious. Being a member of the Sanhedrin and one who looked for the coming of the Messiah, in realizing that something was missing in his life he came to Jesus. "Ye must be born again," he was told in John 3. A lot of "good people" will not make it at the judgement. It will take more than moral goodness to enter the kingdom of heaven. Some who called on Jesus' name (Matthew 7: 21) and even those who performed miracles (Matthew 7: 22) will not go to Heaven.

The fiftieth percentile is not a good place to stay either. The Laodecians of Revelation 3 were there, right on the fence. " . . . would that ye were either cold or hot . . . I will spew you out of my mouth" was God's reaction to life at the fiftieth percentile. They were Christians but they were not bearing fruit. God's reaction to the priests at Malachi's time of about 436 B. C. was about the same. "Oh, that there were one among you whould shut the doors [of the churchouse or temple], that you might not kindle fire upon my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand" Malachi 1: 10. RSV. They were "playing church" without any heartfelt commitment or any real change in their lives, save for some new Sabbath habits, and God was not pleased with their fiftieth-percentile effort.

The rich young ruler of Mark 10: 17-22 may have been at the 90th percentile. He recounted to Jesus all of the commandments he had kept, an impressive array that many today could not lay claim to. And God is pleased when we keep his commandments, make no mistake about it. The young ruler had one idol between him and God--his riches. If he could get past his idolatry over his possessions, he could live at the 98th percentile like Jesus intended for him to. The ninety-nineth still leaves room for improvement, and all of us can improve at how we live the Christian life.

Jesus calls us to the 98th percentile. He said "I came that they [mankind] may have life, and that more abundantly" (John 10: 10). He didn't bring a life of mediocre blessings--he brought excellence. He brought the greatest experiences of life for us to experience. He wants us to live lives of excellence and enjoy the superlatives that come with life at the 98th percentile. Don't even think about any less. The sixtieth percentile might as well be the first.

We miss the mark tremendously when we strive to be average. The average person is not going to Heaven (Matthew 7: 13, 14). We need a commitment to excellence, not to mediocrity.

We are called to the 98th percentile on effort. "So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17: 10, RSV), Jesus said. Notice that He did not say "INSTEAD of doing all that was commanded you . . . " but rather "WHEN you have done all that is commanded you . . ." Grace will play a part in the judgement, to be sure, but we must do all that we can to do the commandments of our Lord. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," said Jesus in John 14: 15. We should not be complacent to the point of mocking what grace is (Romans 6: 1-15).

So what about our level of effort in the Lord? Will it be beyond what the world does? To be sure. Will it be more than the "marginal Christian" does? It had better be. Will we be teaching others, edifying some, doing benevolence, while others are taking their ease? Yes, yes, and yes. We will if we want to one day join Jesus who lives at and beyond the 99th percentile.

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