A woman came out of her house and saw three old men with long white beards sitting in her front yard. She did not recognize them.
She said, “I don’t think I know you, but you must be hungry. Please come in and have something to eat.”
“Is the man of the house home?, they asked.
“No”, she said. “He’s out.”
“Then we cannot come in”, they replied. In the evening when her husband came home, she told him what had happened.
“Go tell them I am home and invite them in.” The woman went out and invited the men in. “We do not go into a House together,” they replied.
“Why is that?” she wanted to know. One of the old men explained: “His name is Wealth,” he said pointing to one of his friends, and said pointing to another one, “He is Success, and I am Love.” Then he added, “Now go in and discuss with your husband which one of us you want in your home.” The woman went in and told her husband what was said. Her husband was overjoyed. “How nice!!” he said. “Since that is the case, let us invite Wealth. Let him come and fill our home with wealth!”
His wife disagreed. “My dear, why don’t we invite Success?”
Their daughter-in-law was listening from the other of the house. She jumped in with her own suggestion:”Would it not be better to invite Love? Our home will then be filled with love!”
“Let us heed our daughter-in-law’s advice,” said the husband to his wife. “Go out and invite Love to be our guest.”
The woman went out and asked the three old men, “Which one of you is Love? Please come in and be our guest.” Love got up and started walking toward the house. The other two also got up and followed him. Surprised, the lady asked Wealth and Success: “I only invited Love, Why are you coming in?”
The old men replied together: “If you had invited Wealth or Success, the other two of us would’ve stayed out, but since you invited Love, wherever He goes, we go with him. Wherever there is Love, there is also Wealth and Success!”
There has been much talk about debt the last few weeks. The government shutdown and the debt ceiling increase has produced constant worry, concern, and chatter. Most in the country feel our debt is out of control and we need to make radical changes. The debate is over how and what kind of changes we should implement to limit the amount of debt we will incur in the future.
The Bible speaks of debt as well. It addresses the issue of financial debt in several places, but it also deals with the issue of spiritual debt. Paul especially likes to use the metaphor of debt in his discussions about our salvation. One of Paul’s favorite words is the word “redemption.” The word at its core means to “buy back.” It’s Old Testament background is the buying back of slaves (Numbers 18:16). Paul describes our salvation as the process by which God purchases us back. God pays the necessary penalty for us to leave the state of lostness and enter into salvation. God pays the debt that we owe because of our sin. The debt we owe is death (Romans 6:23).
The debt payment was made at the cross of Jesus. For something to be redeemed there has to be a price of redemption. The price for our redemption is not silver or gold or some other perishable thing, but rather it is the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus died to pay a debt the we incurred and could not pay ourselves.
Knowing that Jesus paid our debt makes us debtors to Jesus ( Romans1:14). It is fitting as Christians that we recognize the enormous price God paid for us and therefore give our lives over to God as servants to do His will. We become debtors to God, not in the negative way of trying to pay off a debt and earn our status, but in the positive way of rightfully appreciating all that God has done for us.
Our sin made us debtors deserving of death, but God became our redeemer through the sacrifice of Jesus. We respond to this awesome reality by living lives dedicated to God. That is the debt plan I think all mankind should get behind!
In Bible times, the standard measure of distance was the cubit. A cubit is the measure of the distance from one’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger- about 18 inches. The real problem with that way of measuring things is that one man’s cubit might differ from another’s. To solve that dilemma, one man’s arm became the standard for each construction project. When measuring really mattered, reeds would be cut the length of his cubit for everyone to use in measuring.
In Washington, D.C., the Bureau of Standards houses the perfect standard for all measures in the United States. For every weight and every length used in the United States the standard is carefully guarded. In the Bureau, one can find the perfect inch, the perfect foot, the perfect yard, the perfect gallon, the perfect pint, and the perfect milligram, milliliter, etc. Every weight, length, and volume is judged by those standards.
God’s Word becomes for our lives what the Bureau of Standards is for weights, lengths, and volumes. It shows us how God would have us to live, the ideal life. The real difficulty is that we often try to establish our own standards derived from our desires, our feelings, and our failings.
Paul put it this way to Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The discovery of one’s identity is vitally important in order to live a life with direction. It is also important for the church. One of my former professors, now the dean of a seminary, Dr. Timothy George, recently made a statement which rings true: “The greatest challenge facing the church today is an erosion of Christian identity. What will those in our pulpits say that the people in the pew can’t hear elsewhere?”
Too many sermons today convey the same message as pop psychology: the way to a fulfilling life, the way to survive one’s circumstances, the way to get ahead. The church can become just one more of those many community organizations which aim to make community life a little better. All of that really does not provide the church with anything unique in terms of identity. A church simply cannot survive without a sense of its head, its mission, and its work. So many churches are floundering because leadership and members alike have no idea who they are.
The gospel, message of a crucified and risen Savior, and all of its implications for living can never take a backseat to all of the things that are true both in psychology and Christianity. There must be something more than feeling good and being a good citizen.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2)
When Rome burned in A.D. 64, there was a rumor that Nero had started the fire to make room for some building projects. Nero then decided that he would blame the fire on Christians.
About A.D. 100, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote: “Therefore, to stop the rumor [that Nero had set Rome on fire], he falsely charged with gilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition—repressed for a time, broke out yet again… Those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of ‘hating the human race’ [by not attending social events involving idolatry]. In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and torn to death by dogs, nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own gardens for the spectacle… For this cause a feeling of pity arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.” (Annals15.44).
It is amazing that even in their death these Christians won converts. One is reminded of the words of Peter: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you ; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 peter 4:12-14).
Peter tells these distressed brothers and sisters that they can, by trusting in God, exemplify grace under fore. Trials test the depth and quality of our faith in God. The power of God’s will will provide the strength to bear up under such trials. And that grace in the believers’ lives becomes a powerful witness to the gospel.