He Paid a Debt

The ringtone identified the message as from my son. I got up from bed to find he’d sent two pictures and a question. Dad, what does my friend do? The pictures were of a traffic ticket. His friend, newly working in the US from India, got a ticket for driving without an Oregon driving license.

I explained that his friend had five choices, including pleading not guilty and asking for a jury trial, and pleading guilty and paying the fine.

The friend told me he was very sorry for breaking the law. He knew it was wrong and wouldn’t drive again until he got a license.

I asked if he trusted me to take care of the matter for him. He did. I wrote a letter admitting guilt to the court, included a check as full payment of the fine, and put the letter in the mailbox at the front of our house. It was finished.

As I lay back down for the night, I thought of the chorus from a hymn from the 1970s.

He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay / I needed someone to wash my sins away. / And now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace all day long / Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

The Christian Way

Pink rubber bracelets. Ice bucket challenges. Bottles of cooking oil to ward away demons and bars of soap to remove sin. Angels dancing on heads of pins, pieces of Christ’s cross, and beams from Noah’s ark. “And for your gift of only $25, I’ll pray for you and send you a genuine packet of sand from the very beach where Jesus fed Peter after the Resurrection.”

Seems everyone has a gimmick today for raising money. It’s not only politicians, schools, and businessmen, but preachers.

I understand that charitable (and not-so charitable) groups and individuals are constantly making up ways to raise awareness of their causes. I know the number of dollar bills is insufficient to meet the desire and demand of every good-deed doer.

There is often a stark disconnect between what’s being sold and the message that goes with it; like the man who lived locked in a window display for 3 weeks with 400 poisonous spiders to raise money for a children’s charity (click here for the story). Charity has become a perpetual world of commercialism, selling a product which requires an explanation to determine what you’re being sold.

This commercialization and gimmickry of charity has even invaded the church.

In Jesus there are no gimmicks. No commercialism. No slight of hand deceptions. No con games. Jesus is simply who He is. He offers what He promises. This is the Christian way.

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, and by which you are saved … Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (John 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Stones Into Bread

And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ (Luke 4:3-4).

After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, He was filled with the Holy Spirit and forced by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by Satan. Being Spirit-filled wasn’t the glorious experience promised by modern Pentecostals and charismatics, but a difficult trial!

Satan had an agenda to keep Jesus from obeying the Father’s plan of redemption from the very get-go. If he could tempt Jesus into a short-cut, not breaking the law but merely bending it, both he and Jesus could be glorified in their own ways. A little bribery never hurt anyone.

Jesus also had an agenda. He’d come to obey His Father. He’d surrendered the glories of Heaven, Deity taking upon Himself humanity, to die for sinners. By His death, God’s wrath against sinner and sin would be satisfied, and the Father’s justice paid in full. Yes! Sin is so dreadful, disgusting, dangerous, and damning that God had to die to rescue you!

Satan tempted Jesus to see if He could sin, but Jesus withstood temptation to prove He could not sin!

One of Satan’s temptations was to suggest the hungering Jesus turn the stones on the ground into bread and satisfy His groaning gut. I’ve been in the Wilderness of Judea. I’ve seen the barrenness, heard the utter silence, and felt the crushing loneliness. I would have surrendered immediately, but it was not I who would bear my sin before the Father; it was Jesus in my place.

Satan had his agenda, but so did Jesus. Jesus had different plans for stones. Rather than a miracle of turning stones to bread to meet His own desire, He would perform a far greater miracle. He would die to turn hearts of stone into hearts desiring to love, serve, and honor the Almighty.

I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

Give It Five Minutes

rain clouds

I moved my groceries from the cart to the back of my car. An elderly woman parked next to me in her boat-sized Buick. She stepped from her car, looked into the air and asked, “Do you think it’s going to rain today?

I raised my head and looked in the same direction. “Well, this is Oregon. Give it five minutes and it will.”

He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

Your Work of Faith

… remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ … the good pleasure of God’s goodness for the work of faith with power (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:12)

Paul listed three traits dear to his heart in the Thessalonian Christians for whom he prayed: their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

These believers were experiencing severe troubles and trials, problems and persecutions, yet the apostle didn’t pray for deliverance from these problems as we are prone to pray. Instead, he prayed for faith, love, and hope in the midst of the difficult circumstances.

Faith isn’t a feeling, belief, or declaration. It begins as a gift from God which rests and relies upon Jesus. Through faith we receive all Jesus has done for us. It is a God-given reliance or trust, and if you say you rely on someone or something, it’s shown by your actions. Actions don’t create faith, they reveal faith. The half-brother of Jesus put it this way, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).

The Thessalonians were on a journey of faith with feet. It was a working faith rather than one of crossed-fingers and positive declarations. Paul prayed that every desire of goodness and work of faith by these Christians would be fulfilled. It may be what Paul had in mind when he wrote, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Paul didn’t pray for power for the Thessalonians to work miracles like raising people from the dead or multiplying loaves and fishes (a miracle no modern apostle or miracle worker does). He prayed that God’s work within them, the sanctification He began, would be completed. Their part was to believe God would finish that work!

It’s exactly the same as Paul wrote to the Philippians, I’m confident of this very thing that He who began the good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

In the midst of your trouble, God is doing something. Trust Him. Trust His goodness. Trust His work. Trust His power. Trust His will. Trust Him.