You Could be Mine

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Exodus 22:1

Read  Exodus 22:1-15

Some years ago, the Church of Scotland was having a great meeting (one of its great assemblies) in the city of Glasgow. The mayor of Glasgow came to address the body, and he got up and said something pretty interesting.

He said, “You spend an awful lot of time debating as theologians about whether there is a God or what he’s like, and you spend an awful lot of time talking about God.” He said, “I’m not a theologian and most people aren’t. With all due respect, let me tell you what we really need from you. We do not need a lot of speculation about God and about theological discussions and such things and doctrine. Those things really don’t matter to the modern person anymore, and they don’t matter to us. Here’s what we need from you. How can we love our neighbor? How can we get along? How can we treat each other with kindness and with respect? We desperately need an answer to that question, and that’s what we’re looking for the church to give.”

I mention this not because you should be interested in Scottish politics but because it’s very common everywhere in the Western world. The opinion is, “What you believe about God is not critical. It is social problems that are critical. Whether you believe in God at all is not critical. The important thing is how do we get along? How can we treat one another with respect?”

These laws deal with the respect of personal property and stewardship. What Mr. Mayor missed was that Christ did not come to make us moral, but to rescue us. Morality is simply the by-product and not the end goal of Redemption.

Mr. Mayor, on what basis should I treat other human beings with kindness and respect? Mr. Mayor, on what basis should I be unselfish? Why should I deny myself anything? On what basis? If there is no God, the only reasonable answer to the question, “What are we?” is there is no difference between a human being and a bag of chemicals, our feelings to the contrary notwithstanding. If there is no God, we are all results of the accidental collision of molecules.

Christianity holds the view God created the world. It is his. Treating anything as “fully and completely” as our shows that we do not understand how gracious our Creator is in sharing his world with us. The cross shows us that even though God had everything, he gave it all up to die on a cross with us. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that sthough he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)

God’s grace make us generous. It makes us honest in not stealing hours from our boss, not over billing hours to our clients. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Eph 4:28)

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a great Scottish preacher, put it this way. He said, “To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than its money.”

God’s grace makes us generous. Today be generous with your boss, with your clients, with your friends, and with your family. It is the only appropriate response to the Grace of God giving his life for you on a cross.

The Cockroach in the Room

Psalm 112

1 Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commandments!

7 He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

A Fearing Man

Often we hear the words “fear of God” and “fear of man” and our minds are triggered as though by some pavlovian response to indulge in religious jargon and lose the very nature of the “fear of God.”(v.1) Have you ever been afraid of insects, or known someone who is afraid of insects. I remember walking into a room with someone who was afraid of cockroaches. As we turned the light on, their only and chief concern in the room was the cockroach. My friend could not fuction, think or do anything else than think about the cockroach. This is a much more helpful illustration with regards to the fear of God than any religious jargon or vocabulary can offer.

Such is the story of this “Blessed Man” who fears the Lord.

 A Fearless Man

The Psalm goes on to enumerate all the other things that may be in the “room” of his life, but do not fill his attention span. We see family (v.2), wealth, success and money (v.3), personal morality and business ethics (v.5), or piety (v.9). Most of the furniture in this “Blessed Man’s” room is good. We should think focusing on this would not be a bad thing. Surely a little bit of fear with regards to how one’s family runs, how successful one is, or how one conducts business and life in an all-around moral way is not a bad focus fear.

What is it that makes this “Blessed Man” afraid of God but not afraid of failure or bad news?

The fearless man fears God. In other words he worships God, not success. He worships God, not family. He worships God, not success. The Psalmist tells us that this blessed person is utterly fearless with regard to bad news, because he does not worship success.

So what is the source of his fearlessness?

A Feared God

God is the only object of worship who when you fail him he will forgive you. All other objects of worship can become hard task masters. The reason why the Psalmist is fearless is that he knows his great debt has been paid. You can almost hear this Psalm echoing these words “with you there is forgiveness [therefore] you are feared.”(Psalm 130:4) V8.

God is feared, not because of his power, but because of his mercy. That is the awe inspiring truth. Jesus had no reason to go to Golgotha and suffers the scars of the scourge, except to bring about our forgiveness. Once the Psalmist experiences forgiveness, his only response is awe.