Long before Facebook memes, I saw a sign that read, “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?” Boy could I relate. Like when the electric bill would come in the mail, and the “balance due” exceeded the “new balance” in my checkbook. (Okay, who am I kidding, my way of “balancing” my checkbook was to change banks) Let’s just say I was pretty sure it was more than I had at the time.
In my early years, Rick Idell, my childhood friend and I were roommates. Neither of us were flush with cash, and when you’re young and broke you have to get “creative” when paying bills. Learning to stall without suffering too heavy a consequence was an art form. Like putting the check for the electric bill in the envelope going to the water company, and vice-versa. That “trick” bought you a little time, but was usually a “one and done”. Doesn’t take long for a utility company to be on to you, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first genius to take this approach.
Most of the time however, we would wait until we received what we called “the red letter edition”. It was a special bill that, if the first went unpaid, would come a few weeks later. It was a lot like the first, but had a special reminder in bold red letters telling us we must pay a certain amount by a certain time or suffer a certain consequence. The letters were in red, and as Rick and I both noted, so were the quotes of Jesus in the New Testament. This seemed spiritual to us. Like the electric company was extending grace, and we liked that. We began experiencing this act of grace on a monthly basis.
The amount on the first bill (we’ll call this the “invitation”), was the same amount as the second (we’ll call this the “summons”), but there was something about those “red letters”, and the addition of the “if you don’t pay by” section that encouraged our participation. “Red letters” were there to warn us of impending danger to our lifestyle. Don’t pay, and you’ll need candles, an ice chest, and be cooking your dinner over an open flame.
I see people approaching the word of God the same way. Thinking if it isn’t in red, it isn’t that “serious”. In other words, if the issue I am contemplating wasn’t orally addressed by Jesus in his earthly ministry, and recorded, it’s left open to personal interpretation. More and more, people take issues we face today, and apply this logic. A logic that is as flawed as my creative bill paying process.
On behalf of the power company, let me explain.
There were many things that Jesus did, and said, that were not recorded in scripture. In fact John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” No one can say with certainty whether or not Jesus, in his earthly ministry, addressed a specific topic.
The second mistake is not recognizing that Jesus and The Word are one. John 1:14 tells us “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”. Knowing the thoughts of Jesus requires no color chart. It’s all His.
This won’t be good news to some. Those who thought they could wait for the “red letter edition” will be sorely disappointed. The amount due on the first bill is indeed the debt you owe. But the good news is, Jesus is willing to settle that debt for you.
But there’s a catch.
You must first take responsibility for that debt, and acknowledge it is yours. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone took your maxed out credit card account and paid it in full? If your mind went right to, “With a zero balance, look at all that room I’d now have back on my card!”, you don’t understand the concept of repentance. Freeing us from debt isn’t to clear our line of credit, it’s to set us free from the slavery of sin.
Freeing us from debt isn’t to clear our line of credit, Ii’s to set us free from the slavery of sin.
You’ll never know the depth of God’s love until you know the depth of His forgiveness. And you’ll never know the depth of His forgiveness until you recognize the depth of your sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn [over their sin], for they shall be comforted”. Do we mourn over our sin, or is it something we present to God on our way out the door, like a daily “To Do” list? When was the last time you “mourned” over your sin? When was the last time your heart was broken, and your spirit contrite…over sin?
In the 7th Chapter of Luke, Jesus said, “A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty. When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him most? ” (Luke 7:41-42) It’s not a trick question. Simon answered, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” To which Jesus responded, “Duh!” (or as scripture accurately recorded it), “You have chosen rightly”.
We tend to see ourselves as the second debtor. The one whose debt is not as great as “the others.” We may not admit it, but we sometimes stand, as did the Pharisee, and thank God we’re not like “the others”. We have a tendency not to mourn over our own sin, because we are too focused on the sin of “the others”.
It is those who not only recognize the depth of God’s forgiveness, but experience it, who love Him the most. It was the tears of a prostitute, not a Pharisee, that cleansed the feet of Jesus. Recently, I was asked why it seemed so hard to enter into worship. Perhaps we should precede our time of worship with a time of mourning. It’s a heart full of gratitude that bows its knee in worship, and a humble and contrite spirit that surrenders with holy hands lifted high.
The longer you hide sin in your heart, the longer it goes unconfessed, the greater the consequence. It’s like compounding interest, and the longer you wait, the more havoc the enemy will wreak in your life.
So a word to the wise.
When the bill comes due, pay it. Don’t wait for the red letter edition.