I was sat quietly reflecting on some incidents in my life and as I did I remembered an incident from my time as a delivery boy for our local butcher. He had asked me to help him to pick up a side of beef which I did. But, as I turned away, I noticed that my finger was bleeding quite badly. I had cut it on the bone of the meat we were picking up.
I went home and it was still bleeding so I poured a bowl of cold water and stuck my hand in it; hoping that it would stop the bleeding. It did but what happened was that the water in the bowl turned completely red and when my mom saw it she nearly fainted because she thought it was a bowl full of blood. That incident gave me a talking point for some time afterwards as my friends wanted to see the scar it had left. I still carry the scar of that incident to this day on the end of my finger although now it is scarcely visible. Please form an orderly queue anyone that wants to examine it!! It's the index finger of my right hand!!
I could go on and tell you how excruciating was the pain. I could even tell you how I still returned to work the next day. I might even mention that the butcher I worked for never even asked me if I was ok. But, in truth, I'm not going to because that could be seen as me showing off and feeling bitter. Anyway.....
That set me thinking. The Bible tells us that we are able to draw near to the throne of grace, with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). I don't know about you but that is something I have come to appreciate very much as I have grown in my faith. Why? Because there are times when I know that God's mercy and grace are readily available to me at all times but what I really have come to appreciate more and more is the means by which we can draw near to our awesome God.
Our confidence is based entirely on the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:9). It's His sacrifice that makes our ability to approach the throne of grace possible. It is not our own ability or our own achievements or our own worthiness; it is entirely down to the blood of Jesus.
The Bible tells us that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. If Jesus had not hung on the Cross of Calvary; if He had not shed His blood as a completely innocent sacrifice for my sake I would still be lost, without hope in a decaying culture and a dying world.
But because He did I who was once lost am now found. I who was blind (to the truth of God's love for me) can now see. I was once far away from God but now I have been brought near. I was a stranger but now I am a son of the Living God. I was a sojourner but now I am a member of the household of God. I was unsaved but now I am saved. I lived in darkness but now I live in the light.
What I find to be truly a blessing is the realisation and appreciation of the fact that not only am I saved by the blood of the Saviour (it was all that was needed and enough to deliver me from the kingdom of darkness) but that His blood avails for me and goes on cleansing me from all my failures, inadequacies and sins. It's enough to last me my lifetime.
What is this to do with the bowl of water when I was younger and my finger dipped in the bowl? It has much to do with it. You see the blood that came from my finger was enough to spread through the whole bowl full of water to make it permanently red. On that basis do you not think that the blood of Christ has enough strength to cover the whole of your life. His blood avails for me yesterday, today and for ever.
Now there's a thought.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I hereby declare the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: I once ran a marathon race and completed it!!! It sounds like boasting but if the apostle Paul could....perhaps I can? I'm not really boasting; in truth what I can recall makes me feel quite humble. In particular its what happened as the end of the race was in view.
I was about to enter the stadium and complete two laps of the track to finish the race when all sorts of questions came flooding in to my mind. My whole body was weary and my legs felt as if they had one ton weights attached to them. "What if, so near to the end of the race, I gave in to my feelings and just stopped there and then?" "What if I pulled up and pretended to have an injury? That way I could at least get some sympathy and.....who knows?"
The finishing line seemed to be getting further away rather than nearer but, as I entered the stadium, an amazing thing took place. My legs no longer seemed tired and heavy and my body was filled with a new sense of purpose and determination. Whether or not I had the will to go on was no longer an issue. The truth was I actually began to run a little faster that I had for the last couple of miles.
What happened was simple. The crowd around the stadium began to clap and shout words of encouragement. The effect was amazing. For a few moments I actually wondered if I was winning (the mind is very powerful!!!) Some of the competitors who had run the race in much faster time stayed behind to cheer those of us who had taken longer to complete the course.
All around the last two laps of the track the encouragement continued and, though there were a few of us on the track, it seemed as though all the encouragement was for me. Even though I was thoroughly tired as I went to collect my medal there was a new lightness in my steps. I had completed the race, the prize was won and now I could go home. It had all been worthwhile.
That set me thinking. The Bible tells us that we all have a race set before us (it's called life) and that we need to lay aside anything that might be an hinderance so that we might run it with endurance for it is those who endure to the end who will receive the reward (Matthew 10:22 & 24:13) That reminds me that I actually 'put off' nine pounds in weight through running the marathon. There were times, during the race, when the run had been quite easy and effortless; when everything was going to plan. However, there were other times when it was very hard to keep going and it was at those times that there was a need for grit and determination.
Does that sound like a bit of your race of life? You may be running well. If so that's great but there will be times when you are hurting, in pain and aching that makes you feel discouraged and downhearted. Life is like that. It's a marathon not a sprint so keep on keeping on; endure the pain, bear with the tiredness that you feel because every step brings you closer to the end of the race. So watch out for the encouragement that we all need and let it fuel your determination to continue to the end. Don't give in!!
The truth is that there are times when we all feel the strain of the effort we put in to our lives that makes it hard to bear (there were plenty who dropped out of the marathon race that I ran) It's at such a time as that when you need to be aware of the crowd of witnesses that are encouraging and urging you on from Heaven as you run the race before you (Hebrews 12:1-2)
They are the ones who have already won their race and have received their reward. It's not a medal like the one I received from my efforts in completing the marathon. It's a reward that is undefiled and unfading. It's a crown of righteousness just like the one that's already waiting to be presented to you at the end of your race. Keep on keeping on and be encouraged by the cheers of those who have already completed the race set before them. They have gone home and the truth is that for them it had all been worthwhile otherwise they would not be encouraging you. Now there's a thought.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We had been shopping most of the day and we were stood at what I really hoped was the last pay point of the day when the woman that served us asked me to insert my credit card in the machine. She then asked me to put my PIN number in and, as I was typing it in (with fingers all aquiver) I remember saying to her, "I don't suppose that I'm your millionth customer and so get everything free?" It was her reply that got my attention when she said, "If it was up to me you could have everything free but somebody has to pay for it."
I took one hopeful glance all around before I put the PIN number into the machine and wondered, rather fancifully, whether anyone would step forward to put their credit card in the machine and pay for everything for me. Needless to say it didn't happen and so in went the final number that charged the cost of what we had bought to my credit card account and out came the receipt that showed I owed them HOW MUCH?
Have you realised that when we use our credit card to buy something we are actually getting the seller to give us the goods we are buying and charge it to our account? What we take home is not actually paid for until we pay off the credit card. We didn't actually pay for the goods when we used our credit card. We simply had the cost charged to our account.
There is an old and meaningful term used in accountancy to describe this procedure. It's called "imputing". It means recovering the initial cost. It involves the attribution of responsibility for the initial cost to someone.
That set me thinking. Concerning sin; God does not impute it to our account. He did not charge it to our account but, in the words of that shop assistant, someone had to pay for it. God never did and never will turn a blind eye to sin. The price had to be paid and so He paid the price for us. Now that has to be good news because it was something that we could never afford to pay.
Thankfully, though He never does overlook sin, He is willing to pass over our sins. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)
God did not and does not impute the responsibility of paying the cost of our sins to us...but someone had to pay for it. So God did when He sent Jesus to pay the full price by becoming sin for us, even though He never sinned, so that the weight of that debt could be removed from our shoulders and we could become free of debt in Him alone who was good enough and willing to bear the cost.
Does that mean that we are free to go and live however we want? Of course not. Sin always has consequences where it gives God's enemy an opportunity to put a barrier between us and God. But his accusations can never separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Remember that.
Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, could cry out, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3)
What a blessing indeed. Lets never forget that the debt that we have run up through sin was far too great for us to settle. The burden of such debt was far too great for us to carry. Can we ever appreciate enough that the Lord does not impute our iniquity to our account? He has recovered the cost by sending Jesus to bear the burden of our guilt and shame. The responsibility to settle the account belongs to Jesus. Why? Because someone had to pay for it. Now there's a thought.
All this is from God who, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)