Filings: NSF

One of the songs we sang in church on Easter Sunday had these words:

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross.

We’ve sung that song a few times before and each time I usually think to myself that I do know how much it cost to redeem my sin — it “cost” Jesus having to come to earth in human form, being beaten, crucified, dying and rising again. Yesterday, however, it really sunk in for me that there is a difference between “knowing” and “experiencing”. Or, to put it in the words that occurred to me, it’s the difference between receiving a check for $1 million and writing a check for $1 million.

That’s not to say that most of us haven’t tried to write out our own check for our salvation, either out of our man-made doctrines or new age spirituality, or based on our “good works”. Inherent in all of those thoughts is that deep down we assume we’re not “that bad” (even “good”), so how big a check are we really talking about? The thing is, there is no check that we can write ourselves that would pay that debt, even on an installment plan. That’s because we all fell for the marketing incentives and opened our accounts at the First Bank of Hell (hey, I got a free toaster!), and those checks are always going to bounce. They’ll come back stamped NSF — Insufficient Faith. And man, those penalty charges eat you up.

Nor do I get any closer by taking that revelation and thinking that I’m a worm, a worthless sinner (especially if done with an all-too-human sense of pride at my humility). True, on my own that is what I’d be, but Jesus looked at the value and decided I was worth it. I don’t know which revelation makes me weep more.

It is a gift that I can’t explain, rationalize or justify; all I can do is either accept it or waste it. There were many over the weekend who tipped their hats to the “message of Jesus” without realizing the sacrifice he made. There were the ones, even in Christian leadership, willing to call him “Teacher” but not “Lord”. I know; I’ve been there, done that myself. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (and KingDavid reminded me):

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that [alternative] open to us

Filings is an ongoing section of this blog where the posts focus specifically on issues of Christian life. The name comes about because “filings” are the natural by-product of Proverbs 27:17: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

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