I remember many years ago Amy and I were invited out to dinner with friends of ours at a very high-end expensive restaurant outside of Philadelphia. After the meal and as I anticipated paying for Amy and my meal, my friend announced that he would cover our bill in addition to their own. This very generous gesture certainly caught me off guard, especially considering the $25/meal type of restaurant this was.
While that story shows the type of goodness and generosity that we as humans can express to others, our reading today gives us a similar wonderful picture of what our Savior Jesus did for us. In the book of Philemon, we read about the Apostle Paul writing to a man named Philemon who apparently was a slave-owner. From what we can tell based on vs 19, Philemon came to Christ either directly or indirectly because of the influence of Paul himself. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who apparently had run away and perhaps had gotten caught, or done something else deserving of ending up in a prison. Fortunately for him, he found himself in prison with Paul who had apparently led him to Christ. Paul was now writing to Philemon, encouraging him to take back his runaway slave, who now also happened to be a brother in Christ. Paul even offers the promise in verse 18, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account.”
What a wonderful picture of what Christ symbolically says to the Father in regards to us. Just like my friend paid for my bill and just like Paul offered to pay to take care of anything that Onesimus owed, so too our Savior essentially says to the Father, “Put anything that believer owes (namely, the payment for our sins) on my account.” The price of our sins has been paid for and Christ’s righteousness covers me. Thank God that our sins have been put on Christ’s account!
How often has the following scenario been played out on the pages of human history: A young man grows up in church, lives a clean life, has a good reputation, and when he turns 18 years old he runs off one night to the wrong place, with the wrong friends, and finds himself in a wrong situation in which one foolish decision leads to a lifetime of regret.
Somebody once said that “a small leak will sink a great ship.” I think the Bible says it better. Ecclesiastes 10:1 says, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” Just as a small leak can sink a great ship, so can a little folly sink a good reputation.
In ancient times, an apothecary was a dealer of spices and perfumes. An apothecary understood the importance of keeping his spices and perfumed ointments covered at all times, otherwise, they would quickly be covered in flies. Just as we keep flies off our food today, so the apothecary tried his best to keep flies out of his ointment so as to keep it from being spoiled. Ecclesiastes 10:1 describes how a little, insignificant fly can spoil an ointment by causing a great stench.
The application is so relevant to you and I. Just as a little fly in ointment causes a great stench, so a little folly in the life of one with a good reputation causes it to be destroyed. A testimony can take a lifetime to build. But it takes one moment of fleshly gratification to spoil it. One’s life, one’s testimony, one’s reputation can be spoiled through one act of fleshly indulgence.
The Bible commands us to be “sober…vigilant” because we have an adversary who is seeking to destroy one’s effectiveness and testimony to shine as a light for Christ. The Bible says “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A little compromise, a little inconsistency, a little sin, a little idleness, a little folly can lead to a great “spiritual shipwreck.”
We all come to crossroads in our life where there is a path to give into sin or a path to do what is right. Down one path lies momentary pleasure for a short time, but ruin that follows. Down the other path lies self-denial, mortification of the flesh, abstaining from sin and all appearance of evil, but everlasting joy to follow.
A little folly can cause a great stink in one’s life. It can cause a man with a reputation for wisdom and honor to live the rest of his days with regret. Thankfully, there is forgiveness in Christ for any sin that we commit. But there is no taking back a lost reputation among men. We must be wise and upright in every decision we make. We must not allow any form of folly or sin into our lives.
“God’s watching you boy!” Mother would remind me of this, when I went outside to play as a youngster. She was letting me know if her eyes were not on me- His were. I’m sure she hoped God would watch over me, but she was more concerned about me behaving. She instilled in me an enormous fear of God. My pal’s mothers did the same thing. We’d always ask each other if God thought, whatever we were about to do, was good or bad. Little did we know, if we had to ask it was probably a bad thing. Even little children have a conscience given by God.
“The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth” (Ps. 33:13-14). So Mom was spot on. God has His eye on everyone-everywhere. There is nothing we do that He doesn’t see-nothing! Prior to my conversion, I did plenty of ungodly things. However, I always knew there would be a “payday some day”. Some folk act as if there isn’t, but they know. “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Pr. 15:3).
Because of our mothers, most of us boys stayed on the straight and narrow. After all, you would too if you had God and Mom watching you at the same time. Some may complain that this was not “healthy”. I beg to differ. Our land needs more moms teaching children that God will “get them” if they cross the line. It sounds harsh, but He really will “get you” if you continue in sin. The Bible is full of examples of this.
As children of God, it’s comforting to know the Saviour has His eye on us. It’s the eye of protection. “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers” (1 Pe. 3:12a). Who are the righteous? The believers in Christ. Not that we do everything right, but we try and there is forgiveness if we truly repent. “Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Ps. 33:18).
The flip side is that unbelievers don’t have this privilege. Why would one expect these privileges from a God they ignore? It’s true that God loves us all, but we must follow His formula. It’s cut and dry. You are either for Him or against Him-there is no middle ground! Jesus simply says in Mt. 12:30, “He that is not with me is against me….” The end of 1 Peter 3:12 belongs to unbelievers, “…but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (unbelieving).
Have you ever been trying to work out a problem only to find out you are right back where you started? It’s a frustrating – no, maddening – experience that many of us have faced at some point. Can you imagine coming to the end of your life only to find out that your life had been that circle back to square one?
Solomon laments the great frustration that is our lives in the book of Ecclesiastes, calling everything “hebel,” a Hebrew word meaning worthless and frustrating! It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, wise or foolish, good looking or ugly, after you die, people will forget about you and any of the amazing things you might have done!
The psalmist recognized that he only had power to praise the Lord while he was alive, so he was going to take advantage of that opportunity. If I die, he said, will the dust praise You? Indeed, we must strive to make full use of the time we have.
But Paul gives some tangible instructions for how to make life count, as he writes a final letter to his son in the faith, Timothy. Remember, there are no shortcuts to living a godly life. The person who runs in a race doesn’t win unless he competes by the rules. Make sure that the things you say are beneficial for others to hear. That doesn’t always mean saying what people WANT to hear, but we must ensure that we encourage those who hear us to live godly lives. Run away from sin if you are a Christian. Be gentle and patient as you instruct others. In everything, hold to the only foundation that will stand the test of time: the Word of God, and Jesus, the incarnate Word.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to reach the end of my life only to say, “So what?” I want there to be purpose behind what I do. With Paul’s instruction, we can advance toward that goal today! As we consider Christ’s sacrifice for us today, take time to praise Him today, because you might not have the chance tomorrow!
Many of us can think of times in our lives when there was “that day”. The day of a big test in school or college. The day when you had to pass some certification or exam related to your work. Or perhaps that day when the results of a medical test would be revealed and discussed. We recently had a “that day” in our family. Hannah received her driver’s permit in June of last year. While she started slow, the last few months have resulted in many hours of Hannah driving while Amy and I patiently (ok, not always!) gave her instruction from the passenger seat. Finally the day of her driver’s test arrived. It was “that day”. Unfortunately, though she did great in every thing else, her parallel parking wasn’t up to par and she received the sad news that she had failed. This resulted in a new day of reckoning a week and a half later. After many, many practice runs of parallel parking, the day finally arrived. Now she really felt the pressure but, thankfully, she nailed the test this go-around. Look out! haha
While we all have many pivotal days in our lives, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy we are reminded of the most important day to be ready for. In chapter 1, verse 12 we read, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” He follows that up by writing in verse 18, referring to Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” In these two verses we read direct references to “that day”. What is Paul referring to? I think it’s pretty clear he is referring to the day we each stand before God and give some type of an account of our lives. Certainly as Christians we don’t have to worry about being judged for our sins as they have been taken care on the day we were saved and robed in Christ’s righteousness. However, there will still be a day of reckoning for us as Christians as we are held accountable for how we have lived our lives here in this earth. May each of us soberly consider the soon-coming reality of that day.