Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gold, Silver And Precious Stones Or Wood, Hay And Straw?

Many years ago before I had acknowledged God in Christ, I was acting as armed security on a truck resupply convoy en-route to the docks of Saigon to pick up supplies for my Army unit based eighteen kilometers to the North. I had volunteered for this before as it afforded me time for a nice steak dinner at the Continental Palace Hotel, a rather ritzy place, rather than the usual army fare and C-rations. Following that, I always had time to kill as the trucks were being loaded and I’d make it a point to visit a bar close by where I had met a rather homely bar maid with a pocked marked face. She spoke good English and informed me right away that she was not a prostitute as some there were because she was a Catholic, I admired her for her convictions. She would help me wile away the time with a few games of 500 Rummy as we engaged in small chat. On this, my third and final trip as convoy security I discovered that my friend had been hospitalized with a stomach illness and so I paid the establishment owner to release one of the bar girls to accompany me to the hospital and help find my friend. 

We sped down the tree lined boulevards riding in a cycle-o, which is essentially a rickshaw pushed by a motorcycle where one’s own shinbones act as the front bumper in the event of an accident. The hospital was a French building with a few private rooms and large bays in the wings with patients two to a bed, head to toe. I located my friend and as I enquired about her health she began to sob. She was fearful that she wasn’t going to get well. She had indentured herself to the bar for a large sum of money following the death of her father in an effort to support her mother and younger siblings. I discovered that the Vietnamese doctor spoke English and I asked him to get her into a private room, then I gave him a large roll of cash in US dollars and told him that I expected him to take good care of her and not to spend the money on himself or in the black market or I would find him and kill him later. I bid my friend goodbye and assured her that she would be well cared for, the girl and I returned to the bar. I paid off my friend’s total indebtedness to the bar owner and proceeded to meet the truck convoy which was ready to head back north. 

Now I know that people reading this unusual story would think it was an act of righteousness but in retrospect that’s not the case at all. Since I didn’t know God or have any regard for His Son Jesus at the time, it was merely an act of self righteousness not done out of a love for God, but out of pity for the woman and the realization that I might die in some God forsaken jungle or rice paddy before my tour of duty was up and the money would rot away in my pockets. Besides there was yet another motive, if I died perhaps what I did for the woman would give me some good points in whatever afterlife there might be, I was simply hedging my bets.

The Apostle Paul makes a clear statement about such short sighted thinking. (Romans 10:3)  “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

True righteousness doesn’t come from ourselves but from God through faith. 
(Hebrews 11:7) By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.

And again, (James 2: 23) and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.

(1 Corinthians 3: 11 - 15) For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Like Paul I have come to the place where I count all former good deeds I had done before acknowledging God through Christ as so much dross based on various selfish motives and a total waste in terms of what may be considered the righteousness brought about by God which is lasting and is counted as “gold silver and precious stones” before the judgment seat of Christ.

Paul expresses these same thoughts in his letter to the church at Philippi.
(Philippians 3: 8 - 9) Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 

(1Corenthians 1: 26 - 31) For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” 

And we go on to no longer boast of ourselves but to boast in the Lord. 
(Ephesians 2: 8 -9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast

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