Romans: The Line in the Sand (Series)
Message Title: The Bottom Line
Scripture: Romans 1:13-15
13 And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Over the course of the last two weeks, there has been a small story going on in the newspapers. In the beginning, the story seemed to be one of rejoicing. Yet, as the story unfolded, it took on a different twist. Maybe you know the story. The story of the “Dead Canoeist” that claimed he didn’t remember where he had been for the last several years. He showed up at a police station in the United Kingdom saying, “I believe I may be a missing person.” And, you may know the rest of the story.
The rest of the story is how he and his wife concocted a plan to fake his death, get the insurance money, and move to Panama. What’s the bottom line? What was the reason for such an elaborate scheme? A headline in the online U.K. daily newspaper, The Telegraph, tells it all…
’Dead’ canoeist’s wife: “We were in debt”
Anne Darwin, 55, claimed that her husband planned his disappearing act at the beginning of 2002 to escape tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt from a failing property portfolio.
Yet this is not the end of the story or stories like it for there have been many other people that have attempted similar plans, and, I’m sure, there are just as many that have succeeded. Additionally, all through history, and in the Bible, you can read about various people being thrown into debtor’s prisons because they were unable to pay their debts. Societies around the world have come up with various ways to punish those that are either unable to pay their debts, or, like the Darwin’s, come up with some plan to try and fool their creditors.
In the days of the Mosaic Law, those who fell into debt and were unable to pay were bound over to their creditor in a slavery that lasted until the year of freedom determined according to the law. If you were to read through history books, you would find out that ‘debtor’s prisons’ were very common up into the nineteenth century. In the U.S. there are laws that permit creditors to take a debtor’s belongings, even without asking, and either resell them or claim them for their own. The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t even have to prove that you owe them money to take money from your paycheck.
How are we supposed to act when others are in debt to us?
The Bible says specifically, Matthew 18
23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. ’Be patient with me,’ he begged, ’and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ’Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ’Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 "Then the master called the servant in. ’You wicked servant,’ he said, ’I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Now with all of that we’ve said about material debt, and with all that people have done, both past and present, to collect on past due accounts on material possessions, what do you think should be our obligation as debtors in spiritual matters? First of all, did you know that we are all in debt spiritually? Did you know that when we became Christians, we all plunged into debt from that moment on to every person in the world? Especially to those that have yet to hear the Word of God?
Look in chapter one of Romans, verses 14 and 15, Paul says,
14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul knew that he was debt. But, he was eager, and ready to pay that debt. He says, “I am under obligation…I am a debtor…” then follow that up to with II Corinthians 11:23-28, with his repayment…
…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Paul knew he was a debtor. Paul felt the desire to repay his debt through service to the lost. The word that is used for debtor in the KJV is changed to under obligation in the NIV, but they both basically mean the same thing, one who is bound to some duty. It is the same word that is used in the Lord’s prayer…
Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
But it’s not finished yet. Notice what it says in the Lord’s prayer…forgive us our debts.
We are in debt twice. When we put our faith in Christ, we became debtor to Christ and to mankind. And, you will be held accountable for those debts.
We are debtors to Christ because we have been bought and paid for with a price, a price that was paid by our Savior, Jesus Christ. We were up for sale on the auction block. We were slaves to sin, and the Lord Jesus stepped into humanity to redeem us.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
You are a debtor to Christ Jesus. You have been bought by His blood and are thereby under obligation to follow His purpose for your life.
But, you are also a debtor to mankind. How so? Everyone that puts their faith in the Lord, has been given a gift, and that gift isn’t to be hidden under a bed but to be used. That gift is to be exercised for the good of the church body, to build it up. It might seem like an insignificant gift to you, but to God it is important for the ‘well-being’ of the church. It may seem like your contribution to the overall development of God’s church at UCC is inconsequential, and not worth mentioning, but let me assure you that it is well known, and much needed by God.
That’s why He gave it to you in the first place.
In his poem, Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray, writes,
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
You see the gem is in the deepest part of the ocean, unseen by all but God. The beauty of the gem is covered by tons of water, but doesn’t go unnoticed by God. The flower, blooming in the untouched jungle or the desolate desert may seem like a waste to those that look at the bottom line, but to God, it was put there for His purpose, for His pleasure. You were given a gift for His purpose and His good pleasure. Rest assured, you and your gift are well known to God, and as such you are in debt to Christ and to mankind! Some of us need to start paying that debt right away…
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
This debt is especially visible to those that have been called into ministry in the body. The Bible is adamant about God giving gifts to men, and then gives those men to the church. None of that is possible, except what is made possible by God. No one can ever be in the position of controlling truth. The truth belongs to those for whom it was intended—God’s elect, those that have come into the Body of Christ.
The truths that I speak today are not mine. They belong to you. The truths that you hear from Billy Graham are not his, they belong to all of God’s children and you have the opportunity to take those truths that are communicated through him and use them for the Body of Christ. You have been given the opportunity through your Spiritual gifting to communicate the truth of Jesus Christ. YOU ARE A DEBTOR. A debtor to the cause of Christ, and obligated to speak the truth concerning Jesus Christ.
There may be someone here today that is saying that you owe nothing. You may be saying that you are debt-free. No, you’re not, if you are in Christ. He bought you with a price, and you are His. If you are debt-free, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING, then you are not of Christ, you are of something else. Then there are many in churches around the world that believe that the church owes them something. They believe that the church is in debt to them because of their tithing, their service, and their so-called contributions to the church.
Be careful in what you think about this subject of obligation to God, because you do owe HIM for everything. He doesn’t owe you anything, it’s already been paid.
The true ‘bottom line’ isn’t going to be found at the end of a company ledger, or a balance sheet, but in the very hands of God.
Isaac Watts knew what it was to be doubly indebt.
Isaac Watts, Chorus: Ralph E. Hudson
Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
2. Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man, the creature’s sin.
4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
While Calvary’s cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
5. But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
’Tis all that I can do.