My Story About the Boiler
The concept of "faith" seems so simple to me, yet so many don't seem to get it. Thus when I'm teaching classes, I usually tell this story--usually on a cold winter night, if I have the chance, but if where you are it is sunny and warm, use your imagination. I'm shivering where I am.
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Let us suppose for the moment that you are in my class, and I have just arrived. We're going to get down to business in just a moment, I say, but first I have something I found interesting, which I thought you might appreciate. I have been studying the heat in this old building, and it's badly in need of replacing. One of these days, you know, it's going to go. In fact, I got a friend of mine in here to look at it, and together we pulled together some numbers on metal stress, R-factors, wind chill, some other stuff, and made a projection. According to these numbers, as soon as the outside temperature reaches twenty degrees Fahrenheit, that boiler is going to explode--it will probably take half of the building with it.
Now, I don't imagine that you would believe so wild a notion just because I said so. I may be smart, but this is hardly my field. Yet you can see that I'm laying out diagrams and test results and pages of calculations, all spread out on a table in the classroom, and as you look over the numbers, it's very convincing. You remembered that just before you got out of your car to come inside, the DJ on the radio said that it was 22 degrees downtown, and was expected to fall into single digits before midnight. The way you see it, if I'm right, the boiler will blow up within the hour. And the numbers have convinced you. You now believe that the boiler will explode at any minute. So you say to me, "I see that. I believe that we're going to have an explosion tonight, right here. It will probably take out half the building. Can I get you a cup of coffee before we get started?"
No, you don't say that. You only say that if you are assenting to an interesting theory. If you believe all that I just said, you turn down the thermostat, get out of the building--in essence, you run for your lives! (It's very nice of you to offer to stay; but my teaching isn't as good as that, and I can tell you that if I believe what I just told you, I'm not holding the class here anyway.)
You see, faith demands action. I have often said "Theology is everything." What I mean by that is, in the final analysis, what you really believe will control what you actually do. People don't do things which kill them--whether so obvious things as smoking, or those sins which eat away at the soul and destroy us from the inside--we don't do things which kill us because we want to die. We do them because, whatever we may say we believe, we don't really believe that they are dangerous. The person who has an affair, gets an abortion, steals from the company, deceives a friend, cheats on taxes, or murders thirty-seven people in a twelve-state shooting spree doesn't really believe that it's wrong when he does it--or maybe not ever. Believing that there are negative consequences to our actions is the ultimate deterrent to them. Believing that there are positive consequences to our actions is the ultimate incentive. What we do directly springs from what we truly believe. That's why you are known by your works: because, although you can plaster on a veneer of goodness as easily as you can fake a cold heart, ultimately you will act by what you think. That is why faith requires content; that is why you are "transformed by the renewing of your mind". That is why repentance--metanoia in the Greek--means "to change your knowledge". Once you understood the world one way. Now you must learn to understand all things as they really are, for if you truly understand the way everything is, and if you truly believe that things are as God says they are, then you will always do the right thing.
Have I been of any encouragement to you?
I was reading Philemon, and would like to go back to where I left off.
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