The Preacher Says....  
  Are You Worth Saving?  

Lost in a crowd in New York City, or standing on a bridge in faraway Istanbul, a starry night should remind me of David’s words in the 8th Psalm, "When I consider the work of Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars that Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" But most of the time I don’t think this way, because I am the center of the universe. I know this is so because I am the only one on stage 24 hours a day. All of you are bit players in this drama of which I am the star. As the center of the universe I have formed some opinions about life and how it ought to be lived. And frankly, so many of you disappoint me in not coming up to the standard I have set for you; if you did things my way everything would be a whole lot better.

This kind of thinking is what Paul calls ‘being wise in your own conceits’. And what is a conceit? A fake notion about yourself. Now some of you might say that I’m not referring to you, but I am talking about you–you just don’t realize it. To cure these conceits, imagine you could let somebody into your brain for 24 hours, where every mean, despicable, selfish thought and action would have an on-the-scene observer. I’m confident that anybody that could actually do that to me would never want to speak to me again. Another cure for these conceits where we know best, or to rid ourselves of the smugness that comes from our ‘superior’ faith, is to think deeply about what you know and how you know it. We come into the world with what? Five senses–taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell–and a blank page for a mind. A mind in a box. The five senses we know consist of specialized sets of nerve endings. Things we touch, for example, cause one of two sensations that are registered in our brains: pleasure, or pain. The brain interprets the senses, but does something else, as well. It stores the act and our reaction to it. Call this memory. The hot stove–don’t touch it–because we remember pain. Thus, what we know is what the senses perceive at this very moment, and this we call ‘knowledge’. I see you, you see me. We feel heat, we touch the pew–even now that knowledge is gone, then memory. New knowledge replaces it as you shift in your seat or look out the window. What was knowledge is now memory. Memory can’t be called knowledge, because knowledge implies truth, and memory is imperfect–a fact exemplified in recounting the facts of an auto accident, or recollection of things I may have said to you. Even sensory perceptions can’t be called knowledge, because they are faulty , e.g., the ear, the eye.

So we live by faith, and rely on the unreliable in every aspect of our lives. ( As an aside, why should a requirement of faith in the gospel message seem preposterous?) How do we learn virtues? How does a baby learn about love?–from his mother, of course. She picks him up to her soft, warm breast and says I love you. So love involves a pleasant, physical sensation. The mother says to her son, love your little sister. Brother dutifully demonstrates physical love by giving baby sister a hug, (not crazy about baby sisters), but it is a way to get mother to give him some more love. Thus, the child learns hypocrisy–feigned love for mother’s love and protection. So we go through life storing sensations, and use the information to get pleasure and avoid pain, with whatever our memory filing system can come up with; even something as lofty as appreciation of music–merely reception of waves by auditory nerves that set off impulses in our brains, resulting in pleasurable feelings.

If you think I am making this up, Jesus says the same thing in a nutshell: "All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life." (1Jn 2.16) Also Paul–I know that in my flesh dwells no good thing. John continues by saying that the world passes away with all its lusts, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. So we do His will and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, etc.. Do we do these things to obey God or do we choose only to feed our lusts? If all I am is the sum total of my sensations, why should I be saved? Is the promise of the kingdom not in your future if you ask yourself "Why should I even want a spiritual body when my whole life has been spent seeking pleasant sensations?" Why waste salvation on somebody who doesn’t know how to appreciate it? There’s nothing worth saving. Why waste the grace of God on such a person? But is there a quality to be found in us beyond the one I have described? Yes. Call it imagination, a more far reaching exercise than mere memory recall. We say we are imperfect, but how do we know that? Because we can imagine or visualize the perfect. We are imperfect only if we can perceive perfection; sinful man can conceive of sinless man; the finite and bad can conceive of the infinite and good. What I am trying to say is that we are worth saving (or being perfected) if we seek truth, which is reliable, and will be found in the kingdom of God.

There is ultimate truth beyond this present transient vale of tears. If we are seeking to know it, then that characteristic is worth saving. Knowing the truth is more than knowing the promises to Abraham and all that entails. Jesus said, ‘Know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’ In Hebrews we read that he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He will reward those that diligently seek Him. If you are a truth seeker then, you are worth saving. But if you are like jesting Pilate who asked the question, and would not stay for an answer, you are not worth saving.