In Words We Live By, Brian Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis apparently had scruples about his thievery. In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code, sort of a robber's rules:
1. I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
2. I will take cash and food stamps-no checks.
3. I will rob only at night.
4. I will not wear a mask.
5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
6. If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by a vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
7. I will rob only seven months out of the year.
8. I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.
This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state.
Likewise when we stand before God, we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God's perfect law.
Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers
Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 181.
Have you ever heard the expression "Face the music"'? Here's how that phrase came about:
Many years ago, a man wanted to play in the Imperial Orchestra, but he couldn't play a note. Since he was a person of great wealth and influence, however, he demanded to be allowed to join the orchestra so that he could perform in front of the king.
The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra. Even though he couldn't read music, he was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, he would raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He went through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound.
This deception went on for two years. Then one day a new conductor took over the Imperial Orchestra. He told the orchestra that he wanted to personally audition all the players to see how well they could play. The audition would weed out all those who weren't able to meet his standards, and he would dismiss them from the orchestra.
One by one the players performed in his presence. Frantic with worry when it was his turn, the phony flutist pretended to be sick. The doctor who was ordered to examine him, however, declared that he was perfectly well. The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill.
Shamefacedly, the man had to confess that he was a fake. That was the day he had to "face the music."
Many of us go through the motions of the Christian life. We attend church or youth group, recite Bible verses, and say all the right things. In reality, though, we are fakes. A time is coming when all of us will be called to stand before the judge of heaven and earth and "face the music." No one will be able to hide in the crowd. The phonies will be separated from the true players. (See Matthew 12:36-37 and 25:31-46.)
Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks
Wayne Rice, Zonderzan, pp. 91-92.
Being Prepared For
In Is It Real When It Doesn't Work? Doug Murren and Barb Shurin recount:
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: "Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man."
Actually, it was Alfred's older brother who had died; a newspaper reporter had bungled the epitaph.
But the account had a profound effect on Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace.
Nobel said, "Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one."
Few things will change us as much as looking at our life as though it is finished.
Illustrations For Preaching & Teaching
Editor Craig Brian Larson, Baker, p. 123.