Several years ago, Progress magazine reported that the famous preacher Billy Graham had been arrested. One of their reporters got the scoop: When he was driving through a small southern town Graham had been stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his guilt but was told by the officer that he’d have to appear in court.
On that day the judge asked him, “Guilty, or not guilty?” Graham pleaded guilty, and the judge replied, “That’ll be ten dollars — a dollar for every mile you went over the limit.” (This was a while back!)
Then the judge revealed that he had recognized the famous minister. “You violated the law,” he said. “The fine must be paid — but I’m going to pay it for you.” So he takes a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attaches it to the ticket, and takes Graham out and buys him a steak dinner!
This is a marvelous illustration of God's grace. We are all guilty of sin and incapable of paying the fine and therefore deserved punishment. But God was so gracious that He paid the fine at great cost to Himself, through the death of Jesus Christ. And not only that, there were a lot of benefits added for those who received his grace. He loves to bless his children. He lavishes them gifts.
The problem arises when people come to Christ seeking not the payment for their sins but going after the extras. There are those who go after the "steak" but not after the gracious payment for their sins. Jesus reminds us to seek the main thing:
And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:25-27 NKJV)
Jesus bids us to come to Him. But let us come not just for the extra benefits. Let us not use Jesus as simply a ticket to health, wealth, prosperity and all the pleasures of the world. Tickets are meant to be thrown when the show is over. As a groom to his lover, the kind of relationship he wants from us is so much more than that of lovers engaged in a one-night stand. He is inviting us into a relationship of love, and sacrifice, and a life-long commitment.
One of my favorite movies is the First Knight, a romantic take on the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. In it, the soon to be married Arthur was afraid that his fiancé Guinevere only wishes to marry him so that he will protect her homeland. He tells her that his country, Camelot, will protect Guinevere's country whether she marries him or not and offers her a way out of the marriage. He implores her: "Marry the king, Guinevere, but love the man." Jesus asked a similar question to Peter and he asks a similar question to us. After causing a miracle that gave the disciples a large haul of fish, Jesus asks "Do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15)
Loving God means we will not forget him as soon as we receive the things we ask.
Loving God also means we will not turn away from him even if we do not receive the things we ask and our lives do not turn out the way we want.
Loving God is realizing that our greatest treasure is Him and not the benefits or gifts or the blessings He offers.
Let us seek Him first, and seek Him with all our heart. His love is better than life.