The Box, The Book, and the Table of Contents

Because of the voice of the enemy, Because of the pressure of the wicked; For they bring down trouble upon me And in anger they bear a grudge against me.
My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
“Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah.
(Psalms 55:3-6)

The Box, The Book, and the Table of Contents
by Simple Mann

The Box.  It sits on top of a table, in the middle of an otherwise empty room.  Perhaps you’re not sure how it got here, or how you got here, either.  You stand quietly for a little while, looking around and waiting for something to happen, for someone to say something, but no one else seems to be anywhere around.  After a time, your curiosity gets the better of you and you go over and take a look at the box on the table.  It’s a pretty good-size box (and a pretty good-size table for that matter), plain brown on the outside–no tape sealing it shut, but the flaps are folded down on top.  You turn it a quarter turn on the table and notice a note stuck on the side.  It says, “Label and set aside the ones that are yours.”

Now you’re really curious, but still a little hesitant… uncertain that the note is really intended for you.  Glancing around, waiting a bit longer you say, “Hello?” a couple of times and listen for a response.  There isn’t one.  After pacing the length of the long table the box is sitting on for a few minutes, you come back and stand in front of the box.  You sort of toy with one of the flaps on the top of the box while you read the note a few more times in your head, just letting it soak in.  “Label and set aside the ones that are yours.”

As you stand there another minute or so, gently opening and closing one of the loose, folding flaps at the top, considering the situation further, you finally give into the curiosity, and quickly open all four flaps to see what’s inside.  At the very top is a blank notebook, a pen, and a stack of labels.

You take these out and set them on the table, to see what else is in the box.  One of the first things that you see and remove from the box is a pack of cigarettes and some matches.  Lying right beside them was a little liquor bottle, a bottle of beer, and a wine cooler.  There is a little plastic bag with a white powdery substance inside, and another larger bag with some green leafy vegetation inside.  Your stomach is churning a little as you remove the contents of the box and lay them on the table.  “Surely not,” you say to yourself as you continue to unpack the contents of the box, glancing around occasionally to see if anyone has somehow managed to sneak into the room.  Some prescriptions and pill bottles, some with your name on them, some not.

Pornographic magazines, a couple of items from an adult novelty store, some embarrassing videos… then, thankfully (you think), some less objectionable movies, that were really more about violence than sex, some that were funny or romantic, a couple that touched your heart.  Some boxes of video games, and game system… a laptop, and some things written in a notebook by your own hand.  A little black book, with phone numbers and names of people that at one time (and some perhaps even now) you secretly desired.  Magazines you once subscribed to, and some shopping catalogs and advertisements for stores you once shopped at.  As you flip through them, you find things you once longed for (and some you obtained) circled or highlighted.

You take out some books you’ve read–there are some on how to get rich and invest money, how to be more attractive, how to be (or seem) smarter, how to boost your self-esteem, how to influence people… how to get the “most” out of life.  There are some other books you enjoyed reading–fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance.  You think to yourself how much stuff fit into that box as you continue pulling things out and placing them on the table.

Next you, find a box of receipts and a checkbook register, some folders with bills, and as you flip through you take note of car payments, house payments, and other large purchases that you made.  You see a contract for that fitness membership you never used, receipts for shoes and clothes you never wore, books you never read, movies you never watched, and then you come across a list of things you’ve put in storage and not even used for years… and then you see sum total for all the money you’ve paid just to store those things you haven’t ever used.  You scratch your head, a little confused, a little overwhelmed.  You continue to take more and more items out of the box, filling up almost all of the space on the table, and much to your chagrin, just about everything that you’ve taken out and laid down before you is (or at one time was) yours.  You find IOUs to people you borrowed money from and never paid back.  You find pictures you never knew had been taken, that all seem to be from times you lied about where you were and what you were doing.  A list of things that you stole or obtained by dishonesty, some of them actually in the box.  Pictures of you doing things you did when you thought you were alone and no one could see you.  All of it was in the box, and now it’s on the table.

And toward the bottom of the box, you find another notebook.  This one looks like some kind of personal journal.  “Strange,” you think.  “I don’t remember this.”  But as you open it up, it is your own handwriting, summarizing and detailing how you spent every moment of the day, and every penny you ever earned.  There is no omission or inconsistency in the records; every transaction of time and money is recorded, leaving no doubts or uncertainties to the desires of your heart.  For what seems like days, you sit there flipping through it, as your heart grows heavier and heavier.  Somehow, you just never saw yourself this way.  It seems like you just wasted so much time and so much money on things that were really so unimportant, so selfish, and so self-serving.  As you stand there before this table of contents, you realize this journal represents the index of your heart.

Feeling somewhat sick, you put that down and reach back into the box.  For just a moment, you think that everything has been removed, but when you tip it over and turn it toward you and hear something moving down in the very bottom.  It looks like you missed one item in there.  It’s a book.  As you pull it out and your eyes fall on it, suddenly you feel very weak, as if you might pass out.  On the front, it reads “The Law and Evidences of Grace”.

You open it up, and the first page says, “In the beginning”, but that’s all it says.  The rest of the page is blank.  You turn the page, and the next one is blank as well.  Somewhat troubled, you begin to leaf through all of the pages quickly and then you see another that has some words on it.

Thou shalt love the Lord your God

Thou shalt not bow thyself down to them

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

Remember the sabbath day     keep it holy

Honor thy father and thy mother

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Thou shalt not covet

There are gaps of white space where you feel certain more words should be, but these that are here seem to be enough.  You have heard them before.  Well enough that you remember them even as you read them.  These words were already in your heart, as much as they were in the Book.  Even more troubled now, you begin leafing through more barren, white pages, seeking something else… some hope, some comfort.  Weeping now, and frantically turning page after page after page, after what again seems like days, you catch a glimpse of a small line of print, just a few words: “For God so loved the world”… Ah, yes.  You remember something about that, but you can’t quite seem to recall the rest of it.  It isn’t there in the Book.  It is finished.  It isn’t in your heart, either.  And suddenly you realize that the only thing that is in the Book is what has been written on your own heart.

This Book that you hold in your hand, “The Law and Evidences of Grace” is almost entirely empty save for the Law.  And spread before you on the table are all the contents from the box, and you realize that this is the evidence of your life.  This is what has been brought before you, and your heart sinks the rest of the way as you fear the dreadful sound of the falling gavel you know must come.  The evidence before you has been labeled, signed and sealed with your very own hand.  “The  Law” portion of the Book has quite exposed you.  The “Evidences of Grace” portion is so barren that it hurts.  The choices that you have made, your methods, and your motives… all have been laid bare and with great trepidation you seem to realize for the first time that this Judge who you must go before will not be swayed with clever arguments, reasoned opinions, or deceitful explanations.  With increasing horror, you realize that you have no justification.  You are guilty of every law you read in that Book.  Oh how you wish you had spent more time studying it now!  But time is no longer relevant now.  It is too late for that.

And then, from the other side of the wall, for the first time you hear the proceedings.  You hear the charges being brought by the Accuser against another; there are several charges brought for each transgression of the law by this defendant (just as you fear there will be for you), and you hear what can only be the defendant on the other side weeping and wailing and saying, “Yes, Lord, it is true!  It is true!”

If you could somehow escape this terrible experience and take the knowledge of it back with you while there was still time, still hope!  What would you do?  If instead of this terrible fate, you could somehow be born again with a real desire to exchange everything else in that wretched box for the contents of that Book, what would you give?  Would you be like a man who came across great treasure in a field and sold all he had to acquire it?  Or would you forget the act of mercy and grace extended to you and perish in the same fate, the same way?

What, oh what, will you do?

Rom 1:16   For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Rom 1:17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Rom 1:18   For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Rom 1:19  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
Rom 1:20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22  Professing to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Rom 1:24   Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
Rom 1:25  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Rom 1:26   For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
Rom 1:27  and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Rom 1:28   And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
Rom 1:29  being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
Rom 1:30  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31  without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
Rom 1:32  and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Rom 2:1  Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
Rom 2:2  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
Rom 2:3  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
Rom 2:4  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Rom 2:5  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Rom 2:6  who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:
Rom 2:7  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
Rom 2:8  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
Rom 2:9  There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,
Rom 2:10  but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Rom 2:11  For there is no partiality with God.
Rom 2:12   For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;
Rom 2:13  for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
(Romans 1:16-2:13)

Dear Reader, I pray that you will take this to heart and consider.  What is it you have been investing in?  Where have you been putting your trust?  What holds your heart and its truest affections?  Does your heart belong to Christ and to the God of the Book?  Or does it belong to the god of this world?

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:8-13)

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.  He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.  And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:8-12)

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