Oswald Chambers is a name that you may be familiar with if you are a Christian. He was a pastor, teacher, revivalist and writer who lived in the early 1900’s. He is most famous for his devotional bestseller, My Utmost for His Highest. It contains his clear wisdom on Scripture that has inspired believers since being published. In the 100 years since Chambers death, the book has never gone out of publication. Millions have read and been greatly affected by his works. He was a brilliantly accomplished man of God.
Yet, his gravestone bears the simple inscription – A believer in Jesus Christ.
Even in death, Chambers wisdom is on display. The trappings of this world are temporary. No matter how much wealth and possessions we possess, there will come a time where the only thing we have is our identity, who we are. Chambers knew he was simply a believer in Jesus Christ…and that means more than anything else in the world.
Who are we? What is our identity in?
Peter and John certainly knew their answer. In the earliest days of the church, we find them headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. They encounter a man who has been lame from birth beside the Gate which is called Beautiful. The account states that the man has been placed at that location every day to beg money to support himself. There is so much pointed meaning in this short comment.
This poor man had been crippled since birth. He was unable to walk on his own. The only thing that man is able to do to help him is to assist him in his begging. Each day they drop him off in front of the gate to appeal to the charity of those coming in and out of the Temple. There is nothing humanity can do to actually fix his problem. They just help him eke out his survival.
They place him in front of the gate called Beautiful and this just emphasizes the point. As the name implies, it was one of the Gates into the Temple that was known for its amazingly beautiful construction. It was notable for its size and splendor. The artistry of the skilled craftsman involved would have been spectacular. It was a height of man’s achievement in the worship of God – it was a gate into the Temple of the Living God.
Yet, that awesome sight could do absolutely nothing to help the poor crippled man as he begged in front of it for years. The glory of man’s handiwork stood in stark contrast to what Adam’s fall had done to mankind. Sickness and death entered into the world when man disobeyed God in the Garden and man could do nothing about it. He was helpless and crippled by sin.
Then Peter and John show up and everything changes. It was not because of anything the beggar does though. He just asks them for money like anyone else. His fallen mind is on man’s solution to his problems – money. The disciple’s minds are on things above and not below so they are not playing the same game. They refuse to play by man’s rules.
They are asked to show their love and mercy towards the beggar in the way that the man defines, silver and gold. This would have made him happy for a short period of time. But it would not have solved his actual problem. Their eyes are on the spiritual not the profane.
Peter responds with a simple request initially. He says to the beggar, “Look at us” and demands his attention. It initially seems to be a bit of a strange thing to say to the man. That is until you consider why Peter makes the request. Peter makes the point clear with his next words:
Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Look at us, Peter is saying, do we look like silver and gold people? Are we defined by silver and gold? Do Peter and John look like ones whose lives are ruled by money and the pursuit thereof? Their identity is obvious when the man looks at them. They are Jesus people, not money people. That portion of their lives died when they left behind their fishing nets and boats when they were called by Jesus. The beggar would not have seen rich, powerful men ready to meet his material needs.
When he really looked the beggar saw men who knew that they only thing that they cared about in this world was exactly what the man needed – Jesus. They were Christians, followers of Jesus Christ with all their hearts and did not claim to be anything more. That was more than enough.
And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
What defines us today? Our jobs, families, titles, our cars, our power or our relationship with Jesus?
If we are confused, consider Oswald Chambers. His writing, teaching, and fame would have done nothing for him on his deathbed without his identity in Christ. All those things are worthless to one getting ready to face the King of Kings.
A believer in Jesus Christ. A simple epitaph more valuable than all the wealth in the world.
Where is our identity?