The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz
Denis Avey's story is hard to believe, but it is true. He is known to history as the man who broke into Auschwitz. You heard that right. He broke into, not out of, Auschwitz.
I suppose the first question is, Why would anyone break into Auschwitz? To make a long story short, Avey broke into the notorious concentration/extermination camp to be an eyewitness to history so that after the war men would know what happened there. He had doubts that any Jews would actually survive to tell the story.
The second question is, How did he break into Auschwitz? Denis Avey was a soldier in the British Army. He was captured by the Germans while fighting Rommel in the desert. He escaped briefly when the ship that he was being transported in was torpedoed and sank. However, he was quickly recaptured and sent to a prison camp in Poland that bordered Auschwitz III. Although Avey's conditions as a prisoner of war were not good, they were far better than the ghostly figures that he saw on the other side of the fence. Eventually, Avey became friends with a Jewish inmate named Hans. On two different occasions, Avey and Hans changed positions for a day. They met in a wooden shed that bordered the two camps and quickly changed into each other's clothes. Avey described in detail his emotions as he took off his British uniform and boots to put on the dirty, striped uniform and rough, wooden shoes of his friend. The little protection and comfort that his uniform provided him under the Geneva convention was gone when he became a stripey. For a short time, Avey was one of them. He was walking in their shoes.
As amazing as this story is, you and I know an even better one. We know the story of One who left the ivory palace of heaven for a poor man’s cottage in Nazareth. In Psalms, we read, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia, Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad” (Psa. 45:6-8). We know the story of One who didn’t just put on our garments, but our nature (Phil. 2:5-8; John 1:14; 13:4). We know the story of One who fully understands what it is to be one of us (Heb. 2:10-18; 4:15). We know the story of One who died to set us free (Heb. 2:9; Rom. 5:6-10). Let's make sure that we tell His story for the world to hear!
Three Kinds of Sin
There are few subjects that you can preach on that you know cover every person in the audience. Sin is one of those subjects. Sin is a problem that we all have (Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). Sin is from a Greek word (harmatia) which means “to miss the mark.” It is to fall short of the glory of God and to transgress God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible identifies three kinds of sin.
Sins of Commission
The psalmist declared, “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly” (Psa 106:6). Notice first the word committed. This word identifies the kind of sin that we are talking about. Then, notice three words for sin - sinned, committed iniquity, and done wickedly. These three terms are just different ways of referring to the breaking of God’s law. We have an example of this kind of sin in the case of Achan. We read, “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity” (Josh. 22:20). Notice the word commit. This identifies the kind of sin that is under consideration. Notice also the words trespass and iniquity. These are two more ways that the Bible refers to sin.
Sins of Omission
Jesus declared, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Mat. 23:23). First, notice the word omitted. This identifies the kind of sin that is under consideration. These individuals had omitted the weightier matters of the law - judgment, mercy, and faith. Yet, at the same time they were giving tithes of the smallest spices - mint, anise, and cumin. No doubt, they wanted men to praise them for giving a tenth of these tiny things. Jesus wasn’t impressed. They were majoring in minors and minoring in majors. We must be careful not to be guilty of omissions of our own. James wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jam. 4:17).
Sins of Disposition
God looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7; Heb. 4:12). He sees our thoughts afar off (Psa. 139:2). We can sin not only in our bodies, but also in our hearts and minds. Solomon wrote, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin” (Prov 21:4). Please note that a proud heart is sin. In the twenty-fourth chapter, Solomon wrote, “He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person. The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men” (Prov 24:8-9). Here, we read of a thought that is sin. Other passages will affirm the same. Isaiah wrote, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7; cf. Mt. 15:19). In like manner, Jesus declared, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt. 5:27-28; cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). Please note that it isn’t just the act that is sin, but also the thought. The person who takes pleasure in the sin of others is as worthy of death as them. Paul wrote, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32).
We must avoid all sin. Sins of commission, omission, and disposition are all forbidden. They all pay the wages of death (Rom. 6:23).
As Jesus hung in agony on the cross, they offered Him “sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink” (Matt. 27:34). The word “tasted” there is not hard to figure out. It is the same word found in John 2:9, when the master of the feast “tasted the water that was made wine.” We understand what it means to “taste” something. Once something hits our tongue, our “taster” decides whether it likes it or not, and whether it wants to have some more or not.
Interestingly, the Greek word that is used for “taste” in the two passages above is most often used metaphorically. Those two passages are among the few that speak of literally tasting something with one’s tongue. When the word is used metaphorically, it means, “to experience something cognitively or emotionally; to come to know something.”
About four times in the New Testament, this word is used of one who would “taste death.” Jesus used the expression Himself (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27), but then the Hebrews writer used it with reference to Jesus—that He did “taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). What a way to describe what Jesus endured. He did not just die—He experienced death and came to know what it was like. He did that for us!
But, consider three other uses of the word and how they apply to you. First, a child of God is one who has “tasted the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4). What is this “heavenly gift”? Two possibilities seem apparent, but they are actually the same. Salvation is “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), and Christ Himself is God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Think about the illustrative use of the word “taste.” Are you saved? Are you in a deep relationship with Christ? If so, God says that you have “tasted” (or personally experienced) these blessings!
Second, a child of God has “tasted the good word of God” (Heb. 6:5). One might think of Ezekiel or John who ate God’s Word. The New Testament describes God’s Word as both “milk” (1 Pet. 2:2) and “solid food” (Heb. 5:12). The Bible is not merely something that you read—God beautifully designed it for the child of God to personally experience every day! How does it taste to you?
Third, a child of God has “tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:3). God is not just someone we read about in a book. God is someone to come to know and experience on such a deep and personal level that it’s as if you are tasting your relationship with Him. How vivid!
When you taste something, you decide if you like it and if you want more. How does God’s gift, God’s Word and God’s grace taste to you? Don’t you want all you can get!
I Am Ruth Thine Handmaid (Part 3)
Ruth stands out as one of the greatest servants in the Scriptures. In previous lessons, we saw that Ruth was a faithful, fervent, and fearful servant. In this lesson, we will see one final characteristic.
A Fruitful Servant
Throughout the book we find Ruth bringing fruit to Naomi. In the second chapter, she brought her a part of her lunch (Ruth 2:14, 18) and “about an ephah of barley” (Ruth 2:17). An ephah would have been about a bushel and would have lasted for about a week. In the third chapter, she brought Naomi “six measures of barley” (Ruth 3:15, 17). Six measures would have been about twice what she gleaned the first day in the field (Ruth 2:17). Six measures would have been about eighty pounds and would have sustained Ruth and Naomi for about two weeks. Ruth did not come “empty” to her mother-in-law (Ruth 3:17). Interestingly, “empty” was the very word that Naomi used to describe her situation when she arrived back in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:21).
Although the grain was great, the fruit that Naomi most wanted was a son to carry on the name of her husband and sons (Ruth 4:5, 10). As you know, she would not be disappointed. God granted Ruth conception and she bore a son (Ruth 4:13). By the book’s end, Naomi has the child in her arms (Ruth 4:16).
What about us? Are we fruitful servants? Do we come to God “empty” or are our hands full of gifts for Him? Repeatedly, men under the Old Testament system were warned not to appear before Him empty (Ex. 23:15; 34:20; Deut. 16:16). Amazingly, even the pagan Philistine priests knew this much (1 Sam. 6:1-3). Although God made allowances for the poor under the Old Testament system, such as a pair of turtledoves instead of a lamb, all were to bring something (Lev. 12:8; Lk. 2:24; Psa. 96:8). Obviously, if men under the Old Testament system were not to come to God empty, then it makes sense that under a far greater system we must not do so. As His servants, God wants us to bear fruit. Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8; cf. 15:16; Rom. 7:4; Col. 1:10; Heb. 13:15). We are not to be unfruitful (Tit. 3:14; 2 Pet. 1:8). Of course, the fruit that God most desires is someone to wear the name of His son (Rom. 1:13). He wants individuals to be born into His family and to keep the name of His Son alive in the earth.
Are we a servant to our Redeemer as Ruth was to hers? Have we placed ourselves humbly at his feet submitting to His will? Are we faithful, fervent, fearful, and fruitful?
I Am Ruth Thine Handmaid (Part 2)
In the first part of this study, we noticed that Ruth was a faithful servant. In this installment, we will notice two other qualities.
A Fervent Servant
Not only was Ruth a faithful servant, she was a fervent servant. When Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest (1:22), Ruth came to Naomi with the request to go and glean. She said, “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn” (Ruth 2:2). Please note that Ruth requested to go and glean. She was not commanded to do so. Like the ant, she needed no overseer to drive her (Prov. 6:6-9). Ruth was eager to go to work. Please notice the little word “now.” There was a fervency or urgency to Ruth’s request. Also, please consider the action associated with Ruth in the text – “And she went, and came, and gleaned” (Ruth 2:3). In addition to getting up and going to work, Ruth stayed at work all day (Ruth 2:7, 17). Again, this shows fervency.
Are we as fervent in the work that we have been given to do as Ruth was? Are we self-starters? Do we stay at it as long as she did? To the saints at Rome, Paul wrote, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). “Slothful” mans “tardy” or “indolent.” Are you familiar with tree sloths? Did you know that they move very little? In fact, they can spend their whole lives without moving from the tree in which they were born. Paul did not want the saints at Rome to be so stationary and sedimentary. He did not want them to be slothful servants or lukewarm laborers (Mt. 25:26; Rev. 3:15-16). He wanted them to be “fervent.” “Fervent” means “boiling.” He wanted them to be zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14; cf. Col. 4:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:22). Like Ruth, we must not grow weary and quit. We must stay in the field from morning to evening (Gal. 6:9).
A Fearful Servant
When I describe Ruth as a fearful servant, I am using the word fear in the sense of respect and obedience. Obviously, there is a kind of fear that is condemned in servants (Mt. 25:24-26; Rev. 21:8). The fear that is condemned in Scripture is a fear that keeps us from obeying God (2 Tim. 1:7). The fear that is commanded is a fear that motivates us to obey God (Eccl. 12:13). When Naomi decided to seek “rest” (a home) for Ruth, Ruth humbly submitted to Naomi’s plan (Ruth 3). Please consider two things that show her submission:
• Ruth’s promise - “All that thou sayest unto me I will do” (Ruth 3:5).
• Ruth’s performance – “And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her” (Ruth 3:6).
Ruth’s promise declared and her performance demonstrated great fear or respect for Naomi. To better see this fear in Ruth’s promise, please consider some parallel statements from the life of Noah:
• “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he…And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him” (Gen. 6:22; 7:5).
• “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
As you can see, Noah’s doing “all that” God commanded him demonstrated his fear or reverence for God. The same holds true in Ruth’s case. Although Ruth wasn’t a little girl and Naomi wasn’t her mother, she showed great respect.
What about us? Do we show the same fear or respect toward Christ that Ruth showed to Naomi? Do we do all that He has commanded us to do (Mt. 28:20; John 2:5; 15:14; Acts 3:22)? If we want to be acceptable to God, then we are going to have to show great fear. Paul wrote, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28).