Written Not With Ink
The Abbe Faria recounts to his prison mate, Edmond Dantes, his discovery of a treasure map. In the dim light of dusk one evening before his arrest, the Abbe needs to ignite the kindling in the room’s fireplace. Twisting a blank piece of paper into a wick, he lights the end of it on fire from a lantern and reaches toward the hearth to transfer the flame. In so doing he begins to notice letters appearing on the crumpled paper in his hand. Quickly stamping out the flame he unrolls the paper and smooths out its creases. The heat of the flame has revealed a message of treasure, written with invisible ink. So goes the classic story of The Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexander Dumas in the 1800s.
We all love stories of hidden treasure – or rather, of treasures found. There is something deep within us that hopes beyond hope that we will find a letter written in invisible ink that will reveal a hidden treasure of some sort.
The Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the church in Corinth, Greece, in the middle of the first century, A.D. describes such a letter. He explains that God’s ministry of using Christians to bring others closer to God, not only has an aroma to it (see Part 1: Aroma of Christ), but also comes with a task of revealing treasure-letters. Listen to what Paul writes to believers:
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.” (II Cor. 3:3-4).
Ink is unnecessary here. The Spirit of the living God is indelibly impressed on hearts when believers minister to people around them. The ministry spans human experience from stone inscriptions to digital texts. The message is Christ transforming hearts from the inside out. Neither chisels nor ink nor touchscreens can send the kind of message the ministry of Christ accomplishes. He uses His people to reach out to other people with the message of His love, His redeeming work, and His transforming power.
And our role in the ministry of God’s internal affairs is active. We are to allow Christ, by His Spirit, to minister to our own hearts as we minister to others. Another Apostle, Peter, gives us a clear picture of the map leading to the treasure of lives lived for Christ.
He says, “…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:5-8).
It’s worth memorizing these steps, isn’t it? They are guidelines to move us into the direction Jesus wants us to take to find His treasure. His Spirit is present with those who love Him, pricking our conscience when we need prodding, urging us to be moving always closer to the treasure He’s written on our hearts, providing us with His resources. His goodness becomes ours; His self-control enables ours; His kindness and love become ours to be used to minister to others. That’s a message that becomes visible when we step into the ministry of Christ. That’s a message of treasure.
(Photo Credit: Beria Lima, Wikimedia Commons)