Rooted-Cover300 (Custom)The best illustration of what it means to be saved that I have ever heard came from a pastor in a small church in New England. His name was George Thomas.

George waited until the service had started before he burst through the back doors with an old, rusty, wire bird cage. He set it on the pulpit to incite curiosity. As people sang, they could see the wire bird cage, and it did what George wanted it to do: it made them good and curious.

“Yesterday, I met a boy with this bird cage. In that bird cage were three common sparrows. I asked the boy what he was going to do with those birds. The boy described all kinds of cruelty he had planned for those birds. He said he was going to pull their feathers. He said he was going to try to get them to fight each other. He said he was going to starve them. He said he was going to abuse them and finally let his cats eat them.”

“I asked the boy what he wanted for those birds. The boy told me the birds were not worth anything. He told me they couldn’t sing. They were not pretty. They were beat up from his abuse. I asked him what he wanted for them. I paid him his price—$10.”

“I took this wire bird cage to the edge of town, opened the door, and set the birds free.”

“One day Satan was coming out of the Garden of Eden. He was gloating and boasting, and he had a cage. He said he had set a trap and had caught all of humanity in that trap. He said he was going to abuse them and torture them and get them to fight. Then, he was going to kill them.”

“Jesus said, ‘How much will you take for those people?’”

“Satan said, ‘You don’t want them. They would be of no value to you. They’ll sneer at you and reject you and won’t love or follow you. They will spit on you and curse you. You don’t want them.”

“How much do you want?”

“The price is too high. I want all of your blood.”

“Jesus paid it all.”

I love the song:

He paid a debt He did not owe;

I owed a debt I could not pay;

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And, now, I sing a brand new song,

“Amazing Grace.”

Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

John Stott said that the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God; the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man.

Similar story: Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1231.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 160.