She was gorgeous! Blonde hair, blue eyes, great personality. And she was going out with me! That was the incredible thing. After all, I didn’t exactly set any records when it came to dates during my college days. But here I was, on my way to a Baylor football game with one of the best-looking girls I had ever been out with. It didn’t even matter that I was driving a late-model American Motors Ambassador that was painted taxicab yellow long before that color scheme became a trend. I was determined to overcome this serious handicap with my rapier wit and sophisticated charm.
Then it happened. My world came crashing down around my ears. Actually, it didn’t crash. It just kind of slowed to an anticlimactic stop. I had run out of gas! Right there on the main drag headed to the stadium. And in full view of every other vehicle crammed full of my fellow students. They honked. I fumed. My date slid down further in the seat.
My tank was empty. Much like my date life would prove to be for some time to come. But I had learned a valuable lesson that day: You can’t get very far on empty. And I took that lesson to heart, because I would never run out of gas on a date again. Of course, when you don’t date that much to begin with the odds are in your favor.
But lately, my view on empty has become a bit fuller. You see, I was doing some thinking the other day about what it is that makes me run? What fuels my life? What is it that keeps me going? What keeps my tank brimming with fuel for the race? Then the thought hit me: It’s the concept of emptiness that keeps me full and that keeps me headed in the right direction. Let me explain what I mean.
An Empty Universe
That’s where it all begins. When the God of this universe spoke it all into existence. He created something from nothing. Ex nihilo as the theologians like to call it. Which simply means “out of nothing.” God created the world as we know it out of nothing. In the beginning God created. Think about that. Everything you see, hear, smell touch, taste – was created by God from nothing. He started with emptiness and filled it with stars, planets, atoms, molecules, plants, animals and man. That’s an incredible thought. And reminds me that I have an incredible God. It’s that view of God that fills my tank and keeps me going. A God who could take nothing and make everything. A God so powerful that nothing was not able to stand in His way.
An Empty Throne
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Philippians 2:5-11. Six verses literally bursting with some of the most theologically intense concepts found in the Word of God. Paul commands us, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Wow! Do you catch the significance of these verses? Paul is reminding us that when Jesus came to the earth all those years ago, He left behind an empty throne. The Son of God left His place of glory at the right hand of the Father to step into a world marred by sin and inhabited by helpless, hopeless and, for the most part, thankless human beings. He became flesh and offered His life a sacrifice for sin in my place. And He did it willingly. He left an empty throne to fill a filthy manger.
An Empty Manger
I love Christmas. But I think we often miss its real significance. We sing songs about the baby in the manger. We place manger scenes on our mantel. They adorn our Christmas cards. We drive by living nativity scenes complete with assorted barnyard animals. But have you looked in the manger lately? That’s right, it’s empty. There is no baby. Because the baby grew to be a man. And as men are prone to do, he left the manger behind Him. He had a task to accomplish and He was determined to see it through to the bitter end. His real objective wasn’t a manger, but a cross. Being born wasn’t enough. He had to die. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
He was born to die, in order that I might live. And the empty manger is a reminder that my Savior would stop at nothing so that I might have everything.
An Empty Cross
Have you ever stopped to consider that the cross on which our Savior was crucified was probably not empty for long. The Romans were far too efficient to use a cross for only one crucifixion. More than likely they simply recycled it for the next unlucky soul in their long line of condemned criminals.
But it did stand empty, if only for a moment. It had accomplished its grim task, having slowly sapped the life out of the Lamb of God. The sacrifice had been made. The price had been paid. And while other men would die on other crosses, you and I would never again be expected to pay for our sins with our own lives. Once condemned to death, we now stand justified and forgiven. Because a righteous and holy God has been satisfied. And the empty cross stands as a stark reminder of the high price that was paid.
An Empty Tomb
“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.” Do you recall those words, recorded in Luke 24:5-6 and spoken by the angel to the women who had come to anoint the body of the crucified Jesus? They were looking for a body. What they found was an empty tomb. They came expecting death. What they discovered was the secret to eternal life: A resurrected Lord!
Once again, Paul puts it so well, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). He goes on to say in verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
But the empty tomb stands as a constant reminder that He is risen indeed. We don’t worship a martyr, but a Savior. He didn’t die for a cause, but He is the cause of life eternal. Now that’s high octane fuel!
An Empty Hillside
I’m running on empty and proud of it. A throne, a manger, a cross, a tomb. All empty, yet spilling over with spiritual significance for every believer. They are what fires up my soul. They are the fuel of my spiritual existence, providing the energy needed to propel me through the ups and downs of every day life here on this planet. They are road signs along the way reminding me of the remarkable redemptive plan of God. He is working His plan to perfection. And it will soon come to completion.
In the book of Acts, Luke records what the angel had to say to the disciples as they stood gazing up into the sky after the Lord had ascended. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
He was gone. But He is coming back! To the very same hillside and a not-too-distant date. He is coming back and all the earth will be filled with His glory. And that’s no empty promise.