Tim Challies

I trust God with my soul. I do. I have no other hope in life and death but the confidence that I am in Christ for all eternity. I trust God with my soul, but for some reason have a much tougher time trusting him with the souls of my kids. I wonder if you can identify with the struggle.

I am convinced that God saved me by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I did nothing to merit this salvation. There is nothing in me that turned God’s eye in my direction. There is no vestige of goodness that compelled him to look my way. I was not seeking him when he began seeking me. It was all of his grace without even the smallest bit of my merit. I added nothing to my salvation but the sin that made it necessary.

I believe all this about myself, but somehow find it more difficult to believe when it comes to my children. Now it’s not quite as simple as you might think: I have seen enough of my kids to know that they suffer from the same total depravity as their father. I know they have no merit to bring before the Lord. No, my problem is deeper than that, and a little more difficult to root out.

When it comes to my kids, I seem to want to believe that God’s action is dependent upon my action. I believe that for God to save my kids, I first need to do the right things. If I want God to save them, I need to cross the spiritual t’s and dot the spiritual i’s. And if I don’t, well, their salvation may just be questionable. When it comes to their eternal destiny, it’s like he isn’t looking to their good deeds, but to mine, as if they will be justified by my merit or condemned by my lack of merit.

I don’t actually articulate this, but I see it trying to manifest itself in my life.

I see it when family devotions subtly switch from a time of worshipping God to a means of twisting God’s arm: If I do family devotions every day, will you save them then? Or perhaps more clearly: If I don’t do it for a couple of days, are they still savable?

I see it when my decisions come from a place of fear rather than a place of confidence and when I determine that what is best for the kids must be what looks safest for them: If I choose this school or that league, could that somehow remove them from your grace? Will it all be my fault?

I see it when I ask them how they are doing with their personal devotions and realize I am not asking out genuine concern to see how they are pursuing the Lord and what they are learning from him. Instead, I am asking them because personal devotions are one more way that dad ought to be nudging God toward my kids.

I see it when I pray for them and I am almost tempted to tell God why he owes it to me to save them: God, I’ve done what I can and I’ve done pretty well; won’t you save them now? What more do I have to do to know that they are saved? What do I need to do to set them up for salvation?

In those ways and many more I seem to think that I can earn my kids’ salvation. And if I can’t earn it through my good deeds, surely I can at least negate it by my negligence. Can’t I?

Centuries ago a man named Isaac had two children, one of whom loved and followed the Lord and one of whom rejected and abandoned the Lord. There must have been someone who looked at Esau, and then looked at Isaac and Rebecca and said, “I wonder what they did wrong? What did they do that messed up that boy?” But God said, “Isaac I have loved and Esau I have hated.” It was all in God’s hands and it was all part of his good plan. It wasn’t what the parents did or didn’t do. It was God’s good will. The good and kind and loving God ruled over it all.

And the same is true for my children. They can’t earn their salvation and I can’t earn it for them. I believe the Lord has saved or will save them and they will be saved not by their father but like their father—by trusting in Christ and Christ alone as he opens their eyes to see him and as he opens their hearts to receive him. Their souls are in the good hands of the good God. And I, of all people, can testify that there is no better place for them to be.

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-seven:

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12 ESV).

“The psalm of all psalms” is how one writer described this song that David composed in those broken moments when the prophet’s accusation still echoed in his throne room: “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). You are the man who received the crown of Israel but then stole the wife of your most loyal servant (12:8). You are the anointed protector of the sheep who has now slaughtered one of his own (12:9). You are the man whose sin will claim the life of your son (12:14)—not only the infant now nestled at Bathsheba’s breast but also a more distant Son who will die spiked on a blood-soaked beam. Because—and only because—of this more distant Son, “The LORD also has put away your sin” (12:13).

The heart of this “psalm of all psalms” is David’s plea for restoration (Psalm 51:7-12), and the climax of this plea is his yearning cry for “the joy of your salvation” (51:12). David hadn’t forfeited God’s gift of salvation, but he had lost the joy of what God in his grace had provided.

When, though, did David lose this joy of his salvation, and why? Was it after his sin? Or could it have been at some point before? I would suggest that David’s loss of joy was not the result of his sin but part of the cause. David’s sinful actions were the fruit of his failure to recall that the lasting joy of God’s salvation far outstripped the passing pleasure of Bathsheba’s flesh. David had already lost sight of the joy of God’s salvation before he saw the young woman bathing on the roof and chose to call her into his chambers. It was, at least in part, due to David’s misplaced joy that he sacrificed his integrity for a false and fleeting joy that could never satisfy his soul. Now, the penitent king begged God to restore his lost joy.

Purity flows from a heart that recognizes the joy of God’s salvation as a gift more satisfying than any competing pleasure the world can provide. This joy is accompanied by inward transformation (“a willing spirit,” 51:12) and results in outward proclamation (51:13).

My Father and my God,
The day has barely begun
and already I hear the serpent’s soft-pedaled whisper
telling me that there are pleasures greater
than anything you can offer.

Give me a willing spirit—
a spirit willing to trust
that there is no pleasure greater than the joy you have granted in Christ,
that there is no pleasure so great that it is worth trading for your holiness
and that there is no gift I need that you through your Spirit will not provide
In the name of Jesus Christ, my Brother and my Lord,
Amen.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Today’s devotional was written by Timothy Paul Jones. Timothy Paul Jones serves as associate vice president and professor of leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to Louisville, Timothy led churches in Missouri and Oklahoma as a pastor and an associate pastor. He has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, and he blogs at timothypauljones.com. Timothy and his wife Rayann have three daughters; the Jones family serves in the SojournKids children’s ministry at Sojourn Community Church.

Tim Challies

It was pretty ornery preaching,” Huckleberry Finn mused when he found himself in church one particular Sunday morning, “and had such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works and free grace of preforeordestination, and I don’t know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run across yet.” “But,” according to Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones in their book PROOF, “free grace and preforeordestination” were never meant to produce rough Sundays or “ornery preaching.” Here’s what the doctrine of predestination provides for the people of God, according to the Scriptures:

  1. Comfort in trials, because — if God is capable of choosing zombie rebels and turning them into beloved children — there is no hardship in all creation that he won’t be able to work together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28-30).
  2. Motivation for praise, because praise was part of God’s purpose in predestining particular people for salvation (Ephesians 1:5-6).
  3. Encouragement for evangelism, because sharing the gospel with unbelievers is a necessary means that God uses to bring his predestined people to faith and repentance. Paul persisted in evangelism and church planting even during times of persecution precisely because he knew that God had already chosen particular people to salvation: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:10).

(Taken from PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy Paul Jones)

 

Chuck SmithChuck Smith, the evangelical pastor whose outreach to hippies in the 1960s helped transform worship styles in American Christianity and fueled the rise of the Calvary Chapel movement, died Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, after a battle with lung cancer. He was 86.

Diagnosed in 2011, Smith continued to preach and oversee administration at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (California), where he’d been pastor since 1965. In 2012, he established a 21-member leadership council to oversee the Calvary Church Association, a fellowship of some 1,600 like-minded congregations in the United States and abroad.

Smith was known for expository preaching as he worked his way through the entire Bible, unpacking texts from Genesis through Revelation and offering commentary along the way.

On New Year’s Day 2012 during Sunday services, Smith stunned his congregation when he announced that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, since his announcement he continued to maintain his schedule of giving Sunday sermons, mid-week Bible studies, and co-hosting the radio show, Pastor’s Perspective.

Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Fellowship Church in Riverside, who was one of many Christian leaders influenced by Smith’s teaching, stated, “Rarely does a man come along that impacts a generation, but Chuck Smith was that man.”

He added, “I can’t help but think of the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.’ (2 Tim 4:7-8)”

Laurie, who was encouraged by Smith to launch Harvest Crusades more than 20 years ago, wrote on his Facebook page that there is much more he will say in the days ahead, “but for now let’s remember to pray for Chuck’s family and his congregation, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa.”

“Chuck is now in Heaven, and he will certainly hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant … Now enter the joy of the Lord!” (Matt.25:23)

On New Year’s Day 2012 during Sunday services, Smith stunned his congregation when he announced that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, since his announcement he continued to maintain his schedule of giving Sunday sermons, mid-week Bible studies, and co-hosting the radio show, Pastor’s Perspective.

Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Fellowship Church in Riverside, who was one of many Christian leaders influenced by Smith’s teaching, stated, “Rarely does a man come along that impacts a generation, but Chuck Smith was that man.”

He added, “I can’t help but think of the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.’ (2 Tim 4:7-8)”

Laurie, who was encouraged by Smith to launch Harvest Crusades more than 20 years ago, wrote on his Facebook page that there is much more he will say in the days ahead, “but for now let’s remember to pray for Chuck’s family and his congregation, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa.”

“Chuck is now in Heaven, and he will certainly hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant … Now enter the joy of the Lord!” (Matt.25:23)

I came across this video today from The Atheist Antidote and I found his tone to be calm and his presentation to be well-reasoned about what true love is. Please take the time to watch here:

I have a number of friends that have chosen worldviews and lifestyles that are contrary to the worldview that God has revealed to me through the reading of Scripture. I don't know all the circumstances that led them to their lifestyle choices but I do know that the Word of God is clear on these issues that are at the forefront of the culture today. What ever their worldview and lifestyle choice, I want to be abundantly clear that the reason I oppose their choices and worldview is certainly not because I hate them. Quite the contrary. I know what lies ahead of them if they do not repent and through God's gift of faith, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and His imputed righteousness on their behalf and renew them to a right standing with God, their end will be an eternity living under the full fury of the wrath of God. But it doesn't need to be this way. God has graciously provided the way of escape, even though He is under no obligation to save ANY of us! To my friends caught up in these lifestyles and worldviews, ask God to reveal Himself to you through the reading of His word. My first suggestion is to read the book of John once a day for two weeks and answer this one question, Who is Jesus Christ? If you are willing to do this, I would love to hear your answer at that time. You may contact me here. To those of us who don't happen to struggle with these particular sins, let us always remember that the sins we DO struggle with are just as heinous to God as any we oppose in others.

The Just Justifier
The Just Became The Justifier – What A Great Paradox

Back in June, I wrote an article for iLevite.com called “Blog Post Sermons And Arena Worship” where I argued that many churches seem to have lost sight of what theme should be preeminent in our worship services. We should always strive for excellence in everything we do, and it should always stem from our love and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and not from a sense of duty or earning favor with Him, but our primary focus must remain on the Word of God. We must proclaim the message of the Gospel within the context of Scripture as a whole.

The article brought a good cross-section of responses, both positive and negative, which is never a bad thing!  The Christian Faith is a Faith that is meant to be pondered and people should take the time to work through all of its tenets, even those that are difficult. That is why it is imperative to preach and teach the Word of God in the fullest detail when we gather together as the Body of Christ.

Each day, we should remind ourselves that it is the Gospel that has transformed our lives. Easter Sunday, I had the privilege to offer special music for the church my father founded in 1963, North Flushing Baptist Church in Flushing, MI. The pastor, Dale Lewis is a life-long friend and faithful servant to the church. When we had lunch on Saturday, Dale shared what was on his heart to preach the next morning and I was amazed at how God orchestrated such a meaningful service.

For his text he chose Romans 3:20-26:

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

In this text we find the core doctrine of salvation and the need for it. In chapter 1 of Romans, Paul clearly lays out the case of God's righteousness and of His holy wrath against those who transgress against His holiness. As the Infinite Holy God, any transgression against His Holiness, no matter how small we perceive it, must incur an infinite judgment. Since we are incapable of satisfying the Holiness of God through our own works, God Himself became the sacrifice to redeem His chosen as His own.

But in that last verse is a challenging concept. Christ is both the Just and the Justifier. How can this be? In Proverbs 17:15, Solomon wrote, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” Essentially, Christ made Himself an abomination in the sight of God the Father in order to reconcile His fallen creation. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 wrote, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

This is the message that should permeate every worship service we plan. We must remember that the Gospel is not just for the unsaved. It is for us as well. We must also remember that building a church for the Kingdom of God is not a “numbers game.” Just because a church may have thousands upon thousands in attendance does not mean that it is a blessing from the Lord. Without the Gospel, it is merely church for goats.

HeathcareLast week, Todd Friel of Wretched TV and Wretched Radio addressed the healthcare debate in the most unique fashion I have heard to date, and I must admit, it is the most powerful and most of what I will discuss here will draw from those discussions. He gave seven arguments in favor and seven against. Many of those who support the Democrats plans for healthcare reform have raised the question about how Jesus would have handled the healthcare debate? I agree that is a fair question. As Christians, the basis upon which we build our worldview should always be the standard of The Bible for as the writer of Hebrews has rightly said in chapter 4 verse 12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Apostle Paul exhorted the young pastor Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2) This is why doctrine and expository Bible study are so critical in all areas of life. Even Christ Himself in his Gethsemane prayer gave credence to the power and sanctifying power of the Word of God in John 17:17. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

As such, let’s approach the healthcare debate from a Biblical worldview. The fundamental question is whether or not it is the part of the function of government to provide universal healthcare coverage for all of its citizens and if so, how is that universal coverage to be provided? Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the debate.

First let’s look at seven arguments in favor of universal healthcare:

  1. Jesus and the Apostles were involved in healing the sick.

That is absolutely true. What we need to understand is the reason why Jesus healed the sick. Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5 record the story of the man sick with the palsy, but notice that the first thing Christ did was not to heal the man. He told him that his sins were forgiven. When the ones around thought that he blasphemed the name of God when He declared the man’s sins forgiven, Christ said in Matthew 9:6 “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” The healing miracle was to demonstrate Christ’s identity as God Himself more than the temporal physical need of the man who was healed. Christ, not man, is the focus of the miracles in order to support the message of salvation. Christ’s miracles of healing also demonstrate His compassion for the poor and the infirmed, but are not in any way a mandate in support of universal healthcare.

  1. Jesus said, “Love the poor.”

Absolutely! Not doubt about it! This is why every church should have some sort of benevolence ministry, first to its members, and then for the community at large. Todd posed the question, do you really know of any Christian who says, “I hate the poor! Let them all die in the street and stop being a burden to society!” Of course not! But when you understand the Biblical definition of who are the poor in reality, it does change the perspective on who we are called to help. The poor are those who are actually on the streets maybe living in a box due to circumstances beyond their control, such as illness or calamity and are totally unable to care for themselves, the truly destitute. It is not people who may be living in a small apartment with a microwave, air conditioning and a car and just want a higher standard of living.

  1. Romans 13 promotes “general welfare.”

This is actually an excellent point. Romans chapter 13 defines the role of government. But I challenge you to read it and find any reference to universal healthcare. Government is established to protect its citizens from attack and to punish those engaged in crime. This includes establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense and as stated above, promoting the general welfare. But even the Federal Government with all of it’s power and influence is not big enough to solve a problem the size of healthcare and run that industry with the efficiency that the healthcare industry can run itself, if it were allowed to do so.

  1. Justice.

The problem here is in how that those who are in favor universal healthcare define justice. Literally, Justice, according to the Bible, is punishment for breaking the law not getting people things so they can have a nice quality of life or even equality for all. Solomon said in Proverbs 21:3, ”To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” The Lord is most glorified in execution of justice, but we must understand that justice is not based on our comfort, convenience, or cost of living! It is in the conviction of the guilty.

  1. The Kingdom of God.

This is an eschatological argument of bringing the Kingdom of God to this earth. As I stated in point number 2, every church needs to be involved in some sort of benevolence ministry, but when you read the Bible and how it describes the end times, it is clear that things are not getting better, but are getting worse and will continue to do so until Jesus Himself comes to make all things new and fully redeem them to Himself. Our job is not to make this world a better place to go to Hell from! Jesus’ last words to His disciples were not to go into all the world and provide better healthcare! They were to preach the Gospel to every creature and it is of utmost importance to know what that is and to do it!

  1. Equality.

Equality and fairness are not Biblical principles. If they were, all of us would have no hope of salvation and God should have incinerated Adam and Eve as soon as they fell. The Biblical concept is that all of us were born into sin and only because of the grace and mercy of God do we even have the opportunity to even draw a breath!

  1. Greed and dishonest gain of the healthcare industry.

If any company is reaping their profit dishonestly, they should be prosecuted and punished accordingly (all part of that justice thing!). But the problem with painting with such a broad brush impugns the character of individual providers of whom the majority are honest people who chose this line of work to help their fellow man live a better lifestyle. It also promotes the idea that any company making a profit has done so by shady means and is not entitled to it. If a company cannot make a profit, it has no means of expanding and therefore cannot take on new business. Since every business is either in the process of growing or shrinking, the inevitable result is that if the company is not making a profit, it is shrinking. Shrinking business leads to layoffs, overworked employees who do remain, and in many cases, an implosion of the business itself. The Bible in Ephesians 4:28 teaches “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” It is out of the abundance of profit from where all charity flows.

Now let’s look at seven arguments against universal healthcare:

  1. Do not steal.

In order to pay for universal healthcare, the government must take wealth from one entity and give it to another. No matter how you slice it, that is stealing and the Bible is clear on it. Again, Ephesians 4:28 teaches “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

  1. The Apostle Paul taught the principle “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

The full reference is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” This also applies to insurance. If a person is not willing to work for it, he should not receive it. The Bible is clear on this matter and teaches that work brings about wages. It’s the old sowing and reaping principle. Healthcare is not a “natural right” as enumerated in either the Bible or our founding documents.

  1. End of life issues and Abortion.

Under this legislation, those facing the possible end of life are not going to get the care that they may receive now and even those who have a curable condition may not in fact be deemed viable enough to warrant care by the system. The other issue on the table is that taxpayer funded abortions are in fact not excluded from the bill. Psalm 139:13 (English Standard Version) tells us, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Each one of us was fashioned by the hand of God and therefore has great worth. Because of this, God is serious about life and any issues of life and death are His alone.

  1. Rationing.

Closely related to end of life issues is the issue of deciding who gets healthcare and if they do receive it, limiting a person and their doctor’s ability to choose what is best for them. There is no possible way that a universal system can equally give the best possible care to every covered individual. Therefore, some criterion must be put in place in order to determine where those benefits are better spent. This would in effect deny an ill person the care he may truly need because he does not meet some arbitrary standard. The Bible teaches that each people group is of equal value to God Himself. Paul in Galatians 3:28 teaches, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Rationing deems a particular people group as more deserving of healthcare based on an arbitrary bureaucratic standard.

  1. The Old Testament pattern is ownership (personal property rights) with mercy and safety nets for those who meet the Biblical definition of “poor.”

With ownership comes responsibility. The Bible is clear on it’s teachings of stewardship (and that is much more than just tithing, my Fundamentalist friends!). God has entrusted us with what we do have and we are to manage that to His glory and that includes charity! God has allowed us to “own” (I use the term very loosely because the Bible teaches that all of creation is the Lord’s) our possessions and as such we are responsible for managing them to the best of our ability. Luke chapter 16 is a great example of an unjust steward and a great discussion of stewardship in general.

  1. Debt.

Closely related to ownership is the concept of debt. In Romans 13:8, Paul teaches, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” The healthcare plan on the table will add in excess of 1 trillion dollars to the national debt, the likes of which our grandchildren will still be dealing with, which leads to the last point,

  1. Inheritance.

Proverbs 13:22 “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” After the stimulus bill we have already endured this year, if this healthcare bill passes in its present form, there will be very little left for our grandchildren to inherit except the debt for our own irresponsibility.

In conclusion, what must be done to solve our healthcare problems? While I have ideas on the matter, a workable solution will only come from a civil discussion on the merits of the issues and not from hyperbolic fear mongering from either side of the aisle. There do seem to be a few reasonable voices on both sides and I can only hope that somehow these voices will be heard, but given the track record of politicians in Washington, I choose to place my hope in the Sovereign God of the Bible. And whatever plan emerges from all that is happening today, we can rest assured that He is the one who has allowed it and will work all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28)

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”Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” – James 4:14

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:1-2

Statistics that I have come across estimate that anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people die each and every day. The problem with quoting statistics such as this is that numbers of this size tend to be rather impersonal and most of us have a difficult time actually comprehending the magnitude of how many people that these numbers represent.

This fact has been brought to light recently with the passing of a number of famous people, including Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, and even TV pitchman Billy Mays, but also in my own life. As I mentioned in my last post, our good friend Kathy Wilkinson went home to be with the Lord and caused me to ponder about our own mortality and how it relates to our understanding of the glory of God.

Well, a few weeks ago, one of my dearest friends in the world was hospitalized with what appeared to be a gall bladder problem. Ken Hankins, Pastor of Seven Lakes Baptist Church in West End, NC was my youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Madison Heights, VA where my Dad was pastor during my junior and senior year in high school. (Needless to say, we have been friends for a LONG time!) After a number of tests, the diagnosis has come back that they have found both pancreatic and liver cancer, both of which are very aggressive cancers, and the tumors are causing a stomach blockage which in turn has caused him to aspirate food leading to pneumonia. He is currently hospitalized in Charlotte, NC and when the doctors are able to get him stable and his lungs healed, they will send him home to spend time with his family, because there are no more treatment options. Please keep Ken, his wife and three daughters and their families in your prayers.

Ken has been a great friend for most of my life and I cannot think of a better way to honor our friendship than to honor our Lord by sharing the hope that we have in Christ. But in order to do that, we must first understand that to have a cause for hope, there must first be a cause for despair. Because of Adam’s sin (the theological doctrine of “Original Sin”) each and every one of us is born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and is an offense to God, who did not “set” the standard of righteousness, He IS the standard of righteousness. Everything He is and performs is, by definition, righteous. As the Almighty, Eternal, Holy God, He is totally sovereign over all or He is not God at all.

By the fact that He is Holy and Lord over all (whether we acknowledge that or not) He cannot tolerate sin in any fashion. Our nature is so foul to nostrils of God, He even compares our “righteousness” to “filthy rags” in Isaiah 64:6 (some have said that the term “filthy rags” in this particular verse could be translated as “menstrual cloths.”) If this is what our “righteousness” is to God, imagine what our sin is to Him!

God progressively gave us the law in His Word in order to exhibit the standard of His holiness and character (Gal. 3:24-25) and to illustrate that no matter how much we attempt to follow the law, we cannot meet the standard of holiness that He alone has set by His every existence and which is by definition, infinite. For example, if we lie to our child we suffer no immediate consequence. If we lie to our spouse, we sleep on the couch! If we lie to our employer, we get fired. If we lie to the government, we commit perjury and could go to prison. It is the same sin in each case, but the consequence is different due to the level of authority the one to which we lied has over us. It only stands to reason that if the one against whom we have sinned is the infinite standard, there must be an infinite consequence. This is why hell is not only reasonable it is assured for all those who do not measure up to God’s infinite standard. (Rev. 21:8)

It is at this point that many object and say “Well, my god would never send someone to hell. He is a god of love.” And they are absolutely correct, because their “god” does not exist and they have in fact violated the second commandment (Exodus 20:4). They have fashioned a “god” in their own image instead of acknowledging that they were created in the true God’s image.

What they do not realize is that through the progressive revelation of God’s character through the Scriptures, God has revealed that He is a God of justice and holiness (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:17; Mat. 19:26; Rev. 1:8, Heb. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 3:3, 5; Rev. 15:4) and because He is just and holy, His character demands that sin must be punished. Since He is perfect by nature, He will not by fiat just forgive us. In fact, if He were to just forgive by fiat, He would be denying his own nature and that is not possible. There must be retribution.

God has laid out the case against us. In our natural state, we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1b). This means we have no ability to come to God in and of ourselves. A dead man cannot act on anything by his own will. While we have the free will to choose our own particular means of sin, when it comes to salvation, our spirit is dead and is totally unable to make the right choice.

So there is only one verdict for us as lawbreakers. Guilty as charged and an infinite trespass, demands an infinite restitution. Only infinite punishment could be the sentence for our infinite transgression. The Bible is clear that the wrath of God abides on the children of disobedience. (Jn. 3:36, Rom. 1:18, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, Rev. 14:10, Rev. 14:19, Rev.15:1, Rev.15:7, Rev.16:1)

So where is the hope?

It is here that the infinite, sovereign God of the universe implemented His perfect plan of redemption that He set in motion before the foundation of the world itself. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, born of a virgin (the sin nature is passed through the father), lived a sinless life, took on Himself the infinite punishment of all of our sin. Through the cross of Calvary, Jesus, the one who knew no sin, became the sin offering for us (I Cor. 5:21).

What does it take to satisfy the wrath of God? Only a perfect, infinite sacrifice, meaning that only God Himself could pay that price, which is exactly what took place at Calvary. What does it take to become a part of Christ’s reward? Repentance, which is a total forsaking of our sin, and total faith and trust in the work that Christ completed through the cross and His resurrection. (Eph. 2:8-9) Charles Wesley put it best when he wrote, “Amazing love, how can it be, that you my God shouldst die for me?” What amazing grace that the Creator would die for the created!

But the greatest news is
not only that He died in our place, but that three day later, He conquered death by rising from the dead! And now that He lives, we also can live through Him. (Eph. 2:1a) He has made us alive by His grace, through His gift of faith and not by our own works, so that we cannot be arrogant. As the redeemed we are the church, Christ’s bride and His just reward for His suffering! When I came to understand that as His bride, we are the reward for His suffering, it gave me a heart of gratitude for my Lord and Savior that I never had previously.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” John Piper has said that “God is most glorified is us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Our lives here are not about us. We have spent so much time trying to find our “purpose” in this life that we have missed the clear purpose in these simple statements. We are here for the glory of the Lord and for that purpose alone. Phillipians 2 tells us that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The question is when will you do that? Will you do it here and then eventually reap the benefit of the presence of God for all eternity, or will you do it later and spend eternity cursing His name in hell?

Pondering our mortality is a sobering exercise. It can lead us to despair if we have no hope in this life or it can lead to the peace of knowing that all that happens in both heaven and earth is for the glory of God.

Ken has been a faithful servant to our Lord and a wonderful friend to me. I pray for his comfort through this trial as well as for his “ultimate healing.” Mostly, I pray for Mary, his sweet wife as well as his three daughters. This will be hardest on them. Please keep them in your prayers, as they will be in mine.

Ken, you are going home soon and you will be free from the ravages of this pain and suffering. When you get there, be sure to go see Dad. I know he’ll be glad to see you! But most of all, you will finally bow on your knees and cry “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” All I can say is what a wonderful place to be! My dear friend, “I’ll see you when I get home!”