Tomorrow, my son will die.
My drive to work was like every other, uneventful. I stopped for tea as I regularly do each morning on my way into Nashville. The day would be filled with meetings, spending practically my entire day in the conference room, drawing processes on a dry erase board. There would be several “fires” of the day that would lobby for my attention and distract me from what I ought to be doing. The morning would fly by quickly, eating lunch in my office and back in the conference room for more of the same! The day was no different than any other, as matter of fact the days were routine.
Amidst all the things I had going on, I remembered that I had given my son a three day supply of his medications on Sunday, so I didn’t have to drive into Gallatin to see him until tomorrow evening to give him more meds. That was a relief, having to drive into town and give him meds every day was taxing, some days he wouldn’t be home or he wanted to be driven some place to pick up cigarettes or groceries, and usually at inconvenient times. Every time I left his apartment I smelled of smoke, so at least for today, I don’t have to go see him. Whew!
Tomorrow came. Nothing different, no change in my routines, I would approach the day in like fashion, except today, I had to drive to Gallatin to give my son meds. My plan was simple, I would give him another three day supply and not have to worry about it; I wouldn’t have to go again until the weekend. I had it all figured out, a quick stop this afternoon and I was free from the needs of his care and I could continue doing what I wanted to do for another few days. These feelings were topic of many conversations over the years, and now foster all too frequent remorse. He was indeed loved, but the routines become almost burdening.
In my eagerness of getting out of the office earlier, because I had plans, the phone rang. The caller told me that my son was dead, that they had found him in his apartment, unresponsive. My immediate feeling was frustration, my thoughts were ‘here we go again’, because his reckless behaviors often ruined plans or disrupted agendas. I told myself, he better not be drunk and passed out or acting a fool. There had been times when he had drank too much, and had to be taken to the hospital and detoxed… comatose! This forced me to simply sit in the room with him and await his regaining consciousness, a process that often take many hours, well into the night and early mornings hours. Such events usually left feelings of sadness, relief and anger. Nevertheless, I raced to get to his apartment, not knowing what to expect, my mind wandering… emotions teetering between worry, anger and shock. Nearing the apartment complex I saw the police and an ambulance, and a small crowd in the parking lot just outside his front door. The gathering was composed of family members, friends and neighbors, all in shock that this could be happening. The looks on their faces caused my anger to dissipate, and simply caused a pit in my stomach. I don’t remember having any feelings at that time, no emotion, dreamy.
Approaching an officer, as she stood at the base of his front door steps, I identified myself. The officer said that I could not yet go into the apartment, arguing that I needed to get inside and see him, still they refused me entry.
Later, entering the apartment, I climbed the few steps and pulled open the screen door, crossing the threshold of his apartment I saw a gurney sitting just inside. They had positioned him onto the gurney and covered him in a white sheet foot to shoulders. As my eyes made their way to his face, I say his eyes were closed, he had a few abrasions on his cheek, and a few days beard growth. Although his eyes were closed, he looked normal. Except this time, he would not open them again. Seemingly, within a few fleeting moments I would be back outside, they would have him covered and carried out. It would be months, years, before I realized how that dreadful day changed me. It was within those moments that my life was most impacted. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these minutes are forever in my mind and I relive them too frequently.
Since his passing, I have thought about all the good times, all the laughter and fun times together. He loved to joke, laugh, and eat! He loved his pecan pie, seafood, buttercups and time with family. So often when taking him meds, he wanted to come out and just spend the day at the house. Much of the time, once he was there, he would eat something, wander around the house or go lie in the bed and fall asleep. Just being there was enough for him, some place where people loved him, and some place where he felt safe. During the summer months he would want to come swim in the pool, sit in the swing on the pavilion for hours or go fishing with his grandfather. I must admit, his grandfather was the best thing in his life! For that, I will be forever grateful.
Poignantly, during those moments of identifying his body, that somber Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock, I never noticed whether he or his apartment smelled like an ash tray. Like I had noticed so many times before… I didn’t notice his house was in disarray or complained that he had squandered away all his money on other people, which he often did just to have their friendship. That afternoon, the thought of inconvenience never crossed my mind, I didn’t feel anything had been interrupted, and the memories of all the times he had talked back to me, cursed me, rebelled against me, ignored me, hurt me or disappointed me – never came to mind.
Unsurprisingly, I saw a three year old boy that refused to stay in bed at bedtime, a boy that forced me to get onto him repeatedly because he was so full of energy that he couldn’t sleep. I saw the boy standing at my back door in cowboy boots, shorts, a t-shirt and holding two rolls of toilet paper, standing beside the sheriff’s deputy that brought him home. I saw him riding his bike alongside his brother, hurriedly down the street, racing to get some place. I saw two boys playing army in the back yard, building a snowman, or boys vying to beat me at some computer game for the simple joy of beating dad! I see every facial expression, hear every giggle, and feel every hug. Strange how the bad moments of life pale in light of the good, and then only in light of a crisis. What are you waiting for, tell them you love them, today.
While simply writing these few lines of text, I am forced to reflect on those moments, the events of that day, and the sight of him laying on that gurney. My eyes are filled with tears, my mind clinching to memories and a heart scarred for life. It’s been
two three four five six seven years and I miss him every day.
Moreover, we all live life with some expectation that we’ll bury our parents, a pet or possibly our spouse, but never dream that you’ll bury your child. That explains why society has labels for these circumstances – losing parents makes you an orphan, losing a spouse makes you a widow, losing a child – simply leaves you with a big hole in your life.
Today, my eldest son is no longer frustrating my day, his demands and needs no longer disrupting my plans, the stench of smoke on his clothing no longer irritates my senses and I would give anything to have these things back in my life! If he were still alive, Tony would be thirty-one years old in April, but he isn’t.
Yesterday, my son lived.
The death of an infant or child is profoundly painful – perhaps the greatest grief a parent is called to bear (personally, it tops my list). For Christian parents, most are comforted some in the knowledge that God is in control and a belief that their babies are in heaven!
Yet, for most Christians and non-believers alike, this belief is built upon hearsay alone. From a child we have heard said, “God is love, and how could God send a little, innocent baby to Hell”. More specifically, I have personally asked believers their reason for believing their sons or daughters went to heaven, and got answers like: “Of course they are, they’re now watching over us as angels”, or “they did nothing wrong, they didn’t commit any sins” and “God would never send a child to Hell!” Still, other responses might include “everyone goes to heaven” (a pluralists) or “all elect babies go to heaven” (Calvinist). Many people respond to this question purely from fear, sentimentality or ignorance.
Do you know for certain what the bible says about these children? This very question demands a careful biblical study and theological reflection.
For preface we must agree the Bible reveals that we are born marked by original sin, and thus we can know that no one (no child) is born in innocence. Consequently, regardless what you would like to believe, children do not go to heaven because they are innocent! Too, the Bible teaches that “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalms 58:3), we are “brought forth in iniquity,” (Psalm 51:5) and therefore bear the stain of original sin from the point of conception (which btw, is when life begins). The Prophet Isaiah said, “For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings” (Isaiah 7:16). It’s plain here that little children (infants, mentally impaired) do not have the capacity to make moral decisions nor take responsibility for their sins.
Therefore, we must acknowledge that God is absolutely, and unequivocally sovereign in salvation. No one, regardless of their age, deserves salvation and can do nothing to earn salvation, it is all of grace. The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient Savior, and that salvation comes only on the basis of His blood atonement (Romans 3:23, Titus 3:5, John 3:16, John 14:6). And lastly, whether you agree with me or not, the Bible teaches a dual eternal destiny – the redeemed to a literal Heaven, the unredeemed to a literal Hell. There was a time when you were not, but there will never again be a time when you are not.
Now, let’s delve into the Word to answer this question:
First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body (II Corinthians 5:10).” That is, we will face the judgment seat (the ‘Bema Seat’) of Christ and be judged (Romans 14:10-12, I Corinthians 9:4-27), not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each of us will answer “according to what he has done,” (Ibid) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin (Romans 5) and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration (“salvation”), but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin.
So, what about infants? What about those small children? What about those mentally impaired? Are they going to heaven?
One biblical text is particularly helpful in answering these questions. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty (my study shows 38½) years of wandering. “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers” ( Deuteronomy 1:35). But there is more! God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and God explained why: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” ( Ibid). The key issue here is that God specifically excused from the judgment those who “have no knowledge of good or evil” because of their [mental capacity or] age. These “little ones” would inherit the Promised Land and not judged on the sins of their fathers.
Noticeably, this passage teaches that infants and the some mentally impaired are blameless, that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die before “having the knowledge of good or evil”. Knowing neither good nor evil means that young children or those without the mental capacity to discern differently, are incapable of committing sins in the body – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (He who has an ear, let him hear; this is not identifying an age per se (i.e., 18, 21 years old), besides, it is parents duty to teach their children about Christ (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
Still another text bolsters my belief; “For what can be known about God is plain to them [that is, to mankind] because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Therefore, they are without excuse”. (Romans 1:19-20) The “therefore” seems to provide for an excuse if they had not seen clearly in nature what God is like. So, being that I do not think babies nor the mentally impaired can process nature and make conclusions about God’s grace, glory or justice, it seems they would fall into the category of still having an excuse.
The Lord himself declares, “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16).
In Mark’s gospel Jesus instructed his disciples that they should “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”(Mark 10:14). I believe that God graciously receives all those who die in infancy – not on the basis of their innocence or worthiness or age – but by his grace (Ephesians 2:8), made theirs through the atonement He purchased on the cross (Romans 3:25).
The next time you look into the casket of a baby, a child, one who’s mental capacity prevented them from committing sins in the body, do not place your hope and trust in the false promises of an unbiblical theology, in the instability of sentimentalism, nor in the conventional wisdoms of men. And, be forewarned, never presume upon God’s goodness and mercy.
Finally, I want to offer some clarity to my study so as not to be a stumbling block or to offer one a false hope.
- These aforementioned infants, children, and mentally impaired are not “saved”. In order to be “saved” one must have ‘the knowledge of good or evil’, recognize their own transgressions, and ask God to forgive them their sins. These had no need for, nor the capacity to, repent of their sins, and are therefore “safe” in the grace of God. The people in heaven will have gotten there through Christ alone, all through grace alone, and none because of their own goodness or deeds.
- The capacity to ‘have the knowledge of good or evil’ happens before most parents give credit, this doesn’t mean the child understands Christ’s propitiation, the kenosis, or where Adam got his wife. Rather, they become conscience of right and wrong (Romans 2:15), I consider this to be the “dawn of conscience”, their own consciences accusing them that they’ve done something wrong.
- My eldest son, was diagnosed at age 18 with paranoid schizophrenia and made a lot of bad choices the last 10 years of his life. When he died in 2009, he was not safe simply because he had a mental illness, prior to the onset of that illness he knew right from wrong. Fortunately, he was taught about God, and responded to God’s call on his heart when he was fifteen.
“While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).
(Clearly, David believed that he would be reunited with his child in the next life).
a bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
…. there was a good man named Jesus.
This is what we’re telling our children, alongside the teachings of ‘Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. We have taught our children so many fables, told them so many stories, illustrated to them so much folklore, that we have possibly lost sight of what is true ourselves.
With like enthusiasm, we talk to our kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. To this point – the Church has done little to elevate Christ above Huckleberry Finn, Mary Poppins and certainly no higher than ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Jesus’ birth, life and death so often become mere “stories”! Ministers, preachers and priest alike stand in pulpits weekly making statements such as “Over 2000 years ago” and “the story” (of Jesus). In my opinion, statements such as these further dismiss the reality of Christ and His death. In subtle form, these statements placate the idea that they are mere fables passed down from generation to generation.
Our children grow older and often realize the stories they had been told, those they had read and the characters within them – are fictional. They learn that Santa doesn’t really come down the chimney, the tooth fairy doesn’t really leave money under their pillow, and possibly therefore assume that Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin, nor did he actually walk on water or feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish.
All who are called to teach the Word, all who are in position of responsibility to rightly divide the Word, do so as the writer of Hebrews. Without diminishing all childhood story characters or abolishing your family traditions, take heed to simply exalt moreover, the One who died for you. Be careful not to diminish the heavens, nor the angels, nor the prophets, yet exalt Him far above them still.
We should guard against our children growing up to think that each chapter of their bible is prefaced with “Once upon a time….”. It is real. It did happen. And it happened recently, only 1979 years ago, it wasn’t a long long time ago, it wasn’t ‘over 2000 years ago’!
Teach with passion, teach believing, teach like one amazed! Don’t defang God, His blood is not watered down nor has His Word paled, it brings forth life. Hearing His Word causes my belly to tremble; my lips to quiver, and rottenness enters into my bones
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
“Dog gummit!”, “Gosh Darn!”, “Jiminy Cricket!” and “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
Last evening while going to pay our final respects to a gentlemen that spent his life serving others in the church, we sang worship songs both to and from the funeral home. On our trip back home, while we were all singing a praise course, I was convicted of something I’ve stood in the pulpit and taught several times. Amidst my efforts to praise God and express adoration toward Him, I realized that I was taking the Lord’s name in vain. (No, I wasn’t “cussing”!)
So, you ask, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? For most people, whether you are religious or not, you would not hesitate with your answer, “It means to say G-D.” Undoubtedly, there are far more people that can answer this than there are who can list the ten commandments, name the Gospels, or even tell you the difference between the New and Old Testaments.
For most, the ultimate violation of the third commandment, “You shall not take the Lord your God’s name in vain,” is to say “G-D.” Some people will stand before God and when asked “Why should I let you in to heaven?” they will proudly say, “Because I did not murder, bear false witness, and I never said “the G-D word.” (Albeit, I do not think God is going to ask this question.)
To begin with, allow me to preface my commentary with this summation: We are not to use God’s name insincerely. Consequently, the question now becomes: What does the Bible mean when it says not to use God’s name in an empty or vain way? Thus, what does the third commandment mean?
You would think that a simple word study on the Hebrew word naqa (vain) would provide us a clear understanding. Likewise, our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which the biblical commandment was given. From the study of scripture (hermeneutics) we find two principles that must guide our study of this commandment. Understanding contextually (exegesis), as opposed to reading into the text (eisegesis), what the text meant then and consequently understand more clearly how it’s applied today.
It is my belief that on Mount Sinai, God was attempting to prevent the Israelites from treating His name similar to other pagan gods. They were exposed to many prophets from other nations continuously making decrees in the names of their gods, attempting to add weight to their decree, soliciting obedience and fear from their people. God was saying to Israel; do not take my name in vain like these other nations use the names of their gods. He did not want them to use His name falsely or in vain. Simply put, God did not want the Israelites to say their god was Jehovah, and not demonstrate daily a monotheistic life style.
Therefore, I believe that this commandment has nothing to do with the words we use (although, from out of the heart the mouth speaks), and everything to do with how we live. For example; when my mother married my father, in Memphis Tennessee, back in the 1950’s, she took my father’s name. She forsook her parent’s name, and took her husband’s name. The taking of the new name, echoed a change in life, and change in status and a change in priorities. She was no longer a single woman, she was married.
Had my mother changed her name, but not changed her lifestyle, she would have taken my father’s name “in-vain”. Throughout my Army career I wore a uniform almost every day, in doing so I took on the name of those whose uniform it is. Whether team uniform, a policeman uniform or military uniform, you assume the name of that team, law enforcement or soldier organization.
When you take the name of God, at a baptism, and tell the world that you are now part of the ‘bride of Christ’ (as the church is called), yet you do not live like a ‘bride of Christ’, you have taken His name in vain, and you will not be considered guiltless. For Christians, He is your groom, not a casual friend. A bride is supposed to be an intimate friend, companion, confidant, and passionate toward their groom. We are to protect His name, be careful to represent Him honorably, and to always present a conduct comparable to His character. To treat Jesus as anything less, is to take His name in vain.
Finally, for me, I was singing praises to Him, using words of adoration. Words like, “I seek your face”, “I lift your name on high”, and “I surrender all.” Notably, it wasn’t the words per se; rather it was that my lifestyle didn’t live up to my words. Proclaiming to be His, wearing His name like a badge of honor, yet my life doesn’t mirror that of my words…. I had not sought Him that day, I had not lifted His name in praise until we pressed start on the CD player, and I had not surrendered all.
I am a blood bought, Holy Spirit filled, adopted son of the Most High God and I have a mansion in glory. Yet, I’m not guiltless.
Thank God, there’s a difference between conviction and condemnation, the former is of God’s Spirit and the latter from that Father of lies. The Spirit of God brings conviction unto righteousness, conversely Satan’s condemnation is meant to kill, steal and destroy.
Today, I will sing unto the Lord, I will lift His name on high, and I will draw nearer to Him … and people will know I’m His not by what I say, rather they will know by how I act.
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
The firmament shows his handiwork and the heavens declare his glory (Psalm 19:1)…. creation beckons there is a God!
He placed within each of us a conscience (Romans 2:15), that bears witness that God exist!
The light came into the world, but men loves darkness more than light. (John 3:19). Therefore, anyone that goes to Hell, goes not from an absence of truth, conversely, they go from the despising of truth. This, in effect, is the only unpardonable sin (Mark 3:28).
Please, think on this fact: Of all the people you know who have died, how many do you believe were born again? Of those who weren’t born again, know this, like the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), those people are in Hell today, and everyday since their death they have been responding in the same manner as the rich man.
There will be those, who after the reaping of the harvest, stand realizing that mere knowledge of Christ wasn’t enough (Jeremiah 8:20). Will you be among the fools, the prideful, who stands crying out “wait!”, “what about me?!”, “I believed”. When the summer has ended, the harvest is over, reaping will be no more.
Imagine for a moment you were in Brentwood and you were driving the interstate the 27 miles to Goodlettsville, Tennessee. And, along the way, notwithstanding the pot holes and curves, you encountered more than 406 specific warning signs that danger lie ahead. The signs repeatedly advising that suffering, loss, even death were imminent if you remained on this road – would you continue to Goodlettsville? Probably not. Yet, the 27 New Testament chapters advise that without true repentance, without death of self, without whole reliance upon Christ – there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. And many, despise these warnings and continue as dead men walking.
If YOU are one that merely believes that god exist, if YOU are one that walked an aisle because it was the thing to do, if YOU are not completely confident of your salvation in Christ, then this blog posting is yet one more sign along the road you are traveling. He who has an ear, let him hear.
The creator of the universe willingly laid His incarnate body in a pool of His own blood, for YOU.
a bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
Without hesitation, in a seamlessly natural response, Johnny bolted across the street and was in pursuit of those fire trucks. They had stopped just in sight and as he got closer he could see the firemen running around with fire hose, spraying water onto a huge blaze. A fire had engulfed a two story house, flames were shooting skyward in upwards of one hundred feet! Johnny had never seen anything like this, it seemed everyone was out on the street staring at the fire and the bustling firemen! In the warmth and glow of the fire before him, his mother’s instruction to come straight home after school echoed in his mind. Speedily, he turned and began running home.Down the sidewalk, into the yard, up the steps and through the front door he sprinted! His mother met him with worry in her eyes, but Johnny was so excited he could barely communicate his joy! As he began telling his mother about the experiences, she interrupted with “Johnny, where have you been, I told you to come straight home after school!” Johnny replied, “I know, but mamma, the boys asked me to play ball with them and they have never asked me to play ball with them before… and, mamma I saw a fire truck and big fire, the fireman were spraying water on the fire and climbing the ladder to the roof… mamma, you should have seen all the people….” His mother interjecting, said, “Johnny, I had asked you to come straight home, no go into the kitchen and sit down at the table!” Johnny slumped his shoulders and walked into the kitchen, sat down at the table. For the first time that afternoon he had realized that he did not do what was asked of him. He knew his mother had told him to come straight home, but he had disobeyed her. He was so excited about the fire trucks and getting to play ball with the other boys. Even though he knew he had disappointed his mother, he was still very excited about all that he had done and seen on his way home from school! His mother, rhetorically asked again, “do you remember, I told you to hurry home after school today?” She said, as she opened the freezer, “some of the ladies from my Sunday school class came by this afternoon.” Reaching in and pulling out a bowl of ice cream piled high with strawberries! She told him, “this is why I wanted you to hurry home, the ladies brought strawberries and ice cream for our social, but I saved mine for you.” Wow! Being a parent myself, I remember well all the times I have been on both sides of this story. And today, what jumps off the page is the realization that Johnny did not get what he deserved! He disobeyed his mother, he did not do what he was told to do that afternoon. What he deserved, was a spanking! Something that would make him think about what he had done and hopefully cause remembrance the next time he was tempted to disobey. Instead, not only did he get out of a spanking, he got strawberries and ice cream! What is that? He didn’t deserve that! Hmmmmm, this story demonstrates unequivocally the differences between mercy and grace. Johnny deserved a spanking, yet she choose not to spank him, that’s mercy. He didn’t get what he so rightly deserved. Moreover, his mother gave him strawberries and ice cream, something he did not deserve at all! In all, Johnny did not get what he deserved and what he did not deserve, he got! He got mercy, then he received grace. Perhaps, something in the morale of the story above answers the question I ask myself every day, why hasn’t God sent me to Hell already?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Primarily, Jesus didn’t die for you…
In the core of our fallen and sinful nature, we subconsciously elevate ourselves to be more than we really are. Even us Christians, and professing christians equally, we lift ourselves up to think that our cosmic creator molds His eternal will to fit our prayers and needs.
On the contrary, our existence rest upon the foremost purpose of bringing glory to Him, our foremost service is to bring glory to Him, our will and desire must compliment and subscribe to the holy, inerrant and infallible will of God the Father. Anything else – is sin.
Jesus died on the cross, willingly laying down his life, because it was the will of the Father. “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42
Are we the benefactors of His death, indisputably! Was His love for us a motivating factor for His sacrifice, unequivocally! Was our salvation through His death on the cross one of the reasons God sent Him to the cross, absolutely! (Although still, it was not God’s primary reason for sending His Son to die on the cross either.)
My biblical exegesis is not to take away from these things, nor to diminish the work of Christ at Golgotha, rather to exalt all the more His work on Calvary. His purpose, the reason for Jesus’ incarnate birth, the very act of God’s condescension was to demonstrate His holiness and to fulfill His sole will, unto the death of His only Son.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8
On the surface, and to the casual reader, the words herein blasphemes the average church goer’s religion. Some, maybe such as you, will take offense to all that I’ve written here. Still others, are already offended that a sinner such as I would even be posting on Christian topics. Nevertheless, I am confident that still others, those who feed on the meat of scripture, will as with second nature, be in agreement.
Liken to the writer of Hebrews, (which parenthetically, I believe is Apollos), deliberately he does not minimize the scripture, the angels, nor the prophets in his effort to exalt the Christ. He emboldens the significance of each, hitherto claims the Christ is above them all. There is no need to deduct from the former to realize the preeminence of the latter. Hence, I have undertaken the task to do likewise… obedience is greater than sacrifice.
Albeit, Christ did, in effect, die for our sins on the cross. He did, in effect, do so because of His love for us. However, His key motivation and primary resolve for going to the cross was His obedience to the Father. This obedience to God the Father, is a far greater thing than dying for me, a wretched sinner.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His [obedient] Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” – Romans 8:29 (parentheses added for emphasis)
Despite all our sin, our rebellious habits, futile intentions, immature behaviors, and disheartened religious acts; He loves us and only wants our hearts. He must be our first love, He left no other option.
There are more to the encounters with Jesus Christ than is recorded in the gospels. Perhaps you are not sure what to expect when you encounter Him, permit me to give you a fresh view of what it was like for these three women to encounter the Christ and how these experiences changed their lives!
The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42)
The noonday sun beat down in oppressive waves as she made her way through the empty streets toward the well. Each step was heavy and labored. She was burdened with far more than her clay water jars. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, contempt . . . these were the weights around her neck, pulling her confidence to the ground rather than greeting others she may have encountered. Her reputation was well known in the community, forever marking her as untouchable, unfriendly, and unlovable.
What must she have been thinking? Fine, then. You people do not need me, and I certainly don’t need you. Or perhaps, Why should I care what you people think? You’ve never done anything for me.
Maybe, though, her spirit was more broken than she realized, and her inner voice squeaked out, “I wish someone would love me; if someone would just notice me; If only someone would want me to talk with them”
Whatever her thoughts, they were interrupted by the voice of the stranger sitting at the well. “Will you give me a drink?” he asked. Recognizing him as a Jew, the Samaritan woman could not conceal her shock at this surprise encounter. Racial tension was at an all-time high, and polite exchanges between Jews and Samaritans simply did not happen.
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” she responded.
(In her mind, a flurry of other questions arose. Can’t you see I’m here at this time of day because I don’t want to see anyone? Don’t you know it is improper for a man to approach a woman in public like this?)
The stranger’s answer confounded her. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink,” he said, “you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “You do not even have a jar to draw water from the well; where can you get this living water?”
The love in his eyes and voice broke through her defenses as he answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again.”
Her curiosity was piqued. “Sir,” she asked, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Suddenly, the stranger caught her off guard with a request. “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I . . . I have no husband,” she replied through gritted teeth and pursed lips. Her curiosity, which had turned to suspicion, now gave way to amazement and embarrassment as the man revealed his awareness of her private indiscretions and inner most thoughts.
Her heart raced. Who is this man? How does he know about my life? The current discussion was too personal for her comfort, so she attempted to change the subject to a more theological issue. The stranger redirected the issue back to her private affairs. She realized that he was genuinely interested, not in talk of religion, but in the condition of her life.
She had never seen such godly passion in any other person. She trembled as the man looked deeply through her eyes and into her soul and said, “I who speak to you am he.” And then, she knew. This was no mere man, no simple teacher, no ordinary prophet. This was the Christ, God’s Holy Son, the promised Messiah that the Jews and Samaritans had read of. Immediately, perfect love cast out all fear and her shame vanished and her guilt fled, as she stood boldly in the love of the Lord.
Zealously leaving the area, the woman ran back to town. Down the same path she had just crept quietly, hoping not to be seen, she now bounded wildly looking for people to tell. For the first time in years, she did not feel like a walking scandal, someone who was lesser than others around her. Instead, she had a new job: she was a messenger of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. She no longer hid; now, she yelled in the streets, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?!”
Perhaps to her own surprise, the people listened to her and they did come. They came in droves, and Scripture records that many in that area came to a saving knowledge of Jesus through this one restored woman’s testimony.
She was enslaved to a belief that she had no hope and no purpose. Jesus changed that. He used a most unlikely messenger to transform the lives of many in Samaria, and He began with the one person who needed Him most.
Rahab (Joshua 2:11)
With every wisp of wind, the cord scraped against the concrete sill of her window. It dangled down the outer wall of Jericho, stopping short of the ground by some few feet. To and fro it gently swayed, making its faint sounds and marking the days, constantly reminding her that it was the very sign of salvation and safety for her.
The spies of Israel had used the cord to escape from her home, a place known more for men clamoring to get inside than outside. She had been a harlot, but something was different about her now. Her heart wasn’t burdened, her countenance unstrained. Yeah, the people still whispered and gossiped when she walked by, but now she could think of the cord, think of what it meant, and crease an ever so confident smile.
She knew the cord swaying in her window, scarlet in color, was at once saving her life and marking her rebirth.
Perhaps this is how Rahab’s life unfolded in the few days after her encounter with two Israelite spies whom she protected from her king’s men and then directed to safety. Chapters Two and Six of the book of Joshua detail the story of this Canaanite woman of ill repute. She aided and abetted in espionage against her own city, struck a deal for the safety of herself and her family, and committed gross treason against her people all because of one fact: She came to the conclusion of who God really is.
“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” she tells the spies in Joshua 2:11. It is this statement of faith that reveals why Rahab was saved from the destruction of Jericho, her red cord serving as a sign to the Israelites that God would–and had–saved her.
Rahab’s sins had been scarlet, but the scarlet line freeing the spies, and remaining as a token of her safety, typified the scarlet blood of Jesus whereby the worst of sinners can be saved from sin and hell. “There was in Rahab’s mind, no matter how faintly understood, a distinct call from God, that she was being singled out from her own idolatrous people to aid the God she had a growing awareness of. Her faith of this God who worked great wonders was altogether awe-inspiring and extraordinary.
So marvelous was her faith and mighty her spirit that Rahab is one of only two women named in the famous Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. She was a pagan, a woman, and a prostitute. Nevertheless, she chose to become identified with the people of Israel, a decision based on faith,”
“Far from being dead or worthless, her faith moved her to risk her life to protect the spies. As a result, she was declared righteous. Rahab’s home, a shell sitting on beams atop the expanse of Jericho’s two tall walls, miraculously survived as the walls tumbled around her. She eventually would live amid the nation of Israel and apparently marry someone named Salmon.
Matthew 1:5, in giving the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals the depth of God’s love and forgiveness regardless of who we are or what we have done. For there, listed among some of the greatest names in history, is that of the sin-stained harlot named Rahab, a woman who in God’s providence was worthy of the family tree of Christ.
Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30)
Jesus Christ and His disciples were under considerable pressure. The hostility of the Jews had intensified. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the border towns of Tyre and Sidon in the northwest of Canaan.
While in the Syrophoenician region, Jesus entered into a certain house where He hoped He might enjoy some privacy, but, notably, “He could not be hid” (cf. Mk. 7:24), because His message was too wonderful and His deeds too powerful to be concealed. His fame preceded Him everywhere He went.
It was here that a heart-broken woman sought Him out. She was a Canaanite by origin, that is, she had pagan roots. The woman was deeply distressed due to the fact that she had a little daughter who was fatally besieged by a demon that possessed her. In view of her plight, the anxious mother followed Christ and those accompanying Him. She plead that He might have mercy on her, and heal her daughter. Jesus replied, “First I should help my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the Jews and throw it to the Gentiles.”
At first glance, His response may seem harsh, but a closer examination reveals that Christ knew the quality of this woman’s soul and He challenged it to mature. In an amazingly planned way, Jesus placed several obstacles in the woman’s path, each of which she overcame with radiant faith. Finally, Jesus exclaimed: “O woman, great is your faith,” and He healed her daughter without so much as laying His eyes upon the child.
This woman, though a heathen by background, had obviously been exposed to the Son of God. She believed.
Though she had been given no specific acts of obedience to perform, nevertheless, when Christ came into her region, she sought Him, pursued Him, worshipped Him, pled with Him, and reasoned with Him. Had she operated upon the premise that “so long as I believe it to be so, it will be,” her afflicted daughter would have remained in that woeful condition. This unnamed woman and her undaunted faith shine vividly from the gospel records.
by Larry Brashear