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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,
Saint Telemachus, a fourth-century monk who lived in a monastery, felt God calling him to Rome. He couldn’t figure out why God would want him in Rome, but he felt the pressure to go. Putting his possessions in a little satchel, he threw the bag over his shoulder and started out over the dusty, westward roads to Rome.When he got to Rome, people were running about the city in great confusion. He had arrived on a day when the gladiators were going to fight both other gladiators and animals in the amphitheater.
Everyone was heading to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment. Telemachus thought this must be why God had called him to Rome. He walked into the amphitheater. He sat down among 80,000 people who cheered as the gladiators came out proclaiming, “‘Hail Caesar! We die to the glory of Caesar.” The little monk thought to himself, Here we are, four centuries after Christ, in a civilized nation, and people are killing one another for the entertainment of the crowd. This isn’t Christian!
Telemachus got up out of his seat, ran down the steps, climbed over the wall, walked out to the center of the amphitheater, and stood between two large gladiators. Putting his hands up, he meekly cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!” The crowd laughed and jeered. One of the gladiators slapped Telemachus in the stomach with his sword and sent him spinning off into the dust.
Telemachus got up and again stood between the two huge gladiators. He repeated, “In the name of Christ, stop.” This time the crowd chanted “Run him through!” One of the gladiators took his sword and ran it through Telemachus’ stomach. He fell into the dust and the sand turned red as blood ran out of him. One last time, Telemachus weakly cried out, “‘In the name of Christ, stop.” He died on the amphitheater floor.
The crowd grew silent, and within minutes they emptied out of the amphitheater. History records that, thanks to Saint Telemachus, this was the last gladiatorial contest in the history of the Roman Empire.
The heavy door creaked on its hinges as He pushed it open. With a few strides He crossed the silent shop and opened the wooden shutters to a square shaft of sunshine that pierced the darkness, painting a box of daylight on the dirt floor. He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories.
He balanced the hammer in His hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye. It was time for Him to leave. He had heard something that made Him know it was time to go. So He came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber. Life was peaceful here. Life was so . . . safe.
Here He had spent countless hours of contentment. On this dirt floor He had played as a toddler while His father worked. Here Joseph had taught Him how to grip a hammer. And on this workbench He had built His first chair. I wonder what He thought as He took one last look around the room. Perhaps He stood for a moment at the workbench looking at the tiny shadows cast by the chisel and shavings.
Perhaps He listened as voices from the past filled the air. “Good job, Jesus.” “Joseph, Jesus – come and eat!” “Don’t worry, sir, we’ll get it finished on time. I’ll get Jesus to help me.”
I wonder if He hesitated. I wonder if His heart was torn. I wonder if He rolled a nail between His thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain. It was in the carpentry shop that He must have given birth to His thoughts. Here concepts and convictions were woven together to form the fabric of His ministry. You can almost see the tools of His trade in His words as He spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pleads for religion to shave away unnecessary traditions. You can picture the snugness of a dovetail as He demands loyalty in relationships. You can imagine Him with a pencil and a ledger as He urges honesty. It was here that His human hands shaped the wood His divine hands had created. And it was here that His body matured while His Spirit waited for the right moment, the right day. And now that day had arrived.
It must have been difficult to leave. After all, life as a carpenter hadn’t been bad. It wasn’t bad at all. Business was good. The future was bright and His work was enjoyable. In Nazareth He was known only as Jesus, the son of Joseph. You can be sure He was respected in the community. He was good with His hands. He had many friends. He was a favorite among the children. He could tell a good joke and had a habit of filling the air with contagious laughter. I wonder if He wanted to stay. “I could do a good job here in Nazareth. Settle down. Raise a family. Be a civic leader.” I wonder because I know He had already read the last chapter. He knew that the feet that step out of the safe shadow of the carpentry shop would not rest until they had been pierced and placed on a Roman cross.
You see, He didn’t have to go. He had a choice. He could have stayed. He could have kept his mouth shut. He could have ignored the call or at least postponed it. And had He chosen to stay, who would’ve known? Who would have blamed Him? He could have come back as a man in another era when society was not so volatile, when religion wasn’t so stale, when people would listen better. He could have come back when crosses were out of style, but His heart wouldn’t let Him.
If there was hesitation on His part of humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of His divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves. And His divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom.
From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, He saw them all. And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity were answered before they were asked. And your direst need, your need for a Savior, was met before you ever sinned. And not only did He hear you, He saw you. He saw your face aglow the hour you first knew Him. He saw your face in shame the hour you first fell. The same face that looked back at you from this mornings mirror, looked at Him. And it was enough to kill Him. He left because of you. He laid his security down with His hammer. He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron. He closed the window shutters on the sunshine of His youth and locked the door on the comfort and ease of anonymity.
Since He could bear your sins more easily than He could bear the thought of your hopelessness, He chose to leave. It wasn’t easy. Leaving the carpentry shop never has been. -Max Lucado
Here are the things that neither prove nor disprove saving faith.
1. Visible morality: Just because a person is outwardly moral does not necessarily mean they have saving faith. The Pharisees were moral on the outside, weren’t they? Jesus said, “On the outside, you’re white, you’re clean, it’s on the inside you’re full of dead men’s bones and stink … but on the outside‑you look good.” Morality is a mark of a Christian if it comes from a proper internal motive, not from an external one.
2. Intellectual knowledge (or you could call it biblical knowledge): That doesn’t prove anything either. Sometimes you’ll meet someone who knows the Bible and they can rattle off Bible verses here and there and they can even interpret some of them. May I remind you of Romans 1:21 which says, “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God?” It’s possible to know all about God and have no personal relationship to Him. They had a form of knowledge. In fact, do you know that in the gospels, when the Jews were given the full knowledge of the Messiah, they rejected Him?
3. Religious involvement: God in the Old Testament just continually condemns Israel for being religiously involved and totally lacking a vital relationship with God. And this was the err of the Pharisees and you’re familiar with this. There are all kinds of people who are involved in religious activity.
4. Active ministry: Now one of the most active prophets in the Old Testament was Balaam and he didn’t serve God, he served the highest bidder. And then there was Judas, oh Judas, a public preacher of the gospel of the kingdom and never was there a son of hell more so than that man.
Matthew 7, Lord, Lord, we have done many wonderful works in Your name; we have cast out demons in Your name, it’s us.” He says, “Depart from me … what? I never knew you.” No, you see, visible morality, intellectual knowledge, religious involvement, active ministry … they don’t prove anything one way or another.
5. Conviction of sin doesn’t prove anything either: You want to know something? Mental hospitals all over this nation are filled‑with people who are convicted of their sin; they just have never gotten any deliverance from it. They’re just literally beaten into insanity by guilt. Felix in the book of Acts trembled under the preaching of Paul but he never left his idols. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, John 16, but they don’t all respond. You know what happened when Jesus convicted the Pharisees of sin? They didn’t confess their sin; they became infuriated, didn’t they?
6. Assurance: You say, “Now wait a minute, you mean that a person could be sure he was saved and be lost?” That’s right. That’s exactly right. You want to know something? This world is full of people like that, isn’t it? If they didn’t believe that, do you think they’d stay in the false religion they’re in? I mean, the whole world is full of legalists who believe that. And so people go around, “I’m good, I’ll be all right. I’ll be fine. I’m not worried.” And they are lost. They just think they’re saved.
7. Testimony: Let me give you a seventh that doesn’t prove anything. People will come to be baptized and they will very often say, “Well, I received the Lord when I was … whatever…15 ( or, I received the Lord ten years ago,) but nothing ever happened in my life for the next ten years.” You want to know something? Nothing probably happened ten years ago either because you don’t get transformed by the Son of God, translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son and have nothing happen. By their fruit you’re going to see them.
Evidences of Saving Faith
So, now look at your life. You ask yourself the question ‑ is my faith real saving faith? You look at yourself and you say, “Well, I’m a pretty moral person … ah, you know, I know the Bible, I’m involved in the church, I have a ministry, I feel bad about my sin, I feel like I’m okay with god, I can remember the moment.” Those things don’t prove anything one way or another cause all kinds of people think those things are true about themselves and they are deceived… self‑deceived. That’s why they arrive in Matthew 7 and say‑‑, “Lord, Lord, it’s us.” And the shock of all shocks, “I don’t know you.” What a shock. Okay.
A man may be unsaved, but just completely committed to moral deportment, maybe well instructed in the doctrines of the Bible, a form of religion manifest. He may have a ministry and proceed in that ministry with marvelous giftedness. He may even have been a subject of conviction in his heart. He may even believe himself to be converted and regenerated… and still be lost. We’ve got to go a step further.
1. Love for God. The basic definition of an unsaved person is found in Romans 8:7 (paraphrased) “the carnal mind, the fleshly mind,” King James says, “is at enmity against God.” The carnal mind hates God. That is really a classic definition of an unregenerate person, they resist God, they hate God, The regenerated mind … loves God. God says, ‑Here’s how to fulfill My law, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.
I believe when a person is really exercising saving faith, there is in his heart a great love for God.
Jesus put it very simply in Matthew 10.37, “He that loveth father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” If God is not your highest affection…check yourself. Is that your greatest love? Is that your supreme delight? Do you long from the deepest part of your heart to love God, to bask in the warmth of the relationship to Him? To draw nigh unto Him? That’s the mark of saving faith…of a regenerated heart.
In Psalm 73:25, I think it’s expressed by Asaph in that Psalm. Listen to what it says, I love this. “Whom have I on… in heaven but Thee?” And listen to this, “And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Now that’s marvelous. There is none on earth that I desire beside Thee. And then Psalm 42, 1 quoted it earlier, “As the deer pants after the waterbrook, so panteth my soul after Thee, 0 God.” Then listen to verse 2, “My soul thirsteth for God for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” And this is such a longing; he says my tears have been my food. The heart craves God. The heart adores God. That’s … that’s the stuff that marks true saving faith. If you’ve really been redeemed, you love God. He’s your highest desire … your deepest longing is to be in His presence, to fulfill His glory.
Now let me say this. There will be times when we fail to do that, won’t there? And I use a phrase that I use very often. None the less, that will still be the direction of our life if not the perfection of it. It will be the direction if not the perfection. And when I fail to love God as I ought and to seek Him as my highest good and to Dour out my affection and to be jealous for His holy name and to live for His glory, that in itself breaks my heart.
2. The second positive test for saving faith is repentance from sin … repentance from sin. I believe that really… this is a very basic, almost flip side of the first principle, if you love God, you hate … what?…sin, and the two are obviously connected. If you love God, you hate sin. And I think that’s very basic. That which calls out of us the love for God, calls out of us the hate for sin. In Proverbs 28:13 it says: “He that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but who so confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Mercy comes to those who confess and forsake their sins.
David had that attitude, didn’t he? He cried out in Psalm 51, after the terrible sin that he had committed, “Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to Thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my transgression. My sin is ever before me. Against Thee, the only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” In other words, he realized in his great love for God how terrible was his sin against God.
Now you can tell a Christian, you can tell a person with saving faith‑‑they hate sin. Even while they may be doing it they hate it. Like Romans 7 again, where Paul says, “I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I want to do.” Even though our humanness draws us into sin, we hate that thing and you may have to admit that you’re not hating it while you’re getting into it but you sure do hate it a lot when you’ve done with it. And so, a believer is marked by love for God and hatred for sin. I think that’s basic to definition for the Christian’s life.
Now in 2 Corinthians 7, just to push the point a little bit, he says in verse 9, does Paul, “I rejoice not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance.” In other words, you turned from the sin. “For you were made sorry after a godly manner.” Now lots of people are sorry about their sin. Agreed? They’re sorry about it, makes them feel bad… reaps bad fruits, brings bad consequences, a lot of people who don’t know God are sorry about their sin. But they don’t sorrow unto repentance. That is, they’re not so sorry they stop doing it, they turn from it. But godly sorrow works repentance to salvation. You see? So salvation comes to those whose sorrow is a sorrow unto repentance, that is I’m not just sorry about it, I’m so sorry about it I want to turn from it, I want to be delivered from it. That is the kind of sorrow that is attached to salvation.
A proper love for God, then, results in a hatred of sin, grief over sin. True penitents are born of God. In 1 John, John gives us a test. He puts it this way. “If we are believers,” chapter 1, “we will be those who will confess our sins, but a non‑believer denies his sin.” And you can see it so clearly in 1 John 1, let me read you verses 8 to 10. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us.” In other words, forgiveness belongs to sin‑confessors. You understand that? It does not belong to sin‑deniers. “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.” A true forgiven person, a saved person, one exercising saving faith, is one who turns from sin. So ask yourself the question, do I hate sin? Is sin a bitter and evil thing? Am I convicted deep within my heart when I see it in my life? Do I hate it not only because it is ruinous to my soul, but because it is so offensive to my God? Which gives you the most anxiety? Your sins or your misfortunes in life? That’s a good test. The one born of God is overwrought with his sin.
Someone wrote, “When God touches a life, He breaks the heart. Where He pours out the spirit of grace, there are not a few transient sighs that agitate the breast, there are heart‑rending pangs of sorrow,” end quote. And so, the true believer is marked by a hatred and repentance from sin.
3. Genuine humility. And this is linked with the last one, isn’t it? Where there is a sense of the love of God there will be a sense of the hate of sin. And where sin is hated, there will be humility because as you look at your life and see your sin, you are humbled. And so we see in the beatitudes, that one who comes to enter the kingdom comes mourning, comes begging in spirit, comes hungering and thirsting, comes seeking mercy. Do you remember the prodigal? The illustration of salvation. The son runs away to riotous living, spends all he has and then comes back and his father receives him. That’s a picture of salvation. Do you know what the son said? And I think this is so much a part of true saving faith. The son said this, Luke 15:21 “Father, I am not worthy to be called … what? … your son.” That’s humility… that’s humility. And that is the mark of saving faith. It doesn’t offer itself to God as if it were something very valuable. It doesn’t offer itself to God with the idea ‑ Well, here I am, God, aren’t You going to be blessed to get me? It is a broken spirit. It is a contrite heart that the Lord seeks.
And so, there is humility. The Bible says the Lord gives grace to the what? Humble. And the Lord rejects the proud. There is humility in saving faith. “If any man come after Me, Matthew 16:24, let him first deny himself.” That’s humility. Look at your life. Do you see love for God? Even though you fail, do you sense that great love, that delight in Him? Do you see hatred for sin? And a desire to turn from it? And do you find in your heart no good thing and are you humbled because of your sin in the presence of God whom you love?
4. Devotion to God’s glory … devotion to God’s glory. I believe that true saving faith is marked by the desire to glorify God above everything else. And there’s a certain sense in which you have as a life focus the setting aside of your own glory and your own attainment and your own designs and your own will and your own comfort and your own enterprise for the seeking of that which brings honor to God. The person who is truly experiencing salvation is one who is consummately committed to God’s glory. Hear the testimony of Paul. He says, “My earnest expectation and my hope is this, that in nothing I shall be ashamed but that with all boldness as always Christ shall be magnified in my body whether it be by life or by death.” That’s it. I believe one who is truly exercising saving faith will have his life marked by a desire for the glory of God.
Now I know this. I know this is not going to be always true all the time in our life. But as I said so many times before, if this is not the perfection of our life, it is at least the direction of it. We, like Paul, can say ‑ I have not already attained, but I’m running on this track seeking God’s glory. Look at it the other way. A person who seeks only his own glory, his own will, his own aggrandizement, his own reputation, could not be one who was exercising saving faith and had been redeemed because self had not yet died. One who has been saved and transformed will have as his direction the glory of God.
Now, these are general patterns, much like John gives us in 1 John. And we know there are exceptions. That’s why we need a high Priest who intercedes, right?
5. Continual prayer. One of the marks of a Christian is this, Galatians, very important word, chapter 4 and verse 6, and hear it, very simple: “Because you are sons,” all right, now we know who we’re talking about, Christians, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying … what? … Abba Father.” What is it that marks a Christian? A heart that cries to whom? To God, a heart that seeks communion. Now I would admit to you at the very beginning that I don’t pray as much as I should, but none of us perhaps has the sense of having arrived in our prayer life, but I can also say to you that my heart longs to commune with God. When anything comes into my life that is a problem, my first response is to take it to God. When I face any task that I know is significant, my first response is to depend on Him. And I believe that a true Christian, one marked by saving faith, will be one who expresses his heart in communion with God. Job in chapter 27 verse 10 demands that a hypocrite be evaluated. And this is what he says: “Will he delight himself in the almighty? Will he always call upon God?” And that was Job’s test for saving faith. If you want to find out about a hypocrite, find out if he calls on God all the time. If he doesn’t, then he’s a hypocrite.
Jonathan Edwards, that great preacher, had a sermon and here was its title: “Hypocrites are deficient in the duty of prayer.” It’s exactly what Job was saying. True believers commune with God. Test yourself. Do you love God? Do you hate sin? Do you find your heart broken in humility? Are you devoted to God’s glory? And do you find yourself drawn into communion with Him continually? Those are the tests.
6. Selfless love. I believe also that saving faith that is redeeming faith that is true Christianity is marked by love for each other. First John says this, “He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in darkness. He that loves his brother abides in the light.” In other words, the light is that of redemption. The truly redeemed love their brothers. Listen, ask yourself the question: Do you love the fellowship of believers? Now I don’t mean are you absolutely out of your mind for every other Christian emotionally, but are you enriched and thrilled and enthralled and rejoicing and caring for the fellowship of those of like precious faith? In 1 John 3:14 it says: “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” Isn’t that simple? You know, it’s one test that I can pass, if I have my choice between being with the people of the world and being with the people of the Lord it’s not much of a choice … it’s not much of a choice. I have no desire to be with them … none. I love to be with God’s people. I love to fellowship. And then in the fourth chapter of 1 John the seventh verse, it says: “Let us love one another for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God and he that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love.” If you have had true saving faith and been genuinely redeemed, you’re going to love the brethren.
7. Separation from the world. When we were saved, we were delivered out of the world in a very real sense. First John 5:5, verse 4 starts: “Whatever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” True faith, believing in Jesus as Son of God, results in overcoming the world. On the other hand, “If any man,” 1 John 2 says, verse 15 to 17, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is … what? … not in him.” What do you love? What do you love? You love the world? Or do you separate yourself from the world? James put it, chapter 4 verse 4, “Friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore shall be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” The true test is separation from the world. And again I say, there are times when we drift back but the pursuit of our life is away from the world. You see, 1 Corinthians 2:12 puts it this way, when we’re saved we have not received the spirit of the world, but we have received the Spirit which is of God, and so our hearts are drawn away to Him.
8. Spiritual growth. I believe that saving faith that has truly regenerated will demonstrate itself in growth. If we learned anything from the parables of our Lord, particularly the parable of the soils, if we learned anything from the parable of the soils, we learned that you can tell true faith by its what? Fruit … by its fruit, by its product. It grows, it develops. That’s the mark of life. You see, life reproduces life and spiritual life reproduces spiritual life. In the parable of growth that the Lord ‘gives in Mark 4, He said: “And the Kingdom of God is like a man who throws seed into the ground and should sleep and rise night and day and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how for the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself. First the blade, then the ear, after the full grain in the ear, and when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in this sickle because the harvest is come.”
You plant seed and it grows. And Peter says that there’s an incorruptible seed planted in the heart and it’s going to grow. Paul’s great word to the churches was literally in all dimensions replete with the concept of the life of God producing fruit and results and growth. We are all growing, he said in the Ephesian letter, to the fullness of the stature of Christ. First John 2 says you start out as little babes and become spiritual young men and you mature to being spiritual fathers. Philippians 1 says that he which hath begun a good work in you will … what?… continue to perform it…till the day of Jesus Christ. You need to grow. And of course, growth is the sign of true spiritual life.
9. Obedient living. And again we go back to the beloved John, 1 John 2:3, “And by this we do know that we know Him if we keep His … what? … Commandments. He that says I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keeps His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected and by this we know that we are in Him.” You know you’re saved when you live the life of obedience. In Ephesians 2:10 it says we’ve been created unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. And so, the overwhelming habit of our life is not disobedience, the overwhelming habit is obedience. And there will be disobedience along the way, but as we grow that disobedience will become a decreasing factor. I believe with all my heart that if a person has exercised true saving faith, he has a great desire to live a life of obedience. You show me someone who doesn’t and I have every right to ask the question that is that saving faith, no matter what they claim.
reference John Macarthur, Romans
The Scriptural definition of debt is the inability to meet obligations agreed upon. In other words, when a person buys something on credit terms that is not necessarily debt, it is a contract. But when the terms of the contract are violated, debt occurs.”
One usually incurs debt through the violation of the contract because he violates Scripture in three other areas.
1) He presumes upon the future (James 4:13-15). He assumes things will go just as planned (increased salary, inflation, etc.) and that he will be able to pay back as anticipated. As a result he incurs a lot of debt.
2) He is not willing to wait on God to provide his needs within his means to pay. In other words, He borrows to get what he wants now rather than wait until he can afford it. (Psalms 37)
3) He incurs debt by over leveraging himself with the motive of getting rich quickly. (Proverbs 37)
Sometimes there is a fine line between borrowing and debt. Let us encourage you to prayerfully consider the following Scriptures and ask God what He would have you do in your situation.
It is God’s plan that if one enters into a financial contract he must pay it.
“The wicked makes contract, and fails to pay: but the righteous shows mercy, and giveth” (Psalms 37:21).
“When you vow a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which you commit to. Better is it that you not vow, than that you vow and not pay” (Ecciessiastes 5:4-5).
Not only does this mean that bankruptcy is not an option for a Christian. It also means that if you are committing to a fiscal contract, you are scriptually obligated to fulfill that contract entirely to avoid it becoming sinfulness.
by Larry Brashear
If Martin Luther knew what was happening to the denomination that bears his name he would turn over in his grave. This photo shows Lutheran “ministers” (note the female clergy in the picture) holding the, “Evangelical Lutheran Worship book” while praying. The title of the article bearing this picture says, “As their church meets, gay ministers take a stand”.
Take a stand…on what??? Certainly not on the Word of God and the truth contained therein! You may, like me, find it disheartening that professing believers would even entertain votes relating to gay/lesbian ministers.
It is often said, and I believe wrongly, that the world has simply gone too far. It is my sincere belief that sinners have simply not gone far enough. They are born, like you and I were, sinners. In that state one must ‘come’ to a point of repentance and acceptance, thus leaving the sinner positionally needing to come from where they are and surrendered to His Lordship and grace.
The leading cause for depravation among the professing evangelical world is a lack of knowledge of God. Most churches today have little to no emphasis placed on expositional teaching of the scriptures or on its authority and sufficiency. Discipleship is the primary key to growing strong, maturing churches. The “world” is having greater impact and influence on generation ‘X’ and “Y” because the churches pulpits have abandoned the preaching of Truth for the sake of superficial tranquility among their parishioners. Pastors must foster discipleship and teach the truths of God’s Word to faithful men who will in turn carry it faithfully to the next generation.
It is saddening to think that we have come to the point whereby we are soliciting anyone to teach a Sunday school class for the sake of filling a position, rather than limiting our classes to the number of God called, God gifted, and God fearing teachers. We select pastors and deacons with similar recklessness, and all the while wringing our hands and wonder why those in the church are no different than those outside the church.
Pastor, Deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry leader – if you are not sold out and bought into the whole counsel of God, then get out, resign your position, quit hindering the church and its effectiveness on the next generations. You can have a good heart and be genuine in your endeavor, but if you are not willing to lay down your life for the Gospel than resign, you have not been called.
As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.