Are Death Bed Conversions Genuine?

Yesterday I wrote about God’s ability to forgive sinners, even the gravest of sinners like Ted Bundy.  He stated in his interview:   “I know people will accuse me of being self-serving, but through God’s help, I have been able to come to the point, much too late, where I can feel the hurt and the pain I am responsible for.”

Are death-bed conversions genuine?

Like I said yesterday, while we can examine the fruit of another’s life, we can never truly know his heart.  But we do know of at least one person who came to undeniable saving faith just moments before death:  The thief on the cross.

“Now there was also an inscription above Him, ‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’  One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!’  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’  And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’  And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’.”

 – Luke 23.39-43

Bundy made a very normal observation:  It sounds self-serving to live one’s entire life to his own end and only make peace with God on the way out.  But in reality, salvation is self-serving.  I know, I know, we exist for the glory of God (Rom 4.20, Jos 7.19, 1 Chr 16.35, and innumerable more).  But Paul makes a really interesting statement when he speaks about the one who is following Christ.  He says that the one who will inherit eternal life is the one who “perseveres in doing good seeking for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom 2.7).  Are you seeking for glory, honor and immortality?  When Jesus tells us to not live for the world, he says:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 – Matt 6.19-21

Notice that Jesus is not saying to live for nothing.  He is not discrediting all treasures.  He is saying work for the treasures that matter!  The ones that last forever!  The ones in eternity!  We are seeking our own best interest, because if you work for those things that will rust and fade away, you are living a life of vanity.  But if you live for those things that will last forever, you are living unto the ultimate happiness.  Yes, all of salvation is self-serving.  It is our eternal preservation through Jesus’ righteousness by faith through grace to enjoy God forever.

So then the question begs to be asked, is it more self-serving to live a life of sin and meaninglessness and get eternity covered at the very end?  Or is it better for me to have much time on earth to store up treasures in Heaven and have abundant life (John 10.10) here on Earth, falling in love deeply with Jesus before I get to meet him face to face?

I would argue the latter.

John Piper wrote a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life”.  I highly recommend the book to everyone!  In it, he speaks of an elderly man who came to a realization of the meaning of life and salvation late in life and when he turned to Christ, in awesome sorrow he mourned “I have wasted [my life]”.

Faith is a matter of the heart.  It is understanding sin and its consequence.  It is understanding God and His holiness and our inability to appease His wrath.  It is embracing Jesus and His righteousness as our only means by which we can by saved, and it is repenting from sin so as to bring glory and honor to God.  One who is truly saved mourns lost time with the Lord and grieves over sin committed that dishonors Him.  Faith is the only response of the heart that accords with grace (Rom 4.5, 20).  And it is by faith alone that we please God and are saved (Heb 11.6, Eph 2.8-9).

Therefore I would argue that the way to test the sincerity of a deathbed conversion is the remorse for a life wasted.  If someone purposes to live a life of personal gain and pleasure, only to say “Please save me” on death’s door, then genuine faith is not present.  But I would also note that when one is staring death in the face, the reality of the vanity of worldliness becomes most clear.  It is only when one realizes that everything for which he has worked will be left behind does he grasp the insignificance of anything temporal and the full value of knowing God.  If one’s intention is to get to Heaven, but not to glorify or love God, he will not be saved.  Fear of eternity alone is not enough.  But to recognize the need of a savior, to understand sin and to embrace forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God through faith is enough.  Anyone can do it, if the Lord permits.

“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me.”

 – Heb 13.5

If you hear His voice, be saved today!  Because there may not always be tomorrow.  And there comes a point where our hearts become so hardened that we can no longer be saved.  And if you do come to your deathbed and God extends the grace of faith to you then, you can certainly be saved, but only at the cost of realizing a lifetime wasted and no treasures stored up in eternity.

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Did God forgive Ted Bundy?

Ted Bundy was one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century.  With Methodist roots, he dabbled in the Church of Latter Day Saints during his killing spree.  But while he was incarcerated after being found guilty and receiving the death penalty sentence, Ted Bundy made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.  The evening before he was executed he asked Dr. James Dobson, an American Evangelical Christian author, psychologist and the founder of Focus on the Family, to come and give him his final interview.  During the interview he focused primarily on the role that he believed pornography to have had on his psyche, but he also confessed faith in Jesus Christ.

When Dobson asked Bundy if he had remorse for what he had done, part of his answer was this:

“I know people will accuse me of being self-serving, but through God’s help, I have been able to come to the point, much too late, where I can feel the hurt and the pain I am responsible for. Yes. Absolutely! During the past few days, myself and a number of investigators have been talking about unsolved cases – murders I was involved in. It’s hard to talk about all these years later, because it revives all the terrible feelings and thoughts that I have steadfastly and diligently dealt with – I think successfully. It has been reopened and I have felt the pain and the horror of that.”

Dobson also asked him about one of his murders, a 12-year-old girl, and his emotional state in regards to that murder.  He responded:

“I can’t really talk about that right now. It’s too painful. I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience is like, but I won’t be able to talk about that. I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children and young women that I have harmed feel. And I can’t restore much to them, if anything. I won’t pretend to, and I don’t even expect them to forgive me. I’m not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God; if they have it, they have it, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll find it someday.”

Lastly, Dobson asked him about his faith in Jesus Christ.  He stated that many are cynical about Bundy’s conversion, and asked him if he believed that God was giving him strength through his final hours of life.  Bundy said:

“I do. I can’t say that being in the Valley of the Shadow of Death is something I’ve become all that accustomed to, and that I’m strong and nothing’s bothering me. It’s no fun. It gets kind of lonely, yet I have to remind myself that every one of us will go through this someday in one way or another.”

God offers forgiveness of sins to “whosoever believes in Him” (John 3.16).  There is no sin too great that God cannot and will not forgive.  Moses and David were murderers that God forgave.  Paul was a mass murderer, purposefully seeking out and killing Christians (Phil 3.6)!  If God is able to take the Church’s greatest enemy who is rounding up believers and murdering them and turn him into His greatest tool, a man who is murdering regular people is no challenge for Him.

Faith is a matter of the heart between an individual and God.  We cannot ever truly know another person’s heart, and I will not presume to make an analysis of Ted Bundy’s faith.  But I do see a few things that are essential for faith exemplified in his statements that mark a believer:

  1. He admitted his sin, and embraced the punishment for it (1 John 1.9).
  2. He had sorrow/remorse for his sin (2 Cor7.10).
  3. He desired and experienced God’s forgiveness and offered grace to those whom he had hurt, understanding their potential inability to forgive him (1 John 4.7-8).
  4. He sought the Lord “diligently” for the strength to die to sin (Rom 8).
  5. He rested on God’s strength to endure the harsh treatment which he was receiving as retribution for his sin (1 Peter 2.20).
  6. He rested on God as he approached death.

Scripture says that by our fruit we will be known (Luke 6.44).  Ted Bundy’s fruit before his imprisonment was clearly not of God.  But the confession that he made exemplifies Scriptural truths and proof of conversion if it truly was of his heart that he spoke.

Is your God big enough to save Ted Bundy?  Do you realize that one little sin:  eating a piece of fruit when told not to eat that fruit, would merit the same eternity as Ted Bundy’s rapes and murders?  Someone might say, “I don’t care what he said, Ted Bundy was not saved.”  To hold such a stance exemplifies a lack of understanding of the nature of sin.  While I do not believe that all sins are equal, Scripture says that all sins merit eternal damnation.  My pride, my laziness, my selfishness is so repulsive to a righteous God that I deserve to spend eternity in Hell.  The wages of any sin is death (Rom 6.23).  And the clay cannot say back to the potter, “why did you make me like this?” (Rom 9.20).  We cannot question God and his ways.  He has a perfect plan, for all of creation, and if He chose to exemplify His grace in and through Ted Bundy, praise God!  If he chose to give you faith and pour out His grace in and through your life, praise God!

So as you did unto them, you did it to Me.

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

– Rom 8.9-10

In this passage, Paul is speaking to the transformation that happens when we follow Christ – specifically dying to the flesh and living to the Spirit.  His intention is to encourage the Church at Rome to put to death sin and to live through the power of the Spirit in the ways that honor God.  And the foundation on which he builds his case is that when we become followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us.  Christ, through the Spirit, is actually within us.  All of the time.  In order to belong to God, the Spirit must be within us.  Paul even calls our bodies the temple of God because He no longer functions in the building of the temple but indwells us personally (1 Cor 6.19).

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

– 1 John 4.7-8

We are exhorted throughout Scripture to love God and to love one another.  These are the first and second commandments, and within them is the fullness of the Law contained (Gal 5.14).  But I want to put an extra emphasis on the fact that as Christians, we have the Spirit of Almighty God living within us.  Have you ever noticed that when you meet a believer, you have a camaraderie of heart quite quickly?  While you may not know life details, there is a foundation and unity of Spirit between you?  That is the Spirit in me communing with the Spirit in you.

So I have been processing this week the way that I interact with people.  Are we tempted to gossip?  To function in cliques?  Do we avoid someone when we go to church or work because our personalities do not connect well?  Do we seek our own gain and compete with our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do we refuse forgiveness and reconciliation and hold grudges?

Everything that we do towards a believer, we are doing towards God because that person is indwelt with the Spirit.  If I disrespect my brother, I am disrespecting God.  If I love my brother and serve him selflessly, I am serving God.  Scripture tells us that there are times that we entertain angels without knowing it – God gives us opportunities to glorify Him through serving or interacting with angelic beings (Heb 13.2).  And Jesus even tells us that when we serve Christians by feeding them when they are hungry and visiting them when they are in prison, we are serving Him (Matt 25.34-45).

Sometimes it is easy to see and meet the big needs.  If someone is in the hospital, or if a house has burned down or someone needs to move, we are quick and able to chip in and help.  But I have been chewing more on the day-to-day interactions that we have with one another.  Did I greet so-and-so in love?  Was I conscientious of her heart and her needs?  Or did I just talk at her?  Or even worse, did I ask “How are you” without really caring?  Am I purposefully speaking to that person as a person for whom Jesus died and in whom the Spirit lives?  Let us be consciously aware that when we speak to, serve, ignore, love or hate a brother, such we are doing unto God.

Love Never Fails. (1 Cor 13.8)

You can get to Heaven faster via Twitter.

I have been extremely broken and burdened by an article that I read over a month ago.  This is directly from the Vatican’s official site.  Pope Francis extended indulgences to participants of a youth gathering, even if only participating via social media.

Pope Francis extended indulgences.

Indulgences.

World Youth Day (WYD) is a worldwide encounter with the Pope which is typically celebrated every three years in a different country.”  A pilgrimage.

Catholicism understands sin to have been forgiven by God, but the debt of temporal punishment not paid.  That is on the head of the offender.  The Gospel – Jesus’ death on the cross – covers our sinful nature.  Jesus established the forgiveness of original sin for which we are all guilty, but we must pay the debt our further sin incurs against God either here on Earth or in Purgatory (a place where Christians who are not yet fully punished for their sins go, to pay off the rest of their debt after death and before eternity with God).

Catholicism also understands the clergy, the Pope being the highest level, to have the ability to offer remission of this temporal punishment for sins.

What Jesus could not cover, the Pope can.

This doctrine is one of the primary stimuli for the Protestant Reformation which Martin Luther began by posting his 95 Theses, which fully was entitled the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”  to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony in 1517.

The Protestant Church fundamentally disagrees with the Catholic Church that Jesus’ death was insufficient for the complete remission of sins and that any human being would be granted authority to consider guilt remitted.  When Martin Luther realized that the Bible teaches salvation by faith alone through grace alone (Eph 2.8-9), the Catholic Church responded with this statement:

“He who does not accept the doctrine of the Church of Rome and pontiff of Rome as an infallible rule of faith, from which the Holy Scriptures, too, draw their strength and authority, is a heretic” (Sylvester Prierias).

But the Bible says that no human being has the ability to forgive sin, or prescribe relief from punishment (Is 43.25, Mark 2.7).  God alone forgives sin.  Jesus took upon himself the full weight and punishment of all sin for all who would believe – paying the ransom (1 Cor 1.30).

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

– 1 John 2.1-2

Propitiation is not a word used in daily conversation – but it means “appeasement”.  Jesus took the whole wrath of God upon Himself for all of the sin of everyone who would believe.  God no longer is angry at us for our sin, there is no longer wrath, condemnation or judgment (Rom 8.1).  We do continue to sin after coming to faith in God, but Jesus alone is our advocate before God.  He stands before God, and every time we sin He says to God, “I paid for that“.  God does not maintain a merit system by which we must add to Jesus’ payment.  He paid it all.

Jesus paid it all.

We cannot add to Jesus’ work, there is no debt to balance out, we cannot work to obtain grace.  Because by working or offering penance we nullify grace.  God loved us, when we were his enemies (Rom 5.10), and became flesh and humbled himself to the point of death (Phil 2.8), and took the punishment and paid all debt associated with sin (1 John 2.1-2) for all who would believe (John 3.16).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2.8-9)

Faith alone assures immediate entrance into eternity with God (Luke 23.43, 2 Cor 5.8).  There is no waiting period.  There is no extra punishment that God issues beyond the death of His son.  It is finished.

It is finished!

Trust God.  Be saved.  By faith alone.  Through grace alone.

I am what I am.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

– 1 Cor 15.10

There is an epidemic running rampant in the American Church spiritually killing people left and right.  And that is self-acceptance.  I am who I am.  And God is love, and He loves me just the way that I am.  We are building mega-churches that have dynamic speakers who are considered “real people” because they have just as many problems as we do.  We are so offended at authority and expectation that we do not establish any standards for our behavior, accountability to keep ourselves in check or consequences for our failures.  But it is all OK because God loves us, and wants us to be happy.

Pastors are alcoholics and serial adulterers.  Missionaries abandon the faith.  We get divorced, hate our brothers, live for the weekends partying and embracing the world.

Because that is, after all, who I am.

I fear that the old critique that we heard for so long, “the church is full of hypocrites” will no longer be the primary response to us, because we now condone such activities as “real”.  In order to be able to relate to others, we must have the same vices as the world.  But it doesn’t matter because even though we know them to be sin, “where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5.20).  God loves me.  God is grace.  And He will forgive me.  The more I sin, the more he gets glory because He shows His grace more and more.

And the world listens. They want an answer without having to change.

It is true.  God is love.  But God’s love is not blanket acceptance.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  – John 15.13

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  – 1 John 3.16

Let’s chew on that for a minute.  Jesus showed us the greatest example of love by dying for us.  Why did Jesus die for us?  Because we are sinners and we deserve to die for that.  Jesus did not deserve to die because He is perfect and He is God.  But he paid the penalty for sinners who would repent.  Jesus’s grace to us is not cheap.  It cost Him His life.

What does it cost us to be saved?

  • Call on the name of the Lord (Rom 10.13)
  • Faith through grace (Eph 2.8-9)
  • We must confess our sins (1 John 1.9)
  • We must be born again (John 3.3, 7)
  • Lose our life for Christ’s sake (Matt 16.25)
  • We must repent: turn away from our lives of sin (Acts 2.38)
  • We must make Jesus the Lord of our lives (Rom 10.9)
  • The sin must pass away, being made into new creatures (2 Cor 5.17)
  • Abiding in Christ (John 15.4)

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

There is one group that hits the nail on the head.  Alcoholics Anonymous.  Almost everyone who enters rehab – of any kind – knows that he has a problem.  You do not go to get help if you do not need help.  And step number 1 is to admit that you have a problem.  I am not saying that we have to be perfect, I am saying that we need to admit problems as problems.  And consequently set out to find the solution.  Step number 2 is to acknowledge and submit to a higher power.  It is God alone who will forgive us and who can change us.  We do not need to be changed to come to God.  But when we come to God, He will change us.  If we are not transformed through our relationship with God, we do not have a relationship with God.

  • By our fruit the world will know that we belong to God (Matt 12.33).
  • The one who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 24.13).
  • But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation (Rom 2.5-8).

Pastors screw up.  Missionaries make mistakes.  Anyone who is in a human body and has come to faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul has an ongoing war within Himself:

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

 – Gal 5.17

Our purpose and goal, however, ought not be to normalize and accept these truths.  It should be to push one another on the holiness and righteousness.  To work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Do not idolize someone who embraces sin because grace covers it.  Run.  As fast as you can.  Because that is a lie from the pit of Hell.  And do not idolize someone who says He has conquered sin and is living as though he is perfect.  We all sin.  We all need a Savior.  Be real in your admission of sin and in your pursuit of righteousness by the power of the Spirit who lives within you to work out those good deeds that God prepared for you to do before the foundation of the world (Eph 12.10)!

Meditate on these twelve steps.  According to the sin that easily entraps you.

1. We admitted we were powerless over [personal sin]—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that [only God] greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a Spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [sinners], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Is self-deprivation Biblical?

Monasticism has long been a temptation for the devout amongst us…to prove our piety and devotion to religion (or God) by setting ourselves apart from the world and withholding worldly pleasures from ourselves.  There is an appeal to self-deprivation and temptation to believe Eastern/Buddhist tendencies that teach that freeing one’s self from desires, pleasure and pride is the path to enlightenment.  The core of Eastern religious belief is that life is suffering and the goal is to free one’s self from suffering and that end is attained by eradicating all desires and consequent feelings from one’s life.  Enlightenment would then be the freedom from such bondage to reality that there is no effect on one’s essence by suffering, pleasure or temporal situations.

Christians can unintentionally interpret our call to be separate from the world as this type of lifestyle (John 15.19).  That we must be un-engaged from what is happening around us and just look to God and trust in God and be satisfied in a Spiritual, ethereal experience of Him.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, calls this a doctrine of demons:

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

– 1 Tim 4.1-5

God formed creation and man for His pleasure and enjoyment.  And we were created to enjoy and glorify Him.  And we can do that through that which He has created!  Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10.10).  The key, as Paul outlines in this passage, is that all things are sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.  Everything in the world was created by, is continually sustained by and is made clean by God (Eph 3.9, Heb 1.3, Rom 14.12).  And if we enjoy anything in His creation, within the standards as outlined in Scripture and with thanksgiving in our heart to His glory, we are fulfilling our created purpose by glorifying God always and giving thanks in all things.

Christians are often considered sticks-in-the-mud, who do not know how to have a good time.  While I would argue that the fundamental problem here is our worldview: assuming that life’s greatest achievement is entertainment, comfort and/or success, Paul says, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, “do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5.18).  He parallels the experience of being filled with the Spirit as drunkenness.  Admittedly, I have never been drunk.  But I have heard accounts of the experience: losing inhibitions, losing control and just loosening up to be who you really are.  Have you ever been so filled and so satisfied in the Spirit of God that you no longer care what people think about you?  That you are freed to say and do what you think and feel?  That your true personality shines through to the glory of God?  This is what He promises to us!  We can be so fulfilled with our identity in Christ that another person’s opinion loses all sway over us.  We can speak freely of Truth and we can express ourselves openly because we know that Christ has redeemed us, made us clean and set us free to enjoy Him and His creation.

I do think it is of highest importance that we reflect on the unusual nature of the 21st century American Christian experience in this discussion.  Throughout the centuries, it has been the norm that Christians are persecuted, alienated and killed for their religious convictions.  From Jesus’ ascension up until Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313, the Early Church was heavily persecuted.  Then the Church was secularized and used for personal gain and true believers were quickly persecuted again.  Around the modern world people regularly have to choose between life, security and community or Jesus.  But there is joy unspeakable and full of glory in choosing eternal life (1 Peter 1.8).  And the Scriptural example is that we, by being filled with the Spirit, can count persecution, poverty and suffering as our blessing because we join with Christ in His experiences (James 1.2, Phil 4.12, Acts 5.41).

Corrie ten Boom gives an exceptional example of this.  A Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape during the Holocaust, she was caught, imprisoned, sent to a concentration camp and then a death camp.  Her father died in prison and her sister in the death camp.  While in the Vught Concentration Camp, the sisters were held in barracks that were completely flea infested.  A Bible was miraculously smuggled into their camp and the women began studying it together in their barrack.  They read together the exhortation to “give thanks in all things” and Corrie’s sister Betsie declared that the women should give thanks, even for the fleas.  Corrie said that was too much, that she could not give thanks for the fleas but because Betsy insisted she tried to be thankful.  Over the months they realized that the guards never entered into their barrack and the women were saved from assault and also free to study the Bible and have prayer meetings together.  Countless women came to faith in Jesus and they were sustained by His goodness.  At the end of the imprisonment they learned that they were only spared from the brutality of the guards because they did not want to come in amidst the fleas.

Betsie famously stated, “There is no pit so deep that [God] is not deeper still”.

God promises joy, peace, satisfaction and fulfillment in all of life.  Let us seek to know and serve Him always.  Regardless of our circumstances or situations.  Let us enjoy Him forever, in prosperity, in poverty, in sickness, in health, in religious freedom and in persecution.  Let us make His name known among the peoples, and let us strive such that when we see Him face to face we will hear those glorious words,

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

 – Matt 25.21

Jesus died for that.

“…just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

– Rom 4.6-8

I wrote yesterday on personality dispositions and tensions between thinking and feeling.  I am working my way through Romans in my personal daily times with the Lord, and I heard John Piper say, in reference to this passage and our salvation experience:

“Do you see here that Christ is everything?  You cannot love Christ too much.  You cannot think about Christ too much.  You cannot thank Christ too much.  Everything hangs on Christ.”

It struck me that he emphasized both the emotional side and academic side of our relationship in reflecting on our response to the all-satisfying work of Christ’s redemption of believers.

How is it that everything hangs on Christ?

  •  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5.21).
  • More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil 3.8-9).
  • But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor 1.30).
  • Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8.1).

There is a theological term called justification that defines the foundation and first step of the salvation process.  Two things happen at the point of justification:  1)  We are covered by Christ’s righteousness, and 2) Our sin is put on Jesus.  There is a two-way exchange that happens at a decisive moment in time.  But our justification does not mean that we actually become perfect like Jesus or that He becomes sinful.  It means that before God, my sin is credited to Jesus’ account and His righteousness to mine.  And this is the beauty of the cross:  Jesus paid the debt for my sin.  All of it.  It is finished.  God is righteous and because he is just, all sin must be punished.  He will not gloss over any sin, no matter how small, no matter how remorseful I might be.  I cannot just say I am sorry and walk away.  My sin cost Jesus something.  It cost Him his life.  But since He paid the debt, if I confess my sins He is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9).  Sometimes people over simplify the doctrine saying it means it is “just as if” I had never sinned.  This view is stunted because it is not as though I have never sinned.  That minimizes the power and glory Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

In reflecting on the thinker/feeler dilemma, I made a certain level of peace with myself this week about not striving to force myself to be something that I am not.  I also have been humbled a lot this week.  Sometimes I go for seasons of seemingly hitting the mark, not having any relational breakdowns, fulfilling the routine…and sometimes I just blow it.  Usually on the communication front.  I can be pretty independent and I regularly give people the benefit of the doubt – expecting the same in return, and thus I find myself being misunderstood from time to time for my lack of intentional communication.  Thinker.  I also highly value reconciliation, peace and restoration of broken relationships, and I have experienced substantial growth over the years in stepping back from situations, looking at the breakdown from the other person’s perspective and owning up to my sin.

Rarely is the reconciliation as clean and neat as we hope that it could be, but I have learned to remind myself of what Peter had to say about suffering:

“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

– 1 Peter 2.20

So.  If you make a mistake, and someone gets mad at you, you honor God by enduring their reaction with patience, kindness and humility.  And you find even more favor with God if you patiently suffer someone’s wrath when you have done nothing to solicit it!

This seems to be pretty black and white to me.  When I make a mistake, own it.  Do not try to force the other person to recognize their failure because I am only responsible for me.  Suffer any push-back or consequence patiently because I brought it on and the other person is probably hurting.  Seek to restore what has been broken.

But yesterday as I was meditating on this mutual transaction of my sin being imputed to Christ, an overwhelming sorrow gripped me.  My sin of thoughtlessness in communication towards another put Christ on the cross.

Jesus died for that.

I do not have to pay the punishment.

He has already paid it.

Perhaps it is the acceptance of my disposition.  Perhaps it is because my mentor and others in my life are praying for my emotional relationship with the Lord.  Perhaps God just chose to reveal Himself to my spirit in that way yesterday.  But it broke my heart.  Emotionally.  And then He restored to me the joy of my salvation because I am righteous in His eyes, He has defeated sin and death and He stands forever as my advocate before God.

 “If God is for us, who is against us?” 

– Rom 8.31

I’ll tell you who is against us.  The enemy.  The principalities.  The false prophets.  Those who hate Christians.  Those against whom we have sinned.  There are many people against us.  But none of them holds sway.  Why?  Because God has counted believers as righteous by the blood of Christ, and even if someone takes your life, he cannot take your soul.

Therefore let us rejoice in the Lord.  Let us serve Him with gladness.  Let us suffer patiently the retribution for our sins from those in our lives because Christ has paid the penalty and we are clean before Him.  Let us humble ourselves because we know that we deserve death, punishment and damnation.  Let us suffer injustice patiently, as Christ did on the cross!  Let us put one another before ourselves and outdo one another in showing acts of kindness, love and mercy.  Let us forgive freely and love generously.  Let us be Christ’s ambassadors here on this Earth for as long as we have breath.  Let us be broken for our sin because it grieves the Spirit who is living within us, and let us give thanks in everything for He alone is our rock, our shield, our strength, and our ability to approach the throne of God.  Let us fall in love with Him more.  Every. Single. Day.