redemption

Suicide, Forgiveness, and God’s Redeeming Power

 

cross

Suicide is a tragedy that has touched many families. For those who have lost loved ones in such a tragic way, there are often wounds that last a lifetime. Suicide is a tragedy that has touched many people from all walks of lives, and it doesn’t discriminate – people of all races, economic classes, educational backgrounds, you name it – almost everyone has loved ones, or has known someone who has taken their own life.

I remember a few years back, a pastor that I knew from a distance took his own life. I was struggling with how this sort of thing can happen, so I was speaking with someone very close to me about it. As we were discussing, this person made the comment, “I’ll bet he’s really wishing he didn’t do that now.” The implication here was that this pastor was in hell.

I’ve often heard, and I believe many of us have heard, because I believe it’s a misconception that many people have, that if you commit suicide, you automatically end up in hell. I tried to explain to my friend that I didn’t believe suicide does automatically send you to hell. They simply said, “Well, I think it does.” When asked for a theological or biblical reason behind their answer, they didn’t have one…it’s just what they’ve always been told, and the belief they’ve always held. I used to believe this also, for the same reasons…it’s just what I’ve always been told. But just because you’ve always been told something, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

As I’ve studied this subject however, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe it to be true that suicide automatically sends someone to hell. First of all, there is the case of Samson who we know killed himself along with many Philistines in Judges 16, yet is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a model of faith. I believe even more though, we need to look to the overwhelming teaching of Scripture which is this: If you are in Christ, and I have no reason to doubt that many who commit suicide are, then you can be assured of your salvation. If you are in Christ, all of your sins past, present, and future are forgiven. (Acts 10:43, Colossians 1:14) I believe this is especially pointed to also in Psalm 103:10-14. Romans 7 and Hebrews 10:14 also certainly give us a picture of the “already-not yet” aspect of salvation.

I think people have arrived at this faulty conclusion because they have this idea that you have to confess every single sin, in order to be forgiven of every single sin. But that just isn’t the case. Can you imagine trying to remember every sin you commit throughout the day? What about the sins you commit without even thinking about it? Following this faulty logic, none of us would or could receive forgiveness for all of our sins. Not only that, our salvation would become dependent on a work, which again the Bible tells us is not the case.

Certainly we are to confess our sins as soon as we are reminded of them, or see that we have sinned, but none of us are so perfect that we will remember each and every one of our sins, and confess them to our Lord. We are all sinners and must confess that to Christ on a regular basis, and repent of the sins we see in our lives. But unfortunately all of our sins won’t be clear to us.

Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the Bible only speaks of one unpardonable, or one unforgivable sin. What is it? Jesus tells us Himself in Mark 3:22-30 & Matthew 12:31-32. The only sin Jesus tells us we cannot be forgiven of is blaspheming, or speaking against the Holy Spirit. I believe what Jesus is speaking of here in these verses is the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation, ultimately denying who Christ is and denying Him as Savior. If we deny Christ as Savior, then we cannot be forgiven of that sin, or any sins for that matter. Once we do confess Christ as Savior however, then all of our sins past, present, and future can and will be forgiven as I talked about earlier. (Also see Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13)

So am I saying it’s okay to commit suicide? NO! NEVER!

Our bodies are the temple of God. (1 Corinthians 6:19) There is no situation so bad, so tragic, that it should make us want to harm ourselves knowing that our bodies belong to God. There is no situation so lacking in hope that we shouldn’t put our faith, hope, and trust in Christ to redeem that situation. That being said, all of us are prone to act irrationally at times. I know I myself have done more than one stupid thing in an act of anger or distress. The actions of those who take their own lives just happen to have greater consequences than the things I’ve done. Yet my actions were sinful, just as their acts are. Whatever situation it is that leads folks to take their own lives, I would like to think that I would always act differently, or do things differently than they have…if not for my own sake, but for the sake of my wife and children. As I’ve said, I can’t even imagine what folks who have lost loved ones to suicide go through. But, until we walk in someone else’s shoes, we can’t truly know what we would do, or how we would respond.

I do think though, there is some truth in what the friend I was speaking to said. I do think as folks who take their own life give an account to God, they do mourn for what they did. The Bible tells us that we all must give an account for the things we do. (Hebrews 4:13, Romans 14:12, and especially 2 Corinthians 5:10) So while I do believe we are forgiven for all our sins as believers, and won’t have to suffer hell because of them, we all will give an account, and there will be consequences for all of our actions.

My heartfelt prayers go out anyone who has lost someone they love dearly to suicide. I can’t begin to imagine what they go through. What I do know though, is that we have a God who can and will redeem any situation, and will glorify Himself through it. I’m sure it’s often hard for them to see that, heck it’s hard for me to see how He will do it even from a distance.  Still I know it’s true, and I pray that perhaps somehow, they will be able to cling to this fact in the midst of their pain.

Advertisements

Nice Is Not Enough

 

CS Lewis

‘Niceness’– wholesome, integrated personality– is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world– and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Shared From A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works(Hardcover)
Kindle Version Available Here

To the praise of his glory…

Redemption is an amazing thing. Honestly it is something that is a bit hard to wrap our minds around. It isn’t so hard to imagine that God ‘could’ redeem a sinful people…after all he is God. To think though that God would actually ‘want’ to, is a bit hard to imagine. To know that God ‘can’ and’ does’ want to redeem his people, and that God in fact does this very thing, well that deserves a wow.

The fact that God himself took on human flesh, became a man, lived here in our sinful world, spotless and free of sin, only to one day die on a cross…well, yeah. Amazing. Not only that, this God, who became human flesh, Jesus, was raised from the dead. God did all of this, to redeem his people.

Redemption is amazing.

Redemption being so amazing, we are tempted to make everything about redemption. We are tempted to make redemption the pinnacle of creation, the pinnacle of God’s work done through Jesus. But it wasn’t…and we shouldn’t.

The pinnacle of all things…the purpose of all things…is God’s glory. But don’t just take my word for it, hear the Apostle Paul:

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
~Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV

Redemption is an amazing thing, it is an amazing gift. The Gospel is full of amazing gifts. But ultimately the gift of redemption, like all of the other gifts are designed for one purpose; that God would be glorified. We must be ever so careful, not to forget this. As we praise God for all of his gifts, let us not forget the ultimate purpose of them. To bring him glory. Let us not just shout for joy because we have been(and are being) saved, but let us shout for joy because our being saved is bringing him glory. Because that is what it’s all about.

Redemption isn’t the main thing, though in many places and in many hearts it seems to be. God is the main thing. His receiving glory from the praises of his saints…That is the main thing. As one of my favorite people in the world would say, “let’s keep the main thing, the main thing.”

‘Big Picture’ Kind of God

I was reading my Bible the other day and read through Genesis 50:15-21. Most of us know the story of Joseph, it’s a favorite for Sunday School classes, and for us to tell our kids. As I was reading the story though, the verse that really stood out to me was verse 20.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

As I said, almost all of us know something of this story. How Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob, how jealous his other brothers were of that fact, how even through all of Joseph’s trials(and we fail to teach that perhaps he brought some of his troubles on himself) he remained faithful to God, and God blessed him. These are all facts from the life of Joseph. Many times though I think we read this story from the standpoint that God was simply trying to bless Joseph through all of the things he was going through, and in spite of the evil plots against him. How foolish of us if this is all we take from this passage of Scripture.

God is so sovereign. As a result of Joseph’s brothers sin, God was not only blessing Joseph, he was sparing many lives, in Israel and abroad. God was ensuring the future of Israel, which paved the way and preserved the bloodline of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world.

Again I say, God is so sovereign, so amazing. God pays attention to the details of our lives. God cares so much about us as individuals, but God is also a ‘Big Picture’ kind of God. If we are only focusing on the things we can see, or the things God is doing at the moment, or in our individual lives and that is it…We are missing so much. There is a much bigger picture at work in creation. Ultimately the redemption of His creation through the person of Christ.

I need to focus more on the big picture of what God is doing, not only in my life, but the lives of His people, His Church, and His mission throughout His creation. I believe this is something all of us need to be striving to do…

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits…

What I am meditating on as Easter approaches…

Job 14:14

“Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death.”

Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

He redeems our mess…

As my pastor was closing our service today, he said a line that could have been to many, just a throw away line. To me however, it jumped out at me. He preached this morning on the life of Isaac, and talked about some of his failures as a man, and as a father. I can certainly identify with that. But as my pastor was closing, in relation to those failures, he said, “but God redeemed those messes”. As I was sitting there, reflecting on the sermon, reflecting on my life, I couldn’t help but think of all the times that I, like Isaac, have taken my eyes off of God. I couldn’t help but think of the times that I have leaned on my own understanding, leaned on my own abilities, stopped trusting God, even seeking God, and ultimately made a mess of things. But you know what? God has, and does redeem those messes.

Thank You Lord that you do redeem the messes in my life, and this morning you spoke to me through a “thick southern accent”. 🙂

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” -Job 19:25-27

Interesting observations on Adams skills as a father…

I had some interesting thoughts during our church service this past week, thought I would share them with you. Sorry Pastor Will, they don’t have a whole lot to do with the message, but I was paying attention.
If you know much about the book of Genesis, you know that there were two lines of descendants that came from Adam. You had the line of Cain, which as time passed, became progressively more evil. In the fifth generation from Cain you see a guy who is a murderer and corrupts God’s plan for marriage by taking two wives. Then you had the Godly line of Seth, which we are told when his son is born, people are calling on the name of the Lord, and in the fifth generation from Seth you see a man so righteous that he is walking and talking with God, and is then taken straight up to heaven. He was so righteous God didn’t want him to die. Eventually from the line of Seth you also have Noah, whom the Bible tells us was a righteous man, who was blameless, and that he “walked with God”.
So the question came to my mind as I was sitting in church, “Why was the line of Seth Godly, yet the line of Cain was so evil?” Obviously we know the story of Cain, and we know he was a pretty bad dude. Surely this had an impact on his children and grandchildren…but did Adam’s parenting have anything to do with it? Also, did Adam’s parenting have any impact on Seth, and his children and grandchildren?
I made one interesting observation that I think can shed some light on the situation, and hopefully it will make us think. This is just my opinion, from my reading of Scripture, but look at what it says in Genesis 4 verse 1, when Cain was conceived. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” Pretty straight forward, it doesn’t tell us much about Adam or his involvement with either Cain, or his brother Abel for that matter. But now flip over to Genesis 5 verse 3, when describing the conception and I believe rearing or Seth. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”
Perhaps I’m reading something into the text that isn’t there, but I find it interesting that it talks about Seth, being in the image and likeness of Adam his father, who by the way was created in the likeness and image of God. Yet with Cain, we have no such language. Is it possible that this is why we see such a difference in the two family lines? Is it possible that for whatever reason Adam was more of a “father” to Seth, and took a more active role in molding him as a man? Is it possible that those traits were passed down and learned by the proceeding generations? Is it possible that we also see Adams’s failures as a father, and as a man reflected in the life of Cain, and his subsequent generations? This is all conjecture, but perhaps at some point, perhaps after Adam’s youngest son Abel was murdered by his older brother, and then his son Cain was sent away from the presence of the Lord, he realized he was doing something wrong. Perhaps he blamed himself. What father who has had a son go the wrong way in life hasn’t wondered if he could have done something different? What father hasn’t blamed himself, at least partially for their son’s failings? Perhaps these things were going through Adam’s mind as well, and when his next son, Seth, was born he made an active decision to do things differently.
Like I say, perhaps I am reading something into the text that isn’t there, but it does make you think doesn’t it? If nothing else, hopefully this post will make the guys out there realize what an awesome responsibility it is to be a father. How important it is for us to reflect the image and likeness of God, so that our sons and daughters can do the same. I believe Adam finally came to this realization. As history tells us, Adam very rarely did things right the first time around. I think many of us are in the same shoes. But I think God redeemed Adam, both personally and through his children. Luckily God can do the same for us.
Blessings…