Cardioversion

“suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him:
and he fell to the ground …” Acts 9:3b,4a

“Normal sinus rhythm.”

These words have a nice ring to them, especially if you are a physician or nurse. They mean the heart is beating at a normal rate and rhythm, and they could mean that your patient who a few minutes ago was close to death is now going to live.

Every third year medical student knows what a “code” is, what it means when the paddles of a defibrillator are placed on the chest of a moribund patient, and what the words “all clear!” mean just before the electrical jolt is administered. (Probably every regular viewer of medical shows on TV is familiar with the situation as well.) The patient is usually in an abnormal heart rhythm which is not compatible with life. The paddles deliver a calculated dosage of electrical current, the patient jumps with the applied voltage, and the heart is shocked, hopefully, into normal sinus rhythm. Cardioversion (cardiac conversion) has occurred. The heart has been converted to normal rhythm and the patient will live.

You and I need spiritual cardioversion. Our hearts are not beating normally; we are naturally out of sync with God, and we have an abnormal rhythm to our inner beings and lives. We need for our hearts to be converted, to beat in unison with the heart of God, and then we will be happy; then we will really live. This is what we were made for.

The apostle Paul experienced cardioversion in Acts 9. He had no idea he needed it; in fact, he thought he was fine with God, and was even doing God a favor by persecuting Christians. Paul was proud and arrogant; he was religious, dutiful, and performance- oriented. He was brilliant and well educated. He thought he was serving God. He was even sincere and well intentioned. He thought he was OK. But, he did not realize that he had a major problem: his heart was not beating in unison with that of God, and was not in normal sinus rhythm. He had an abnormal rhythm (dysrhythmia) that would kill him and he did not even realize it. Many patients with dysrhythmias have no idea of their desperate need because they are comatose. Paul was in a spiritual coma, as all of us are. He was blind to his own need, and did not realize either his need or his blindness.

God converted Paul in dramatic fashion. God defibrillated Paul, and he fell to the ground with the shock. Jesus, who appeared to him here, told him that it was hard to “kick against the goads.” Goads were sharp instruments or sticks used to keep livestock in check. When they refused to obey their keeper’s bidding, the goad was applied to get their attention; it hurt, but the more obstinate animals kept kicking against the sharp objects anyway in an effort to get their way. Jesus is asking Paul here, “aren’t you tired of beating your head against the wall? Doesn’t it hurt? Isn’t it futile?” The point here is that despite all of Paul’s learning, zeal, religiosity, and sincerity, his heart was .not beating with God’s heart, the benchmark of all normal hearts in the universe. And, because of this, Paul was miserable and self-destructing, eventually to the point of spiritual death.

When God converted Paul, he had a sudden, remarkable change. He was truly alive for the first time in his life. He asked what Jesus wanted him to do, and he obeyed. His life changed and he became a man of love, freedom, humility, gentleness, and joy. He no longer trusted in his own efforts to try to win God’s favor, but trusted in the free gift of God given through Jesus Christ to give him life. His motivation changed: he no longer tried to impress God, but now his desire for God and his delight in God resulted in his wanting to carry out what delighted God. His changed heart resulted in freely offered obedience because he wanted to obey. His heart now was beating in normal sinus rhythm. He was alive.

How about you? Do you need divine defibrillation? Do you realize that without Jesus, you are in a spiritual coma and barely alive? Without Jesus to convert our hearts, we will die. This is urgent, and it is an emergency.

God will convert your fatal heart rhythm into a normal one as defined by him. He will change you and give you life. Your conversion may not be as dramatic as Paul’s; most are not But, God will change us if we ask him to, and when this occurs, we will find our hearts beating normally for the first time in our lives. God always receives us as we run to him for healing in Jesus, and he will never turn us away. If God converts you, you will find you are alive, and that the joy, love, security, peace of mind and freedom you experience in Jesus Christ will amaze you. Your desires, delights, and motivations will change, and the result will be a new you.

Normal sinus rhythm. It has a nice sound.
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See “The Ultimate Solution” for an explanation of how to ask God to change you.

Dead on Arrival

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…(Ephesians 2:1)

A comatose patient with a heart rate of 20 and a respiratory rate of 4 is rolled into the ICU; the patient is blue. The intensivist in the unit is called to examine and treat the patient; this physician is a specialist in critical care, the one who cares for patients in life and death crises every day. He arrives at the bedside, looks at the patient and says, “this is not serious. It’s just a cold. Send this patient home.”

Or, he says,”quick, get me a special Snoopy band-aid. That will treat this patient’s problem.”

Or, he says to the patient, “let me direct you to a really good website on how to treat yourself in the ICU.”

Or, he might say, “I recommend that you go out and buy the book, Self-Actualization: Getting Control of Your Life.”

Or, he might send the patient for counseling because the patient has low self-esteem or a poor self-image; a course on death management might do the trick.

Of course, every one of these responses by an intensivist is utterly ludicrous, and no one would ever say or do any of these things. How much more ridiculous would they be if the patient were actually dead! Yet, this is what many of us do for our spiritual deadness. We are not just sick, or even in need of critical care, but according to the apostle Paul, we are spiritually dead . We need far more than intensive care, or any of the lesser treatments mentioned above.

The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that before a person knows Christ, he is dead in his sins. Now, Paul is not exaggerating, and he is not engaging in hyperbole. He is not being dramatic, nor is he using poetic license. He is telling the truth about every person who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior. The word he uses is nekros, the same root word from which we derive necrosis, a medical term for dying or dead human tissue that is blackened, foul-smelling, and often with little or no sensation. Paul is not describing us in very attractive terms. He does not say we were merely sick, disabled, acutely ill, or in need of a little help. He does not say that we were neurotic, dysfunctional, insane, maladjusted, or just having a bad day. We were all of these things, but they are nothing compared to his diagnosis: he says we were dead. Because of our trespasses, our active crossing of a boundary which we should not have stepped over, we were dead. And, because of our sins, missing the mark or failing to measure up to God’s standard, we were dead. So, our failures in active commission, doing what we should not have done, and passive omission, failing to do what we should have done, resulted in our death, and we were stuck there. Paul says here that anyone without Jesus Christ is dead. Therefore, counseling, self-help gurus or books, will power, sin management, education, or choosing not to be dead will never handle our problem. Even intensive spiritual care will not bring us to life.

Death is repulsive to us, and we recoil from it: we hate death and we fear it. Death is painful, it is hideous, and it is not natural; we innately realize that we are not the way God intended us to be, and that we were made to live forever. A dead person is hopeless, lifeless, and helpless. A dead person is unresponsive to any stimulus or therapy. A dead person is unable to do, say, or think anything. A dead person is cold, stiff, and rigid. A dead person cannot will himself alive, and cannot choose anything. He cannot help himself. A dead person is totally unable to do anything to make himself alive.

Without Jesus Christ, we are in a desperate condition: we are spiritually dead. Theologians call this deadness “total depravity” or “total inability.” We are tainted and corrupted by sin at every level of our beings; we are not as sinful as we could be, but we are radically depraved, depraved in every aspect of our lives. This depravity renders us totally unable to do anything to help our spiritual deadness. We cannot choose God; unless God makes us desire him, we do not even want him. We cannot make ourselves ready for God to choose us, or force him to choose us because we in some way deserve it, as if prayers, good works, and spiritual exercises somehow could make us worthy: he is absolutely sovereign, he does as he wills without consulting men, and we can never deserve his goodness and grace. We cannot make ourselves alive spiritually by will power, for our wills are dead also. We cannot help ourselves in even the smallest spiritual matter, for dead men are helpless. We need more than a little help from God. We need more than ethics or good moral values. We need more than good education or training. And, we need more than counseling or self-help books; our problem is far deeper than just being neurotic or dysfunctional. We need God to make us alive. God regenerates us, or makes us alive, so we are able to desire him, choose him, and respond to his love and promises.

In Ephesians 2:4 and 5, Paul tells us: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” Paul blasts through this desperate hopelessness of death by saying, “but God.” When we were dead in our sins, God loved us and made us alive with Jesus Christ. God is rich in mercy, and he is generous with his wealth. He is great in love, and demonstrated his love for us by giving Jesus up to bear our sins and the penalty for our sins on the cross. He has saved us through his grace, giving us what we do not deserve and cannot deserve, giving us his favor as a free gift. Because he makes us alive, we can and do respond to him in gratitude and love. We are able to love God, choose him, trust his character and promises, and obey him. We are no longer dead.

As we receive God’s gift of life, we are united with Jesus Christ (alive together with him). By his resurrection, he was made alive, and the same resurrection power makes us alive. If we are united to Jesus, nothing can ever separate us from him. We are alive forevermore, just as he is.

We access God and his promises by faith. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 further rip away any delusions we may have about our ability to save ourselves, and they offer the only possible hope for our doomed condition: 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, that no one should boast. Our salvation, all of it, from start to finish, is of God. His grace, his undeserved gift to us, saves us. Our salvation from sin, death, and hell required and was purchased at the price of the death of his Son, Jesus, so it was infinitely costly for God, but it is free to us. We receive this gift by simply accepting it. We say to God, “please save me for the sake of Jesus” and he does. Even our faith does not make us worthy of God and his gift, for he even gives us the faith that we need. We do not work for or earn our salvation in any way. It is all of God.

Paul’s clear and unvarnished presentation of our awful and desperate condition of death without Jesus, and our utter and total inability to help ourselves should impact us in at least several ways.
1. We should be grateful for Paul’s reality treatment. He shows us what we really are without Jesus. Our condition is dire, and it shocks us and terrifies us. We are profoundly needy, deeply helpless, and totally unable to save ourselves or even to contribute to our salvation.
2. Our total inability and radical depravity require a radical solution outside of ourselves. God provided this solution in the person and death of Jesus Christ. His blood is able to cleanse us from all our guilt, both moral and emotional. God chooses us because we cannot choose him, he makes us alive because we are dead, he enables us to respond to him and to love and trust him, and he joins us to Jesus Christ in an inseparable way forever. And, we are left to wonder at the richness of his love, mercy, and grace.
3. As undeserving people who have been shown such love, mercy, and grace, we should have no trouble extending love, mercy, and grace to other humans, who in our minds, may not deserve it.
4. As we comprehend God’s love for us even while we were dead in sin, it is absolutely humbling, and should strike a death blow to pride.
5. We can understand how Paul felt he was a debtor to all men. His view of himself, and his view of us as dead without God’s intervention, should awaken within us a debtor mentality to others, and should cause our demanding ways to disappear.
6. We see that we can trust in nothing else for salvation and eternal life except Jesus and the grace of God. We must trust in him completely to save us, not at all in our own efforts, not even in the strength of our faith. We must cast ourselves on him and his mercy, and “venture on him, venture wholly”, as Joseph Hart says in his hymn. This total trust in Jesus to save us is freeing, and knowing he loves us even though we are unworthy is deeply assuring. Total trust in Jesus to give us total salvation from our total depravity and in the face of our total inability gives us confidence, humility, courage, peace and joy. We trust and rest in Jesus alone.

So, our moving from spiritual death to life requires far more than we can ever do, for we are dead. We need more than just a little help from God until we can handle things ourselves, and we need more than intensive spiritual care. We need a miracle of God to make us alive. He freely gives that miracle.

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For a fuller explanation of how we can receive God’s gift of life, go to “The Ultimate Solution”.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Dear Patients and Parents,

Do you ever wonder if God loves you? Or if he really cares about you? Or, is God even good? Our sinful human hearts are spring-loaded to ask these questions, and we do not naturally trust God. We often harbor suspicious thoughts about him.

Over the past 2 years, I have been through a profound spiritual crisis; I am now on the other side of it, and I am grateful for that. During that time, God taught me much, especially about himself. God taught me in a way much deeper than I have ever understood before that he is infinitely good, he is infallibly faithful, and he loves us with a love that is immeasurable. This booklet contains some of the lessons I have learned, and I share them with you because I hope they will help and encourage you. “Faith” and “Hoping in God” emerged from the deep suffering that I experienced, and it was helpful to me to put into writing what I was learning of the good and infinitely beautiful character of God.

I wrote “Love” years ago, and it has undergone numerous revisions. It begins with a true account of a man who demonstrated love to his family (who have graciously granted me permission to retell his story). His story has been a good springboard for me to think of the great love of God. This final version contains much of what God has taught me over the past two years about his love for me (and us) .

My primary purpose in the articles that follow is to help us all see the glory of God in a greater way than we have before, to better see the indescribable and incomprehensible greatness and goodness of God. It is impossible for even the best human communicator to really express the infinite and glorious beauty of God; I have done my best to show even a glimpse of his glory. It is also my desire to encourage many of you as you go through the inevitable times of difficulty and pain in your lives.

If you desire to know this great God in a deep personal way, the last section, “The Ultimate Solution”, will guide you through that process. If you do not know God through Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, I urge you to go to him now. God is full of mercy, and he never turns those away who seek him and go to him for deliverance.

I am deeply grateful for the high privilege you have given me: caring for you as your physician (or, in the case of parents, for your treasured children) these many years. I do not take this privilege lightly. Thank you.

Jerry Miller Jr.MD
July, 2008

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(I Corinthians 13:13)

(This article was originally written to be handed out in my office in booklet form.)

Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

A baby was born to a young couple. In many ways, he was like any other baby, and the parents like any other new parents. He had been eagerly anticipated, he was already well-loved, and he had a name. His parents were excited about the new addition to their family, and now that he was here, they could hardly contain their joy. They had plans and dreams for their son. However, he was born prematurely, and had serious congenital anomalies that were life-threatening. His parents loved their newborn son. He was very sick, but he was beautiful to his mother and father. He was beautiful to his doctors and nurses. His parents prayed for him, and they asked everyone they knew to pray for him. He died when he was almost 48 hours old. The parents were cruelly and incorrectly told that he had died because they did not have enough faith. They concluded from this twisted, perverse misinformation that it was their fault that their son was dead.

Fairy tales and popular stories teach us that if we believe something hard enough, it will come true. Really?

We hear often, in our postmodern culture, that he or she is a “person of faith.” What do we mean when we say that?

It used to be common in the 1960’s and 70’s for very cool and very hip baby boomers to say, “keep the faith!” What did they mean, and did it have anything to do with Biblical faith?

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So, what is faith? Why is it important, or does it really matter? How much faith do we really need? Do we get all we want if we have enough faith? Does it matter if we have faith in anything or anyone in particular, or is the faith itself, however nebulous, enough? Do we control our destinies by having enough faith, and do we make God our personal servant, obligated to give us our desires, no matter what?

God is very clear in his Word, the Bible, about faith and why it is important.

Little Faith

In Matthew 14, Jesus feeds 5000 men (and additional wives and children) from five loaves of bread and two fish. This was a supernatural work of Jesus, the Son of God. There is no intellectually honest and satisfying explanation for this feat other than that it actually happened. . Matthew’s account is clear and measured; in fact, it is almost “ho-hum” in stating the facts as they occurred. It happened.

Next, Jesus sends his friends, the disciples, ahead of him while he prays. He meets them next in the middle of the sea, they in their boat, and he walking on water.

(Matthew 14:25) And in the fourth watch of the night He(Jesus) came to them, walking on the sea.
(26) And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
(27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
(28) And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
(29) And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
(30) But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
(31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
(32) And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
(33) And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

The disciples are scared out of their minds as they see this “ghost” walking toward them in the middle of rough seas. Jesus tells them to have courage, and not to be afraid. Why? Because the real presence of Jesus should dispel any fear. Peter, as impetuous as we expect him to be, says that if this person is really Jesus, to command that he also walk on the water. Jesus invites him, no, commands him, and Peter obeys. He walks on the water toward Jesus, and does fine until he notices again how rough the seas and wind are. He stops looking to Jesus, takes his eyes off of him, and instead looks at the danger surrounding him. He realizes how precarious his situation is. He becomes afraid, and begins to sink, and with a last desperate cry says to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”

Does Peter’s fear cancel out his faith, making it impossible for Jesus to help him? He trusts in Jesus enough to get out of the boat and walk, however far, on the stormy sea. (Peter does better than I would have done in his water walk.) His words and action prove that he has faith in Jesus because he obeys him. But, he becomes fearful, and as he goes down, he cries out for help. He now has only a faint glimmer of faith; it is only enough to cry out to the only one who can help and save him.

Notice Jesus’ response. If he were like us, he might have said, “too bad, Peter. Your faith wasn’t strong enough. You didn’t trust me, you became afraid, you doubted, and you looked at your surroundings instead of keeping your eyes (and hope) on me. I’m going to have to let you drown. Sorry about that.” Or, Jesus could have said to Peter, “have a little more faith, and I’ll save you. I know you’re bobbing up and down, and taking in some water, but if you only believe a little more, I’ll save you.” Or, he could have berated, belittled and scolded Peter for blowing it with his lack of trust, letting him suffer a little more while he reprimanded him, and then continuing to do so after he saved him. Our tendency is to think very dark thoughts about God; we are naturally suspicious of him, and we think he is like us. He is not. He is infinitely good.

Notice Jesus’ response. He saves Peter by taking hold of him with his hand, “immediately”. He then gently asks him a redemptive question, “why did you doubt?” and makes an assessment, that Peter has “little faith”. Peter’s little faith did not keep Jesus from rescuing (saving) him. And, Peter’s little faith was in the right object: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So what emerges here is that God’s threshold for recognizing our faith is very low; a cry for help to him is counted as faith. Repeatedly in the Bible, God tells to call upon him, to call to him for help. He invites us to ask him for help. He recognizes as faith our merely asking him for help, mercy, rescue, salvation, or deliverance. “Jesus, have mercy on me!” represents faith. Your faith or my faith may register barely +1 on the Faith-o-meter, but it is enough for God to recognize it. What is important is not the amount, intensity, strength, or sincerity of our faith. What matters is the object of our faith, in what or in whom we trust. Faith in faith, or in some nebulous, amorphous force will not get us anywhere, except maybe to make us feel better psychologically ( in Peter’s case, nebulous faith would have taken him straight to the bottom of the lake, but he would have felt good about himself). The object of our faith must be Jesus. That is the key. We trust in Jesus Christ, his infinite goodness, his promises, and his ability and willingness to keep every one of his promises.

God, are you good, and do you care about me?

Little faith is not our goal, but it is better than no faith. God sees and recognizes our little faith, and he will rescue us, but little faith is damaging to us. Little faith robs us of peace, makes us anxious, and causes us to be timid cowards. Jesus says that little faith is evident when we are anxious instead of trusting God for all that we need (Matthew 6:25-30); we could have inner unworried peace and joy if we really trusted God to do as he says, and left our needs and problems with him. Instead of fear and cowardice, we could have courage in the midst of the storms of life. Jesus says his disciples are timid and of little faith when they fearfully come to him in the raging storm of Matthew 8:25-26 and ask him to save them. Jesus is relaxed and totally free of anxiety. He is so relaxed and unworried that he is sleeping! Jesus has complete trust and faith in God to protect him and his friends and must be awakened by his terrified disciples. In Mark’s account of the same scene (Mark 4:38), the disciples awaken Jesus with the words, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” It seems that the root of faithlessness is a distrust of God, really thinking deep down that he does not care about us or what is happening to us. We do not really believe he is good.

Jesus also tells us that our littleness of faith in him robs us of power that we could have. A mustard seed is very tiny, but Jesus tells us that if our faith were even as much as a mustard seed, which by comparison dwarfs little faith, nothing would be impossible for us. ( In Matthew 17, his disciples ask him why they were not successful in casting out a demon; his answer, in verse 20 is, “… Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you”). Now, Jesus is not recommending that we spend our time moving mountains around. His point is that with more than little faith, even a little more, we could do anything God asks us to, anything consistent with his will and character. Little faith saps us of spiritual strength.

Why is faith important?

Why is it important for us to have faith in God? Or, why does the Bible tell us that without faith, it is impossible to please God? Let’s answer these questions with another question. What is the most important aspect of any healthy relationship, whether it be with a friend, a child, a spouse, or a parent? I think the most important thing in any interpersonal relationship is mutual trust. In my marriage, I trust my wife to be faithful, loyal, and good to me. I trust her to keep her promises to me. I trust her good intentions toward me. I trust her not to betray me. She trusts me in the same way. If we did not trust each other, we would have no marriage, or, at best, a severely dysfunctional and unsatisfying one.

We are in the ultimate relationship with God through Jesus. If we doubt him, if we can’t trust him or have faith in him, then we have a very damaged relationship. If we do not trust him, we are saying to God and to others that we really suspect his goodness, that we do not think well of his character, that we do not really think he is good, loving, kind, gracious, or trustworthy. Or, we are saying that God might be a nice God, but he really has no power to help us. This lack of trust itself damages our relationship with God, it dishonors him, and it cripples us. It also makes us miserable, for we could trust him, and have peace, freedom from worry, courage, and power to live.

Our faith in God, or lack of it, says loudly and clearly what we think of God, his character, and his power. It says whether we really think God is good.

What is faith?

What is faith in God? It is not some abstract concept which means whatever I want it to mean. It is believing God and his promises based on his character of goodness and love. It is trusting him, resting in him, wholly relying on him. Biblical faith means that we trust in nothing else and no one else to save us and deliver us in an ultimate sense. It is staking my very life and destiny on God; if God does not come through for me, then I am ruined. If he does not deliver me, save me, and rescue me, then I am lost forever in time and eternity, I am wasting my life and I am destroyed forever. If God does not help me, then I may as well blow my brains out, for there is no one and nothing else to help me.

The Greek word “pistis” is the word used for faith in the Bible. It means a full persuasion, conviction, and confidence (W.E. Vine, M.A., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 401). Faith in God means that we are fully persuaded and convinced at the deepest level that what he tells us in his Word about himself, about us, and about life is true; we have total confidence in him and an absolute conviction. This total trust in Jesus inevitably results in loving him, following him, and obeying him. It radically alters and reorients our lives according to God’s priorities. This confidence allows us to see what is real in life as opposed to what is not real; by that I mean that by trusting in God, we can see unseen realities, things which are much more real and solid than what we see with our physical eyes. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7 that “we walk by faith, not by sight (appearances).” He says in II Corinthians 4:18 that
“we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal (time bound, temporary),but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Faith in God allows us to accept his version of life: what it means, what is true, what is real, what works, what will make us happy, what our final destiny is, what we should be doing with our lives and how to order them, and how to joyfully accept pain and suffering. Things often are not as they appear, and our perception of things often is at odds with what God tells us is true.

Job trusted in God, and he was able to say with full confidence and persuasion:
(Job 13:15a) “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

(Job 23:8-10) “Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Having faith in a loving, caring, all-powerful and all-knowing sovereign God allows us to suffer with patience and joy, knowing that he is in full control, and realizing that now, and in the end, we are safe. With God, nothing can harm us, not in an ultimate sense. Our faith in God does not eliminate suffering and pain from our lives, but we do know that our good God is with us. We are free to ask God for miracles of deliverance, and, we are invited to do so. But, God makes the decision about deliverance for us, as to when, how, or if it is to come. And, God does not punish us by not delivering us as a way of saying that our prayers are of too little faith. We trust our good and all-powerful God to do what is best for us.

Faith must have an object. To say “I have faith that it will all work out” is meaningless; to be a person of faith means nothing unless we are told in whom the faith rests. “Keep the faith” many years ago was a way to convey, “keep rebelling against the establishment”, and later became a cool way to say good-bye; it meant nothing of consequence. Biblical faith must rest in God alone.

Our faith in Jesus is the way we access his grace and goodness. Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us: “ 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, that no one should boast.” Our salvation is all of God and his grace toward us. Faith is the instrument or means by which we take hold of this grace and salvation. As Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to say, faith is the lifting of empty hands to God in order to receive his gift or blessing. Our faith does not earn us salvation; it accesses it. Salvation is all of God, and even the faith that we have is a work of God in our hearts. Faith in God is itself a gift from God. We would never come to him at all if he did not move us to do so. So, we do not trust in our faith, but only in God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

Faith, as portrayed in the Bible, must be in Jesus Christ. He can be trusted. He has made promises to us, he demonstrated his love for us and good intentions for us by giving his life for us, and he has the power to deliver because he is God’s Son who showed his power over death by rising from the dead. We do not trust in some abstract idea, and we do not have faith in our faith, but in Jesus alone. His life, love, promises, and deeds are enough to base our entire lives upon.

Your faith and my faith in Jesus

John tells us in John 7:37:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

The meaning here is one of continual coming to Jesus, everyday and at all times. This verse really says, “if anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me, and let him keep drinking.” Jesus invites us to come to him.

Jesus invites us again in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Jesus invites us to come to him, to trust him, to have faith in him. Our very coming to Jesus and asking for help, mercy, and rescue is evidence of faith, possibly only little faith. Yet, faith in Jesus is enough because he is far more than enough. Never look at how much, how strong, how intense your faith is; you will despair every time. Never look at your degree of sincerity in coming to him; we can always be more sincere. Never look at how sorry you are for your sins and failures; we can never be sorry enough. Never look at whether your coming to Jesus is done in exactly the right way; we can never come to him perfectly. Never look at the storms raging about you and threatening to drown and destroy you; we will sink every time. Never look to yourself to examine whether you have received the salvation of Jesus correctly; we would break his gift of salvation as we received it if any part of it depended upon us.

Our part is to keep coming to Jesus in faith, trusting him alone for everything in this life and into eternity. We can safely trust him, for he cares about us. He will receive and save those who come to him; he will give peace, strength, and power to those who walk with him through life; he will heal us and make us well. He will satisfy our thirst and our hunger for what is real: he will satisfy us with himself. He will give us peace and rest for our souls, and as he does so, he will treat us with love, gentleness, and humility. He does not despise, mock, berate, or belittle us for our weak faith; his threshold for recognizing faith is astonishingly low. He remembers that we are only dust, and has compassion on us.

We can rest in the sovereign goodness of God; he is good at all times, and his decisions for our lives are always right. Trusting in our good God is always rewarded with God himself.
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Copyright, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2008. All rights reserved.

 

Hoping in God

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

Hope. We need it to live. Hope gives us courage and purpose to go on. With hope, we look forward with anticipation to some future event, and we are motivated and encouraged to keep going. Think about how you feel when you have something good to look forward to. How do you feel just before Thanksgiving or Christmas? How did you feel before you got married? How about the coming birth of a baby, or an eagerly anticipated event in your life like a job promotion or graduation from school? All of these things give us hope because we expect something good in the future. And because of that expectation, we are motivated to go on to fully experience the good thing we hope for. Hope fills us with endurance, perseverance, courage, and strength to keep going.

Hopelessness, on the other hand, has just the opposite effects. It saps us of courage and motivation; without hope, there is no point in going on. Do you ever feel hopeless? Have you ever thought about what life would be like to have no hope? Hopelessness leads to discouragement, which can lead to depression, which can lead to despair; at this point, life does not seem worth living.

God knows how we work, and exactly what we need. He should: he made us and knows us intimately. God is gracious to us. He is much better than we think he is, he is much better to us than he needs to be, and he loves us far more than we can imagine. And, God knows that humans need hope to keep living. He makes great promises to us in the Bible, and he backs these promises up with his character. He is both able and willing to deliver on the promises, and he obligates himself to us, even though we deserve nothing good from God. Even better, he goes to great lengths to tell us about his promises and to convince us that he means everything he says. What greater encouragement could we humans have, than to know that the God who created all things is good, loves us, intends good for us, and makes great unbreakable promises to us? God’s promises to us give us a double benefit: they motivate us now as we look forward to their future fulfillment, and the fulfillment of the promises gives us joy once the promises become solid, present reality. God is good to us.

Now, God is not like you and me. If he were, he would not bother to save us from our sins and from judgment as he has done in Jesus Christ. If he were like us, he would not reveal his good intentions toward us by making us promises, and in fact would likely make it hard to know his intentions; if he were human, he might want to keep us guessing and off-balance so he could control or manipulate us. He would not keep his word, and would not really care to convince us of his goodness. But, God is not like us. He goes to great lengths to reveal himself to us, to reveal his plans to us, to reassure us of his good purposes for us, and to keep without fail every promise to us.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.(Hebrews 6:17-20)

God does not want us to miss his promises to us. God accommodates himself to us and our needs; he adapts himself to us. His goal is to convince us of his love for us and to give us certainty about him. He goes to a lot of trouble to make it clear that his intentions toward us are only good and loving, and he gives us his promises in such a way that they must be fulfilled. God cannot lie; he is Ultimate Truth, and he is truthful. Yet, he not only promises us things, but goes on to back these promises up with an oath. He voluntarily doubly obligates himself to us so that we might have strong encouragement as we cling to the hope he gives us. We are pictured in these verses as being desperate, as we flee to Jesus Christ alone as our only hope. This hope anchors our souls to heaven, as if we had a tether attached to our hearts on one end, with the other end attached to God himself.

There are two important questions to be asked. First, is God able to deliver on his promises? This is likely the easiest question to answer. If there is a God, and I am certain that there is, he is by definition infinite and eternal. The God of the Bible is the only God, and he is able to do whatever he pleases now and into eternity. He is unlimited in power, wisdom, and knowledge. Nothing and nobody can keep him from accomplishing his purposes; neither all the powers of hell, nor the strength of evil people, nor our own personal weakness and sin can possibly pose a barrier to God’s ability to carry out his promises and purposes. Nothing can thwart God.

The second question is just as important: can God be trusted? This is really a question of what we think God is like. What is his character? What is God, really, at the core of his being? What is his essence? The following exchange in Exodus between Moses and God is enlightening.

(Exodus 33:18-23 ) Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. “Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD.
( 34:6,7) Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Moses asks to see God’s glory. We might expect for God to then reveal himself in infinite, unapproachable light and holiness. Or, we might expect God to show himself as all-powerful, doing something like exploding a nearby mountain or immediately causing a tornado. Or, we might expect God to demonstrate to Moses how he created the universe and sustains it moment by moment. But, we are surprised at God’s answer. God says, “I will show you my goodness” (33:18). God equates his glory with his goodness. God’s glory, God’s essence, God’s core personality, is his infinite goodness.* More than any of his other attributes, God wants us to understand that he is good. He shows Moses his glorious goodness in chapter 34 where he proclaims his goodness in more expansive terms: he is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth. God’s glory is his goodness. We can trust God’s character because he is infinitely and eternally good.

Psalm 103:8-14 expands on this theme of God’s goodness.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us; Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

God is full of compassion, lovingkindness and grace; he is slow to anger; he forgives and removes our sins. He understands us in all of our weakness, just as we understand and have compassion on our own children. God is thoughtful and faithful. He is understanding. Our natural inclination is to misunderstand God, to think he is like us, and to distrust him. But, God is not like us, and we can trust him. He is not petty, not touchy, and not easily provoked. He is not harsh and he is not impossible to please. He is not irritable and he is not unapproachable. He is infinitely good. We can trust God’s character, for he is good.

God’s goodness is not some abstract concept. He demonstrated his goodness to us by sending Jesus to be our Savior. And, Jesus provides all that we need for salvation from sin, from ourselves, and from hell.

(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 8:32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Jesus is God’s Son, and he is God’s concrete demonstration of his goodness towards us. How can we doubt God’s love, goodness, and character? If God promises something, he is able to fulfill the promise, and he will fulfill the promise.

We should read the Bible through the “lens of promise”.** God has made us a multitude of promises in His Word, the Bible, and gives them to us through Jesus Our Lord. They are given to us, and God will deliver on them. They are for our encouragement and strengthening. They will help us press on. They give us hope. And God has gone out of his way to make them, to assure us of their certain fulfillment, and to make us aware of them. His promises are on almost every page of the Bible. All we need to do is read them, and thank God for them, believing they are for us through Jesus.

Here are a few verses that describe God’s promises to us, or are actual promises God makes to us.

(2 Corinthians 1:18-20) But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no.
For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us– by me and Silvanus and Timothy– was not yes and no, but is yes in Him.
For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

(2 Peter 1:2-4) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

(Hebrews 13:5,6 ) Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”
so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT SHALL MAN DO TO ME?”

(Deuteronomy 31:6,8) “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
“And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”

(Psalm 50:15) And call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

(Psalm 55:22) Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

(Psalm 91:15,16) “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him, And let him behold My salvation.”

(Isaiah 40:28-31) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait (hope) for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

(Isaiah 43:1-5) But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place.
“Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west.

(Isaiah 48:17) Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.

We need hope to live, not just hope in relatively trivial events that we look forward to somewhere out in the future, or some general hope that tells us to stay positive and to keep hoping (in what?), but hope in God himself and the real and solid things that God has promised to us through Jesus. Hoping in God is not wishful thinking, it is not mere positive thinking, and it is not hoping in hope. It is confidently expecting God to be with us and to act on our behalf because, through Jesus, he has promised us these things. God gives us his promises, he binds himself by an oath to fulfill them, he makes certain that we are aware of the promises, and he undergirds it all with his character which is, in its very essence, good. God’s glory is his goodness. Hoping in a good and loving God is the only cure for despair, and the only thing that can give our lives meaning and joy. Hoping in God enables us to press on until we arrive safely in heaven.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

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* I had never seen this concept from this passage until I heard our pastor, Dr. George W. Robertson, refer to it in a sermon.
** Dr. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.
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To discover the only way to experience the hope discussed in this article, please see “The Ultimate Solution.”
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Copyright, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2008. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this article as long as the wording is unchanged and there is no charge for the distribution.

Love

“Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:13

Sonny didn’t look much like a hero. He looked pretty much like a typical, middle-aged guy who had a great smile. But, we all know what a real hero is supposed to look like: just turn on your TV or go to a movie and you’ll have no doubt what a real hero is.

Sonny loved his wife and children. He worked hard for them to provide for them. He nurtured them and protected them. He was in love with them.

And, after I talked on the phone with his widow, I could not speak.

Sonny had been at home when the gunman came in. The gunman brandished his sawed-off shotgun and threatened to kill Sonny’s family, but Sonny wouldn’t allow it. He put himself between his family and the man with the gun. He stalled for time, and finally said, “if you’re going to kill someone, go ahead and kill me.” His family had time to escape out of the back of the house as the killer raised his gun to Sonny’s chest and squeezed the trigger. Sonny crumpled in a pool of blood. He was dead.

Sonny loved his wife and children.
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What is love? We have a lot of misconceived, distorted, and perverted notions of love. Most of them are way off target. Our culture tells us that real love occurs in bed, and that it is all about sex. (Sex in marriage is a beautiful thing; human sexuality is a good gift from God, but it is not the essence of love.) We think that if we love someone, that person will love us. We use the word “love” often without meaning and without action. We use “love” as a weapon to inflict pain or exercise control; it is conditional. Love, we think, is something someone else does for us. Love becomes a selfish thing: it is all about me.

True love has its roots in the heart of God. If you want to know what love is and what it does, look at God and his display of love in the Bible. God is love, he is the source of love and he is the ultimate example of love After Jesus came, the idea of love was changed forever, and the ancient world had to coin a new term for this unimaginable love, the word “agape”. Agape love is used throughout the New Testament for the love of God and the love of his followers. The Bible demonstrates well the qualities of God’s love, which is true love, the measure of all love.

1. True love gives, and gives sacrificially. God’s love for us cost him the life of his Son, Jesus Christ, and for Jesus to show his love to us, he willingly gave his life for us.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 )

2. True love demonstrates itself. It acts and doesn’t just talk. It is observable, obvious, and measurable. We see real love in action, and we know when we have seen it.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone
would dare even to die.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

3. True love uses words as well. God tells us that he loves us. He speaks kindly and gently to us. He wants to be absolutely sure we don’t have any doubt about his love. He wants us to be certain that he loves us, so he acts and he speaks clearly to us in his Word, the Bible, to explain his actions.

“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness (steadfast love).” (Jeremiah 31:3).

4. True love is not conditional. God loved us while we were sinners, enemies, and rebels; he loved us when we were helpless, needy, unlovable, and ugly. Real love doesn’t love because the one loved deserves it, has merited it, or is either lovely or lovable. We cannot make God love us more, and he will never love us less. The love of God is not used as a weapon of control, manipulation, or pain. God loves us without conditions. There is nothing in us to attract or require God’s love; in fact, the wonder of God’s love is that he loves us even though we, in our sins, are absolutely repulsive. We never merit his love, nor does he love us for the potential we think we have (see Romans 5:6-8 above.).

5. God’s love forgives us for Jesus’ sake.

For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13,14)

Because Jesus died for our sins and took them and their punishment upon himself, God forgives us for our offenses against him. Our offenses are real, and much worse than we imagine; they are sins of actively transgressing God’s law, and sins of passively just simply not doing what we should have. They are external and internal sins. And, the worst of it is that we have offended God in a personal way and rejected his love. We have damaged our relationship with God beyond anything we can do to repair it.. But, God, for Jesus’ sake, forgives us and tells us so. He no longer holds these sins against us and, in Christ, we are free of our guilt and our guilty feelings . But, he goes far beyond that and makes us his children. Knowing that the God of the universe holds nothing against us is of infinite value. If God can forgive us, how can we withhold forgiveness from others who have offended or wounded us?

And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

6. True love initiates and pursues the loved one. God does not wait for us to come up with a plan of self-salvation, or for us to be worthy of his love, or for us to get our acts together; he does not even wait for us to love him. We cannot save ourselves, we will never be worthy of his love, we are unable to reform ourselves, and we will not love God until he first loves us. He pursues us and moves toward us because he knows that we will never move toward him otherwise. And, all we can do is to receive his love as a free gift, which means believing God and his promises made to us. Jesus died to give us the free gift of salvation.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
“We love, because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)

7. True love is life-giving, not life-killing, smothering, stifling, or enslaving. God’s love gives us life, freedom, and joy that we can never experience otherwise. It opens life up for us. His love for us is never constricting.

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)
Jesus, said, “… I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

8. True love is committed. God has committed himself to us, and has promised to never desert us, forsake us, or abandon us, no matter what. We can be secure in his love. He has already committed the life of his only Son, Jesus for our good and salvation. He will never back out on us.

“… for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU, “ (Hebrews 13:5)

9. God’s love is immeasurable and far beyond abundant. The best human mind cannot fully comprehend it, and no one can really express its vastness. He freely and liberally lavishes upon us his love, mercy, grace, and goodness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

God is infinitely rich in every way, and he delights in giving these riches to his children. He gives us what we need to live here on earth, for he knows that we are human and he knows what we need to live physically. But, much more than that, he showers us with the riches of his love, mercy, grace, goodness, and kindness. He delights in giving himself to us in a deep Father-child relationship.

10. God’s love is eternal. God is eternal, and love will always be wherever God is. “Heaven is a world of love,” said Jonathan Edwards. And, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35,36,39)
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Have you ever been loved by any human the way God loves you? Even the best human relationships reveal only a faint glimmer of the way God has loved you. It is hard for many to believe that there is, anywhere in the universe, a love like the love of God. Too many have been abused by those who supposedly love them, or have been abandoned and deserted by fathers, mothers, or spouses. Too many have been manipulated by those who say they love, when all they want is self-gratification or control. Too many have been choked emotionally by those who “love” them. Too many have been loved only under certain conditions, which, if unmet, have resulted in withdrawal of “love.” And, far too many have experienced the kind of love that talks well, but does not result in actions that prove real love. Finally, some have been loved, but have never had anyone tell them that they are loved. Humans have grossly perverted our “love” for each other. What passes for love is a sad statement about our condition, and the fact that we often accept it shows how desperate we are for real love.

Yet, God’s love is more than a theory, an ideal to strive for, or a model. His love is real, factual, and demonstrated. We can experience the love of God through knowing Jesus Christ.

“…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

The Holy Spirit of Christ tells us that the promises of God in the Bible are true and that the love of God for us is certain. We experience his love as he pours it out into our very innermost beings. We know God loves us, and we can’t miss it.

As we experience his love through the Holy Spirit, the love of God changes us. As we are filled with his love, we find we love others in ways we never thought possible. We take on the family traits of God, the family likeness, and we find we love from our hearts. We love both God and other humans, and our love looks to an increasing degree like the love of God described above. The quality of our love changes not by self-effort or self-discipline, but because the love of God has been poured out (or shed abroad) in our hearts, not in a miserly or stingy fashion, but with great liberality and generosity. Once we experience this love, we cannot stay the same. Secure in the love of God, we want to share it, and don’t fear the rejection of others or the sacrifice it may cost us. Our lives gradually take on the qualities of love befitting one loved by God.

So, when we are told to love one another (John 13:34), to lay down our lives as a demonstration of love (John 15:13), and to show others that we belong to Jesus by our love (John 13:35), we are not instructed to work ourselves into a state of love. When Paul tells husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), this does not occur as a result of grim duty or self-improvement. Love becomes a part of who we are as people who have been flooded with the love of God. And, it is a love that has the loved one’s best interests at heart. It is a love that sacrifices, that initiates, that gives, that is freeing, that is unconditional, and that pursues. It is a love that is committed for the long haul, and a love that forgives.

God is love. He is the definition of love, and he continues to show us what real love is in each generation. Our perverted, distorted, selfish, whittled-down versions of love are nothing like the love of God. Jesus came to give us love, life, and joy. Because of him, we can offer real love to others…… even if it means taking a bullet for them.

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If you desire to know the love of God and to be transformed by it, please see “The Ultimate Solution.”
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Copyright, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2008. All rights reserved.

 

The Ultimate Solution

… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23)

… the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

We have a problem. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and no one meets God’s standard of perfection. We have offended God and wronged him by violating his standard. God is holy and righteous. He cannot tolerate sin. You and I, because we have sinned, even if only once (and who has sinned only once?) cannot be good enough to see God and have a relationship with him; every human is a sinner. The guilt we all live with is not just some psychological feeling which we should attempt to rationalize away; we feel guilty because we are guilty of offending the God who created us. Each of us falls short of his mark, glory, and standard. And because of our failure to live perfectly, our just reward is eternal death. We cannot earn our way to heaven.

Imagine trying to jump the Grand Canyon; here, being close would not count, and failing to clear the chasm by one foot would leave us just as dead as if we failed by 100 feet. Because you and I are not perfect, which is God’s standard, we deserve death and separation from God forever.

But, God loves sinners. He offers sinners like you and me the opportunity to know him, love him and live each day with him now in a close relationship with him; he offers the opportunity to live with him forever in heaven eventually. He sent his only Son, Jesus, to open the way for us.

Jesus came to earth as God and man simultaneously. He was perfect. He never sinned, but he died on the cross to rescue sinners. His death on the cross had a purpose: to save people from their sins. His death was no unfortunate accident; he died by intention. Jesus took our sins upon himself on the cross and in exchange offers us his righteousness. Jesus took our place at the cross and offers us eternal life. Jesus took our “wages” (death) and, instead, gave us his “free gift” (eternal life).

Jesus is the only way to God. You and I will never know God or eternal life without Jesus. We will never be good enough. We cannot be moral or sincere enough. We will never even be religious enough. We will never pay our own way into God’s favor or presence by doing enough good deeds.

God does not ignore sin. You and I have a choice: either accept the wages each of us deserves for our sin, or accept the gift Jesus offers us. His shed blood on the cross pays the price for your sin and mine, and cancels it. His blood cleanses us from sin.

Notice that God offers eternal life through Jesus as a gift. How do we receive a gift? We reach out our hands and accept it. We receive the gift of eternal life from God by raising the “empty hands of faith” (Francis Schaeffer) and accepting it. This is known as faith, or believing in Jesus. God has promised us eternal life in Jesus; we believe him and ask for the free gift, trusting him to give it to us. He does.

“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved…”(Acts 16:30,31). This belief is based on facts and history, but is more than mere knowledge of facts about Jesus. It is an entrusting of yourself to him to save you. You stop trusting yourself and stop thinking you can be good enough to earn heaven. We must stop trusting in our good deeds, our morals, our religious duties, no matter how well carried out. We can add nothing to what Jesus has already done for us. You and I, individually, must trust in Jesus alone to save us, to forgive our sins, and open the way to God.

Here’s how to receive this salvation:

1. Come to God in prayer and admit to him that you have sinned against him; tell him you are sorry.
2. Repent of your sins. Repentance is turning away from your sins. Turn your back on them and walk away from them. God will enable you to do this.
3. Ask God to forgive your sins because of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead for you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Believe in Jesus, what he did, and what he said. Trust in his promise to save you and his power to save you. Trust him alone; you and I can add nothing to the transaction. Ask him to give you freedom from the enslaving power of sin in your life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

4. Ask Jesus to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

God promises eternal life to those who come to him through Jesus. Realize that Jesus did not come to simply save you from hell. He came to rule in your life now as King. He loves you too much to leave you as you are; he will save and rescue you from your sins, your guilt, and yourself. He came to give you real life now, and a relationship with God himself now.

Realize also that God will not fail you or lie to you. If you ask Jesus into your life in this way, he will come in and live there by his Holy Spirit.

If you have just received his gift, please let me know. There is nothing greater in the world than knowing God personally through Jesus. You will have fullness of life and joy; you will have life with God forever. And with God, life keeps getting better.
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Copyright, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2005. All rights reserved.

“So, why are we going to Zambia, anyway?”

Philippians. 1:20

    … it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

 

Mukinge Hospital. 180 beds.  Remote northwestern Zambia. 40,000 people. Three doctors.

 

My wife and I were scheduled to depart soon to spend a month working there when she asked me a good and penetrating question: “why are we going anyway?”  Now, Nancy is not spiritually inferior, and this was not the first time we had done this type of thing.  My wife has been my constant companion for almost 34 years, she is at least my equal, and has spent months in Haiti, Kenya, and the United States with me doing short term medical missions.  Nancy just has a nice way of cutting through layers of pat, correct, expected answers and getting to the core.

 

I had to stop and ask myself, “why are we going to Zambia?”  “What is my motivation?” “What do I hope to accomplish?”  “What do I want God to do in me and through me?”   Better yet, “what does God want to do in me and through me?”  I had to think through carefully, before I departed, why I was actually going.

 

There are lots of wrong reasons to go on a short term mission trip. I could go out of pride, seeking the admiration of others or even myself.  I could go out of duty or obligation, feeling that I should go or ought to go.  I could go for the sake of friendships.  I could go out of pity or compassion for those in need of a physician.  I could go simply because I thought it might be a good idea. Some of these reasons to go are worthy, but none of these motivations is both worthy in an ultimate sense and sustainable.  I did not want to go to Zambia for the wrong reason, and I asked God to give me the right motivation; if I was going for the wrong reason, I asked that God change me, or stop me.  I did not want anything less than supernatural motivation, and I desired nothing less than supernatural results.

 

The right answers to these questions of motivation do not change.  The primary, ultimate and lasting motivation for any missionary activity can be only the desire to see Jesus Christ glorified;  this occurs as his greatness, his love, his mercy, his grace, his forgiveness, in sum, his entire character and attributes, are made known to others and they then come to love him and honor him.  Anything short of the glory of God is an unworthy and unsustainable motivation in missionary work or life in general.*  I needed to be sure this was what I was after, and I hope it was.

 

 

Being used by God as an instrument to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ was another right and related reason to go, and this was something I hoped to accomplish mainly by caring for sick (often dying), poor, helpless patients, and doing this in the name of Christ.  Mukinge Hospital has an active chaplain service, and these chaplains share the gospel with their people in a way I could not because of language and cultural barriers.  Over 300 have come to Christ in just over the past year through the ministry of Mukinge Hospital.

 

I also wanted to relieve the missionary doctors there, one of whom was an old friend (Stephen Letchford, MD).  These full time missionary doctors are often overworked, tired, and in need of a little rest.

 

After wrestling with my motivations and reasons for going to Zambia, I had to admit that I had a hard time discerning my real reasons; I find that questions of motivation are often difficult for me to really answer with certainty.  I finally simply asked God to use us in Zambia to bless himself and others, and to change us.  I asked him to purify my motivations, to change them as needed, and, in spite of my limited self-knowledge, to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish. I believed I was obeying him, and asked him to make it clear as I went exactly why I was going.  And, most important, I realized that what I needed was a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ; I asked God for that, and desired to cultivate it.

 

God began showing me why we were in Zambia almost from the moment we got off the plane.

Now in retrospect, I can see even more clearly why we went.  God is still teaching me, but so far, here are a few of the reasons we went to Zambia, and a few of the lessons learned.

 

  1. To glorify Jesus Christ. By our being there and rendering medical care in Jesus’ name to needy, poor, very ill patients, Jesus was honored and magnified.  I do not mean that he was made any better or greater than he is; he is infinite, and I can add nothing to the infinite and eternal Son of God.  I mean that he can use us to demonstrate his greatness and goodness to others; surprisingly, they can see him more clearly as they look at him through the lives of believers.  When his goodness and greatness are openly proclaimed, he is honored, and as others come to love him and follow him, he is glorified. At Mukinge Hospital, physicians, nurses, and chaplains share with patients the gospel of Jesus Christ, and many come to him for rescue and salvation.  When people are physically sick or near death, they are often open to considering questions about their spiritual sickness and deadness; Jesus Christ is the only answer to these questions.
  2. To share the gospel with both believers and non-believers. God gave us the chance to speak and teach in ways that allowed us the directly or indirectly give out the good news about Jesus Christ.
  3. To care for the medical needs of a very sick and impoverished group of people. God has a heart for the poor, needy, sick, wounded, disenfranchised, and helpless.  It is a privilege to give medical care to people God cares about, and to do it in Jesus’ name. It is a privilege to help relieve suffering, to be an instrument of God’s healing, and to offer Jesus’ healing, kindness and gentleness to those in distress.                                            Our patients often traveled many miles and days by any means necessary, in seek of medical care, hoping to find relief and healing.  Jesus said that the sick need a physician, and these people were sick, in need of a doctor.   I believe that I owe it to sick people in other parts of the world to share with them the medical gifts and training I have been given by God; I am under obligation to them.
  4. To work in an ongoing medical ministry with continuity and staying power. It was important to me that, though I might only be there for a few weeks, the work and ministry done would outlast my presence there.  The facts that the hospital and associated ministries have a more than a fifty year history, a solid reputation in the country, and plans for ongoing, continuous ministry all made my relatively small contributions more valuable since I was a part of something much bigger than myself.
  5. To provide some needed and deserved relief to the career missionaries. While there, for a few weeks, my son-in-law (Daniel Claassen, M.D., husband of our daughter Esther) and I served as vacation relief for two missionary doctors, allowing them to have time for vacation and retreat. For two weeks, we, along with a surgeon, were the only physicians there, caring for 120-150 inpatients per day.
  6. To encourage the missionaries and Zambian fellow-believers, and to receive their encouragement. God allowed us to have good relationships there with the missionaries and with Zambians, and we attempted to use these relationships to encourage them in word and action, as they encouraged us. The missionary staff welcomed us immediately, and we enjoyed good times with them. My wife led Bible studies for nursing students, we participated in the Christian Nursing Students’ worship times, we worked and worshiped side by side with the Zambians, and we made good friendships with several of them. We were impressed at the health of the Zambian church, and thanked God for the bright, godly young leaders we saw there.
  7. To visit with one of our church missionary families while they in their element. Steve Letchford and his family are friends and members of our church in Augusta, Georgia.  This trip gave me the opportunity to observe, in person, what their lives are like and the struggles they face every day.  I hope we were able to especially understand and encourage them.
  8. To remind me again of the sacrifices missionaries make. I appreciate more than ever that career missionaries of the cross lose their lives when they go to their posts; they give up everything for the privilege of taking the gospel to the world.  It is costly.  I should be more willing to sacrifice for Jesus Christ.
  9. To allow me to suffer a little with other believers. Zambian believers suffer, and missionaries suffer.  God allowed us to enter into their suffering on a small scale, and to share it with them. The Zambians suffer from extreme poverty, illness, and frequent brushes with death.                                                                                                                I have been in practice for 25 years now, and I have seen much suffering and death.  I am still (and hopefully always will be) deeply distressed and at times brought to tears by suffering, dying people.  I saw many suffering patients at Mukinge, and I found myself identifying deeply with their pain.                                                                                               Missionaries suffer in many large and small ways, from being separated from their parents and children to giving up what they might have had here in the United States to constant exposure to disease and danger.
  10. To learn a little humility. It is humbling and humiliating to watch one’s patients die because there is nothing else to be done for them; they are often gravely ill in the first place, but this is compounded by lack of resources and medications. It was not uncommon to lose several patients in a day; even now, I can hear the wailing of mourners for deceased patients.  Many patients were admitted with AIDS or malnutrition underlying their pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, or malaria; they were compromised from the beginning, and many did not survive.
  11. To learn a little gratitude. I came away from Zambia very grateful for the life God has given me, for the place he has put me, for my family, church, practice, and country.  I am blessed by God beyond my ability to thank him.
  12. To be reminded of the importance of prayer for the worldwide spread of the gospel and for the missionaries who pour out their lives to spread it. The gospel will spread, grow, and bear fruit because it is the gospel of the grace of God.  We have the privilege of praying that God will bring many to Jesus Christ, and we know beforehand that this is what he wants to do and will do.  We have no doubt about his will in this matter, and we can be involved in this global initiative of God’s through prayer.
  13. To change my perspective. This time in Zambia was used by God to uproot me, unsettle me, and to shake me up.  I see again clearly that all I need is God through Jesus Christ, and he allowed me to find him again in a new a fresh way.  God cultivated my relationship with Jesus Christ, and I needed this experience to draw me closer to him.
  14. To make me a better physician. Practicing in a new place with new diseases and relatively little in resources makes one depend upon God more, gives new confidence in God and the skills he has given me, and yields sharper clinical skills.  I am now a much better physician for my patients in America.  Spending a month practicing medicine in a developing country is like an intensive continuing medical education course, close up and personal, no holds barred. I was challenged with the diagnostic possibilities, the need to be flexible and adaptable in treatment, and with the realization anew that we treat patients but God heals.
  15. To serve Jesus as a family. God again gave Nancy and me the opportunity to serve God abroad with our family.  Daniel and Esther Claassen (our son-in-law and daughter) preceded us to Zambia by one month, but then, we were able to work together for about a month.  Daniel and I took care of the hospital inpatients, Esther worked in administration at the hospital, and Nancy and Esther helped lead Bible studies for the nursing students. It was a unique and meaningful opportunity to spend this time with our children as a team.
  16. To see some medical miracles firsthand. I saw patients there who lived and walked out normal who I thought would die or at least show signs of serious long term disability.  My first full day there, a two week old baby with overwhelming sepsis (serious bacterial infection) arrived on the pediatric ward.  She was near death, and I thought she would die before we could even get an IV into her.  Even here in America, she might have easily succumbed.  She lived and 10 days later her mother took her home.  We had two patients with advanced and very serious bacterial meningitis who surprised me by going home after 10 days of antibiotics.  We had countless patients with malaria, many with cerebral malaria, who recovered and went home cured.  These are patients who in the best of situations might easily have died.  They are miraculous cures from the hand of God.
  17. To give me renewed purpose. We went to Zambia realizing that it might not be safe, that it might be dangerous, that we might become ill there, or might even die there.  We were only being realistic.  (At the same time, is anything really completely safe?  There, as here, anything can happen at any time; yet, ultimately, we are in a fundamental sense always totally safe as long as God is the one who holds us.)                                           God impressed Philippians 1:20 on me several years ago, and then again, several months ago; it is my desire that Christ be honored and magnified in my body whether by life or by death.  I arrived at Mukinge already somewhat ill, and two weeks later was extremely sick.   I believe I was under Satanic assault that Saturday night.   I remember clearly in the midst of the battle being able to say, by the grace of God, “blessed is the name of the Lord.”  I asked God to help me and to heal me, and God got me through that night.  I was able to work the next morning, but only barely.  I stumbled (slowly) up the hill to the hospital, made rounds, did a spinal tap, and got everyone tucked in.  After rounds, I went home and slept for four hours, feeling much better when I awoke.   I believe that during that night’s struggle, God healed me in several ways and on multiple levels;  it was so dramatic that I have difficulty explaining it in a way that makes it comprehensible.  He gave my life back to me in more than a physical sense.   He healed me physically, but, even more, he healed me spiritually, giving me a new verse in the following days to go with Philippians 1:20 as the other bookend around my life.  That verse was Acts 20:24 where Paul says his life is of relatively little value to him (compared to the privilege of serving and knowing Christ), and that all he wants is to finish his course with joy, and to fulfill the ministry given to him by Jesus.  This is what I want for the rest of my life.  I want to finish my course for Jesus with joy, and to fulfill the ministry he has given me, specifically, to do.  I know he wants me to honor him where I am, and wherever he places me.  I want to see Jesus honored and glorified in my life, in my family, in my church, and in my practice.  Jesus has given me new joy, freedom, peace, and purpose.  Jesus Christ is all I need in life and in death.

 

 

So, why did I go to Zambia?  I went to Zambia intending to give my life away for a short term medical mission, but I returned with Jesus more than giving my life back to me again.

 

 

Acts 20:24

    But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

 

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* I owe this concept to Dr. John Piper, and discovered it while reading his book, Let the Nations Be Glad.

 

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Copyright, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2005.   You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this article as long as 1. it remains unaltered in wording, 2.there is no charge for the distribution, and 3. not more than 500 copies are made.

 

 

 

Infinite Beauty/Running from God

“…In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Jonah rose up to flee …from the presence of the Lord” Jonah 1:3

A man of enormous wealth died without known heirs. He had searched the country for years prior to his dying for a surviving relative to whom he could bequeath his vast fortune; it was a futile search. His will provided instructions for his attorney to continue the search after he died.

A few months afterwards, a distant relative was discovered. He lived in poverty and squalor, and was eking out an existence doing odd jobs. He lived foolishly and handled his meager finances irresponsibly. His indebtedness grew daily, and he hopelessly attempted simply to survive each day.

The attorney wrote a letter to the relative with the good news that he was heir to an immense fortune. An inheritance was his for the taking. The attorney asked for a meeting with the young man to formalize the transaction which would instantly transform him into wealthy man.

By this time in his life, the young man had become cynical and suspicious. He did not believe in fairy godmothers or distant, wealthy relatives.  As far as he knew, no one had ever cared what happened to him, and he had no vain hopes that life would ever be anything more for him than it was: a grim fight to make it each day, with no expectation of any change for the better or anything good to occur in his life. Life for him was merely survival. It was joyless and hopeless; it was futile and desperate.  Based on his past experience with his selfish and untrustworthy companions, the offer contained in the attorney’s letter had to be, at best, a lie and a scam, and, at worst, a trap to bring him to justice for one of his past crimes. Why would anyone do anything good for him? He decided the best course of action was to ignore the letter and to trust no one. He retreated into the shabby, filthy parts of the city where no one knew him and he attempted to hide.

The lawyer was persistent in carrying out the dead man’s wishes. He followed a lead and found his man’s deserted apartment in disarray, with all the marks of a person who had left in a hurry; there were unpaid bills on the countertop and tepid milk and soggy cereal in a bowl on the kitchen table. The young man had left the city. Acting on a warning that the hunter was near, the hunted had fled to an area 300 miles to the west.

Not easily deterred, the attorney continued his search; finally, nine years after the old man’s death and four cities later, the lawyer saw his man coming out of a soup kitchen. The formerly young man was now graying and unkempt. He was gaunt, haggard and dressed in rags. He was tired of life and weary of running. He was destitute and did not care whether he lived or died.

The attorney, upon recognizing the man, immediately ordered his assistant to corner his prey, which was accomplished with hardly a whimper; the now not-so-young man was hardly in a position to run or resist. He was weak and sickly, and more importantly, he had lost any will to survive. He did not care anymore.

Imagine the captured man’s surprise when the attorney explained to him that the letter was a true and accurate representation of the facts, and that, indeed, the fugitive was now a rich man. He had been running from his riches for years, not even believing that they existed, or even in such a possibility. He had been running from a supposed enemy when all the time his pursuer was his benefactor, attempting to heap on him all manner of goodness. In the running, the man had deprived himself of years of wealth, comfort, and peace, and in exchange, had gained for himself a life of poverty, distress, and unrest. As he settled into his new position in life, he often reproached himself for his folly all those wasted years. Yet, time healed his wounds, and he lived many years in a state of happiness and gratitude, dying as an old man after a full life.

You and I are much like the young man in the story. We run from God until we realize how infinitely good and beautiful he is.  We mistakenly think he is our enemy, when he pursues us with only the best intentions to bless us. God is the giver of every good gift and every good thing in life; we often prevent him from bestowing these gifts on us because we are running away from him as fast as we can, thinking he might harm us.

ATTRACTED TO GOD


Look at the two columns of words below. To which column are you attracted?

Beauty                                                                 Ugliness

Love                                                                 Hatred

Light                                                                  Darkness

Life                                                                 Death

Truth (Absolute and Ultimate)                 Lies; Relative or No Truth

Goodness                                                    Evil

Absolute Faithfulness/Loyalty                 Faithlessness

Kindness,gentleness                                        Harshness

Forgiveness                                                    Vengeance

Unending Pleasure                                        Unending Pain

Most people are naturally drawn and attracted to the first column of words and the ideas they represent. Very few would honestly say that they desire the ideas represented by the right column.

If you say you are drawn to the left column of ideas, then you are attracted to God himself. He is a God of infinite beauty and absolute truth. His love for you and me is pure, untainted by selfishness, and always looking to our good; his love is sacrificial, and he proved it when he gave his only Son, Jesus, to die for sinful people on the cross. He loved first and took the initiative. He loves unconditionally and accepts those who place their trust in Jesus; we do not and cannot earn his love by our performance, but, instead, he gives it to us freely.

God is utterly and perfectly good and righteous.  He is kind and forgiving. He is faithful and trustworthy. You can depend on him always. He gives life in every area; he is the creator of your life, and he knows what you need to live life well and to the fullest. He is light itself and by coming into a personal relationship with him, we no longer stumble and bounce around life aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He offers forgiveness of our sins and our failures. He gives unending and real pleasure; he gives true joy and peace which cannot be taken away. Life lived in the presence of God is full of pleasure beyond thought or words.

WHY RUN?


So, why do we think we need to run from God? God is what you and I have been looking for all our lives. He is the answer to our need for rest, peace, and fulfillment. He is better than we even dare to imagine; many have despaired that a God this good could not exist. He is better to us than we deserve. He is infinitely better to us than he needs to be. In the presence of God are pleasures and riches beyond our wildest imagination. Why do we run?

We are all children of Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us that God created them to live in a loving relationship with him. God gave them a life of infinite goodness; they lived in the garden of Eden, a garden of perfection and beauty. However, because they did not really trust God, and they thought he was holding back something good from them, they disobeyed God’s one law given to them. This breaking of God’s law offended God; it was rebellion against God, who loved them and made all things perfect for them. (When we disobey God and rebel against him, it shows we really do not believe that God is good, and we think he is keeping something good  from us.)   Any disobedience or rebellion against God’s standard or command is sin. After they sinned in the garden of Eden, they tried to hide from God because they realized they were guilty of offending him. They were now afraid of him. Their relationship with God was broken, and their paradise was ruined. The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in death at every level, for them and for us.

We, the descendants of Adam and Eve, have inherited sin and death from them. We are all born sinners, and we sin because we are sinners. The Bible tells us that all have sinned; in other words, every one of us has disobeyed God, rebelled against God, and offended God. Sin and death are pervasive, and they affect every aspect of our lives, including our bodies, our minds, our wills, our emotions, and our spirits. Sin and death ruin our relationships with God and people. Because of our distorted thinking and perverted hearts, our natural inclination is to hide or run from God, despite the deep-down knowledge that God is who we need. So, we would rather die than go to God. We are intent on self-destruction. We are afraid of him because we know we are guilty and unworthy of him. We are even afraid to think an infinitely good and forgiving God might exist, so we deceive ourselves with a web of intricate and incredible lies. We despair of finding what we need to really live.

WHO ARE YOU? WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

 

Now, look at the following columns of words. Which column describes you best? Which column of words contains the qualities you would you like to see in yourself?

Joy                                      Misery, cynicism, sorrow, sadness

Peace                                      Restlessness, anxiety, worry

Love                                      Hatred

Patience                          Impatience

Kindness, gentleness              Harshness

Goodness                          Evil

Self-control                          Uncontrolled outbursts of anger

Generosity, selflessness  Selfishness

Freedom                          Bondage to habits, sin, or addictions

Fulfillment                          Futility

Purpose                          Meaninglessness

Forgiveness                          Bitterness, vengefulness

Courage                          Cowardice, Fear

Nobility                          Depravity, coarseness, crudeness, vulgarity

Honor                                      Shame

Truthfulness                          Deceit, lying

Innocence                          Guilt

A clear conscience             A guilty conscience

Acceptance, approval             Rejection and judgment

Hope, expecting good             Hopelessness, depression and despair

Almost everyone would love to possess the qualities listed on the left. Then, why do so few of us possess them? Many have given up. Many do not know how to have them. Some have rejected them.

Would you like to know the God who made you and knows you better than you know yourself? He is able to make you into the person you want to be, the person described by the character traits in the first column above. He will give you life; Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. He gives life that is real and better than you can imagine. It is life that is deep, solid and objective, rooted in eternal reality, and therefore, satisfying; there is nothing artificial or superficial about it. What would you give to know that you are accepted and approved by God, the maker of the universe? If that were true, you would not mind if you were rejected by others; some of you have known little but rejection all your lives. Would you like to know that God himself forgives you? Only his forgiveness can give you a clean conscience; he rids us of our guilt and our guilty feelings.

Do you want true freedom? Do you want purpose and direction in life? Don’t you really know that you were made for something great? Do you ever feel like you are spending your life on trivial pursuits? Life is not for wasting and time is not for killing. Filling our lives with empty pursuits or boredom-killing anesthetics is not living. God has not made you and me simply to survive, endure, and exist; God made humans for greatness and virtue. Would you like to live with purpose and significance? Do you want to live with courage and confidence? Do you want to be a person whose life is actually described by the words in the first column?

God is able and willing to make you new. He changes people, and he can and will change you.

STOP RUNNING–COME TO GOD

 

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. Jonah tried to run from God. People have been hiding and running ever since. How about you? Are you tired of running and hiding? God offers you life. God is not your enemy; he offers to give you infinite goodness. He wants you to come running to him. He will not make you come, though he could; he wants you to come because you realize you need him and want him, and to come because you love him.

God offers you the free gift of life and forgiveness; he offers himself for intimate relationship as your Father and your God. He offers all this without cost to you. You cannot pay for it. Jesus has already paid the price to make this all possible, and you can add nothing to it. To attempt to do so would sully it and demean it; what would you think if you gave a gift to someone and he then pulled out his wallet to pay you for it?  You must simply receive the gift as you would any gift.

Jesus is God’s Son and he came to die for sinners like you and me; he came to give life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is the only way to God and life, and he offers all  to us as a free gift.

Run to God. You were made for him, and you were made to live with him now, day by day, and eternally with him in heaven. He is Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Life, and Light. He will forgive you and accept you. The emptiness in your life will never be filled until you allow God to fill it, and then you will wonder how you ever lived without him. Only he can satisfy your deepest thirst and longings for the life you have never found.

These verses from Revelation give a taste of what heaven will be like:

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb (Jesus) in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” Rev.7:16,17

“And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Jesus), in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads . And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.” Rev.22:1-5

Doesn’t this word picture reflect your deepest longing? Heaven is a place where people spend eternity in God’s presence, basking in his Infinite Beauty and Goodness.   Preparation for heaven begins here on earth; people like you and me can know God and enjoy his presence now. Now, God will begin to give you the fullness of life and joy you were created for. Heaven will complete the process.

God is pursuing you for your good. He loves you. Stop hiding and running. Receive his goodness. You will be surprised.

God invites you. Yes, you.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Come to Jesus.

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If you would like to know how to come to Jesus, see The Ultimate Solution.

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Copyright 2008, Jerry A. Miller Jr.  You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute these articles with the conditions that there are no changes in wording and there is no charge.

Fear of Death

The passengers boarded the Ethiopian Air jet as they do anywhere. Parents with small children were clamoring aboard, excited at the prospect of seeing other family in Nairobi, Kenya. Others were diplomats or business people who were leaving Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to accomplish specific missions in Nairobi; still others were simply returning home. It was only a two-hour flight. Even for those who hated to fly, the trip would not be bad.

Half way to Nairobi, three men suddenly stood up brandishing fireaxes and broken whiskey bottles. They commandeered the jet and demanded safe passage to Australia. The pilot informed them that they could not possibly get there with the fuel they had on board, but the hijackers would not be deterred. The jet charted a course over the Indian Ocean, all the time the pilot warning that fuel was low and that they must head to Nairobi if the plane were to land safely. The crew prepared the passengers for a crash landing, and for a full twenty minutes all aboard faced possible impending death. Twenty minutes of uncertainty, anxiety, fear. Questions raced, then lingered hauntingly in their minds. “What will become of my family?” “Have I lived life to the fullest?” “Am I ready to die?”  “Will it hurt?”  “What if I really have to face a God? Will he accept me?” Twenty minutes is too long to have to think about impending doom.

Finally, the fuel was depleted. The pilot tried mightily to reach an island formation just in view, but the jet was plummeting like a skydiver in freefall. It was not a smooth descent.  For four minutes they fell. For four minutes, they fell. Four minutes is too long to have to think about almost certain doom. People screamed. They shrieked as they looked death full in its hideous face. The jet’s wing tipped slightly, dipped into the water, and then the whole jet cartwheeled over and over again.

There were only twenty survivors. They told the stories of at least two men who were able to face death with serenity and equanimity. One of them spent the last twenty minutes of the flight telling the other pallid, sweating, fear-paralyzed passengers how to prepare to meet God. Another, a father with three small children, was calm and spent his time comforting his beloved little ones with words of hope and peace, and the assurance to them that they would meet God if they had to pass through death that day.

Consider another scene, this time closer to home. A routine day. She was a college student heading off to class. She stopped at the railroad crossing; the gates were down, the lights were flashing, and the bells were ringing. She heard the roar of the oncoming train. No big deal. But then she felt the bump from behind, and then the agonizing realization that she was being pushed forward; the guy in her mirror had just rear-ended her. Her forward motion quickly turned into lateral motion as the train caught the front of her car and began to drag her down the tracks. She thought fast and called 911 on her cell phone, but no one could understand her, much less help her. For the next four miles, the train dragged her. Four miles of panic and fear. Four miles of facing death. The train with its extra cargo then hit a bump and the car and driver were jolted free. She was safe, but not before a harrowing few minutes with death riding shot-gun.

Imagine yourself as a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, April, 1999. The two gunmen, armed to the teeth with weapons and armed in their hearts with bitter and sadistic hatred, march into school, shooting at will. Students are massacred without mercy and without reason. How would you have faced death?

Finally, remember September 11, 2001.  The Twin Towers at the World Trade Center are destroyed by those hate the United States, and over 3000 perish.  There are countless acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and compassion.  But, over 3000 die.  How would you or I have looked into the eyes of death?  Think about those who faced the choices between death by fire, death by suffocation, death by the collapse of the structure, or death by a leap from the building to the streets hundreds of feet below.  Think of the fear, no, the sheer terror many must have felt.  How would you have felt? What would you have thought?

YOU WILL DIE


These scenarios are true. I present them to make the point that you could have been in any of these events. Life is strange. Things happen. Surprises often overtake us, but death is not one of them. You may be surprised at how you die or when you die, but you will die someday. You will die. Death may come to you after a long and chronic illness and thus provide you with much time for preparation. It may come as you sleep. It may come in old age after a full life. And it may come suddenly. But, it will come. The Bible tells us,  “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment”(Hebrew 9:27). You have an appointment with death. Will you be ready? Are you ready now to face God and judgment?

The Bible is equally clear when it tells us that after death each of us has only one of two destinations: heaven or hell. Heaven is a real place God has prepared for his followers where they will experience the very Presence of God forever, and will live on in eternal pleasure and joy. Hell is just as real; Jesus warned of hell many times in his teachings. Many people relegate hell to being a concept held only by the unsophisticated; others joke about it, and say they look forward to it because they will be with all their friends. Rock groups sing about it (for example, “Highway to Hell”). Yet, hell is real and no one will enjoy it. It is a place of eternal, complete isolation from God and his goodness, of isolation from other humans, of conscious torment and agonizing memories of missed opportunities. The regretful lament repeating itself over and over in the mind of hell’s prisoner will be  “if only I had listened to the voice and God”, but it will be too late forever, and there will be no escape forever.  It is a place of absolute darkness and ultimate, unrestrained evil; its inhabitants will be forever without peace, rest, or joy. It is no joke, and you do not want to go there.

I mean to arouse your fear of death. My intention is to provoke your deepest anxiety and fear. Why? I’m not into horror movies or books. Fear is not for entertainment. I’m not being cruel and I don’t want to alarm you unnecessarily.  I speak of death and fear of death because I care enough about you to tell you the truth. I’m a physician, and I want you to live, not just now, but forever. Fear of death is given to us by God as a motivation to see things as they are:  the realities of the brevity of life, the sureness of death, and judgment by Almighty and Holy God.

COPING MECHANISMS


We can respond to the fear of death in one of several ways. Many who are young believe they are invincible, invulnerable, and immortal. Nothing can or will hurt them, they think, at least not until they are in their 40’s or 50’s. That’s why we see so much risk taking in the teens and twenties. This attitude is false bravado and self-deceiving; it does not change the reality. Even babies, children, and teenagers can die; it’s obvious that those who make it through their teen years will die at some point in the future.

Others try to overcome fear of death by attempting to crowd out the idea of death by a breathless schedule of activity. They don’t have time to think about it, and they make certain that if there is any possibility of time for quiet thought, they drown the moment with noise via television, radio, music, books, magazines, etc. This is anesthesia of the thought life, a kind of numbing of the soul. The line of reasoning is that if they don’t think about it, maybe death will go away.

Still others attempt to sanitize the idea of death. In our advanced culture, they reason, people are not supposed to die. In fact, the cure for death must be waiting to be discovered in some scientist’s laboratory, and thus, we are on the threshold of human immortality. For this reason, many times, physicians are sued when in spite of their valiant, competent, and compassionate efforts, a person dies.  “Death is not supposed to happen in America,” these people say to themselves.  “It must be the doctor’s fault.”  We are fairly good at dressing up death, keeping it away from our consciousness, and keeping it in the realm of only happening to someone else. It happens to others, not to us, we reason. In the United States, we have such a high standard of living that we don’t experience the daily struggle to survive that others face in developing countries, and thus, the reality of death is somehow softened in our thinking; yet, that doesn’t change the facts.

Finally, others glorify death. They convince themselves of one of several things. Some believe that if they die for some great and glorious cause, their death will be worth it; in part, they may be correct, but in full, they are only correct if they die ready to face God. Others have written of people with near-death experiences who relate feelings of warmth and light as they linger between life and death; these depictions are used to comfort those who are near death, but they do not give assurance of one’s readiness to see God. A fairly new (at least to the American scene) philosophy of life is really a philosophy of death, and here is the final stage of a person or people group which has turned its back on its Maker. By writing God out of the script, we have produced a  “culture of death” where despair, cruelty, and hatred are the logical fruit. Death is presented as a great, desirable experience and life is seen as worthless, so suicide is rampant. The lives of others are also seen as without value, so we witness gratuitous violence and killing. The abortion industry has led the way here, but euthanasia cannot be far behind (witness the supporters of  “Dr. Death”, Jack Kevorkian) and killing of students by other students is now a gruesome reminder of the terrible harvest we reap. The glorification of death in any of these ways is perversion.

We can ignore death, we can deceive ourselves into believing it will never come, we can anesthetize our lives to keep us from feeling the fear of death, or we can give ourselves over to it in the ultimate lie in convincing ourselves that it is our friend. These mental maneuvers do nothing to change the reality of death for each of us.

My intention is to violently rip the façade of lies and self-deception from our thinking and to bring each of us face to face with the reality deeply implanted in each of our hearts: each of us will die and each will face God for his judgment.

REALISTIC FEAR–NOT A NEUROTIC PHOBIA


Hebrews 2:14,15 tells us:

14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Death was the penalty Adam and Eve received for disobedience to God, and each of us as their descendant has inherited sin and death. Death has permeated every aspect of existence and sin has become our birthright. God’s mercy and love were shown in at least three ways when death came into the world.

1. Physical death itself is a gift from God. Would you want to live forever as you are, with all your limitations, sufferings, and failures?  Would you really want to keep living life as it is, forever? Is this all there is? Physical death is the end of this very imperfect present life, which is only a faint shadow of the true life God intended and intends for those who trust Jesus. Death is their entrance into heaven. Thus, this present life is not ultimate, only preparatory.

2. God promised freedom from sin and death when the future Savior came; his name is Jesus.

3. God did not allow sin to numb our hearts to the fear of death. Fear of death is itself a gift from God which gives us motivation to seek the cure for death, and the ultimate cure is not to be found in any human solutions, medical or otherwise.

The verses from Hebrews above tell us that fear of death keeps us in slavery all our lives. If you strip away all the mental gymnastics and think honestly about death, it will strike the deepest fear into your heart, and the fear is debilitating. Fear of death keeps us from the performance of heroic, loving, and noble deeds. It causes us to preserve self at all costs, even if it means selfish destruction of others. It keeps us prisoner to anxiety, restlessness, cowardice, and hatred. We are slaves to anger and impatience, and we are petty. We are slaves to habits that we hate but cannot break. And because of our fear of death and the many vices that naturally accompany the fear, we are often disgusted with ourselves. Even those who are self-righteous know in their hearts that they are afraid to die, and their good deeds done to impress others and themselves will not take away the fear.

This is depressing stuff. Sorry, but it’s necessary. If you fear death, realize that everyone else does too, and that your fear is not unfounded. You must face God after death. Life at death does not dissolve into nothingness. God has made you eternal. His intention is for you to live forever with him. And he has provided the solution to your problem of death and, therefore, fear of death. If he were simply to take away your fear, what would that accomplish?  Suppose a physician has a patient who fears a fatal disease; upon examination, the illness is discovered. If the physician simply reassures the patient that all is well, and relieves the fear of the patient, but does nothing to cure the disease, he has done his patient no service at all. God does not tell us all is well, yet he also provides the radical cure for our lives of sin, misery, fear, and death. We fear death because it is real, and God uses that fear to cause us to seek God himself.

THE CURE FOR FEAR

 

God provided the answer, the solution, the cure in Jesus Christ. He took on flesh and blood to enter death for us, as the verses in Hebrews above state. His purpose was to conquer the power of death and remove our fear of death. Jesus offers us life that begins now and will last forever. It is life with purpose and meaning. It is a life of fulfillment, for you and I are able to know the God who created us for himself. We were made to know and enjoy God. Jesus rendered death powerless so that when we know Jesus, our physical death is only the door to life with God forever. We do not need to fear it because Jesus overcame death when he rose from the dead. If he rose from the dead, and he promises to give us the same life, then he is not only able to give it but willing and trustworthy to deliver; after all, he died to purchase this life for us.

Imagine for a moment how you would be if you no longer feared death because you were free from death’s power over you? You would live with confidence, joy, and peace. Your heart would be at rest. You would be free of slavery to cowardice, self-preservation, and habits that you despise but cannot break. You would be free of the resulting self-hatred. Do you want to live a life of self-deception in which you must always lie to yourself about death or guard yourself from facing the prospect of death? Or do you want to be able to live with the certainty that no matter what happens or when death occurs, you will be ready to die and enter the presence of God? This certainty allows us to live with freedom and a certain abandon; we can do the right thing without worrying about the consequences. Jesus came to die for sins and misdeeds and to save people from them.  He offers us life now and forever; it is free to us because he gives it to us. He has paid the price to deliver us from sin, death, and the fear of death. We cannot earn this life; we can only receive and accept his offer, the free gift.

Do you want to live in fear all your life? Do you enjoy running scared?  Do you enjoy what this fear does to you?  It doesn’t have to be this way. God provides a better way; he provides the only way. God has the solution and the cure that each of us needs.  His name is Jesus.

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You may go to “The Ultimate Solution” if you are ready to discover how Jesus is the radical cure each of us needs.

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Copyright 2008, Jerry A. Miller Jr.  You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute these articles with the conditions that there are no changes in wording and there is no charge.

Logic

1. Can you honestly think that the universe and you are the end-product of billions of years of randomness and chance?

You may choose from one of several explanations of the origin of the universe and of humankind. You may accept some mythological account of creation, primitive or more sophisticated; really, how convincing are these? You may accept the view of many in modern popular science which supposes that given enough time and randomness, eventually order and life will emerge; does this view have intellectual integrity?  Or, you may accept the Biblical account of creation in which God, as all-powerful and all-wise creator of all, speaks the universe into being. To my mind, the account given in the Bible is the most intellectually satisfying, the most integrated, and the most credible. It seems to me that it takes much less faith to believe that an infinite God of order, power, and wisdom created an ordered universe  than to think that it all just happened. This means that humans are not some accident of evolution, but specially created by God. It means that you are not just some product of chance. You were made and are known by God himself. You were made to know him, and made for his purpose. The universe is not directionless and rudderless; it is not chaotic, but is ruled and ordered by Almighty God. The God who created it also actively maintains it.

2. Is this all there is?

Are you content with the idea that you are on the earth as a speck of insignificant organic matter?…that you are here by chance, without purpose, and without direction? …that the best you can hope for is to last 70 or 80 years with a minimum of trouble?…and that then you pass into nothingness?

If that’s all there is to our time on this earth, then let me die now. You are not content with this vision of life because God has created you for much more than this, and he has implanted deep within you the desire for much more. You are longing and thirsting for deep reality and significance which only a relationship with your creator can provide.

3. Are you truly satisfied with your life as it is now?

Most of you are not, and this question is closely connected to #2. You were not made to be satisfied with anything other than God himself. This is why, no matter how good your life, no matter how rich, successful, famous, powerful, or attractive you are, you still find a deep emptiness in your life. Career, family, friends, fun, or travel will never fill the emptiness. In your quiet moments, when you really have time to think and take stock, you will find you realize that something is missing. Blaise Pascal said that in every human is a  “God-shaped void”. Only God can fill your void. Eternal beings made in the image of God cannot be satisfied with the superficial and the artificial, with counterfeit substitutes, or with unreal and unlasting froth and fluff of life. You will never find true joy and fulfillment in life until you find God, who is all you need and much more than you need. Hi-tech gadgets, escape from reality, luxury, and temporary pleasure will never give you more than a short-term fix which will leave you more empty than before.

What have you found in life that really satisfies you deeply and long-term? God promises to fill your hungry soul, to satisfy you with good things, to quench your thirst, and to take away your emptiness.

4. Have you found anything in life you would lose all for?… that you would die for?

If you have nothing in life which you would lose all for, then I contend that you have not discovered much worth living for. Jesus Christ lost all for you; he alone is worthy of your absolute love and loyalty. Without a purpose in life, people get bored.  They search for satisfaction but don’t find it, and they finally try to anesthetize the pain in their lives in all types of self-destructive and self-deceiving behavior.  Jesus alone is reason to live. You will be happy to live for him, to lose all for him, and even to die for him.

5. What then?

If I were to ask you for your life plan, how would you answer? Here is a typical answer:

“I plan to go to school to get an education.”

What then?

“I’ll begin my career.”

What then?

“I’ll get married.”

What then?

“I’ll have children.”

What then?

“My children will grow up and do what I did.”

What then?

“I’ll retire.  I’ll fill my life with golf, tennis, hunting, fishing, travel, etc (you fill in the blank) .”

What then?

“I’ll die”

What then? What then? Is there nothing more to life?

We were made to glorify God and enjoy him…forever.

Consider where you are going before it is too late.

6. What will you say to God when you die and he asks you to give an account of your life?  What will you do? What will you say?

The Bible tells us that God will judge us after we die. What will you say when he asks you why he should let you into heaven? God’s standard is perfection. He does not weigh your good versus bad deeds and then make a decision based on which deeds outweigh the others. (Even if he did, how would you ever know now that you were good enough to get to heaven?) We cannot earn heaven. You and I will never be good enough. You and I don’t deserve heaven, and God doesn’t owe it to us. Church membership or affiliation won’t suffice. Being religious won’t get us into heaven. Being moral isn’t the answer. Having faith is not the key, unless it is in the right object. Sincerity won’t do it. We won’t talk our way in. And, the Bible is clear: not everyone goes to heaven. We have a problem; the Bible states that  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Below, you will find the only acceptable answer to God when he asks you on what basis you should be allowed to enter heaven

7. If you knew you were going to die next week, what would you do now?

Most of us would begin preparing for death and our meeting with God. The point is, we never know when we will die. We should always be ready. Are you ready to go now?

8. Does it make any sense to you that there can be multiple conflicting  “truths”?

Ultimate truth is absolute and exclusive. It is not relative. If one thing is true, then other statements that conflict with it cannot be true also.

9. Can there be many ways to God and heaven?

We have all heard that there are many ways to God, and that as long as we are sincere in our beliefs, we will all see God and live with him in heaven.  This notion is the product of our times in which we are told to be so tolerant that anything (even a lie) is accepted uncritically so as not to offend others.

Jesus said in John 14:6  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me”. Notice, he did not say he is a way or one of many ways, but the way. He is also the truth and the life. He states clearly that he is the exclusive and only way to God the Father.

There is only one way to God, and the only way is Jesus.  This is not my idea; it is God’s.

10. Who is Jesus?

This question keeps coming at us from the pages of the Gospel of John. This is the question everyone was asking when Jesus was on the earth, and has been a question of immeasurable importance ever since.  It is important because it makes all the difference in the world to each of us, and each of us must come to some kind of conclusion in answer to this question. Neutrality is not an option. Jesus’ own words will not allow us to remain neutral.

Jesus said he was the Son of God, and that he came to save us from our sins, to forgive our sins, to give us new and abundant life, to change us, and to give us eternal life. He came to die for us, and he came to show us the very nature and heart of God.

Some people of his day argued that he was a good man, a prophet, or a good teacher of morality. Others hated him and said he was demon-possessed. Some said he was crazy.  Others tried to catch him in lies or inconsistencies (and failed). Some agreed that he must be the Son of God as he claimed.

C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and others have shown that the only choices we have in deciding the identity of Jesus distill down to these: he was either Lord, or the world’s biggest liar, or a lunatic. You must choose for yourself on the basis of your search for truth. Who is Jesus? He claimed to be Lord. If he was not, then he had to be a liar, in fact, the world’s worst, or just plain crazy. You cannot simply say he was a good man or teacher and leave it at that. Jesus will not allow that type of  “patronizing nonsense” (Lewis). Jesus stated plainly who he was, and to whittle him down into something else to suit us or our preferences is not honest. Jesus always went to the heart of things; he only gives us the three options discussed, and we cannot wiggle out of making a tough and critical decision which will alter the very course of our lives. Jesus does not play games with us; we must not play intellectual games with him because our very lives depend upon our correct response. This is life or death for you and me.

So, is he God, or was he a deceiver, or was he insane?  You must make your choice and then act on it.  But, please, none of this  “good man, moral teacher, religious leader” stuff. He is either God or is not. If he is God, then you must follow him and commit your entire life to him. Look at what Jesus said about himself (read the Gospel of John for a full treatment of this question). Accept him or reject him on the basis of what he said about himself.

11. What is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection?

Who is Jesus? The correct answer depends upon the resurrection. If he really rose from the dead, this validates everything he said about himself, and proves he indeed is the Son of God. In all of history, who else claimed to be God and then rose from the dead as Jesus did? Of course, there is no one else who made such fantastic claims and then backed them up with a resurrection. The resurrection proves Jesus is God. The resurrection proves his power over sin and death, and proves he can give you power over sin and death in your own life. The resurrection is calculated to rivet our attention to Jesus as the Lord Christ; you and I cannot simply ignore this fact of history and hope it will go away. The resurrection proves all he said, and proves he is God.

Look at the evidence. The torture and punishment inflicted on him really killed him; he did not  “swoon” on the cross and then come back to life in the coolness of the tomb; this theory insults our intelligence.  His body was not stolen by the disciples; if that were true, why would so many of them later go on to die for the sake of their belief in Jesus if he really were not God the Son raised from the dead? Would they have died for a lie? There were many eyewitnesses who actually saw the risen Lord Jesus before his ascension to heaven. Believers endured unspeakable suffering in the early years following Jesus’ life on earth; would they have borne this for a lie? In addition, the number of early believers in Christ grew at an exponential rate because the growth was powered supernaturally with the Holy Spirit of Christ; this is further evidence of the resurrection power of Christ. They turned the world upside down, and it was not from human greatness, power, or resources. (For a fuller treatment of this evidence, see Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict).

If a person honestly examines the life of Jesus as seen in the Bible, studies his words, sees his actions, observes his exact fulfillment of prophecy, and realizes the certainty of his resurrection, the logical conclusion is that Jesus is who he said he was. At this point, you must at least intellectually acknowledge that he is really God’s Son. Will you give yourself to him to worship and serve him? You may elect not to follow him, but that is a question of your will, not your intellect. To the rational person, it only makes sense to realize that Jesus is God. Will you accept or reject his right to rule over your life?

12. If there were other ways to God, why would God have given his only Son, Jesus, to die a gruesome and horrible death on the cross? If another way would have sufficed to open the way to God, wouldn’t God have spared Jesus and have chosen the simplest, least costly way?

Precisely.

Jesus came to die for our sins in order to allow forgiveness of our sins. He did not die by accident. He did not die unwillingly. He offered himself up to die, and was in control of the sequence of events the whole time. The plan from ages past was for him to die so that we can be saved.

If there are really many ways to God, do you not think God could have chosen an easier and less costly way than the bloody, brutal, and agonizing death of his only Son? Jesus died for you and me because it was necessary. There is no other way to God.

Peter said it well, speaking of Jesus:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12 NASB)

Paul agreed:

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.”  (1 Tim 2:5,6 NASB)

Jesus is the only way to God; he is the unique, exclusive, absolute, and ultimate way to God. There is no other way.

13.  “Which one of you can convict Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jesus speaking in John 8:46)

Who can convict Jesus of sin? Can you find anything wrong with him? Look hard. Scrutinize him well. And you will find nothing but perfection, goodness, and righteousness. Then, why not believe him?

14. Where else will you go for freedom from guilt?

Only Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and failures. The guilt you feel deep inside of you is not just some psychiatric problem which represents your maladjustment, poor self-esteem, or poor child-rearing practices by your parents. Your guilty feelings are the result of true moral guilt; you have offended a holy and righteous God. God is not like us. (Would you want to worship a god like you or me?) Our wrongs, failures, and shortcomings are sin. You and I sin and do wrong because we are born sinners. There is no cure for our sin except in Jesus Christ, who died and gave his blood to wash our sins away, to free us from our moral guilt before God, and to give us a clean and peaceful conscience.

Do you want to be forgiven by the God you have wronged? Do you want freedom from moral guilt? What would you give for freedom from guilty feelings?

Jesus gives forgiveness, and rids us of guilt and the accompanying guilty feelings. These are free gifts from Jesus. He can give them because he paid for them with his life and blood.

15. What is unique about following Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ died for us.  He serves us.  He carries our burdens.  He frees us.  No other “god” or head of any of the world’s religions does any of these things.  Instead, they demand that their followers become their slaves.

• Jesus Christ is alive from the dead. He is a risen and living Savior. He is not some dead, great figure from history. Who would want to worship a dead man?

• Jesus calls us to a relationship with him, not to a religion. He knows us and loves us as individuals. We can know and love him.

• Jesus Christ, knowing that you and I cannot help ourselves: 1.loved and loves us 2. died for us and rose again from the dead for us 3. pursues us and freely offers life, freedom, and forgiveness (the free gift of salvation bought at his expense).

• The truth about Jesus is true in a universal, absolute, ultimate, practical way.

• We are not called upon to appease God; Jesus has handled the sin problem forever for those who have come to him. We cannot earn God’s favor; instead, he offers it for free through Jesus.

• Following Jesus is not an exercise in will-power in keeping rules and regulations; he changes us and transforms us to enable us to do what is good and right.

16. What more can God do for us?

He has given us life. He has been good to us and often we have not even realized it. He gave his Son Jesus as a sacrifice to allow people like you and me to know God.. He offers us freedom from sin and guilt. He offers us real life and eternal life with him. He offers freedom from fear of death and death’s curse. He offers it to us for free because he has paid the price. All you and I must do is to stop running and receive his free gift.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NASB)

What more can God do?

17. Before I come to Jesus, should I wait until I’m more presentable and worthy?

No. When will you ever be worthy to come to God? You and I can never be good enough; that is the whole reason Jesus came. If you wait until you are worthy or presentable, you will never come. Besides, what if you die first? Now is the time to come.

18. Why will you die?

Is there any reason that anyone would choose to die? Jesus offers life to you. Why not accept it? These verses from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy) express well the choice we have.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity.”  (Deu 30:15 NASB)

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”  (Deu 30:19 NASB)

19. What if you’re wrong?

What if after all your thought you decide that Jesus really is not God after all? Or, what if you decide that he is, but that you just don’t want him as your Lord; you would rather serve yourself, and will take your chances with God and his judgment when it comes, if it comes. You have done the mental calculations, and believe it is worth the risk. What if you are wrong? Do you really want to gamble your eternal soul away? You cannot win if you walk away from Jesus. God is real, and Jesus his Son died for you. The most serious offense against God is to reject His Son. Don’t do it.

20.  “What must I do to be saved?”

This is the question asked of the apostle Paul in Acts 16:30. It is the same question each of us must ask and to which we need an answer. It means,  “How can I know God?”,  “How can I be delivered from my sins and guilt?” , and “How can I be rescued from my life apart from God?”

God is infinitely good and willing to give us all that is good. You and I must stop running from him. He is able to release us from the fear of death that keeps us in chains. He is the answer to the void we feel in our lives.  There is no rational argument against the claims Jesus made about himself. It is time to receive him. Why not now? Why wait any longer? He offers us more than we can even know, and more than we will be able to fully appreciate in this lifetime. Why waste time? Why risk dying without him? Why would anyone want to live without him? Why postpone the happiness, joy, and peace he alone can give? The longer a person waits, the more difficulty there is in coming to him.

So, the question for each of us is, how can I be saved? The answer is given in the next verse: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved…” Acts 16:31

“The Ultimate Solution” shows exactly what this means.

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Copyright 2008, Jerry A. Miller Jr.  You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute these articles with the conditions that there are no changes in wording and there is no charge.

Beauty, Fear, Logic, and The Ultimate Solution

Dear Patients and Parents,

For 24 years, you have given me the privilege of being physician to you or your children; you have allowed me to be a part of your family, and I am grateful. During that time, our practice has worked hard to give you the best medical care. We have tried to serve you well. We care about you and your family in every area of your lives.

I have learned that the most important thing in the world for each of us, even more important than physical health, is having a personal relationship with the God who made each one of us. This relationship makes life worthwhile.

The booklet you are about to read is written for you. It is a work of love. Please read it as thoughtfully and carefully as I have written it. In it, I have attempted to capitalize on three different ways a person might be drawn to God. Each person is different, but most of us are attracted to beauty, sobered by real fear, and stimulated to deep thought by serious questions regarding life.

My desire is that by taking the time to read this booklet, you will make (if you have not already done so) the most important discovery of your life: that you can know the God who made you. He is not a distant God, nor is he aloof. You were made to know him, and he offers himself to you. My desire is that you will want to know him and love him.

Each of the first three sections is independent of the others; by that, I mean that after you have read any of the first three sections, you may easily make the transition directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution. It is necessary to read section 4 at some point to bring closure to your thinking.

I would be grateful to you if you let me know how this booklet affects you and what you think of it.

Finally, there is really nothing new in this writing. It is all drawn from the Bible. I hope that my words give you a deep desire to go to God through Jesus His Son.

Sincerely,

Jerry Miller, Jr. M.D.

January 1, 2005


I. Infinite Beauty / Running from God

 

“…In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Jonah rose up to flee …from the presence of the Lord” Jonah 1:3

A man of enormous wealth died without known heirs. He had searched the country for years prior to his dying for a surviving relative to whom he could bequeath his vast fortune; it was a futile search. His will provided instructions for his attorney to continue the search after he died.

A few months afterwards, a distant relative was discovered. He lived in poverty and squalor, and was eking out an existence doing odd jobs. He lived foolishly and handled his meager finances irresponsibly. His indebtedness grew daily, and he hopelessly attempted simply to survive each day.

The attorney wrote a letter to the relative with the good news that he was heir to an immense fortune. An inheritance was his for the taking. The attorney asked for a meeting with the young man to formalize the transaction which would instantly transform him into wealthy man.

By this time in his life, the young man had become cynical and suspicious. He did not believe in fairy godmothers or distant, wealthy relatives.  As far as he knew, no one had ever cared what happened to him, and he had no vain hopes that life would ever be anything more for him than it was: a grim fight to make it each day, with no expectation of any change for the better or anything good to occur in his life. Life for him was merely survival. It was joyless and hopeless; it was futile and desperate.  Based on his past experience with his selfish and untrustworthy companions, the offer contained in the attorney’s letter had to be, at best, a lie and a scam, and, at worst, a trap to bring him to justice for one of his past crimes. Why would anyone do anything good for him? He decided the best course of action was to ignore the letter and to trust no one. He retreated into the shabby, filthy parts of the city where no one knew him and he attempted to hide.

The lawyer was persistent in carrying out the dead man’s wishes. He followed a lead and found his man’s deserted apartment in disarray, with all the marks of a person who had left in a hurry; there were unpaid bills on the countertop and tepid milk and soggy cereal in a bowl on the kitchen table. The young man had left the city. Acting on a warning that the hunter was near, the hunted had fled to an area 300 miles to the west.

Not easily deterred, the attorney continued his search; finally, nine years after the old man’s death and four cities later, the lawyer saw his man coming out of a soup kitchen. The formerly young man was now graying and unkempt. He was gaunt, haggard and dressed in rags. He was tired of life and weary of running. He was destitute and did not care whether he lived or died.

The attorney, upon recognizing the man, immediately ordered his assistant to corner his prey, which was accomplished with hardly a whimper; the now not-so-young man was hardly in a position to run or resist. He was weak and sickly, and more importantly, he had lost any will to survive. He did not care anymore.

Imagine the captured man’s surprise when the attorney explained to him that the letter was a true and accurate representation of the facts, and that, indeed, the fugitive was now a rich man. He had been running from his riches for years, not even believing that they existed, or even in such a possibility. He had been running from a supposed enemy when all the time his pursuer was his benefactor, attempting to heap on him all manner of goodness. In the running, the man had deprived himself of years of wealth, comfort, and peace, and in exchange, had gained for himself a life of poverty, distress, and unrest. As he settled into his new position in life, he often reproached himself for his folly all those wasted years. Yet, time healed his wounds, and he lived many years in a state of happiness and gratitude, dying as an old man after a full life.

You and I are much like the young man in the story. We run from God until we realize how infinitely good and beautiful he is.  We mistakenly think he is our enemy, when he pursues us with only the best intentions to bless us. God is the giver of every good gift and every good thing in life; we often prevent him from bestowing these gifts on us because we are running away from him as fast as we can, thinking he might harm us.

ATTRACTED TO GOD

Look at the two columns of words below. To which column are you attracted?

Beauty                                                                 Ugliness

Love                                                                 Hatred

Light                                                                  Darkness

Life                                                                 Death

Truth (Absolute and Ultimate)                 Lies; Relative or No Truth

Goodness                                                    Evil

Absolute Faithfulness/Loyalty                 Faithlessness

Kindness,gentleness                                        Harshness

Forgiveness                                                    Vengeance

Unending Pleasure                                        Unending Pain

Most people are naturally drawn and attracted to the first column of words and the ideas they represent. Very few would honestly say that they desire the ideas represented by the right column.

If you say you are drawn to the left column of ideas, then you are attracted to God himself. He is a God of infinite beauty and absolute truth. His love for you and me is pure, untainted by selfishness, and always looking to our good; his love is sacrificial, and he proved it when he gave his only Son, Jesus, to die for sinful people on the cross. He loved first and took the initiative. He loves unconditionally and accepts those who place their trust in Jesus; we do not and cannot earn his love by our performance, but, instead, he gives it to us freely.

God is utterly and perfectly good and righteous.  He is kind and forgiving. He is faithful and trustworthy. You can depend on him always. He gives life in every area; he is the creator of your life, and he knows what you need to live life well and to the fullest. He is light itself and by coming into a personal relationship with him, we no longer stumble and bounce around life aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He offers forgiveness of our sins and our failures. He gives unending and real pleasure; he gives true joy and peace which cannot be taken away. Life lived in the presence of God is full of pleasure beyond thought or words.

WHY RUN?

So, why do we think we need to run from God? God is what you and I have been looking for all our lives. He is the answer to our need for rest, peace, and fulfillment. He is better than we even dare to imagine; many have despaired that a God this good could not exist. He is better to us than we deserve. He is infinitely better to us than he needs to be. In the presence of God are pleasures and riches beyond our wildest imagination. Why do we run?

We are all children of Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us that God created them to live in a loving relationship with him. God gave them a life of infinite goodness; they lived in the garden of Eden, a garden of perfection and beauty. However, because they did not really trust God, and they thought he was holding back something good from them, they disobeyed God’s one law given to them. This breaking of God’s law offended God; it was rebellion against God, who loved them and made all things perfect for them. (When we disobey God and rebel against him, it shows we really do not believe that God is good, and we think he is keeping something good  from us.)   Any disobedience or rebellion against God’s standard or command is sin. After they sinned in the garden of Eden, they tried to hide from God because they realized they were guilty of offending him. They were now afraid of him. Their relationship with God was broken, and their paradise was ruined. The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in death at every level, for them and for us.

We, the descendants of Adam and Eve, have inherited sin and death from them. We are all born sinners, and we sin because we are sinners. The Bible tells us that all have sinned; in other words, every one of us has disobeyed God, rebelled against God, and offended God. Sin and death are pervasive, and they affect every aspect of our lives, including our bodies, our minds, our wills, our emotions, and our spirits. Sin and death ruin our relationships with God and people. Because of our distorted thinking and perverted hearts, our natural inclination is to hide or run from God, despite the deep-down knowledge that God is who we need. So, we would rather die than go to God. We are intent on self-destruction. We are afraid of him because we know we are guilty and unworthy of him. We are even afraid to think an infinitely good and forgiving God might exist, so we deceive ourselves with a web of intricate and incredible lies. We despair of finding what we need to really live.

WHO ARE YOU? WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

Now, look at the following columns of words. Which column describes you best? Which column of words contains the qualities you would you like to see in yourself?

Joy                                      Misery, cynicism, sorrow, sadness

Peace                                      Restlessness, anxiety, worry

Love                                      Hatred

Patience                          Impatience

Kindness, gentleness              Harshness

Goodness                          Evil

Self-control                          Uncontrolled outbursts of anger

Generosity, selflessness  Selfishness

Freedom                          Bondage to habits, sin, or addictions

Fulfillment                          Futility

Purpose                          Meaninglessness

Forgiveness                          Bitterness, vengefulness

Courage                          Cowardice, Fear

Nobility                          Depravity, coarseness, crudeness, vulgarity

Honor                                      Shame

Truthfulness                          Deceit, lying

Innocence                          Guilt

A clear conscience             A guilty conscience

Acceptance, approval             Rejection and judgment

Hope, expecting good             Hopelessness, depression and despair

Almost everyone would love to possess the qualities listed on the left. Then, why do so few of us possess them? Many have given up. Many do not know how to have them. Some have rejected them.

Would you like to know the God who made you and knows you better than you know yourself? He is able to make you into the person you want to be, the person described by the character traits in the first column above. He will give you life; Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. He gives life that is real and better than you can imagine. It is life that is deep, solid and objective, rooted in eternal reality, and therefore, satisfying; there is nothing artificial or superficial about it. What would you give to know that you are accepted and approved by God, the maker of the universe? If that were true, you would not mind if you were rejected by others; some of you have known little but rejection all your lives. Would you like to know that God himself forgives you? Only his forgiveness can give you a clean conscience; he rids us of our guilt and our guilty feelings.

Do you want true freedom? Do you want purpose and direction in life? Don’t you really know that you were made for something great? Do you ever feel like you are spending your life on trivial pursuits? Life is not for wasting and time is not for killing. Filling our lives with empty pursuits or boredom-killing anesthetics is not living. God has not made you and me simply to survive, endure, and exist; God made humans for greatness and virtue. Would you like to live with purpose and significance? Do you want to live with courage and confidence? Do you want to be a person whose life is actually described by the words in the first column?

God is able and willing to make you new. He changes people, and he can and will change you.

STOP RUNNING–COME TO GOD

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. Jonah tried to run from God. People have been hiding and running ever since. How about you? Are you tired of running and hiding? God offers you life. God is not your enemy; he offers to give you infinite goodness. He wants you to come running to him. He will not make you come, though he could; he wants you to come because you realize you need him and want him, and to come because you love him.

God offers you the free gift of life and forgiveness; he offers himself for intimate relationship as your Father and your God. He offers all this without cost to you. You cannot pay for it. Jesus has already paid the price to make this all possible, and you can add nothing to it. To attempt to do so would sully it and demean it; what would you think if you gave a gift to someone and he then pulled out his wallet to pay you for it?  You must simply receive the gift as you would any gift.

Jesus is God’s Son and he came to die for sinners like you and me; he came to give life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is the only way to God and life, and he offers all  to us as a free gift.

Run to God. You were made for him, and you were made to live with him now, day by day, and eternally with him in heaven. He is Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Life, and Light. He will forgive you and accept you. The emptiness in your life will never be filled until you allow God to fill it, and then you will wonder how you ever lived without him. Only he can satisfy your deepest thirst and longings for the life you have never found.

These verses from Revelation give a taste of what heaven will be like:

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb (Jesus) in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” Rev.7:16,17

“And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Jesus), in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads . And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.” Rev.22:1-5

Doesn’t this word picture reflect your deepest longing? Heaven is a place where people spend eternity in God’s presence, basking in his Infinite Beauty and Goodness.   Preparation for heaven begins here on earth; people like you and me can know God and enjoy his presence now. Now, God will begin to give you the fullness of life and joy you were created for. Heaven will complete the process.

God is pursuing you for your good. He loves you. Stop hiding and running. Receive his goodness. You will be surprised.

God invites you. Yes, you.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Come to Jesus.

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If you would like to know how to come to Jesus, you may go directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution.

 

II. Fear of Death

 

The passengers boarded the Ethiopian Air jet as they do anywhere. Parents with small children were clamoring aboard, excited at the prospect of seeing other family in Nairobi, Kenya. Others were diplomats or business people who were leaving Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to accomplish specific missions in Nairobi; still others were simply returning home. It was only a two-hour flight. Even for those who hated to fly, the trip would not be bad.

Half way to Nairobi, three men suddenly stood up brandishing fireaxes and broken whiskey bottles. They commandeered the jet and demanded safe passage to Australia. The pilot informed them that they could not possibly get there with the fuel they had on board, but the hijackers would not be deterred. The jet charted a course over the Indian Ocean, all the time the pilot warning that fuel was low and that they must head to Nairobi if the plane were to land safely. The crew prepared the passengers for a crash landing, and for a full twenty minutes all aboard faced possible impending death. Twenty minutes of uncertainty, anxiety, fear. Questions raced, then lingered hauntingly in their minds. “What will become of my family?” “Have I lived life to the fullest?” “Am I ready to die?”  “Will it hurt?”  “What if I really have to face a God? Will he accept me?” Twenty minutes is too long to have to think about impending doom.

Finally, the fuel was depleted. The pilot tried mightily to reach an island formation just in view, but the jet was plummeting like a skydiver in freefall. It was not a smooth descent.  For four minutes they fell. For four minutes, they fell. Four minutes is too long to have to think about almost certain doom. People screamed. They shrieked as they looked death full in its hideous face. The jet’s wing tipped slightly, dipped into the water, and then the whole jet cartwheeled over and over again.

There were only twenty survivors. They told the stories of at least two men who were able to face death with serenity and equanimity. One of them spent the last twenty minutes of the flight telling the other pallid, sweating, fear-paralyzed passengers how to prepare to meet God. Another, a father with three small children, was calm and spent his time comforting his beloved little ones with words of hope and peace, and the assurance to them that they would meet God if they had to pass through death that day.

Consider another scene, this time closer to home. A routine day. She was a college student heading off to class. She stopped at the railroad crossing; the gates were down, the lights were flashing, and the bells were ringing. She heard the roar of the oncoming train. No big deal. But then she felt the bump from behind, and then the agonizing realization that she was being pushed forward; the guy in her mirror had just rear-ended her. Her forward motion quickly turned into lateral motion as the train caught the front of her car and began to drag her down the tracks. She thought fast and called 911 on her cell phone, but no one could understand her, much less help her. For the next four miles, the train dragged her. Four miles of panic and fear. Four miles of facing death. The train with its extra cargo then hit a bump and the car and driver were jolted free. She was safe, but not before a harrowing few minutes with death riding shot-gun.

Imagine yourself as a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, April, 1999. The two gunmen, armed to the teeth with weapons and armed in their hearts with bitter and sadistic hatred, march into school, shooting at will. Students are massacred without mercy and without reason. How would you have faced death?

Finally, remember September 11, 2001.  The Twin Towers at the World Trade Center are destroyed by those hate the United States, and over 3000 perish.  There are countless acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and compassion.  But, over 3000 die.  How would you or I have looked into the eyes of death?  Think about those who faced the choices between death by fire, death by suffocation, death by the collapse of the structure, or death by a leap from the building to the streets hundreds of feet below.  Think of the fear, no, the sheer terror many must have felt.  How would you have felt? What would you have thought?

YOU WILL DIE

These scenarios are true. I present them to make the point that you could have been in any of these events. Life is strange. Things happen. Surprises often overtake us, but death is not one of them. You may be surprised at how you die or when you die, but you will die someday. You will die. Death may come to you after a long and chronic illness and thus provide you with much time for preparation. It may come as you sleep. It may come in old age after a full life. And it may come suddenly. But, it will come. The Bible tells us,  “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment”(Hebrew 9:27). You have an appointment with death. Will you be ready? Are you ready now to face God and judgment?

The Bible is equally clear when it tells us that after death each of us has only one of two destinations: heaven or hell. Heaven is a real place God has prepared for his followers where they will experience the very Presence of God forever, and will live on in eternal pleasure and joy. Hell is just as real; Jesus warned of hell many times in his teachings. Many people relegate hell to being a concept held only by the unsophisticated; others joke about it, and say they look forward to it because they will be with all their friends. Rock groups sing about it (for example, “Highway to Hell”). Yet, hell is real and no one will enjoy it. It is a place of eternal, complete isolation from God and his goodness, of isolation from other humans, of conscious torment and agonizing memories of missed opportunities. The regretful lament repeating itself over and over in the mind of hell’s prisoner will be  “if only I had listened to the voice and God”, but it will be too late forever, and there will be no escape forever.  It is a place of absolute darkness and ultimate, unrestrained evil; its inhabitants will be forever without peace, rest, or joy. It is no joke, and you do not want to go there.

I mean to arouse your fear of death. My intention is to provoke your deepest anxiety and fear. Why? I’m not into horror movies or books. Fear is not for entertainment. I’m not being cruel and I don’t want to alarm you unnecessarily.  I speak of death and fear of death because I care enough about you to tell you the truth. I’m a physician, and I want you to live, not just now, but forever. Fear of death is given to us by God as a motivation to see things as they are:  the realities of the brevity of life, the sureness of death, and judgment by Almighty and Holy God.

COPING MECHANISMS

We can respond to the fear of death in one of several ways. Many who are young believe they are invincible, invulnerable, and immortal. Nothing can or will hurt them, they think, at least not until they are in their 40’s or 50’s. That’s why we see so much risk taking in the teens and twenties. This attitude is false bravado and self-deceiving; it does not change the reality. Even babies, children, and teenagers can die; it’s obvious that those who make it through their teen years will die at some point in the future.

Others try to overcome fear of death by attempting to crowd out the idea of death by a breathless schedule of activity. They don’t have time to think about it, and they make certain that if there is any possibility of time for quiet thought, they drown the moment with noise via television, radio, music, books, magazines, etc. This is anesthesia of the thought life, a kind of numbing of the soul. The line of reasoning is that if they don’t think about it, maybe death will go away.

Still others attempt to sanitize the idea of death. In our advanced culture, they reason, people are not supposed to die. In fact, the cure for death must be waiting to be discovered in some scientist’s laboratory, and thus, we are on the threshold of human immortality. For this reason, many times, physicians are sued when in spite of their valiant, competent, and compassionate efforts, a person dies.  “Death is not supposed to happen in America,” these people say to themselves.  “It must be the doctor’s fault.”  We are fairly good at dressing up death, keeping it away from our consciousness, and keeping it in the realm of only happening to someone else. It happens to others, not to us, we reason. In the United States, we have such a high standard of living that we don’t experience the daily struggle to survive that others face in developing countries, and thus, the reality of death is somehow softened in our thinking; yet, that doesn’t change the facts.

Finally, others glorify death. They convince themselves of one of several things. Some believe that if they die for some great and glorious cause, their death will be worth it; in part, they may be correct, but in full, they are only correct if they die ready to face God. Others have written of people with near-death experiences who relate feelings of warmth and light as they linger between life and death; these depictions are used to comfort those who are near death, but they do not give assurance of one’s readiness to see God. A fairly new (at least to the American scene) philosophy of life is really a philosophy of death, and here is the final stage of a person or people group which has turned its back on its Maker. By writing God out of the script, we have produced a  “culture of death” where despair, cruelty, and hatred are the logical fruit. Death is presented as a great, desirable experience and life is seen as worthless, so suicide is rampant. The lives of others are also seen as without value, so we witness gratuitous violence and killing. The abortion industry has led the way here, but euthanasia cannot be far behind (witness the supporters of  “Dr. Death”, Jack Kevorkian) and killing of students by other students is now a gruesome reminder of the terrible harvest we reap. The glorification of death in any of these ways is perversion.

We can ignore death, we can deceive ourselves into believing it will never come, we can anesthetize our lives to keep us from feeling the fear of death, or we can give ourselves over to it in the ultimate lie in convincing ourselves that it is our friend. These mental maneuvers do nothing to change the reality of death for each of us.

My intention is to violently rip the façade of lies and self-deception from our thinking and to bring each of us face to face with the reality deeply implanted in each of our hearts: each of us will die and each will face God for his judgment.

REALISTIC FEAR–NOT A NEUROTIC PHOBIA

Hebrews 2:14,15 tells us:

14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Death was the penalty Adam and Eve received for disobedience to God, and each of us as their descendant has inherited sin and death. Death has permeated every aspect of existence and sin has become our birthright. God’s mercy and love were shown in at least three ways when death came into the world.

1. Physical death itself is a gift from God. Would you want to live forever as you are, with all your limitations, sufferings, and failures?  Would you really want to keep living life as it is, forever? Is this all there is? Physical death is the end of this very imperfect present life, which is only a faint shadow of the true life God intended and intends for those who trust Jesus. Death is their entrance into heaven. Thus, this present life is not ultimate, only preparatory.

2. God promised freedom from sin and death when the future Savior came; his name is Jesus.

3. God did not allow sin to numb our hearts to the fear of death. Fear of death is itself a gift from God which gives us motivation to seek the cure for death, and the ultimate cure is not to be found in any human solutions, medical or otherwise.

The verses from Hebrews above tell us that fear of death keeps us in slavery all our lives. If you strip away all the mental gymnastics and think honestly about death, it will strike the deepest fear into your heart, and the fear is debilitating. Fear of death keeps us from the performance of heroic, loving, and noble deeds. It causes us to preserve self at all costs, even if it means selfish destruction of others. It keeps us prisoner to anxiety, restlessness, cowardice, and hatred. We are slaves to anger and impatience, and we are petty. We are slaves to habits that we hate but cannot break. And because of our fear of death and the many vices that naturally accompany the fear, we are often disgusted with ourselves. Even those who are self-righteous know in their hearts that they are afraid to die, and their good deeds done to impress others and themselves will not take away the fear.

This is depressing stuff. Sorry, but it’s necessary. If you fear death, realize that everyone else does too, and that your fear is not unfounded. You must face God after death. Life at death does not dissolve into nothingness. God has made you eternal. His intention is for you to live forever with him. And he has provided the solution to your problem of death and, therefore, fear of death. If he were simply to take away your fear, what would that accomplish?  Suppose a physician has a patient who fears a fatal disease; upon examination, the illness is discovered. If the physician simply reassures the patient that all is well, and relieves the fear of the patient, but does nothing to cure the disease, he has done his patient no service at all. God does not tell us all is well, yet he also provides the radical cure for our lives of sin, misery, fear, and death. We fear death because it is real, and God uses that fear to cause us to seek God himself.

THE CURE FOR FEAR

God provided the answer, the solution, the cure in Jesus Christ. He took on flesh and blood to enter death for us, as the verses in Hebrews above state. His purpose was to conquer the power of death and remove our fear of death. Jesus offers us life that begins now and will last forever. It is life with purpose and meaning. It is a life of fulfillment, for you and I are able to know the God who created us for himself. We were made to know and enjoy God. Jesus rendered death powerless so that when we know Jesus, our physical death is only the door to life with God forever. We do not need to fear it because Jesus overcame death when he rose from the dead. If he rose from the dead, and he promises to give us the same life, then he is not only able to give it but willing and trustworthy to deliver; after all, he died to purchase this life for us.

Imagine for a moment how you would be if you no longer feared death because you were free from death’s power over you? You would live with confidence, joy, and peace. Your heart would be at rest. You would be free of slavery to cowardice, self-preservation, and habits that you despise but cannot break. You would be free of the resulting self-hatred. Do you want to live a life of self-deception in which you must always lie to yourself about death or guard yourself from facing the prospect of death? Or do you want to be able to live with the certainty that no matter what happens or when death occurs, you will be ready to die and enter the presence of God? This certainty allows us to live with freedom and a certain abandon; we can do the right thing without worrying about the consequences. Jesus came to die for sins and misdeeds and to save people from them.  He offers us life now and forever; it is free to us because he gives it to us. He has paid the price to deliver us from sin, death, and the fear of death. We cannot earn this life; we can only receive and accept his offer, the free gift.

Do you want to live in fear all your life? Do you enjoy running scared?  Do you enjoy what this fear does to you?  It doesn’t have to be this way. God provides a better way; he provides the only way. God has the solution and the cure that each of us needs.  His name is Jesus.

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You may go directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution, if you are ready to discover how Jesus is the radical cure each of us needs.

 

III. Logic


1. Can you honestly think that the universe and you are the end-product of billions of years of randomness and chance?

You may choose from one of several explanations of the origin of the universe and of humankind. You may accept some mythological account of creation, primitive or more sophisticated; really, how convincing are these? You may accept the view of many in modern popular science which supposes that given enough time and randomness, eventually order and life will emerge; does this view have intellectual integrity?  Or, you may accept the Biblical account of creation in which God, as all-powerful and all-wise creator of all, speaks the universe into being. To my mind, the account given in the Bible is the most intellectually satisfying, the most integrated, and the most credible. It seems to me that it takes much less faith to believe that an infinite God of order, power, and wisdom created an ordered universe  than to think that it all just happened. This means that humans are not some accident of evolution, but specially created by God. It means that you are not just some product of chance. You were made and are known by God himself. You were made to know him, and made for his purpose. The universe is not directionless and rudderless; it is not chaotic, but is ruled and ordered by Almighty God. The God who created it also actively maintains it.

2. Is this all there is?

Are you content with the idea that you are on the earth as a speck of insignificant organic matter?…that you are here by chance, without purpose, and without direction? …that the best you can hope for is to last 70 or 80 years with a minimum of trouble?…and that then you pass into nothingness?

If that’s all there is to our time on this earth, then let me die now. You are not content with this vision of life because God has created you for much more than this, and he has implanted deep within you the desire for much more. You are longing and thirsting for deep reality and significance which only a relationship with your creator can provide.

3. Are you truly satisfied with your life as it is now?

Most of you are not, and this question is closely connected to #2. You were not made to be satisfied with anything other than God himself. This is why, no matter how good your life, no matter how rich, successful, famous, powerful, or attractive you are, you still find a deep emptiness in your life. Career, family, friends, fun, or travel will never fill the emptiness. In your quiet moments, when you really have time to think and take stock, you will find you realize that something is missing. Blaise Pascal said that in every human is a  “God-shaped void”. Only God can fill your void. Eternal beings made in the image of God cannot be satisfied with the superficial and the artificial, with counterfeit substitutes, or with unreal and unlasting froth and fluff of life. You will never find true joy and fulfillment in life until you find God, who is all you need and much more than you need. Hi-tech gadgets, escape from reality, luxury, and temporary pleasure will never give you more than a short-term fix which will leave you more empty than before.

What have you found in life that really satisfies you deeply and long-term? God promises to fill your hungry soul, to satisfy you with good things, to quench your thirst, and to take away your emptiness.

4. Have you found anything in life you would lose all for?… that you would die for?

If you have nothing in life which you would lose all for, then I contend that you have not discovered much worth living for. Jesus Christ lost all for you; he alone is worthy of your absolute love and loyalty. Without a purpose in life, people get bored.  They search for satisfaction but don’t find it, and they finally try to anesthetize the pain in their lives in all types of self-destructive and self-deceiving behavior.  Jesus alone is reason to live. You will be happy to live for him, to lose all for him, and even to die for him.

5. What then?

If I were to ask you for your life plan, how would you answer? Here is a typical answer:

“I plan to go to school to get an education.”

What then?

“I’ll begin my career.”

What then?

“I’ll get married.”

What then?

“I’ll have children.”

What then?

“My children will grow up and do what I did.”

What then?

“I’ll retire.  I’ll fill my life with golf, tennis, hunting, fishing, travel, etc (you fill in the blank) .”

What then?

“I’ll die”

What then? What then? Is there nothing more to life?

We were made to glorify God and enjoy him…forever.

Consider where you are going before it is too late.

6. What will you say to God when you die and he asks you to give an account of your life?  What will you do? What will you say?

The Bible tells us that God will judge us after we die. What will you say when he asks you why he should let you into heaven? God’s standard is perfection. He does not weigh your good versus bad deeds and then make a decision based on which deeds outweigh the others. (Even if he did, how would you ever know now that you were good enough to get to heaven?) We cannot earn heaven. You and I will never be good enough. You and I don’t deserve heaven, and God doesn’t owe it to us. Church membership or affiliation won’t suffice. Being religious won’t get us into heaven. Being moral isn’t the answer. Having faith is not the key, unless it is in the right object. Sincerity won’t do it. We won’t talk our way in. And, the Bible is clear: not everyone goes to heaven. We have a problem; the Bible states that  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Below, you will find the only acceptable answer to God when he asks you on what basis you should be allowed to enter heaven

7. If you knew you were going to die next week, what would you do now?

Most of us would begin preparing for death and our meeting with God. The point is, we never know when we will die. We should always be ready. Are you ready to go now?

8. Does it make any sense to you that there can be multiple conflicting  “truths”?

Ultimate truth is absolute and exclusive. It is not relative. If one thing is true, then other statements that conflict with it cannot be true also.

9. Can there be many ways to God and heaven?

We have all heard that there are many ways to God, and that as long as we are sincere in our beliefs, we will all see God and live with him in heaven.  This notion is the product of our times in which we are told to be so tolerant that anything (even a lie) is accepted uncritically so as not to offend others.

Jesus said in John 14:6  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me”. Notice, he did not say he is a way or one of many ways, but the way. He is also the truth and the life. He states clearly that he is the exclusive and only way to God the Father.

There is only one way to God, and the only way is Jesus.  This is not my idea; it is God’s.

10. Who is Jesus?

This question keeps coming at us from the pages of the Gospel of John. This is the question everyone was asking when Jesus was on the earth, and has been a question of immeasurable importance ever since.  It is important because it makes all the difference in the world to each of us, and each of us must come to some kind of conclusion in answer to this question. Neutrality is not an option. Jesus’ own words will not allow us to remain neutral.

Jesus said he was the Son of God, and that he came to save us from our sins, to forgive our sins, to give us new and abundant life, to change us, and to give us eternal life. He came to die for us, and he came to show us the very nature and heart of God.

Some people of his day argued that he was a good man, a prophet, or a good teacher of morality. Others hated him and said he was demon-possessed. Some said he was crazy.  Others tried to catch him in lies or inconsistencies (and failed). Some agreed that he must be the Son of God as he claimed.

C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and others have shown that the only choices we have in deciding the identity of Jesus distill down to these: he was either Lord, or the world’s biggest liar, or a lunatic. You must choose for yourself on the basis of your search for truth. Who is Jesus? He claimed to be Lord. If he was not, then he had to be a liar, in fact, the world’s worst, or just plain crazy. You cannot simply say he was a good man or teacher and leave it at that. Jesus will not allow that type of  “patronizing nonsense” (Lewis). Jesus stated plainly who he was, and to whittle him down into something else to suit us or our preferences is not honest. Jesus always went to the heart of things; he only gives us the three options discussed, and we cannot wiggle out of making a tough and critical decision which will alter the very course of our lives. Jesus does not play games with us; we must not play intellectual games with him because our very lives depend upon our correct response. This is life or death for you and me.

So, is he God, or was he a deceiver, or was he insane?  You must make your choice and then act on it.  But, please, none of this  “good man, moral teacher, religious leader” stuff. He is either God or is not. If he is God, then you must follow him and commit your entire life to him. Look at what Jesus said about himself (read the Gospel of John for a full treatment of this question). Accept him or reject him on the basis of what he said about himself.

11. What is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection?

Who is Jesus? The correct answer depends upon the resurrection. If he really rose from the dead, this validates everything he said about himself, and proves he indeed is the Son of God. In all of history, who else claimed to be God and then rose from the dead as Jesus did? Of course, there is no one else who made such fantastic claims and then backed them up with a resurrection. The resurrection proves Jesus is God. The resurrection proves his power over sin and death, and proves he can give you power over sin and death in your own life. The resurrection is calculated to rivet our attention to Jesus as the Lord Christ; you and I cannot simply ignore this fact of history and hope it will go away. The resurrection proves all he said, and proves he is God.

Look at the evidence. The torture and punishment inflicted on him really killed him; he did not  “swoon” on the cross and then come back to life in the coolness of the tomb; this theory insults our intelligence.  His body was not stolen by the disciples; if that were true, why would so many of them later go on to die for the sake of their belief in Jesus if he really were not God the Son raised from the dead? Would they have died for a lie? There were many eyewitnesses who actually saw the risen Lord Jesus before his ascension to heaven. Believers endured unspeakable suffering in the early years following Jesus’ life on earth; would they have borne this for a lie? In addition, the number of early believers in Christ grew at an exponential rate because the growth was powered supernaturally with the Holy Spirit of Christ; this is further evidence of the resurrection power of Christ. They turned the world upside down, and it was not from human greatness, power, or resources. (For a fuller treatment of this evidence, see Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict).

If a person honestly examines the life of Jesus as seen in the Bible, studies his words, sees his actions, observes his exact fulfillment of prophecy, and realizes the certainty of his resurrection, the logical conclusion is that Jesus is who he said he was. At this point, you must at least intellectually acknowledge that he is really God’s Son. Will you give yourself to him to worship and serve him? You may elect not to follow him, but that is a question of your will, not your intellect. To the rational person, it only makes sense to realize that Jesus is God. Will you accept or reject his right to rule over your life?

12. If there were other ways to God, why would God have given his only Son, Jesus, to die a gruesome and horrible death on the cross? If another way would have sufficed to open the way to God, wouldn’t God have spared Jesus and have chosen the simplest, least costly way?

Precisely.

Jesus came to die for our sins in order to allow forgiveness of our sins. He did not die by accident. He did not die unwillingly. He offered himself up to die, and was in control of the sequence of events the whole time. The plan from ages past was for him to die so that we can be saved.

If there are really many ways to God, do you not think God could have chosen an easier and less costly way than the bloody, brutal, and agonizing death of his only Son? Jesus died for you and me because it was necessary. There is no other way to God.

Peter said it well, speaking of Jesus:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12 NASB)

Paul agreed:

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.”  (1 Tim 2:5,6 NASB)

Jesus is the only way to God; he is the unique, exclusive, absolute, and ultimate way to God. There is no other way.

13.  “Which one of you can convict Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jesus speaking in John 8:46)

Who can convict Jesus of sin? Can you find anything wrong with him? Look hard. Scrutinize him well. And you will find nothing but perfection, goodness, and righteousness. Then, why not believe him?

14. Where else will you go for freedom from guilt?

Only Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and failures. The guilt you feel deep inside of you is not just some psychiatric problem which represents your maladjustment, poor self-esteem, or poor child-rearing practices by your parents. Your guilty feelings are the result of true moral guilt; you have offended a holy and righteous God. God is not like us. (Would you want to worship a god like you or me?) Our wrongs, failures, and shortcomings are sin. You and I sin and do wrong because we are born sinners. There is no cure for our sin except in Jesus Christ, who died and gave his blood to wash our sins away, to free us from our moral guilt before God, and to give us a clean and peaceful conscience.

Do you want to be forgiven by the God you have wronged? Do you want freedom from moral guilt? What would you give for freedom from guilty feelings?

Jesus gives forgiveness, and rids us of guilt and the accompanying guilty feelings. These are free gifts from Jesus. He can give them because he paid for them with his life and blood.

15. What is unique about following Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ died for us.  He serves us.  He carries our burdens.  He frees us.  No other “god” or head of any of the world’s religions does any of these things.  Instead, they demand that their followers become their slaves.

• Jesus Christ is alive from the dead. He is a risen and living Savior. He is not some dead, great figure from history. Who would want to worship a dead man?

• Jesus calls us to a relationship with him, not to a religion. He knows us and loves us as individuals. We can know and love him.

• Jesus Christ, knowing that you and I cannot help ourselves: 1.loved and loves us 2. died for us and rose again from the dead for us 3. pursues us and freely offers life, freedom, and forgiveness (the free gift of salvation bought at his expense).

• The truth about Jesus is true in a universal, absolute, ultimate, practical way.

• We are not called upon to appease God; Jesus has handled the sin problem forever for those who have come to him. We cannot earn God’s favor; instead, he offers it for free through Jesus.

• Following Jesus is not an exercise in will-power in keeping rules and regulations; he changes us and transforms us to enable us to do what is good and right.

16. What more can God do for us?

He has given us life. He has been good to us and often we have not even realized it. He gave his Son Jesus as a sacrifice to allow people like you and me to know God.. He offers us freedom from sin and guilt. He offers us real life and eternal life with him. He offers freedom from fear of death and death’s curse. He offers it to us for free because he has paid the price. All you and I must do is to stop running and receive his free gift.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NASB)

What more can God do?

17. Before I come to Jesus, should I wait until I’m more presentable and worthy?

No. When will you ever be worthy to come to God? You and I can never be good enough; that is the whole reason Jesus came. If you wait until you are worthy or presentable, you will never come. Besides, what if you die first? Now is the time to come.

18. Why will you die?

Is there any reason that anyone would choose to die? Jesus offers life to you. Why not accept it? These verses from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy) express well the choice we have.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity.”  (Deu 30:15 NASB)

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”  (Deu 30:19 NASB)

19. What if you’re wrong?

What if after all your thought you decide that Jesus really is not God after all? Or, what if you decide that he is, but that you just don’t want him as your Lord; you would rather serve yourself, and will take your chances with God and his judgment when it comes, if it comes. You have done the mental calculations, and believe it is worth the risk. What if you are wrong? Do you really want to gamble your eternal soul away? You cannot win if you walk away from Jesus. God is real, and Jesus his Son died for you. The most serious offense against God is to reject His Son. Don’t do it.

20.  “What must I do to be saved?”

This is the question asked of the apostle Paul in Acts 16:30. It is the same question each of us must ask and to which we need an answer. It means,  “How can I know God?”,  “How can I be delivered from my sins and guilt?” , and “How can I be rescued from my life apart from God?”

God is infinitely good and willing to give us all that is good. You and I must stop running from him. He is able to release us from the fear of death that keeps us in chains. He is the answer to the void we feel in our lives.  There is no rational argument against the claims Jesus made about himself. It is time to receive him. Why not now? Why wait any longer? He offers us more than we can even know, and more than we will be able to fully appreciate in this lifetime. Why waste time? Why risk dying without him? Why would anyone want to live without him? Why postpone the happiness, joy, and peace he alone can give? The longer a person waits, the more difficulty there is in coming to him.

So, the question for each of us is, how can I be saved? The answer is given in the next verse: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved…” Acts 16:31

The next section, The Ultimate Solution, shows exactly what this means.

IV. The Ultimate Solution


… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23)

the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

We have a problem. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and no one meets God’s standard of perfection. We have offended God and wronged him by violating his standard.  God is holy and righteous. He cannot tolerate sin. You and I, because we have sinned, even if only once (and who has sinned only once?) cannot be good enough to see God and have a relationship with him; every human is a sinner. The guilt we all live with is not just some psychological feeling which we should attempt to rationalize away; we feel guilty because we areguilty of offending the God who created us.  Each of us falls short of his mark, glory, and standard. And because of our failure to live perfectly, our just reward is eternal death. We cannot earn our way to heaven.

Imagine trying to jump the Grand Canyon; here, being close would not count, and failing to clear the chasm by one foot would leave us just as dead as if we failed by 100 feet. Because you and I are not perfect, which is God’s standard, we deserve death and separation from God forever.

But, God loves sinners. He offers sinners like you and me the opportunity to know him, love him and live each day with him now in a close relationship with him; he offers the opportunity to live with him forever in heaven eventually. He sent his only Son, Jesus, to open the way for us.

Jesus came to earth as God and man simultaneously. He was perfect.  He never sinned, but he died on the cross to rescue sinners. His death on the cross had a purpose:  to save people from their sins. His death was no unfortunate accident; he died by intention. Jesus took our sins upon himself on the cross and in exchange offers us his righteousness. Jesus took our place at the cross and offers us eternal life. Jesus took our  “wages” (death) and, instead, gave us his “free gift” (eternal life).

Jesus is the only way to God. You and I will never know God or eternal life without Jesus. We will never be good enough. We cannot be moral or sincere enough. We will never even be religious enough. We will never pay our own way into God’s favor or presence by doing enough good deeds.

God does not ignore sin. You and I have a choice: either accept the wages each of us deserves for our sin, or accept the gift Jesus offers us.  His shed blood on the cross pays the price for your sin and mine, and cancels it.  His blood cleanses us from sin.

Notice that God offers eternal life through Jesus as a gift. How do we receive a gift?  We reach out our hands and accept it.  We receive the gift of eternal life from God by raising the  “empty hands of faith” (Francis Schaeffer) and accepting it.  This is known as faith, or believing in Jesus.  God has promised us eternal life in Jesus; we believe him and ask for the free gift, trusting him to give it to us.  He does.

“What must I do to be saved?”  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved…”(Acts 16:30,31).  This belief is based on facts and history, but is more than mere knowledge of facts about Jesus. It is an entrusting of yourself to him to save you. You stop trusting yourself and stop thinking you can be good enough to earn heaven. We must stop trusting in our good deeds, our morals, our religious duties, no matter how well carried out. We can add nothing to what Jesus has already done for us. You and I, individually, must trust in Jesus aloneto save us, to forgive our sins, and open the way to God.

Here’s how to receive this salvation:

1. Come to God in prayer and admit to him that you have sinned against him; tell him you are sorry.

2. Repent of your sins. Repentance is turning away from your sins. Turn your back on them and walk away from them. God will enable you to do this.

3. Ask God to forgive your sins because of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead for you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Believe in Jesus, what he did, and what he said. Trust in his promise to save you and his power to save you. Trust him alone; you and I can add nothing to the transaction.  Ask him to give you freedom from the enslaving power of sin in your life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  (John     3:16 NASB)

4. Ask Jesus to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and  will dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Rev 3:20 NASB)

God promises eternal life to those who come to him through Jesus. Realize that Jesus did not come to simply save you from hell. He came to rule in your life now as King. He loves you too much to leave you as you are; he will save and rescue you from your sins, your guilt, and yourself. He came to give you real life now, and a relationship with God himself now.

Realize also that God will not fail you or lie to you. If you ask Jesus into your life in this way, he will come in and live there by his Holy Spirit.

If you have just received his gift, please let me know. There is nothing greater in the world than knowing God personally through Jesus. You will have fullness of life and joy; you will have life with God forever. And with God, life keeps getting better.

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This booklet is copyrighted material, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2005.   You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute it as long as it remains unaltered in wording and there is no charge for the distribution.