(The following is a re-posting of a blog entry from December 2008…and it is still true…all of it! My attention was drawn back to this posting because of Noel Piper including it in one of ten or so articles she referenced in making the observation that Christmas is not a bundle of joy for many people who are in the throes of suffering…all kinds. Whether it is a chronic physical condition or a piece of universe shattering bad health news as we received nearly three years ago. Her blog is way more popular than mine so I took notice when the blog had over 100 hits today! )
Some things in life are more important than outstanding health, but not many. Some things are more important in life than a well functioning family where loving relationships rule the day, but not many. Some things in life are more important than an AVM free brain, but not many. What follows is what is more important to me than all these things combined.
Please watch the following clip from an ER episode…perhaps the single most powerful moment I have ever witnessed on television.
I’m not sure of the exact context of this clip. We didn’t watch this last season of E.R. All I know is that what this character was expressing near the end of his life was real. This is spectacular acting that sends chills down my spine every time I watch it.
Why? Because I know that what he was expressing was the undeniable truth of which Solomon spoke in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity into man’s heart. There are many ways to suppress this reality but in the end nothing can overcome what is.
The pablum that this liberal chaplain was giving to this man was less than worthless. It was a self-exalting agnostic mindless nihilism where all is meaningless.
This man was afraid of what was going to come next and the “professional” clergy had nothing to bring to the table. He wondered if atonement was even possible and she answered that it was up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.
He had regrets. He wanted answers. He knew enough that he believed God was real and hell was real, but he wanted answers…someone who could look him in the eye and tell him how to find forgiveness because he was running out of time.
My calling in this life, besides being a husband and father is to be a pastor. My biblical job description as a pastor is, among other things, to preach and teach the whole counsel of God to the people entrusted to my care. My privilege is to provide answers from the Word of God to people who have real questions…like the man in the video clip.
It’s not that I have all the answers to life’s daunting questions, but I believe with every fiber of my being that truth does exist, that God is real, and that we can know with certainty the most important answers in life.
As my family and I walk through these interesting days I find it troubling that some are taking the news about the thing in my brain harder than I am or than we are as a family.
I’ve been open and honest in these postings so you know that we are not cruising above the clouds at 50,000 feet in some kind of cocoon of protection where the sun always shines. Not at all. There are anxious moments and days for us all. We can bum out and be depressed. We do bum out and are depressed on occasion.
But I assure you of this. There is no fear. I may have difficulty believing that this is all happening but I do not have fear about this upcoming surgery. I have moments of anxiety in thinking through worst case outcomes… not a pleasant exercise with my vivid imagination. But we are not living in fear.
It is not because we are extra special people. It is not because we have an unusual fortitude about us. It is not because of any external thing. Rather, it is because we are followers of Jesus Christ, who gives true and lasting peace. My Christmas present to all of you who read this blog from all over this world, from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds and educational levels is this:
I am going to let you in on what I might have said to the man in the video on death’s doorstep… who wanted real answers.
First, I would have explained to him how every single person on this planet who has ever been born of woman, except Jesus the Christ, has been born a sinner and thus separated from the life of God. Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfect demands. Only a complete fool would deny this reality about himself.
Second, I would explain to this man that there was a baby boy born to a virgin named Mary about two thousand years ago. Before this baby was born an angel appeared to Joseph (who was betrothed to be married to her) in a dream and told him not to fear. The angel also told Joseph to name the baby to be born “…Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I would tell this man that the very name “Jesus” means “The Lord saves.” This is the reason Jesus, the divine and only begotten Son of the Father, came into this world.
Third, I would explain to this man how Jesus lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to all of God’s Law. I would tell him of Jesus’ roughly three year public ministry where He healed the sick, raised the dead, and loved the lost.
Fourth, I would tell this man with passion in my voice and genuine expression on my face that “Yes, atonement is possible.” At the end of Jesus’ public ministry He was brought before two kangaroo courts, convicted on bogus charges, and sentenced to die a cruel death by crucifixion, alongside two common criminals.
As Jesus hung on the Cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this moment the Father abandoned His Son. And as Jesus died atonement for sin was indeed made for all who will repent (have a complete change of heart and mind regarding their sin) and put their faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s Cross.
In the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s death He paid the just penalty for sin that we could never pay ourselves. God’s wrath should by all rights have fallen on each one of us but it has been averted for all who surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. Redemption was accomplished, but it still must be applied. There is no such thing as a universal salvation. All people will not go to heaven in the end. All paths do not lead to the same place. All of the major religions of the world do not serve the same God.
As Jesus breathed His last the thick curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy in the Jewish temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). This signified that access to God was now available directly and only through Christ.
The Apostle Paul would later write in I Timothy 2:5 “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Apart from this one mediator reconcilation with God is impossible.
Jesus said, as John 14:6 records it, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” It may not be popular. It’s certainly not inclusive, but that does not in itself render it untrue.
Finally, I would look this man in the eye and tell him that unless he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and literally risen from the dead on the third day, that he will soon enter into an eternity of conscious eternal torment (Matthew 25:41-46) where he will live in a state of perpetual payment of a debt that can never be paid. That’s why hell exists.
I would beg him to consider receiving the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and not to wait until tomorrow or next year, for no one knows what tomorrow holds. Today is the day of salvation.
I would encourage him, that if God has shown him his need and given him the desire, to do it right now…to pray aloud to God on the spot and tell Him the desire of his heart. I would encourage him to confess that he is a guilty, lost, and helpless sinner, and with all sincerity ask Christ to save him and take His rightful place as the Lord of his life, enabling him to turn from sin and live for Him. That’s what I would encourage him to pray.
And finally, I would encourage him to begin immediately attending a Bible believing church where the Bible is believed to be the Word of God, where the death, resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ are believed to be literally true, and where the people are filled with grace and love toward one another and outsiders, and where the glory and grandeur of God oozes from its DNA. That’s what I would tell this man. Then I would give him a hug and say “See you later brother,” but only if he believed the biblical truths of which I had spoken and had received them for himself.
I share this with you all because it is part and parcel of who I am. Many of you don’t much about me at all. I’m just the guy with the bogus thing in the brain. That’s not really who I am. I am first and foremost a redeemed sinner who is a child of the Most High God, who awaits an eternal home in glory, not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s mercy alone. If nothing else this AVM has given me the opportunity to share with all of you my understanding of the real meaning of Christmas and to learn some new and cool big words. Thanks for reading and thanks for your continued interest in our lives.
I, and my dear wife Karla, extend our desire for you all to have a Merry Christmas. Please feel free to contact me by email if you would like to speak to me about these matters more personally. I would be delighted to do so.