When we look at the universe, we wonder at the magnificence. We stand in awe as the massive spheres move perfectly in their orbits. We stand amazed at the power of our sun and realize it pales in comparison to many other stars, let alone the vastness of it all.
There is, without a doubt, a glory announced by the universe that causes us all to marvel, but we must realize the glory that is declared is not the glory of the universe; it is the glory of God. The experience we have is true knowledge of the Lord Almighty. Now, we must not misunderstand this, the verse in the Psalm 19 does not say that the universe is God. In fact, it is clearly distinct from him in this passage, but the Glory that we are experiencing is our Father’s. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (Romans 1: 20).”
This is where the natural man steps in and attempts to suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Many naturalists say it should be enough for us to marvel at this world and all its complexities without any appeal to God, and this is what we should expect them to say since the natural progression from trading the truth of God for a lie, is to begin worshiping the creation instead of the creator (Romans 1:25). This is exactly what they are doing when they ascribe the glory that belongs to God to creation itself.
As for believers, we have every reason to rejoice and praise our Father who made it all. All we need to do to get a glimpse of His splendor is slow down, look around, and with childlike wonder, recognize glory of God.
Last Friday I received a note from Mr. Venn, which acquaints me with the loss of your wife, who, I find, expired suddenly after a long illness. When your rib is gone, you must lean firmer on your staff. (Psalm 23:4)
What a bubble is human honor, and what a toy is human joy! Happy is he, whose hope is the Lord, and whose heart cries out for the living God. Creature comforts may fail him, but the God of all consolation will be with him. When human cisterns yield no water, he may drink of the river that waters the throne of God.
Youth, without grace, wants every worldly embellishment. But a gracious heart and hoary hairs cries out for communion with God, and says: Nothing on earth can I desire in comparison with Him!
What a mercy that you need not fly to wordily amusements for relief or to find comfort! Not satisfied with this world’s husks, the prodigal’s food, God has bestowed a pearl on you which creates an appetite for spiritual nutriment, and brings His royal dainties into your bosom.
May this season of mourning be sweetened with a sense of the Lord’s presence, bringing many tokens of His fatherly love, and sanctifying the painful visitation by drawing your heart more vigorously unto Him and fixing it on Him!
May the Lord bring eternity nearer to our minds, and Jesus nearer to our hearts.
It was darkness, and it was light. It was torment, and it was peace. It was death, and it was life. The Cross; two heavy wooden beams, shouldered by the man of sorrows. It pressed hard upon His back. A back that had already been turned into an open wound by the lashes it had received. Compared to the burden He was about to bear, it was nothing, but it brought Him to His knees.
It was His choice to do it, but it was a choice that caused Him to sweat blood as He wrestled in prayer in the garden. He had made His decision; He would drink the cup that caused Him so much dread. If this cup were visible, the sight of it would have caused our hearts to stop, our stomachs to turn, and all our strength to vanish. It was a mixture of every dark deed we, as His people, would ever commit. It also included every foul emotion, every impure motive, and every heart’s desire for evil that we were unable to fulfill. If you have ever felt the weight of sin, you know it can break your heart and darken the soul, and because our hearts are still clouded by our lusts, we have never felt it to its full degree. It is crushing.
Not only were every one of our sins in that cup, but everything they deserved as well. The cup contained distress, depression, and despair. It included desolation, disease, and death. That cup was the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful God of righteousness. What we saw in the bodily suffering of Jesus was only the surface, and He drank the cup until it was dry.
At that moment, life left His body. His chest stopped moving, His tongue lay still, and His eyes went cold. The enemy of death had taken Him. He was supposed to be our Savior, but He was dead. The wages of sin had taken the sinless one who was meant to set us free. They wrapped His body, laid Him in a cold tomb, and covered it with a stone. Our hope had died. He had borne the brunt of our sins, and it had killed Him.
Then something happened on the morning of the third day. Though it occurred in the dark of the tomb, a light came back into his eyes. There was a newness to His body unlike anyone else who had ever returned from the grave. His body was alive, never to die again! The stone rolled away, and He emerged. Death had not defeated Him. He bore our wrath, and it had not overcome Him. He had conquered it. The bonds of death could not hold him!
In the resurrection, we have confirmation that His redeeming work was complete. He was a hostage to our debt, and now that debt had been paid. He died for our sins and rose for our justification. Death could not hold Him because He had laid His life down of His own will; no one could demand it from Him. He could lay it down, and He could take it up again.
Since the bonds of death cannot hold Him, neither can they hold anything that belongs to Him. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith will be saved. Child of God, what is it that brings you down? Is it sin, guilt, failure, shame, condemnation, accusation, or a body that is experiencing death? Whatever it is, it will find its defeat in Jesus Christ.
He is King of Kings and Lord of Lord! He has risen, and He is alive!
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus (John 11:25-26)
Is Coronavirus God’s judgment on us for our wicked ways, is it something he intends for our good, is it a mixture of both, or none of the above? Scripture tells us, “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). What this verse means is that God does not always tell us why he is doing what he is doing. We may do our best to try to figure it out, but, often, his ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33). In the end, he is always accomplishing more than we could ever think or imagine.
What do we do when we are unsure of what God is doing? How do we know how to respond when that is the case? If we do not fully know his intentions, how can we see his mercy? In the same way that the hidden things belong to the Lord, the revealed things belong to his people (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are several things that the Lord has told us in his word, and his word is the rock upon which we should build our lives. That way, when the storms come, we are not washed away (Matthew 7:24-27). He has not asked us to build our life on what he has not told us, but what he has revealed. Considering Coronavirus, we are helped when we think about in light of the following three biblical truths.
1. God is in Control
The first truth we need to bring to mind is that God is sovereign. He is the Lord Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. He reigns on high, and who can stay his hand (Daniel 4:35)? If we do not believe that God is in control over Coronavirus, either we have a God who is too weak, or lacks the knowledge, to remedy the situation. These are our only options if we deny his sovereignty, and these options are horrific and contradict what God has revealed to us in the Bible. To think this way about God is to trade the the truth of God for a lie and lay the foundation of our lives on sinking sand, and we might as well give up hope. God is sovereign. He could end covid-19 in an instant if he desired, but he has not chosen to do so as of yet. The decision to end Coronavirus or have it continue to play out is in his hands (Isaiah 45:7), and his decisions are never hasty or without good reason.
2. The Wages of Sin is Death
The second truth we need to remember during this time is that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23). Death is what sin deserves, and that is not only physical death, it is also spiritual death. Scripture calls this “the second death.’ This involves God consigning those who reject him to the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). Jesus called it “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and the apostle Paul called it “everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). To be clear, this is not annihilation; we will not cease to exist. Jesus said, this is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50). Those who go there will experience this for all eternity. An infinite punishment is the only suitable penalty for a finite being who sins against an infinite God.
Before we think God’s wrath for sin applies only to people worse than us, we need to remember that God’s word also says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23). We have all transgressed the Lord of the universe. His law, since we have been created in his image, is written on our hearts, and we have violated it. Every one of us, every person living on this planet right now deserves hell for our sins. There are no exceptions, and we should never try to understand the difficulties we are facing without remembering what we deserve.
3. Everything Short of Hell is Mercy
The final truth we then need to apply flows logically from the first two. Everything short of hell is mercy. If we do not see that God is merciful to us even in this, we are operating from a false premise that says we deserve better. If we are not in hell at this moment, no matter what we are facing, God is being gracious. He is being patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). No matter how bad things could get with covid-19, it is better than we deserve. His mercy is abundant even during this pandemic.
What should we do with the mercy that he is extending to us? We should embrace it and humble ourselves before him as a nation and as individuals. We should draw near to our savior who has promised, if we do so, he will draw near to us (James 4:8).
Many have died from Covid-19, and their time has come to meet their Maker. Some of them received their just reward; the wages of their sin. As painful as that is to write, it would be unloving to conceal this truth. Others who have died from the virus had found forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and they were ushered into his glorious presence as his children. Instead of wrath, they found grace. The question is, what will happen when our time comes. There is only one way to the Father, and that is through faith in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Jesus Christ was the only person ever to live a sinless life. He is the Son of God; fully God and yet fully man. He came to do for us, what we can not do for ourselves. He is the only one who does not deserve sin’s wages, yet he went to the cross willingly to take our punishment (2 Corinthians 5:21). “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He was given over to death because of our transgressions and He was raised for the sake of our justification (Romans 4:25). This is what Good Friday and Easter are all about.
Though our sins have alienated us from him, “all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children” (John 1:2). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13). For those who believe Jesus, the wrath of God for our sins is satisfied.
Even in Coronavirus, God’s mercy is abundant. If this pandemic does not touch us, we need to remember, we will die someday. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It will happen eventually. Come to Jesus today, he is our only hope and refuge. Not only that, it is where our true joy will be found. We were created to be in relationship with him, but we have traded his glory for corruptible things. We pursue riches, power, fame, and a host of other worldly trinkets, but he is calling us to something better. In drawing us to himself, God is calling us to the most glorious life possible, not only in heaven, but even now in the midsts of hardships.
Come drink of the living water and never thirst again (John 4:14). Come to know the friend who will stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Begin walking with your creator who will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6) and will work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), Yes, even the fallout of Coronavirus will be for the good of his children. My prayer is that we will all draw up under the wing of our Savior where we belong.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
In the 80’s, as we know, video killed the radio star, and secular music set the trend that Christian music slowly followed. There were two reasons why Christian music was slow to begin producing quality music videos. First, there were budget issues. Producing an album in the 80’s cost tens of thousands of dollars. The technology was not as readily available as it is today, and this applied to video production as well. The second reason CCM was slow to catch on to the music video trend was, even if you could afford to produce a video, who was going to play it? Eventually, however, it began to happen, Christians started making music videos that caught our attention.
Today, I want to countdown 10 Christian music videos that made an impact. Since this is a CCM backbeat, we will not be looking at current CCM artist. This list will only contain music from the 1980’s through the early 2000’s. I do have one entry in here a recent at 2008, but that is an exception. No, there will not be any Carman videos in this list. Though many of his videos are notable, Carman deserves a CCM Backbeat of his own. He is the Nickleback of Christian music, or should I say, Nickleback is the Carman of secular music. Carman is the artist Christians love to hate, some of it is deserved, and some of it is not. We will explore that topic another time.
With all of the preliminaries out of the way, here are the top 10 music videos that made us sit up and take notice.
10. Two Sets of Jones’ – Big Tent Revival (1995)
In the mid-90’s, Big Tent Revival gave us a powerful song that reminded us that the possession of the world are not the not the key to happiness. This video, filmed as a home movie, resonates with most of us even if it may be a bit overstated. Rewatching this video brings back memories of when my wife and I were a young married couple setting out on the adventure called life. It was at that point we needed a foundation upon which to build our life together. This song still has the power to bring us back to that reality. Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness.
9. Supertones Strike Back – O.C. Supertones (2002)
Unless you lived in Orange County, CA, this video may have seemed to come out of nowhere. Interesting story, in Orange County, several Christian bookstores actually held release parties at midnight when this sophomore album released, and the lines wrapped around the building. A friend of mine hosted one such party. He was amazed when I told him my experience of trying to buy the album.
I was traveling in Texas the day the album released. I went to one of the largest Christian bookstores I had ever seen to pick up a copy. I walked in, and it was nowhere to be found. So I found a worker and asked them if they had it. He said he had never heard of them, but he would check the back. Sure enough, they were still in a box in the back.
It would not be long before they knew of this band because this song and video travelled fast. It even saw crossover success finding play on a few secular stations. The world was learning that ska was cool (well, at least for a few years), and Christian music had one of the best bands.
8. Cash Cow – Steve Taylor (1993)
After a few year away from CCM with a secular band called Chagall Guevara, Steve Taylor came home with a new album called Squint in 1993 which was nothing less than brilliant. Along with the album came a VHS release of videos for each song, and Cash Cow was a standout; a rock opera in three acts.
Capturing the mood of early 90’s alternative rock, this dark and foreboding video gave us a glimpse of the insidious nature of the love of money with stop-motion claymation. With lyrics as you see below, you know you are in for quite a ride. Beware, the cash cow lurks.
It glistened, it glowed, it rose from the gold of the children of Israel (and most of the adults) The Cash Cow The golden Cash Cow had a body like the great cows of ancient Egypt And a face like the face of Robert Tilton (without the horns) … If you blow off this warning, perhaps you’ve already been licked
7. Shine – Newsboys (1994)
The newsboys had been slowly gaining popularity. Their album Not Ashamed received quite a bit of recognition, but the release of the album Going Public put them on the trajectory to become one of CCM’s most loved bands. This quirky video perfectly captured this oddly fun song, and made us all want to Shine.
6. In the Valley of the Dying Sun – House of Heroes (2008)
This will be the most recent entry on this list. For CCM Backbeat, I usually do not talk about music this current, but some of the best Christian music is often music that Christian radio never played and many Christians have never heard. The same goes for Christian music videos. This video did receive play on several college markets, but it seemed to be largely ignored by Christian outlets.
Though not overtly Christian, this song and video hit hard, and through it we learned that House of Heroes could make seriously good music and videos as well. I will leave the rest for you to experience, but the song comes to a climax with these lines:
All through the night I wrestled the angel To undo the curse That’s burdened me all of my life And for the first time I could see That God was not my enemy “I’m thinking of you” Like pieces of the sun Our light burns on and on and on Like stars in the night sky we shine I’m living to shine on
5. Jesus is Just Alright – D.C. Talk (1992)
Let’s be honest, there is no way you can have a CCM backbeat on music videos without mentioning D.C. Talk, but you probably expected Jesus Freak or some later offering. Though Jesus Freak, and several that followed, perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 90s music, this was this video that made us all realise that these guys were not going away, and they were only getting better. You have to admit, this song still rocks, and this video still makes you want to get up and dance. It was this video that set the stage for many great videos that followed.
4. 666 – DeGarmo & Key (1984)
Regardless of whether or not your agree with the dispensational theology that undergirds this song, it deserves to be on the list for two reasons. First, the end times where on everyone’s mind in the 70s and 80s, and second, this is one of the first Christian music videos with production quality rivaling some of what was being played on MTV. This is actually the second version of this video. In the original, the beast is consumed in flames, and MTV said it was too much, so D & K toned it down to what you see here.
One top of all of that, there is an aspect of this song that is still relevant today. It may be sooner than we think when we will have to either deny some aspect of our faith or face arrest.
3. Mercy Mercy -77’s (1982)
Though this video never gained huge popularity with the evangelical crowd, due to misunderstanding the darkness of the video, not to mention the eye shadow, this song makes the list because it is one of the first Christian videos to make it into the rotation of a relatively new TV station called MTV. In the end, we are all sinful creatures with sinful natures that tempt us away from the Lord. We are destined for wrath unless the Lord has mercy on us.
I was wallowing In a pit of snakes They come crawling Up around my legs Now, I despise them But I know If they hypnotize me Down, down I go
Then I say, Lord Have mercy on me I say, Lord Have mercy
2. Know Me (Huh, What?) – The Cross Movement (1999)
This video reminded us, once again, that true hip hop can be theologically rich and make a statement at the same time. Who has not watched an awards show when a musician or actor thanks Jesus for some profane song or movie? For every one of those facepalm moments, this video is for you. Not much else needs to be said about this video. It speaks for itself. We all need to examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith.
1. Meltdown at Madame Tussauds- Steve Taylor (1984)
This is the second entry by Steve Taylor on this list, but he has earned it. The year is 1984, Christians are beginning to have some music and videos that are not behind the times, and we know it because of Meltdown. The moment the video starts, and you see Blair (Lisa Whelchel) from the sitcom The Facts of Life when it was at the height of its popularity, you know you are in for something good. This was not a sub-par offering. The video then proceeds to use the fire that destroyed the wax figures at Madame Tussauds wax museum as a metaphor for hell and so much more. The whole video comes to a point with these poignant lyrics:
“Celebrity status only got in the way Had my hands in my pockets on the Judgment Day You can’t take it with you, there’s fire in the hole Had the world by the tail but I lost my soul”
What do you think of this list? Are there videos you would have included? Let us know in the comments below.
Surely I am with you all the days, to the very end of the age! -Matthew 28:20
The path in front of me may be full of flowers or full of thorns. Or, as is more probable, flower and thorn may be mingled together. The sky may be light or dark. The weather may be glorious summer or bleakest winter. But I go safely and happily, if the Lord Jesus, who can and will supply my every need, is with me all the days.
Days of Discipline
Some of the days will be days of discipline of the pruning knife and the cleansing fire. But when He is with me, the discipline is a blessing, and not a curse. It teaches me to grasp His strong right hand with a tighter hold, to pray more earnestly, to find heights and depths of meaning in the promises of God, to feel for others who are in tribulation.Mind and heart and character are bettered by the endurance of affliction.
Days of Monotony
Many of the days, too, will be days of monotony. They must be spent in little things–household labors, common concerns, unnoticed toil. I may long for a more striking and interesting experience. But when He is with me, I know that He makes my life like His own–the blessed life He lived among carpenters’ tools, and village streets, and peasant people. The drudgery is a love-message; it is Jesus Christ in disguise!
Days of Temptation
Every day will be a day of temptation. In the home, in the business, in company, in loneliness; I shall encounter the devil’s subtle snares. But let my Lord be with me, and temptation will but reveal the closeness and blessedness of the tie. It will be an instrument which He uses to impart more maturity to my graces, more courage, more patience, more trust.
Day of Death
Perhaps one of the days will be the day of death. But if He does not leave or forsake me, then death will be an ingredient in the training that fits me for the glorious inheritance! As John Bunyan pictures it, I must cross the ‘River of Death’ to reach the ‘Celestial City’. Jesus did it Himself, and the disciple is not above the Master. His Everlasting Arms will sustain me in the flood; and, on the other side, I shall enter the ‘Beautiful Gate’ and see His face!
All Your Days
All the days He is with me to the end, and through the end, and beyond the end forever and ever! Whether I live, therefore, or whether I die, I am His and He is mine!
To say the decision to cancel church or not because of coronavirus is an issue of faith over fear is uncharitable, or at least unthoughtful. Dealing with covid-19 has us in an unprecedented time, and local congregations must decide how to continue to worship, protect its people, and be good citizens as well. Too often, people speak of this issue as a matter of whether the local church has enough faith, or if they will fail to trust God and let fear control them. Though fear may have played a role in some congregations’ decision to cancel its worship service this weekend, to speak of this issue in this way in general, exposes a failure to think deeply about what we are facing.
It would be just as wrong to say that all churches should opt for virtual services as it would be to say that all churches should gather as usual. Each church has a different context. Some are large, and some are small. Some are in rural settings that are naturally socially distanced, and others are in urban areas. Each church must evaluate what to do based on their context. To assume if a church opts not to gather, they are letting fear rule them, not only disparages our brothers and sisters in Christ; it is patently untrue for most congregations.
For those who say altering a church service due to covid-19 is a lack of faith, it is easy to point out their inconsistency by asking them some questions. Did you cancel your greeting time? Did you provide hand sanitizer for those in attendance? Did you ask the sick to stay home? Did you make any changes to protect your people? If they answer “yes” to any of these questions, simply apply their argument to them and ask why they failed to trust God? Of course, we need to do it in love. We must do it in a way that lets them know we care for them. We do not want to be uncharitable ourselves.
It is not a matter of faith over fear; it is a matter of where each congregation needs to draw the line to protect its people and society as a whole. Christ calls us to love our neighbors, and if it is in the best interest of those around us to keep our distance, it would be unloving to meet in person. Each church needs to make the decision that best fits their situation. If anything is an example of Christian liberty, this should be it. Hopefully, with a little more thought, we will stop speaking of this as a matter of faith over fear out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are only doing what they need to do to be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to them.
It is common these days to hear people who appeared to walk close to the Lord, announce to the world that they are embracing a sinful lifestyle, or that they have doubted their faith and are moving on to other things. Usually, these announcements involve a discussion of their happiness. They will allude to the fact that they were in a time of sorrow, but now they are happy. What should we think about such an announcement? Should we not be glad they are happy? Do we want them to be depressed? What we should think about when we hear these claims is the deceptive nature of sin.
Scripture says that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and much too often, we do not take this warning seriously enough. Now, I do not claim to have insight into the exact reasons why each person would decide to grab on to their lusts and forsake their obedience to the Lord, but there are a few general contours which usually take place in all these cases.
First, it does not happen overnight. Falls of this nature usually progress from what we sometimes consider lesser sins. We are prone to wander, and we must always be on guard. Thoughts enter the mind, and instead of dealing with them, we begin to dwell upon them. Then those thoughts progress into small acts of compromise, and years later, there seems to be no way of reversing the trend. The warning here should be clear, with whatever sin we are dealing, one of the critical battlegrounds, if not the key battleground, is the mind and affections. We must take every thought captive and not wait until they manifest in other ways.
What does this have to do with happiness? Following Jesus disrupts our pleasure in pursuing sin even in our thought life. What we watch on TV, the music we choose to listen to, and what we spend our time looking at online are all free game. For the true Christian, once the Holy Spirit enters our life, a civil war between flesh and spirit begins. This struggle is not easy. For those who merely profess Christianity, it is even worse. Christianity disrupts their desires for sin, but they lack the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives to have any victory or find any joy in it. Talk about a recipe for depression. Though they experience common grace during this time, without a heart changed by the power of God and saving faith in him, failure is inevitable. You cannot subdue the flesh in the power of the flesh.
Second, comes the questioning of God. “Did the Lord really say?” is the question that inevitably comes to mind. During this point, whether consciously or unconsciously, something begins to cause them to put scripture in a place of lesser authority. Unfortunately, what usually takes its place, and causes revision to the clear interpretation of the word of God, is “happiness.” Some make this such a point in their announcements that they will admit that before they walked away, they had to take anti-depressants to cope. However, according to them, the good news is that they are happy now. So why would they bring this up? Though they often do not state it explicitly, it is for the simple reason that they want us to make the same logical conclusion they made. “If I am not happy, something must be wrong with my understanding of God or his word.” Of course, this understanding is typically the biblical understanding Christians have held thought the history of the church.
Third, churches often help lead them down this path. This trend of putting happiness first did not appear out of thin air. It saturates American evangelicalism. All we have to do is listen to Christian music, attend Christian conferences, or even attend the preaching in many churches to hear this message. Many Evangelical teachers and preachers have substituted the true gospel for something a little more palatable to culture, and the shift is subtle. Instead of preaching law and gospel where they tell us the truth that we need to come to Christ because we are sinners deserving of wrath and that the wages of sin is death, what many preach in its place are sorrow and self-esteem. The reason we need to come to Christ, they tell us, is not because we are sinners deserving wrath, but because we feel lonely, things aren’t going right in our life, and because we are unsatisfied at the moment. Jesus is no longer the mediator; he is our therapist. Jesus did not come to save us from our sin and guilt; he came to save us from our sadness. The problem with this is evident when we ask, what happens when a “Christian” becomes unhappy, lonely, or unsatisfied? What is the problem now? They already have Jesus. The issue must be with the way we interpret Jesus. And so it goes.
The problem is that striving against sin, whether in ourselves or culture, is never comfortable or pleasant. Striving against sin can even make us lonely, because some people will reject us for it, and we may also face times of heaviness and great sorrow because of it too.
The book of Hebrews makes this point; it encourages us to press on in our fight against sin. It reminds us that we “have not resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). The point of this verse is, we must strive against sin even if it gets us killed, which is certainly not a “happy” experience.
Here is what I want to say to those who have given in to their lusts to find “happiness.” Yes, it is hard struggling against sinful desires that war against your soul. It may cause you unhappiness for a time, but you have not yet resisted to bloodshed. It would be better to enter the kingdom of heaven after a long and unpleasant fight than to go to hell on beds of ease. Come home! Repent, find forgiveness in Jesus, and start fighting against sin again, for any temporary happiness you think you now experience will be short-lived. Even though living a life battling with sin may be tough, it cannot be compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven with our Savior.
Sin is deceptive and always looks good at first, but it always promises more than it can deliver. In the end, when you walk away, what you are gaining is the paltry tin of worldly pleasures, and you are giving away the glory of possessing the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ. Even in our darkest nights, he has promised to be with us in the dungeon. He is our light in the darkness, our food when we are hungry, the living water when we are thirsty, and, most importantly, our forgiveness for our sins. Once we understand our sin and forgiveness, we know that anything short of hell is mercy, and, at that moment, we find joy and realize that he does turn our mourning into dancing. In the end, Jesus is our joy, but he will never be that if we do not understand our sin is the real reason we need him, not our sadness. It is here that we begin to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
For anyone who claims to be a Christian but has drifted into sin, I pray, if you will not repent now, that you are a true Christian who will be brought back by the chastening hand of the Lord (Heb. 12:11). The unfortunate thing for many who find themselves in this situation is that they never come back because they are not his, and scripture is clear:
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. -Hebrews 12:8
The only reason why someone would ultimately and finally fall away from the faith is an unregenerate heart. May we all be aware of the roaring lion and his tactics. May we guard our hearts diligently even when it is painful. I, for one, will not be glad when someone who professed Christ claims to find happiness in his or her sinful lifestyle. Instead, I will weep for them to come home.
My nerves were shot. I could feel the stress coursing through my body, and I knew what was pulling the strings. All of the tension straining my soul was connected to the things of this world. I had been seeking my meaning in them, and their uncertain nature made everything I was standing upon precarious, which had caused me to collapse in fear. Though I did not know it at the time, those ties to the world needed to be severed, or I was going break.
It was then that I saw a man walking toward me. He was a smallish man with a stern face that made me question his intentions, but as he drew near, I saw kindness in his eyes that provided me with some relief. He looked at me, and he immediately saw my distress. The windows of my soul were open to him, and he could see that the treasure of my heart was man’s applause. He saw that earthly pleasures had my rapt attention and would not let me go.
He immediately showed me a picture of a man arrayed in full splendor. Never had I seen such an image. The portrait reached deep down into my soul. My lust grabbed a hold and refused to let go because I wanted to be that man. Then something happened. I saw that the man of splendor was disillusioned. He had everything for which I longed, but he was still unsatisfied. He cried, “Vanities of vanities. All is vanity.”
How could this be? The man in the picture had everything I knew would make me happy, and he was still unfulfilled. I felt myself take in a deep breath. Something that had been putting pressure on my chest broke free, and I felt my lungs begin to relax. With that, the small man was gone.
As I lay there pondering what had happened, I saw a man of great evil approach me, and he had, in his hands, all the treasures of the world. He, too, had everything that I desired and had been investing my life and soul to attain, but he was hideous. I could not tell if he reminded me more of Nero or Hitler. As I look upon the monster in front of me, a searing thought shot across my mind. “If the Lord of heaven and earth allows the greatest portion of the world’s treasure to be held by the vilest of men, his avowed enemies, then they must not be the greatest treasures man can possess.” If earthly riches were part of God’s greatest gifts, the wicked would have no part in them. As he was walking away, I noticed the tension running up and down the back of my neck start to relax, and the years of chronic pain in my head began to fade.
As I sat there beginning to wonder if I had been directing all my life pursuits toward the wrong things; another man came into view. This one was the exact opposite of the last man. He was godly. I saw 11 more standing at a distance behind him, and all of them wore the clothes of poverty. I saw them being mistreated. They had no desires for earthly power, riches, or fame. In fact, they had given up what they did have to possess something greater. As the man in front stood there looking at me, I saw joy in his eyes. He said, to me, “I count all things as dung compared to knowing Christ.” He smiled and walked away, and the others went with him.
I knew at that moment that these were the men used by God to lay the foundation of the Church. The Holy Spirit had used them to write down the very words of God for all subsequent generations, and the man in front had just called all that I was pursuing “dung.” At that moment, most of the strained nerves in my body that had been tethered to the false treasures began to snap, and, contrary to what I would have thought, as they snapped, they did not hurt. Instead, they loosened and began to regain their intended use. Feeling the life returning to my body, I stood to my feet, and then something even greater happened.
I saw a man approaching riding a white horse, and he was beautiful. I knew right away that he had sent the first three visitors. As I looked upon him, my joints felt loose, my muscles began to give way, and I went down to my knees. Everything about me began to come undone. His voice shook my soul with comfort, and he showed me his hands, his feet, and his side. Up until this point, I had been pursuing the world’s crown, and he showed me what that crown truly looked like by showing me the scars on his head.
He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and he was despised and rejected by men. Foxes have dens, the birds of the air have nests, but he did not have a place to lay his head. If the treasures and esteem of this world were of eternal value, he would have had them. His beauty and worth emanated from his holiness, and the world’s riches had nothing to do with it. Compared to him, they were revolting and unnecessary.
At the sight of him, I felt something within me die. It was a former and perverse love for the things of the world. I knew in that moment that it was not wrong to possess them or use them; it was wrong to love them. The glorious cross of Jesus now stood between me and the world, and I no longer desired it, for the Pearl of Great Price overshadowed it. He then lifted me to stand in a strength not my own.
I had always known his scars provided the forgiveness of my sin, but I never realized how much they were calling me away from the things of the world. Seeing them, I felt everything within me begin to rest. My former pursuits are coming to an end. They are vain, and I now realize that my ambition for the things of the world made me my own tormentor. Through these visitors, Jesus poured contempt on the things of the world in comparison to him. He continues to lead me further out of the darkness into his marvelous light.
Now I am here to visit you. You, who have been striving after riches, power, fame, and sexual appeal. You, who are striving to increase them. You, who place your hope in keeping them. You, who fear to lose them. You, who find your delight in them. You, whose thoughts are continually upon them. You, whose conversation is always about them. Remember, they are unstable and cannot offer you the security and lasting pleasure you seek. Never forget that the Lord often allows his enemies to have the greatest portion of them. Keep in mind that his greatest servants rarely had any of the world’s goods, and they had everything in our Savior. Most importantly, look to Jesus and His cross to see how contemptuous they are compared to knowing him.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. – Proverbs 23:4
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. -1 Timothy 6:10
The following is a letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter.
My Dear Betsy,
Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!
The other day I was at the harbor, and saw a ship launched; she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, “Poor ship!” I thought, “you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may not return at all!”
Then my thoughts turned from the ship to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state, you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care, I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers by which you might otherwise suffer and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!
I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters, unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor, you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!
I am, with great tenderness, my dear child, Your very affectionate father