Saying goodbye

INTRODUCTION. Considering the sadness and inevitability of “goodbye.”

We waved goodbye the same way we had always waved goodbye, with Mom standing under the small wooden plaque that hung above the gate of her picket fence, “To God be the glory.” She was smiling and waving as we drove slowly past, with our windows down, smiling and waving as we yelled, “We love you,” out the window. There was a familiar ache in my chest as this woman who had loved me for fifty-seven years disappeared from the rearview mirror, knowing that she would again be alone in her small home, just her and the Lord and her thoughts. But we would come back soon and again spend time together and then again poignantly and painfully wave goodbye. We would see her again.

But we didn’t. Five days later my brother called to tell me that Mom had died. She was suddenly gone, beyond the reach of another hello. That last goodbye waving out of the car window was THE last goodbye.

GOODBYE AS THE HUMAN CONDITION

This is the nature of the human condition. Every hello is paired with its corresponding goodbye. If there is a first meeting, there will be a final meeting. A relationship begun is a relationship that will end. My mom greeted me on August 2, 1959, as her second son, still umbilically tied, was placed on her stomach. She remembered that beginning of our relationship, even treasuring the memory of the details, but I, of course, could not remember that beginning. Then, more than fifty-seven years later, after loving me for my entire lifetime, on May 12, 2017, my mom’s earthly relationship with me ended. I remember the end of our relationship, but she, of course, could not.

The older I get, the more experience I have with goodbye. This, too, is part of the human condition, for goodbyes never stop. They keep coming until our death, and no amount of practice makes them any easier.

This morning we said goodbye to dear friends who had visited us for the weekend. We hugged each other several times, wanting to delay the inevitable departure. We saw in each other’s eyes a loving affection for one another created by our love for Jesus Christ and the anticipation of separating weighed on our hearts. Then finally, begrudgingly, with a mixture of joy and sadness, we said goodbye, hoping there would be a future hello.

NO CURE FOR GOODBYE

There is no cure for goodbye in this world. Goodbye is a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and a consequence of the fall of man. In a fallen world, there is sin and separation and death. Until there is a cure for sin and death, there is no answer for goodbye. As long as man is helpless before sin and death, man is hopeless before the pain of goodbye.

But now, for the follower of Jesus Christ, the power of goodbye has been forever broken. The good news is that, when a person says hello to Jesus and confesses Him as Lord (Romans 10:9), there will never be a goodbye. No one can snatch the believer out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Jesus has promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). God has promised to never leave His people, but rather to be with us forever (Joshua 1:5, 9; Hebrews 13:5). God is with us by His indwelling Holy Spirit from the moment of justification (Eph. 1:13; Col. 2:13) to the instant of our death, and at death we are at home with Him (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). So, with Jesus there is only hello. For His followers, King Jesus has conquered the kingdom of goodbye.

NOW GOODBYE IS ONLY TEMPORARY

But more than that, for believers in Jesus even our earthly “final goodbyes” are only temporary. We are not those who grieve like the rest who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We worship the God of the living (Matt. 22:32), and, through faith in Jesus, we have been made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4; Col. 2:13). That means that even if we die physically, we will never die (John 11:25-26). So, while my mom’s physical death ended our earthly relationship and we will never again relate to one another as mother and son, in Christ we will forever relate to one another as worshipers of the Lord Jesus, together with a great multitude of worshipers which no one could count before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9). Death and all goodbyes will be no more (Rev. 21:4) and we will be with Christ forever and ever.

SDG                 rmb                 6/6/2022                     #539

Meditations on the righteous and on righteousness – Part 2

INTRODUCTION. This is a collection of thoughts on the absolute nature of being righteous and being unrighteous, and of the absolute nature of righteousness and unrighteousness. Degrees in the manifestations of (expressions of, displays of) unrighteousness and of righteousness, and the reason for these degrees. This is the second post in this series.

A USEFUL ANALOGY: PHYSICALLY ALIVE OR DEAD

In my previous post about the righteous and about righteousness (#533, May 20, 2022), we have been talking about the fact that, in the Bible, when used to describe a person’s standing before God, “righteous” is an absolute term, having no degrees or relative achievement. It is a state of being in which you either are or you aren’t. A good analogy to “righteous or unrighteous” is “alive or dead.” In the spiritual realm, a person is either righteous or unrighteous, and in the physical realm, a person is either alive or dead. As there are no degrees of physically dead, so there are no degrees of spiritually unrighteous. As you cannot be “mostly dead” (with apologies to Miracle Max, played by Billy Crystal, in “The Princess Bride”), so you cannot be “mostly unrighteous.” Just as a person is either physically alive or physically dead, so every person is either spiritually righteous or spiritually unrighteous.

MOVEMENT FROM ONE ABSOLUTE STATE TO ANOTHER

But this analogy is also helpful in describing the movement over time from one absolute state to another. For in each pair of absolute conditions in this analogy, there can be movement from one state to another, the movement, if it occurs, is always in the same direction, and the destination state, once reached, becomes the permanent state. Let me explain what I mean.

THE PHYSICAL PAIR

We will begin by considering the pair, physically alive and physically dead. It is plain that physically alive is the beginning state. When a person is physically alive, that person is completely alive, but at some point in time, the person stops being physically alive and immediately becomes physically dead. At the person’s death they completely change states and move from 100% physically alive to 100% physically dead. Once the person has changed states and has reached the “destination state,” “dead” becomes the person’s permanent state. That is, the person will not move from physically dead to physically alive.

REVIEW. I have gone through this process slowly and deliberately to show that:

  • it is possible (and in this case, it is inevitable) to change states and to move from alive to dead,
  • the movement from one state to another is always in the same direction, namely, a movement from alive to dead, and
  • the destination state of “dead” becomes the permanent state for that person. From that point on, the person is always physically dead.

THE SPIRITUAL PAIR

Having examined this movement in the absolute pair of physically alive and physically dead, we will now do a similar examination in the absolute pair of spiritually righteous and spiritually unrighteous. As we have already seen from the plain teaching of the Bible, being spiritually unrighteous is every person’s beginning state (Romans 3:10-18, 23). When a person is spiritually unrighteous, that person is completely unrighteous, and there is no righteousness in him. But because of the gospel, because God sent Jesus to die on the cross so that those who are unrighteous can believe on Jesus for salvation, it is possible for the person by faith to move from the state of absolutely unrighteous to the state of absolutely righteous. The gospel also teaches that once you have moved from spiritually unrighteous to spiritually righteous, “righteous” has become your eternal state. This is because when you place your faith in Jesus, God declares you, the unrighteous, to be righteous in His sight, and God’s declaration of your righteousness is an eternal declaration. The one whom God has declared to be spiritually righteous can never be spiritually unrighteous again.

REVIEW. Once again, I have gone through this process very deliberately to show that:

  • it is possible, through the gospel of Christ, to change states and to move from unrighteous to righteous
  • the movement from one state to another is always in the same direction, namely, from spiritually unrighteous to spiritually righteous, and
  • the destination state of “righteous” becomes the eternal state for that person. From that point on, the person is eternally declared righteous.

As we have considered this movement between absolute states, hopefully it has become clear why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for condemned sinners. Through the gospel, the one who is fully spiritually unrighteous in God’s sight and condemned by their sin is not hopelessly doomed to hell, although that is what they deserve. All other means of rescue fail utterly, but for the one who will repent of their sin and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, their faith is credited to them as righteousness. By trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, God declares that person as being righteous, and righteous they remain eternally.

SDG rmb 5/22/2022 #534

A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our second study in this series, we considered the next phrase in the verse, “will come to Me.” (See post #468 on 12/10/2021.) In that post, we focused on answering the question, “Who will come to Jesus?” This led to a detailed study of the nature of the elect and election, and how this displays God’s sovereignty in salvation.

But now, in this post we seek to answer the extremely important question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” Since it is only those who “come to the Son” who are saved from eternal condemnation, we should strive to know what “will come to Me” means.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘COME TO JESUS’?

The expression “come to Me” appears twice in this verse. Jesus says they “will come to Me” and He says, “the one who comes to Me.” To “come to Jesus” is one the most important themes of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was sent from heaven to earth on a rescue mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) as He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The only way that anyone receives salvation is by coming to Jesus. The Bible teaches that God has divinely chosen those people whom He will bring to salvation, but this doctrine of God’s election is given to us so that we may know the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation, not so that we may be confused about how to be saved.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” For the human sinner, the most important part of Jesus’ statement is, “will come to Me.” If you want to be saved, there is something that you need to do. If you want to be saved, you must actively come to Jesus.

“What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?” First, you must believe in Jesus. In John 1:12 says that to those who believed in Jesus’ name become children of God. In John 20:31, the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have eternal life in His name. This believing can be understood as an unshakeable trust in Jesus, that He is who He said He was and that He is my Savior and my Lord.

Second, this inward faith and trust in Jesus manifests itself in an outward profession. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Jesus cannot remain an inner, silent thing, but must be expressed outwardly in a verbal profession. When you come to Jesus, others should know that Jesus has become your Lord and Savior.

Also, to come to Jesus means to repent of your sin and to begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). John the Baptist cried out, “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). At Pentecost, the people asked, “What are we to do (to be saved)?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Finally, to come to Jesus, the Son of God, means obeying Him. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If you have come to saving faith in Jesus, you will have a desire to obey His commands and to walk in holiness and righteousness. You will forsake the wicked ways of your past. Paul says that, if you have come to Jesus, “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9). Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

As we conclude this post, we should notice two things. First, all those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should be an encouragement to anyone who desires to be saved from the coming judgment. But second, only those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should instill a sense of urgency. Those who were thinking about coming to Jesus but never did, and those who never expressly rejected Jesus, but who also never came to Him in repentance and faith alike will perish forever. All second chances are forever blown away at the final heartbeat. At that moment, eternity opens wide, and the lake of fire receives another unrepentant sinner. I urge you to come to Jesus.

In our next post in this series, we will examine the truth that the one who comes to Jesus He will certainly not cast out.

SDG                 rmb                 12/11/2021                 #469