Friday, May 6, 2011

A Matter of Life or Death

My Dad was a man of conscience and conviction.  Although he struggled all but two years of his life over guilt for not having enough “faith” to live a life burdened with the legalism of his church, he was greatly respected and loved by family and friends.  On the day of his burial, my family and I were stunned at the number of people flowing onto the cemetery grounds.  The impact he had made on others’ lives was evident as they came forward to pay their last respects.

Through the tireless efforts of faithfulness from our Pastor who built a solid friendship with Dad, he came to know his LORD and Savior just two years before leaving this earth.  The guilt was washed away along with his sins as he came to understand that 68 years of works had “gained” him nothing.  Peace and joy over his rebirth overtook the lifetime of depression and despair.  And we rejoiced with him.

Dad remained that man of conscience and conviction, but in ways that defied the old man.  If he had been younger and in better health, the worthless works of his past would have been exchanged for righteous works for his God.  Mom once told me that he said he regretted wasting so much of his life.  We all experience that moment of regret; the moment of not having known Jesus Christ sooner and been given more time to serve Him with our new hearts of true faith.  But Dad grabbed what little time he had left with determination and gusto.  Because of his age, he had a newer and more vibrant understanding of how short life is and how vitally important the Gospel is to mankind.

Once during one of Dad’s weekly sessions with our Pastor, an issue that troubled Dad was raised.  It wasn’t that Dad didn’t have a sense of humor.  He just felt that the sanctuary was not the place for idle words.  Because of his own past experiences that spoke of the extreme opposite of this problem (a joyless, sober, weeping, hell-fire and damnation atmosphere) and a lifetime of deception that kept him from knowing his God and the truth of His grace, Dad needed to express his concern.  What he told our Pastor is one of those unforgettable things you hear and after having heard it, remains buried forever in your heart.  Unburdening his concern, he told our Pastor that the Gospel and its message was “a matter of life or death.”

Having had his heart opened by the LORD and delivered out of the bondage of a dead church at such a mature age, Dad knew this better than anyone.  Although he didn’t live long enough to see and understand the invasion into the church by the emergent, health/wealth/prosperity, and word-of-faith wolves, he knew all too well what he had been drawn out from.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew the seriousness of not having a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and sound Biblical teaching.

I, too, share Dad’s passion.  If I could have a conversation with him now, we would agree that there is no middle ground with God; not under the weight of what we once knew, but freed from that burden and our new-found understanding.  Dad could have just as easily rejected his old thinking and been swept into a universalist/free-will mindset if the LORD hadn’t intervened and placed men such as our Pastor before him.  But he knew that God never said, “Meet Me halfway.”  Instead, once Dad’s heart was opened to receive God’s Son and His Holy Spirit, he charged forward to the finish line where his old self ended and his new life began.

Although Dad can’t speak to us now, I will echo his words to those of you who might be foolishly looking upon your profession of Christ and what salvation means with far too much brevity and not enough gravity.  As he once expressed to our Pastor, I say to you:  knowing the truth of God and His plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ is a matter of life or death.  We would both agree that there is a time and a place for laughter.  My childhood was full of it.  But brevity should only come after we first understand the implications of it with or without Jesus Christ.

I hope that what my Dad once said also penetrates and remains in your hearts.  As King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything - even laughter.  If Dad had it to do over again, I think he would have impressed this in his conversation as a means to explain his discomfort.  His new-found relationship with Christ afforded Dad the freedom to laugh, but he wanted to make sure everyone else also understood the severity and vital importance of the Gospel and the new life it would bring.  Dad's simple statement of truth was one that spoke the most importance in determining this life or the next: an eternity of joy and laughter, or an eternity of sorrow and pain.

Dad was right.  It truly is a matter of life or death.

Go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, of Him crucified and of Him risen from the grave, to all the world.  After you do, your laughter will have more meaning as He welcomes you home with smiles and rejoicing into His eternal kingdom.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 

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