Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

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The strange square-shaped box composed of pebbles suddenly made sense to Paul. It had to be some sort of water container. His mother left the podium and went into a room behind the stage as the pastor came back out wearing a long white robe. 

He carefully stepped into the tub while someone rushed on stage and set up another microphone. 

“I agreed with Mary that this idea would be the best way to honor not only our Lord God, but also the memory of our dear friend Bill, who we all loved so fiercely,” the pastor, Paul supposed his name was Gabe, said. 

“I was very careful to talk to Mary about this,” Gabe said. “It would be easy to understand someone’s desire to share something with a lost loved one. It would be easy to hear someone talk about God just after losing said loved one. What I should have known was that Bill had been speaking with Mary and sharing the gospel for months. It would be wrong to falsely baptize anyone, but after hearing her testimony and speaking with her several times, I trust her judgement.”

Gabe took a breath. It was obvious he was stalling to give Paul’s mom time to change every bit as much as he was using the opportunity to talk more about God. “Baptism is an ordinance. It does not prove or establish salvation. It’s a gesture to reflect rebirth in Christ. Neither will it wash away the sadness we all feel at the loss we suffered. I know I certainly wish it would, but that’s not the case. We all must feel our grief and mourn with those who mourn. But I find a small bit of comfort in this. Mary is living proof that Bill’s work was always for Christ, and she’s a new bond we have in our lives and, in a way, with Bill. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does ease it a little for me.”

Paul hadn’t wanted to punch someone so much in months. Was this guy seriously using Bill’s death to advance his religious goals and pad his congregation’s numbers? Were they seriously going to just give a thirty-minute sermon and then move on with business as usual? Paul wasn’t even sure what kept him in his chair. Maybe he was trying to avoid the scene it would cause if he stormed out, but he wasn’t sure. 

His mother came back out wearing the same kind of white robe Gabe wore. She stepped into the water and smiled. She crossed her arms in front of herself, and Gabe placed on hand on hers and another hand on her back. 

“Mary, have you confessed and repented of your sins?” Gabe asked.

“I have.”

“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, dedicating yourself to serving him?”

“I do.”

Paul gritted his teeth. She was supposed to say those words during a wedding with Bill, not in some stupid ceremony. 

“Then, based on your testimony today I proudly baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

Paul’s mother leaned back, and Gabe held her in the water for a moment.

“Washed clean by the blood of Christ.” Gabe pulled her back up. “And justified by Christ’s resurrection from the dead.”

Again the people launched in to a celebration. It’s like they’d completely forgotten this was a funeral. Bill was dead, and all they cared about was some stupid ceremony. Paul stood in stunned silence wondering at how crass it all was. His mother climbed out of the water and headed into the back room. 

Several people smiled at Paul. One person reached out a hand, maybe to shake it or place it on Paul’s shoulder, but whatever look Paul gave him made him pause and pull his hand back. Good! Paul didn’t want anyone thinking he was anything but angry. This wasn’t some pointless anger. Someone was dead, and everybody just moved on with life as if that death didn’t matter. 

He stormed out of the main room and into the lobby. He sat there stewing until his mother came out. She looked at him, a sad smile on her face. 

“Let’s go,” she said. 

Paul followed her to the car and got in. She got behind the wheel and buckled the belt across her shoulders and waist. 

She took a deep breath. “I’m going to ask you to listen.”

She waited. Paul stared out the window. She could say whatever she wanted. 

“I know how angry you are.”

That was obvious. It wasn’t like Paul ever hid his emotions well.

“I didn’t forget about Bill, and neither did anyone else in there.” She waited, probably wondering if Paul would argue, but he’d already decided to just let her have her say. “When Bill and I talked about … “ she paused, clearly trying not to cry. 

Paul was even more determined to stare out the window. He wasn’t about to watch her cry. Besides, didn’t she just get baptized? Didn’t that make life all better and happy? 

“When we talked about the future, I had thought I’d wait until the wedding.”

A tear fell down Paul’s cheek. For some reason, those words caused every memory Paul had of Bill to play through his mind, and each one hurt more than the one before it. 

“I’m still sad.” The tremble in her voice made that obvious. “I still miss him. I’m even still angry that he’s gone. I don’t have the answers I know you want. I don’t know why God took him now.”

Paul squeezed the handle of his passenger door. 

“I don’t know why God would put him in our life only to take him from us this soon. But I trust Bill, and I trust God. I trust the God who gave him to us in the first place.”

“You wanna know why?” Paul muttered.

“I’m sure you have some sufficiently witty and smart remark to make,” his mother said. “I’m sure it’s full of anger and resentment. But before you say that, just ask yourself if you really want to lash out at me right now?”

“So I’m supposed to just sit here and listen to, like, the third sermon in as many hours? I don’t get any say?”

Paul finally looked at her. Naturally, there were tears in his eyes and on her face. He cared less and less by the second. “You think if you talk long enough I’ll just suddenly realize that you all were right, and we should just happily flock to a God who would let this sort of thing happen?”

“No,” she said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m still sad and angry, too.”

“Well you’ve said it,” Paul said. “Can we go now?”

He did have several more things to say. Those church people and his mom may have some misguided idillic vision of some wonderful God, but Paul just had an empty chair where the man who could have been his father was supposed to be sitting. If Bill wasn’t going to sit there, no one would.”

Musings on Christianity 15

Musings on Christianity 15

Am I Saved?

For an embarrassingly long time, I felt that the mere fact that I sinned meant that I wasn’t saved. I had this idea in my head that the saved don’t sin, and that’s just not true (1 John 1:8). I lacked the Biblical knowledge to understand the relationship between Christ and the redeemed.

I’d encourage any to read John MacArthur’s Saved Without a Doubt. That book is a much deeper analysis for people who ask themselves this question. For the purpose of this work, I’m going to focus on issues I faced and realizations I’ve had.

I’ve been formally baptized at least three times. The first was because everyone I knew was baptized. It was the thing people did at church. The second time was (if I remember correctly) because I went to a different church. The third was when I finally understood what baptism represents.

Baptism is not the means by which one is saved. Here’s what should be the sad part. In my trials of faith and sanctification, I’ve had some sins that took a long time to turn from. If you can believe it, several, several, times I’ve gone into my own bathroom and baptized myself.

On one hand, I could say that this was extremely charming but completely unnecessary. You see, I mourned my sin. I hated it and the hold it had on me. I mistakenly thought each time, “This time will be the last.” 

On the other hand, I was just being silly. Nothing about what I did was Biblically sound. My heart may have been in a good place, but no amount of bathing was going to keep me from sinning.

It could have been the last time I committed whatever sin it was. Each time I faced temptation, I clearly remember ways the Lord provided me an escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). I imagined myself the rope in a tug of war between Christ and sin.

I think that idea is what gave sin power over me it never should have had. We are not ropes in a tug of war. If we have faith in Christ Jesus, if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

When we accept Christ as our savior, sin loses its hold on us. We become dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).

But over and over again I tried to free myself with my own power. I was under this impression that I had to help Christ somehow. The brain-twister is the fact that that just isn’t how it works. Christ has overcome sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Each time I thought I’d do something, each time I tried to stand on my own, I fell, and I fell hard. But when I turned to Christ, when I gave myself to him, sin lost its hold on me. Not all sin, but one of the larger sins in my life that I felt particularly convicted of. For some, it might be lying. For others, it might be addiction. The sin is less important than the breaker of sin’s chains.

So, the circular reasoning then says, “But that means I shouldn’t ever sin again.”

Well, we shouldn’t, and we don’t have to. Sin has no dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

However, we’re still living in the flesh. Have you ever felt that all you tend to do is what you hate about yourself? Have you ever felt that all the good things you want to do, you never seem to do? This is the war that wages in your own mind (Romans 7:16-24).

This sort of turmoil can lead one to believe they are wretched and cast out, forsaken because you persist in the sin you mourn (Romans 7:24).

This is the salvation that Christ gives! His grace covers our sin and frees us from our iniquity. He gives us comfort when we mourn our sin (Matthew 5:4).

The trick is how sin is overcome because those who believe and long to follow his law and seek his righteousness will have it (Matthew 5:6). It is Christ who overcomes (1 John 5:4).

What I think happens is we forget this. We turn from Christ seeking to defeat temptation ourselves. We can’t. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5).

All of these thoughts led me to a statement I still sometimes think to myself: “I wish the decision to do the right thing removed the temptation to do the wrong thing.”

For those of us who live in the flesh (which is everyone), temptation isn’t removed. In the resurrection, we’ll have perfect, sinless bodies, but only after that resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). 

In the meantime, stand strong, and we stand strong not by our own power, but in the power of Christ and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Another book by MacArthur, Standing Strong, goes over this in great detail. I’m going to focus on the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

If I had only known about that one tool, if I had only sought to study that weapon, the only weapon we use against temptation, my struggle would have been much easier. You see, we don’t deny temptation by our power or our will. We’ll lose every time. And that’s the mistake I kept making. I made promises to myself (promises I never really intended to keep because they were only deals with myself).

Our Savior taught us how to use it, but I didn’t read the Bible until just a few years ago, so I was hopeless.

Just after He was baptized, the Spirit led Christ into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by Satan himself. (Documented in Matthew 4.)

And so Satan attacked. Christ didn’t simply cast Satan out. Christ didn’t speak some new command or special phrase. He didn’t resist by simple refusal. What he did, was speak the Word. This is how one uses the Sword of the Spirit.

When Satan dared Christ, who hadn’t eaten in 40 days and nights, to turn rock into bread, Christ quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 (Matthew 4:4), using the Word of God the way an expert swordsman uses his sharpened blade. 

One would think that’s all there is to it. But just as someone can misinterpret the Bible, Satan can flat out manipulate it. Just look at what Satan does next:

He took Christ up to the top of the temple and quoted Psalm 91:11-12. If we don’t study, we can actually be more dangerous with the Word than if we didn’t read it, just as an untrained swordsman is especially dangerous to himself.   

Christ, however, an expert in the Word because He is the Word (John 1:14), knew how to counter that false use of the Bible. He countered that promise of Psalm 91 with a more important, and relevant verse, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).” 

A third time he was tested, and again Christ went to the scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13-14.

This, my friends, is how we defend ourselves against temptation. We turn to the Word of God. My friends, if you believe and proclaim Christ, you are saved. If you mourn sin and yearn for righteousness, you will be comforted and satisfied. These things are guaranteed. If you stumble, you will be protected because once you belong to God, nothing, nothing, can take you from him (Romans 8:38-39). 

Your salvation is assured in Christ, so this means your question is how to withstand temptation. My question was how to resist. The answer is simple: Study the word. Read it. Read it the way you’d eat healthy to grow strong. Read it the way you’d exercise to be fit.

Then, when temptation comes, seek the word. This isn’t a thing I can do as readily as Christ. Sometimes I know a verse right away. Sometimes, I have to look up parts of the Bible until I find one that helps my heart, and even the process of searching the Word for help is help in itself, and the verse you find then becomes another pass of the whetstone to sharpen your sword.

Doing so will also give you assurance in your salvation. As you read and study, you’ll learn more about Christ, and what He does for you.

For our panel: What verses can we study to learn more about salvation? What are some great, basic verses someone very young in the faith can memorize to start with? What are some verses we can turn to if we stumble? Would any of you care to speak more in-depth about the other components of the Armor of God?