Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dead Man Walking

“Paul first plumbs the depths of pessimism about mankind, and then rises to the heights of optimism about God. It is this combination of pessimism and optimism, of despair and faith, which constitutes the refreshing realism of the Bible. For what Paul does in this passage is to paint a vivid contrast between what man is by nature and what he can become by grace.”
~John Stott~

Prior to the 1960s, when a man on death row would walk down the halls of the prison, the warden would shout out, “Dead man walking! Dead man walking here!” To all of the other prisoners within earshot, the phrase signified the convict’s very imminent death. It was a grim reminder that, while the man had life and breath in the moment, his execution was on the horizon.

The sober reality is that our world is full of dead men and women walking—not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense. But unlike the prisoner on death row, the frightening truth is that most people are not even aware that they will be condemned before the God of the universe. In the book of Ephesians, Paul expresses the truth to awaken us from our spiritual slumber and warn us of the things to come. He uses the strong language appropriate for such an occasion. “…You were dead in your transgressions and sins,” he stresses, “…gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:1b, 3b). This is our condition from birth because of the hereditary stain of sin we have as descendents of Adam and Eve. And it is irreversible. Working hard to perform good deeds doesn’t impress the holy God of this universe. His standard is His perfect Son Jesus Christ, and whether or not we like to admit it, you and I fall hopelessly short. We are dead people walking.

It is a bleak picture. But into the bleakness, God speaks. “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). The gavel has fallen and we have been declared guilty. But God intervenes. He grants a pardon to all who, in faith, place their trust in His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord. All of those who are in Christ will never face the wrath of God; Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us and He left not one drop for us. The death penalty has been dropped. The guilty party has been acquitted!

Take a deep breath and let that sink in a moment. It is not until we realize the depths of our own depravity that we can appreciate the depths of God’s grace! God could have stopped there, and we would have been eternally singing His praises with hearts that never grow tired of delighting in His amazing grace! But God goes further and calls us His workmanship! We are God’s masterpieces on display so that the world might see His glory and goodness shining through us.

If you are in Christ, when God the Father looks at you He no longer sees a dead man or woman walking. He sees His Son, Jesus Christ, the perfect and spotless Lamb. He looks at you with eyes of unconditional love and He has canceled the debt of your sin. The chains have fallen off, the prison doors have been opened, and you have been set free! Masterpiece of God, use your freedom to declare this truth to other dead men and women walking in order that they too might be free.

Friday, April 16, 2010


“Properly understood, adoption is one of the most precious, heartwarming, and practical of all our theological beliefs… [It] focuses our attention on a relational image and points us to the joy and assurance that comes from receiving a father who loves us and a family with whom we can enjoy our new freedom in Christ.”
~Iain Duguid~

In early April 2010, the world watched with horrified fascination as news reports announced that a mother put her adopted seven-year-old son on a plane back to his homeland of Russia, announcing that she had no desire to continue being his mom. In a typed letter she tucked away inside his little backpack, she explained, “After giving my best to this child…I no longer wish to parent him.” Her son was exhibiting signs of emotional and behavioral disorders, and rather than seeking counseling for him, she found it easier to put him on a one-way, 10-hour flight back to Russia unaccompanied by anyone else. Patricia Cogen, a child development specialist and family therapist, said that adoptive mother Torry Hansen discarded her son “like a pair of pants that didn’t fit.”[1] Hansen reported wanting a child whom she could love, but her adopted son did not meet her expectations. She just could not love him.

Adoption is a metaphor used in Scripture to describe our relationship with God in Christ, and the picture is strikingly different than the story of Hansen and her adopted son. Paul writes in Ephesians, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Eph. 1:4-8, emphasis mine). Notice the language used here. He chose us in Him before the creation of the world. Our adoption is not a haphazard decision made by God that lasts only for a season of life.

Romans 5:8 informs us that “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God did not spot something good or beautiful in us, and then decide to adopt us. He looked at us, saw the mangled mess of our lives with all of the sin and ugliness that keeps us from His presence and said, “You! Yep, you right over there! I choose YOU!” Dr. Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, “The wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this—not one of us is worthy of adoption. In our sinfulness, not one of us has any claim on the Father’s love, much less a right to adoption. But, the infinitely rich mercy of God is shown us in Christ, in whom believers are adopted by the Father. And this adoption, thanks be to God, is eternal and irreversible.”[2]

God has a destination for us—to make us holy and blameless in His sight. He will not annul our adoption the moment we sin. For exclusively through the blood of Jesus, He has made us holy and blameless in His sight, and He will continue to make us like Jesus until He returns or calls us home to be with Him.

Because of Jesus, you and I are no longer orphans! We will never be shipped back on a jet plane to an eternity without Christ. We do not need to fear being rejected by God because He has redeemed us through the blood of His Son, He has granted us the forgiveness of our sins, and He has lavished His grace upon us. If you are in Christ today, when God sees you, He sees the perfect, spotless Lamb of God. And God will not reject His Son. Let this be your hope today. Rejoice! You are a chosen, holy, and dearly loved son or daughter of the King!

[1] Cogen, Patricia. “Torry Hansen Should Have Sought Help.” 14 Apr. 2010.
[2] Mohler, Dr. R. Albert. “When Adoption Fails, the Gospel is Denied.” The Christian Post. 18 Apr. 2010.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Not Alone

It has been said that when God closes a door, He opens a window. But maybe He allows us to sit in the room, no window in view, until we become comfortable in the silence and solitude. For then we discover we are not alone; there is Another in the room. And He is all we need.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

In Sunshine or Rain

When considering the goodness of God, I must never look first at my circumstances. For I can only "see in a mirror dimly," and I will never perceive God correctly if I judge Him through the lens of my circumstances.

Instead, I must look first at the character of God to clearly see His goodness. Only then will I understand that whether God brings sunshine or rain, still waters or a hurricane, HE IS GOOD!

"For now [I] see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Cor. 13:12).

Let God's character always and forever be the lens through which I see the world!