An Old Man is Given Life
Hello Church Family,
Yesterday was my step-dad’s 76th birthday. Bob has lived more than three-quarters of a century on this planet. But in a (most-important) way, his life only recently began.
If you’ve been around Northpoint very long, you know that I talk a lot about the dangers of moralism, this notion that Christianity is ultimately about improvement in behavior; this false idea that if I do enough good things God will accept me. This damning belief (branded by theologian and cultural commentator Albert Mohler as “one of the most insidious false gospels of our day”) is, in my estimation, the single greatest opponent to Christianity.
Well, for seventy-four years, my step-dad, Bob, bought into it. Bob didn’t need God, he wasn’t even sure he believed in God; after all, he lived the most moral life of anyone around. If there was some Higher Authority, then surely He would find nothing against Bob.
Bob was hard-working and fair. Always on time. And would give the proverbial shirt-off-his-back for anyone in need.
And, man, was he sacrificial. When Bob married my mom, not only did he get the woman of his dreams, but he was instantly brought into a living nightmare: responsibility for two preteen kids. He would immediately be saddled with one fast-talking, smart-alecky, know-it-all daughter and a well-mannered, even-tempered and handsome young son. (My sister would undoubtedly use different words to describe the two of us.)
And because things were tight financially, Bob worked every day from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for a local eyeglass manufacturer, and then from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at another establishment. Fourteen to sixteen hours a day. For years. And I never heard him complain. Not one time.
In fact, with a Herculean work ethic that my sister and I were carefully observing, Bob provided for his family without missing a day of work for decades. He laughed at headaches. Influenza was no match for him. Back pain? He endured more before 7:00 a.m. than most men would all day.
He never cheated. Not even in a simple game of cards. Never lied. Never reneged on a promise.
And Bob was invested. He taught me how to hunt squirrels in the snow (a skill I neither wanted nor would ever use again, to his chagrin); he tried to teach me how to fix a transmission, but that lesson never stuck.
If there’s anything productive I can do with a set of needle nose pliers or a circular saw (which, admittedly, is not much), it was because of Saturday mornings spent with Bob. He was (and continues to be) the picture of generosity, self-reliance, and moral fortitude.
But there was something that not even Bob could fix: he couldn’t change his standing with God. Despite all his best works, Bob was still a sinner. And because God is holy, He demands perfect obedience to His righteous Law from those who would be with Him. Anything short would result in eternal separation from God.
And we’ve all fallen short. Which renders us guilty before God, enemies of the One who made us.
Despite all his best works, he had no solution to his greatest problem: Bob was estranged from his Creator. From birth, an enemy of the One who made him.
And Bob knew it. He felt that separation. Even though he was a “good” person, his heart was unsettled. He embodied the oft-repeated axiom of Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
For seventy-four years, Bob was restless.
Until one day, about two-and-a-half years ago. As impossible to predict as the direction of the wind, God’s spirit crushed Bob in order to give him life.
At the end of a church service in which the gospel was clearly presented, Bob nearly rushed to the front to repent of his sins. He confessed his desperate need for God, his life of rebellion, and put his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.
I talked to my mom today. She said about Bob, “He’s always been a ‘good’ person. But he is so different now. He’s not simply moral, he’s broken. Gentle. He’s not so keen on justice; even if he is ‘messed over’ by someone, now he is forgiving.”
The false gospel of moralism almost deceived my step-dad all the way to hell. But God’s grace is greater than the trappings of religion. God’s mercy is more powerful than the resistance of any stubborn heart.
Out of love for Bob, God stepped in. Through the prayers of His people, God performed a miracle. At a time no one expected, God granted new life. That’s how God works. Not because we deserve it. But because He is a gracious God.
Today I celebrate the salvation of my step-dad, the most influential man in my life. And I praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If He can save a man like Bob—let me say it another way, if He can save a man like me—He can be trusted with everything, even our very lives..
For the glory of God in all things,