Vol. 4, No. 10
~ Page 12 ~
On the cross, as they both were dying, Jesus told the penitent thief, "Indeed, I assure you, you will be with me in Paradise today" (Luke 23:43). I believe similar words Jesus spoke to Lois on July 13, 2000, saying, "Indeed, I assure you, you will be in Paradise today, awaiting the time I meet you 'in the air' on our way into the 'heavens of heavens'" (Psalm 115:16; 148:4). On evangelistic trips twice around this world, Lois helped me in the Gospel work, 67 years of her 89. She would have been 90 her next birthday, December 19.
Before Lois' passing, she had received a beautiful card entitled "God Has a Plan for Every Life." Indeed so, and it begins with knowing that every human being is a son or a daughter of God (Luke 3:23, 38).
As a father is tender toward his children, so Yahweh (God's Hebrew name, Exodus 3:15) is tender toward those who reverence him. He, even he, knows how we are made, and he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13-14).
However, human beings are more than "dust." God has formed a spirit in every person (Zechariah 12:1). When the "dust," making up our physical bodies, "returns to the earth as it was," then "the spirit returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7), and lives on! "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32).
Man's immortal spirit is also called his soul (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 6:9-11). Since God himself is a "spirit" being (John 4:24), he complimented mankind on the sixth day of creation week by saying to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:2, 26; Psalm 104:30; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).
Consequently, every human being, from the day his life begins in his mother's womb, is important and precious, made in the image of God! "Behold! Children are the heritage of Yahweh, and the fruit of the womb is his pay" (Psalm 127:3). He is not willing that even one should miss the "heavens of heavens" (Psalm 115:16). He has taken an oath, swearing by himself, "As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked'" (Ezekiel 33:11).
That every sinner (who is not a sinner? Romans 3:23) might be saved, God sent Jesus from the "heavens of heavens" to the earth to "seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). When Jesus was criticized for associating with sinners, he announced that "there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who changes his heart" (Luke 15:7); yes, there will be "rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God" (Luke 15:10). Since angels are "countless, thousands and thousands of thousands" (Revelation 5:11), what a scene there must be in heaven in sight and sound, of joyful happiness, when one sinner, of whatever skin color, walks down an aisle to confess Jesus, and to be baptized! Or, when one backsliding Christian returns to his "first love" (Revelation 2:4)!
Thus, we see how important and precious to God is to every individual. Truly, he has a plan for each of us: to "love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). And the only way to show that we love God is to "keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3).
God does not have a special plan for each person. Each one decides on his own to keep God's commandments or to disobey: "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15), whether God or Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:14; 12:7).
Sad is a partial list of those who have disobeyed God: Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:16-17), Cain (Genesis 4:6-7), Jezebel (both in 1 kings 21:1-37 and in Revelation 2: 20-23), Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
A partial list of those who love God and have kept commands are Abel (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4), Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5), Lydia (Acts 16:14-40), Phoebe and Tryphosa and Julia (Romans 16:1-2, 12, 15). In the divine plan, a good Christian is a "vessel of honor, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21).
Since all people, from Adam on down, are the Father's children (Luke 3:23, 38), he has planned a universal family reunion lasting forever (Matthew 25:46). He wants not one son or daughter, of any color, of the "whole world" (1 John 2:2), to be absent (2 Peter 3:9).
God's plan does not call for any atheist to enjoy the eternal family reunion in the "Father's house" (John 14:2). An atheist is a rebel against his heavenly Father, and is "without excuse," for God's "eternal power and divine nature" are "clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made" (Romans 1:20). Only a "fool" says "in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1; 53:1), and consequently it "is impossible to be well-pleasing without faith, for the one who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who search for him" (Hebrews 11:6).
The mentally deficient people are also God's beloved, but they have no ability to "believe that he [God] exists," as also children, dying in infancy, have no ability to believe in God. As an earthly father "is tender toward his children, so" the heavenly Father "is tender to those who reverence him" (Psalm 103:13), and therefore we know that God is tender to those born mentally deficient and to those dying in infancy, for "he, even he, knows how we are made, and he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14).
A different plan God has for those who are mentally normal and who do not die in infancy, a plan not only requiring faith that God "exists" (Hebrews 11:6), but faith also that Jesus is "the Christ" (Matthew 16:16), the sacrificial "Lamb of God" (John 1:29), "wounded for our transgressions, ... bruised for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:10), whose "body" was not left "in the grave" (Psalm 16:10), who "was raised on the third day" (1 Corinthians 15:4), bringing "to light life and immortality through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10), and in love and appreciation called "the Son of God" (Matthew 16:16). The evidence for Jesus' deity is so clear and strong that no one will be admitted to the heavenly family reunion who rejects Jesus (John 14:6).
Nature itself ("The heavens declare the glory of God," Psalm 19:1) shows the existence of God, making all responsible people accountable (Romans 1:20) in God's plan, but the preaching of the "word" of God is the requisite to make all responsible people accountable for obeying "the gospel" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10), for becoming "Christians" (Acts 11:26).
How a sinner becomes a Christian is simple but life-changing: believing in Jesus, confessing his name, repenting, washing sins away in being buried in baptism, rising in "newness of life" (Acts 2:38; 10:47; 22:16; Romans 6:4; 10:9-10).
An imaginary conversation between God and a human being went this way: "O God, did Jesus command that the 'gospel' be preached 'to every creature'?" God's reply, "Yes, Mark 16:16." Did the first century Christians "both men and women" go "about proclaiming the 'word'?" "Yes, Acts 8:2-4," was God's reply. "Does Jesus want Christians to continue making 'disciples of all nations' to 'the end of the world'?" "Yes, Matthew 28:18-20," was God's reply. "What if we Christians fail to preach 'the gospel' to 'every creature'? Do you have a back-up plan?" God's reply, "I have no back-up plan."
There is no revealed back-up plan to save those who die without ever hearing the story of Jesus. An impossibility presents itself: "how will" the untaught "believe in him of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10:14). All that we can do is to trust the love of God that will not allow him to make any mistakes.
But a revealed plan of God is clear that he, with all his love ("God is love," 1 John 4:8, 16), in his "infinite wisdom" (Psalm 147:5), calls for an eternal "hell fire" (Matthew 5:22; 25:46; Mark 9:43-48) for all responsible people who do not obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:9).
Thank God, no responsible person has to spend eternity in a place of torment! He who goes there, in spite of all that a loving God could do for him, has made his own choice! Each human being can, if he wants to, be the kind of person in God's sight as was Daniel: hamudhoth (Daniel 9:23, variously translated as very precious, highly esteemed, greatly beloved)!
Peter Tanksley wrote:
If we could see God's Grand Design
As it wisely unfolds,
Then we could face life day to day
And take the licks and blows.
If we could know God's plan for us--
Christians always knew it--
Then we'd not flee our post of duty,
But gladly stick to it.
If we have known God's love in Christ--
If we know his love never fails--
Then that is enough to make us sing,
"We don't need small details."
God, help us as we read Thy Word
To look beyond the strife,
To view the Grand Design of Love
Which you've planned for our life.
To some erstwhile sinners now penitent loving words were spoken: "I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Plant 5 rows of Peas:
Prayer, perseverance, politeness, promptness, and purity.
Plant 3 rows of Squash:
Squash gossip, squash criticism, and squash indifference.
Plant 5 rows of Lettuce:
Let us be faithful to duty; let us be unselfish; let us be truthful; let
us follow Christ; let us love one another.
No garden is complete without Turnips:
Turn up for church; turn up with a smile;
turn up with new ideas;
turn up with determination to make everything count
for something good and worthwhile.