Friday, December 19, 2008

Adam Walsh and the Hope of the Gospel

I am a native Floridian and remember well the horror in 1981 when Adam Walsh, the six year old son of John and Reve Walsh, was abducted from a Hollywood, Florida mall, and then subsequently murdered and beheaded. It was with tears that I read this week that the 27 year old case was finally closed by the Hollywood Police Department. Adam’s murderer was believed to be a drifter named Ottis Toole who died in prison in 1996. Police chief, Chad Wagner, announced this week that if Toole were still alive he would be arrested for the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh.

The pain the Walshs’ have endured is beyond words. I was especially gripped by John Walsh’s statement this week, "For 27 years, we have been asking ourselves, 'Who would take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who? ' "

I am grateful that the Walshs’ have received some sense of closure. May the Lord comfort them and strengthen them in the days ahead. They have championed the righteous pursuit and protection of missing and abducted children in the United States.

It would be sad enough if Adam Walsh were the only child brutalized in this world, but presently there are 80,000 children missing in the United States, and statistics show that 75% of them are dead within the first three house of abduction. With such statistics, the pain of this world becomes frontal. For me, there is only one comfort among this massive sorrow. My comfort is the hope found in Jesus Christ.

It was into such a world that Jesus Christ was born. A world saturated with tears and sorrow and violence and hatred. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, we read of Herod’s response after being tricked by the magi. Filled with wrath, he dispatched his soldiers to go to Bethlehem and kill all the male children from two years old and under. John Walsh’s question comes to mind, “Who would do such a thing?”

Matthew notes that this slaughter of the children by Herod was a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy,


From Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross Jesus Christ tasted the pain of this world. He identified with us. He walked among sinners, and yet never transgressed Himself, and ultimately gave His life on the cross as a once-for-all payment for sins that to those who turn from their sins and believe on Him, they shall pass from death into life. His death was not final, for three days later He arose from dead proving that He could really save, and that He was really who He said He was….God. (John 14:1-9)

Someone once said that if tears were indelible ink we would all be stained forever. For those in Christ, our great Savior has given to us a living hope for the tears of this life. He is also preparing a place for those who trust Him where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Biblical Doctrine of Love

Over the last four months my life have been incredible: Richmond, Alabama, Florida, Nashville, China, Pensacola, and New Orleans. The Lord has been good and I have seen Him do some wonderful things in many different ministry settings. After a four month break, my first post back is on the biblical doctrine of love. Think with me for a moment.....

Our culture loves to talk about love. We love movies and pizza and vacations and on and on it goes. We use the word “love” for every mundane experience in life. This, coupled with the biblical ignorance of God that is rampant in our post-Christian culture, makes the doctrine of love one of the most challenging truths to communicate to those without Christ.

D. A. Carson entitled one of his books, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. The title struck me as odd. We might call the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine of predestination a difficult doctrine, but love? Love is like a "no-brainer", right? Well, not so fast, listen to Carson’s explanation:

If people believe in God at all today, the overwhelming majority hold that this God---however he, she, or it may be understood---is a loving being. But this makes our witness more difficult because often the love of God is set in some matrix other than biblical theology….

We live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God…to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity.

In sum, when Christians talk about the love of God, they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture.

I believe one of the strongest challenges before believers is for us to understand and communicate clearly the biblical doctrine of love. That is my prayer this Christmas season.

Of all the statements we could make about Christmas, I John 4:10 is at the top of my list,

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

This verse contains massive truth:
1. Love does not originate from us, but from God. We are not the generators of benevolence and goodness and righteousness...He is, and therefore worthy of our worship.
2. God does love. He loves righteously and magnanimously and unconditionally.
3. God has a Son, and He sent Him from heaven to earth to do the incredible....redeem a people with His blood.
4. He became the propitiation for our sins. He absorbed the wrath of God which rightly rested upon us (John 3:36) by taking our sins to the cross. There on Calvary's beams He paid it all, so I would not have to pay for my sins in hell for eternity.

This truth is appalling to many because the love of God has been redefined by those who, as Carson noted, widely disbelieve other attributes of God. Many believe everyone is going to heaven....and their pets are going too! Everybody will be there.

However, if the teachings of Jesus mean anything, we know a universal salvation is not true. I think one of the greatest challenges and privileges for the believer in Jesus Christ is to declare to a perishing world, "The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the World." (I John 4:14b) To know Him is to know life, and it sure gives meaning to 'Merry Christmas.'