Six years ago yesterday, my dad lost his physical battle with cancer. Active and healthy prior to his diagnosis, my dad was only 57 years old when he died. I still miss him a lot.
Often, when people think of death and heaven, they think of angels. They might talk about guardian angels or heavenly angels. Really, though, angels are very limited in their power, as they are messengers of God who are sent to do as God calls them to do. Their power is limited to God’s will and God’s purposes for them, and so we are not to pray to angels or worship angels or even trust in angels. Rather, we are to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him. In fact, “All God’s angels must worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6).
When my dad was dying of cancer, could God have sent His angels to comfort my dad? Sure. Angels could have ministered to my dad in various ways, but they could not and did not save my dad – not from physical death caused by cancer nor from eternal death caused by the curse of sin.
Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus is God in the flesh. Only Jesus could take our sin upon Himself, die in our place, satisfy the wrath of God that we deserve, and rise again to defeat sin and death.
“Jesus Is Better than Angels.” That is the message, Lord willing, I will be preaching on Sunday morning from Hebrews 1, hoping to share some unique truths about Jesus that make Him (and Him alone) worthy of worship.
Thankfully, a couple of years before my dad lost his physical life to cancer, he received eternal life when he professed his faith in Jesus Christ. One of my life’s greatest privileges was getting to baptize my dad at his and my mom’s then-home-church – First Baptist Church of Marshalltown, Iowa – in December 2012.
Angels did not save my dad. Jesus did.
Whom are you trusting to give you hope, life, and a right standing with God? Jesus alone can do all three, so please look to Him today and every day.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, what we do is a reflection of our hearts. Sincere kindness is a reflection of goodness. Hatred toward others is a reflection of evil. Love for God and others is a reflection of goodness. Idolatry, lust, and stealing are a reflection of evil. Sacrificial service is a reflection of goodness. Racism is a reflection of evil.
Sure, people with good hearts changed by God still commit acts of evil because we are all sinners. Likewise, people with evil hearts still do good things because God is gracious and merciful and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).
Ultimately, though, the health of our hearts will determine our eternal status before God. How is your eternal heart health?
THE IMPACT OF THE HEART
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Micah 2 on our need to “Accept God’s Judgment,” as I continue our Walk Humbly sermon series. Right away in the beginning of that chapter, we see the impact our hearts have on our lives. “Woe to those who dream up wickedness and prepare evil plans on their beds! At morning light they accomplish it because the power is in their hands” (Micah 2:1). Their hearts were full of wickedness, and they used their power to accomplish evil.
Some things never change. It happened then, and it continues to happen today. Why? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.
Why, after all that has happened, is racism still a problem in our country? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.
Why, after all of the advancements in this country and with all that we know to be true, does police brutality still exist when most cops are good cops who serve and protect like they should? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.
Why, with all that is abundantly clear in the Word of God, do so many ministry leaders have massive moral failures? Because the heart is evil apart from the grace of God.
The problems in our country right now, the problems in every country throughout human history, the problems in all of our hearts… I believe the problems stem from the same thing: pride. Pride, it seems, is the root of every other sin that exists.
Think about it – pride is not limited to the outwardly arrogant. Pride is simply thinking of yourself more highly than you should. Pride is putting yourself and your wants and your needs and your comfort at the top of your priorities. Pride is pushing God off the throne of your heart and putting something or someone else there. Selfishness comes from pride. Lust comes from pride. Hatred comes from pride. Racism comes from pride. Can you think of a sin that does not find its root in pride? I cannot.
This is why the spiritual health of our hearts is so vital. Our hearts (and whether or not they are consumed with pride) affect everything.
THE NEED OF THE HEART
Pride cannot be fixed or defeated, at least not by us. We need help. The need of every single one of our hearts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While policies and procedures might help to a certain extent, only the gospel changes lives because only God changes hearts eternally.
Now, I am certainly not implying that we should not have laws, policies, procedures, etc. After all, even the government is “God’s servant to you for good” (read Romans 13:1-7). Rules and regulations will not fix the heart, though. They can help administer justice when done properly, but as we have seen lately (and, as has always been the case), evil hearts will still lead to evil actions. Injustice will still happen. Lives will still be ruined. Sadly, that will not change on this side of eternity because pride will not be gone until Jesus Christ returns.
Still, we should stand up for justice and love our neighbors as ourselves. We should pray for God’s mercy and help, that we might see our country and our world changed for the better. We should speak Truth and plead with people to turn to the Lord. All the while, we do not lose hope in the midst of the evil around us because we know that God will indeed one day restore all things. If you know and follow Jesus, you have the promise of eternal life and perfect restoration. Praise the Lord!
Let us ask God to protect us from the evil of pride, and let us hold one another accountable. Do you have people who will speak into your life when pride begins to consume you? Do you seek God daily through His Word and walk with Him in prayer? How’s your heart, and how can you get better?
Tomorrow would have been my dad’s 58th birthday. It has been just over seven months now since he passed away, and I sure do miss him dearly. My heart aches to watch him play with my kids, to sit down and watch March Madness with him, to go on a bike ride together, to hit some golf balls (not play a round of golf because he’d WHOOP me), to play some one-on-one hoops (because I’d WHOOP him), or just to talk with him.
If I could choose anyone in the world to teach my kids the fundamentals of basketball, it would be my dad. If I could choose anyone in the world to take to a Minnesota Twins game this summer, it would be my dad. If I could choose anyone in the world with whom I could do a March Madness bracket, it would be my dad. I could go on and on. My dad, though, isn’t here anymore. This is sad for me, but I’m hopeful because this is good for him.
You see, a few years ago my dad gave his life to Jesus Christ, so He is now in paradise with the Lord and no longer facing the suffering, tragedy and loss that this life offers. Sin and death are no more for my dad.
I can’t help but think how fitting it is that my dad’s birthday is the same time of year that we celebrate Easter. Resurrection life is why we, as born-again Christians, have hope. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead are why we can endure the heartache that comes on this side of eternity.
When we remember my dad during times like these, we are sad. We loved him. We miss him. But, we are hopeful. We look forward to the day when sadness is no more, when heartache does not exist, when “I miss him!” isn’t ever heard, and when resurrection life is realized.
Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).
If you want to know more about resurrection life and how to have eternal hope and peace, please read The Story.
In preaching a friend’s memorial service recently, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, not for my friend but for the many people who fail to consider what happens in the end. Really, “the end” of this short life is the beginning. It marks the beginning of eternity – an eternity for which many people are unprepared. What about you?
Your response might be, “I live for today and need not worry about the future.” That’s good, but are you prepared? Are you focused? Are you ready for what happens in the end? Most people are afraid of death and thus afraid to truly contemplate an eternally important question – “What happens next?”
The truth is – death is a reality for all of us. That’s bad news. Scary news, unless there is an answer. Jesus Christ said, “I assure you: If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death – ever!” (John 8:51). When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, even though your physical bodies will see death, your eternal bodies and souls will see perfect life. This will be life everlasting with the God of the universe. I plead with you – be ready by calling on Him.