True Belief
True Belief

Easter: What it Means to Have True Belief

A couple of years ago, I noticed something in the Bible that I had never recognized, and in the book of John, whether you are aware of this or not, there are 21 chapters, and it dawned on me that the last 11 chapters, over 50 percent of the book of John, deals with really the last week of Jesus’ life. And then you have the Resurrection. And I share that because in chapter 11, we read of an incredible event that ultimately led to the Crucifixion, which is what we reflect on today on Good Friday. And what happened was this event pushed the religious leaders to the edge. They finally realized, we have got to get rid of this guy. And the even that I am speaking of, which you may or may not be familiar with, is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And just to give you kind of a quick, brief synopsis, Jesus and His disciples, it says, were a two-day journey from Bethany, which is where Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, lived. And so, some individual traveled two days to find Jesus to tell Him, your good friend Lazarus is sick and is dying. Can you come? It took Him two days to get there. And then it says, Jesus waited deliberately two more days before He left to go to Bethany. And since it was a two-day travel, it took Him two days to get there. So, when the person left to go find Jesus, six days had lapsed and when Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days and was in the tomb. Was in the family tomb, so to speak. And He arrives and He tells them to roll back the stone. And interestingly, they say, you don’t want to do that. The body has been in there for four days. It probably smells horribly. And Jesus persists and says, Roll back the stone. And let me just pick up in chapter 11, verse 41. “And so, they removed the stone, then Jesus raised His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but because of the people standing around, I said it so that they may believe that You sent Me.’ When He said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And the man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings. And his face was wrapped around with a cloth and Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’” Now there is one important detail that I’m going to mention here and then I’m going to kind of launch into my presentation.

In chapter 11, verse 19, it says, “There were many, there were many Jews present who had come to console Martha and Mary.” In other words, Jesus performed this incredible miracle in front of a crowd of people. He didn’t do it in a vacuum. Think about what, I mean, imagine if you were there! But there was a crowd, and, as word gets out in this Jewish community, just think of kind of the explosion that probably took place. And the talk that went around. But what you notice is that there were three basic ways that people responded to this incredible event, and I want to talk about those this morning with you a few minutes and look at these responses. Then I would ask you to look at your own life and ask, how is this pertinent to me in my own response to this man Jesus.

You would think they would say, you know, maybe we need to go check this guy out. Who is this man who raises the dead? Could He be that Messiah? But instead, what did they do? They plotted to kill Him.

Now, the first one is really, real fascinating, and I think tells a lot about the human condition. In chapter 11, verse 46, it says, “Some of them witnessed it, and they went straight to the religious leaders and said, you are not going to believe what’s taken place.” And they relate to them what Christ has done with this man Lazarus. And in verse 47, it says, “Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council and were saying, what are we doing? For this man is performing all of these signs. If we let Him keep going on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans are going to come and they’re going to take away both our place and our nation.” And then you jump down to verse 53 and it says, “And so, from that day on, they planned together to kill Him.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I find this to be quite perplexing, because, you see, these Pharisees, they knew of Jesus. They knew of these wonderful works that He was doing. In fact, there were times they say, show us, they would be with Him and they would ask Him, show us a sign. Do something spectacular. And there were all kinds of rumblings that maybe, just maybe, this is the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah that they’d been waiting on for centuries. Could this be Him? And so, you know, if you think about it, you would think there would be a curiosity. You would think they would say, you know, maybe we need to go check this guy out. Who is this man who raises the dead? Could He be that Messiah? But instead, what did they do? They plotted to kill Him.

Back in March, I had an opportunity to hear Sharon Watkins speak. Sharon was an accountant that worked at Enron. In fact, her face was on the front of Time Magazine after the scandal exploded and she was one who kind of helped expose the Enron fiasco. And she gave a very interesting talk and it reminded me of an article I had read in The Wall Street Journal years ago and I went back and I found the article. Let me read to you a couple of sentences as most of you are familiar with that event and what happened. But it said, “Nobody looked very closely for the longest while at the energy company’s claims of stupendous profitability. For those inside Enron, as well as those outside looking in, this epic corporate scandal was a case of willful blindness.” Willful blindness. I don’t know if you are familiar with that term. In fact, in doing my research, I learned that it’s a legal term. Willful blindness is to intentionally choose not to know or believe. To intentionally choose not to know or believe. That’s what happened with these religious leaders, with these Pharisees. Willful blindness. Now, a number of years ago, there was a really interesting article in Fortune Magazine, it was an interview with Warren Buffet. I know you know the name Warren Buffet. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard him interviewed or if you’ve seen him live. He’s a very, I think he’s closing in on 90, but he’s an incredibly astute individual, and in this conversation, it was a fairly lengthy interview, he got kind of philosophical as they were asking him about investing. And he said, “As human beings, we have a flaw in our makeup. He says, “We have this psychological flaw that causes us to cling to our ideas and beliefs, even in the face of contradictory information.” And then he said, “We would rather cling to our ideas and beliefs even when it becomes apparent that they’re false.” You know, the Bible addresses this issue of willful blindness. It doesn’t use that term. It uses a different term. It uses a term unbelief. If you ever see that word in the Bible, unbelief, it means “a willful refusal to believe and follow Christ”. It’s intentionally, intentionally leaving God out of your life.

As I was preparing this message, I Googled the word “willful blindness”, and, one of the things that showed up was a 14-minute TED talk titled “Willful Blindness.” And this woman gave a wonderful presentation, and in it, she said, the reason that we all struggle with willful blindness is, she says, we do it out of fear. We fear the truth. We fear where the Truth may take us. And that’s what you see in the lives of these religious leaders in John chapter 11. They see Jesus as somebody who would clearly disrupt their lives. They were afraid of where all of this was leading. If He was the Messiah, what would happen to them? And I think this can easily be true in our lives. I think following Jesus, I think so many people think, would totally disrupt my life. It would disrupt my career, it would disrupt my lifestyle, so we turn away and say, this really is not for me. And, through all of these years in working with men, one of the things that I’ve come to realize is that it’s interesting the way that modern people think. It’s interesting the way that our culture sees Christianity and the Bible. In fact, I bet a number of people here this morning sees the Bible as nothing more than a book that tells you how to behave. And books about my behavior would be disruptive to my life. But let me share this. I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read it. And I want to give you a correct assessment of it. I want you to think of it this way. It’s more of an owner’s manual. It points to God’s deliberate design for you and your life. It reveals the meaning of life. It talks about how to find real purpose in life. It’s an owner’s manual for your relationships. For your marriage. For raising your children. For dealing with people at work, or your clients.

I heard Drayton Nabers speak last week. You know, Drayton was the CEO of Protective Life for a number of years. Watch, if you owned stock when Drayton took over and you sold it when he left, you would have been very, very well off. But I heard Drayton share, I had 60 verses of Scripture that I read and studied and meditated and prayed over, 60 verses of Scripture that had pertinence to my role as a CEO of a publicly held company. In one sense, it’s an owner’s manual for business. But most significantly, the Bible reveals to us what God is really like. So, if you see it as nothing more than a book of rules and regulations that teaches me how to behave, I would ask you to reassess that. Now, before I move to the second response to this miracle, this is just incredible as you think about willful blindness. There are three verses in John 12. Listen to this. It says, “The large crowd of Jews then learned that Jesus was still in Bethany. And they came to see Him. Not only for Jesus’ sake, but they also wanted to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. They all heard about Lazarus’ death, and now they wanted to see was he really alive.” But then, listen to this, it says, “But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also, because, on account of Lazarus, many of the Jews were going away and following Jesus.” You hear that? Not only did they not want to follow the Truth, they wanted to destroy it. They wanted to destroy the evidence. This is willful blindness, and all of us so easily can be taken in by that. Now, there is a second response. You see it in John chapter 12. It says, “Many of the people had seen the miracles, had seen the raising of Lazarus. Even some of the rulers believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But they didn’t embrace Him. They were not willing to follow Him.” For a different reason, though. It says, “They were afraid that they would be put out of the synagogue.” But you see the real reason in verse 43.

It says, “They loved the approval of men more than they loved the approval of God.”

You see, most men really don’t realize how we gear our lives to meet the expectations and the approval of other people.

I want to read to you something very powerful, and, as I read it, ask yourself, is this true in my life in any way? This is, the author Anthony de Mello.

He says, “Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company to send your spirit soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or they are dead. You lived by their norms. You conform to their standards. You seek their company. You desire their love. You dread their ridicule. You long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you. You are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress, or speak, or act, or even think.”

You see, I don’t think we even realize how much we fear and worry what people think about us and how it impacts our lives.

I want to share with you some words from Tim Keller’s book. These are the opening lines of his book, Counterfeit Gods. It’s very sobering. He says, “After the global economic crisis began in mid-2008, there followed a tragic string of suicides of formerly wealthy and well-connected individuals. The acting chief financial officer of Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, hanged himself in his basement. The chief executive of Sheldon Good, a leading U.S. real estate auction firm, shot himself in the head behind the wheel of his red Jaguar. A French money manager who invested the wealth of many of Europe’s royal and leading families, and who had lost 1.4 million dollars of his clients’ money in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, slit his wrists and died in his Madison Avenue office. A Danish senior executive with HSBC Bank hanged himself in the wardrobe in his 500 pound a night suite in Knights Bridge, London. And when a Bear Stearns executive learned that he would not be hired by J.P. Morgan Chase, which had bought his collapsed firm, he took a drug overdose and leapt from his 29th floor of his office building.” And you have to ask yourself, why would these incredibly well-educated, successful, people who’ve been incredibly successful, choose to do something so extreme as to take their lives. And by the way, nine out of ten suicides are men. You probably think, well, they were depressed, obviously. Yeah, they were depressed, but why were they depressed? Well, I’ll tell you. They were depressed because of the shame they felt in their lives.

They went from being very successful people in the eyes of others to, in their minds, failures in the eyes of others. And I would focus in on that phrase, the eyes of others.

You know, I want to tell you, and I don’t have time to go down this path, but, you know what, failure can be one of the greatest blessings in your life, depending on how you respond to it. But we’ve somehow come to believe that real men, real men, should never display any type of weakness. Real men should never fail, real men should never get down, and real men should never, ever get depressed. I heard a talk by a popular lecturer, Malcolm Smith, and he says the shame that men feel and experience, a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failure, he says, “shame is the leukemia of masculinity.” And he says, “And that shame is what destroys men’s lives.” And I think, clearly, it’s what destroyed these men that I just read about. Just as we read here in John, I believe that our desire to win the approval of other men can not only hold us captive, enslaved, as we live our lives out in the workplace, but I think, for men, it can be an incredible barrier to finding faith.

There is an author who I have grown to really like over the years, he’s a man I have a lot of respect for, Dr. Paul Vitz. He’s a retired psychologist today. He taught for years at NYU, New York University, and he has a specialty, kind of an interesting specialty, it’s called “the psychology of atheism.” You see, he was an atheist until his mid-30s and he shares some interesting insight on why he rejected God. Think about this as it relates to the approval of man. He says, “The major reason for me wanting to become an atheist was that I desired to be accepted by the powerful and influential psychologist in my field. In particular, I wanted to be accepted by my professors in graduate school. As a graduate student, I was thoroughly socialized by the specific culture of academic psychology. My professors at Stanford, as much as they might disagree on psychological theory, were, as far as I could tell, united on really only two things. First, their intense personal ambition, and, second, their rejection of religion. In this environment, just as I had learned how to dress like a college student by putting on the right clothes, I also learned to think like a proper psychologist by putting on the right atheistic or skeptical ideas and attitudes.” Do you hear what he’s saying? He says I wanted to be accepted by my peers and professors. I feared their rejection. I yearned for their approval, so I adopted their views, whether I believed they were true or not.

So, the question that I would ask is, how much different, think about it, how much different would your life be today, if you didn’t worry about the approval of men? And ask yourself this question. How much of your life and your money have you wasted trying to impress and gain the approval of others? And finally, have I, in any way, allowed the approval of others to set the boundaries of my own faith? Think about that. Be honest with yourself. Now, there’s a third response to the raising of Lazarus. In John 11, verse 45, it said, “Many who had witnessed the event, they believed in Him.” They believed in Him. Now, if you’ve been coming to these Breakfasts for very long, you know this is an issue that comes up often when I speak, and the reason is because that word, “to believe in Jesus”, is, you see it throughout the Bible, and the word “Believe” in our English language is a very friendly, pleasant term. Oh, I “believe” that. Basically, it’s mental assent to a statement of fact, but it’s all mental. And the Greek word for believe that’s used in the New Testament is the word “pisteúō” and it’s a much more dynamic word. It includes the heart and not just the mind. It means to trust in, to cling to, to rely upon. You see, guys, true belief transforms who you are. It’s not just something that remains in your head. Dallas Willard, the great philosopher, shares a great illustration of true belief. He says, “My Dad, I had a great Dad. My Dad knew smoking was bad for him. We talked about it, and he said, ‘I’m going to quit sometime, son,’ but he smoked two packs a day well into his 70s, knowing this is really bad for my health. But he said, one day, he was at the Veteran’s Hospital, which is where he received medical treatment, and he said that he saw this man, and he was smoking a cigarette, with the aid of a special machine that enabled him to smoke even though his lips had been eaten away by cancer caused by smoking. And he said, at that moment, my Dad really believed.” He said, “He never smoked another cigarette in his life. That’s what real belief is. It affects you at your core.” And this is important to grasp. Willard says that, “true belief is when your whole being is surrendered to what is true.”

My Dad died eight and a half years ago, and he had asked me to deliver a eulogy at his funeral, and, about an hour before the service, I walked into the church, just to kind of check out where I’d be speaking, you know, just the lay of the land. And there was one man already at the church, an hour before it started. And I didn’t really know this man. I knew who he was, but I didn’t know him personally. He was 89 years old, fit as a fiddle, and I didn’t speak to him, he was sitting kind of in the back, as I recall. And so I left, and then we went on and had the service, and a week later, I attended another funeral. It was a powerful funeral, because the man who died had written a letter to his pastor, and the pastor read the letter at the funeral. And the man talked about, in his letter, how he had come to faith late in life, that he’d really given his life to Christ. And the funeral ended, they had a visitation, and I’m standing there, and that same 89-year-old man was also at the funeral, and he sees me. And he comes and approaches me, and he has this really concerned look on his face, and he said, I need your help. I said, yes sir. He said, I have just realized, you’ve got to remember, at the age of 89, I have just realized all of these years, Jesus has been in my head but He’s never made it down into my heart. What he was saying was, I didn’t truly believe. I didn’t have true belief. I thought I did, but I didn’t. And so, as you sit here this morning, I would ask you, has Jesus made it from your head into your heart?

Now, before I conclude, I want to go back real quick to Lazarus. You know, we don’t read anything else about Lazarus in the Bible, other than he was raised. But, I’ve often wondered how life would be different for Lazarus from that day forward until he died again. You’d think it had to change him radically. You would think it would have to change his view on death. You have to think it made his life so much better as he lived from day to day. I think it changed everything for him. You know, it’s interesting, I wrote a book eleven years ago, and it was titled, Safe Passage: Thinking Clearly About Life and Death. And we have some copies in the back, and I think, personally, you know, it’s one of the best books I’ve written. And it’s based on C.S. Lewis’ perspective on human mortality and how we, as humans, deal with our mortality, and one of the purposes, really, was to help people as they struggle with the aging process, getting older, facing death, very uplifting book. You know what the problem is? Something we learned, we learn a lot in the book business, that a lot of people don’t like to read books about death and dying. Even if it’s an uplifting book. It’s kind of like we have this neuroses over our mortality, and somehow, we falsely think that if I don’t think about death, and if I don’t talk about death, if I don’t read about death, maybe I won’t die. But, as we sit here this morning, we all know that’s utter foolishness. Armand Nicholi, he’s one of the great psychiatrists in our country today. He teaches at Harvard Medical School. He says this. “As we begin to grow up and realize that this life is temporal,” and you know, even when you’re young, when somebody dies, you begin to realize for the first time, we’re really only passing through. He says, “As we begin to realize this, this realization becomes extraordinarily painful. The unbelievable brevity of our lives conflicts with our deep-seated yearning for permanence, and with our lifelong fear of being separated from those we love, it is a fear that haunts us from infancy to old age.”

Blaise Pascal, who Einstein believed was one of the smartest people to ever live, recognized this same fear. And he said, “It’s the primary reason,” in his opinion, “of human beings being so unhappy.” He says, “As the years go by, it continues to slap us in the face when we realize our complete helplessness in overcoming it.” Pascal says, and I quote, “Deep down, we are haunted by the fact that when we die, we will experience the loss of everything in this life.” And, it’s interesting that they both use that word, we are “haunted” by this fear. And Lewis says, and this is what I talk about in the book, he says, “There are three ways we respond to our mortality. There are three ways we respond, and deal with, this haunting fear.” He says, “The first is the most common, and we’re all guilty of it. The first is, we seek to divert the mind.” In other words, we look for ways to not think about it. And so, we fill our lives with the pleasures of life, with activities, with busyness, with careers, hoping we can keep it away from us. He says, the problem is, it doesn’t work real well. That particular way to respond because we’re continually reminded of death and dying. We can’t get away from it. And furthermore, and you know this as well, I’m 63. I’m watching my body decay. Unless you’re 16, every single one of us, we’re watching our bodies deteriorate. You can’t block it out of your mind.

And he says, there is a second way we deal with it. And that is, we silently, and I would underscore that word silently, carry the burden of fear around on our shoulders, but we do it silently. The problem is, the burden gets heavier with the passing of each year. And then, finally, Lewis says, you can prepare for it. You can be ready for it. You can even look forward to it with anticipation when that time does come. Dr. Paul Brand, a very famous orthopedic surgeon, he’s written a number of books, and he’s spent most of his professional life studying pain in the human body, as he lived all over the world and worked with people who were afflicted with leprosy. He regularly witnessed the death of his patients, and concluded after years of research, listen to this, “that the attitude we cultivate in advance of suffering and death will determine how it will affect us once it comes our way.”

You know, I am convinced, guys, that the foundation of the experiencing true happiness in this life, that the foundation of that is peace. You have to have peace in your life. Otherwise, happiness will elude you. And I don’t believe peace can be a reality in your life if you are unsettled about death and dying. And so, let me just be real blunt about this. Are you prepared to die?

I doubt anybody has ever asked you that question. Because, you know, let’s be honest, it ain’t socially acceptable to ask that. I know many of you probably think, you know, I thought, particularly maybe the first one, maybe you’re thinking, I thought I was coming to hear a nice, pleasant, feel-good Easter message. You know, what’s the deal here? But I think you know that this is a reality of life. But again, nobody talks about it. The writer of the book of Hebrews says something quite wonderful. Chapter 2, verse 15, he says that one of the reasons that Jesus came into the world was to set us free from the fear of death. One of the reasons He came, as we celebrate Him here, that’s one of the reasons He came. And it goes on to say, otherwise, we will be a slave to that fear all of our lives. And then I love what the apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 1, verses 9 and 10, he’s talking about death, he faced death, he was in despair, he says, but there’s one reason that I don’t despair about death and dying. I set my hope on the God Who raises the dead.

And so, the question that we should ask, what have I put my hope in? If I died tonight, what would my hope be in? And if you want to better understand all of this, if you really want to be prepared, The Investigative Study that Steve mentioned – that’s what that’s for. It’s to help you. It’s a tool. I want to close our time together. I want to share with you one observation from my own life and then leave you with a great illustration. You know, when I look back on my own spiritual journey. I’m 63 and I have years to look back, and you recognize things along the way as you look back, and I have to admit, before becoming a Christian, I was, in one sense, I was like those Pharisees. I believed the message was true, but I was clearly subject to unbelief. Unbelief: a willful refusal to believe and follow Christ, intentionally leaving God out of your life. That was me. However, probably the biggest barrier to my faith, really, looking back, was worrying about what my friends and peers would think if I became a Christian. If I became a serious follower of Christ, what would people think? And you know what, if I really had to use the words to describe it today, I would call it a degree of cowardice. You may say that’s a little extreme, but it’s really not. Think about it. That I would allow the opinions of other people to guide and control my life. That I would allow the approval of others to set the boundaries of my own personal faith. I’m sure I would’ve said it at the time. Yeah, you know, you’ve got to be your own man. But, in reality, that was hogwash because I was controlled by the approval of others. Now, I ask you to think about these two words I’ve just thrown out describing my life. This is kind of – this is interesting and it won’t take but a second. That word cowardice and that word unbelief, and I share this because I stumbled upon a remarkable verse in the book of Revelation. Right at the end, Revelation 21:8, and it speaks of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, and the first two words in that verse describing these people that won’t inherit the Kingdom of God, it says the cowardly and the unbelieving. I wonder if these are not two of the main barriers that keep us away from Jesus. That keep us away from wanting to be serious about my spiritual life.

Now, I realize I’ve thrown a lot at you this morning. I’ve confronted you with a lot of questions, but our organization, The Center for Executive Leadership, exists, really, to help you answer these questions. To help you truly grasp what it means to believe and to be a follower of Christ. But I want to end with a great story, it’s a Good Friday story, and it’s a, I think it’s such a great illustration, if nothing else, it’s worth you getting up in the morning and coming to hear it. It’s a true story.

In 1829, two men, George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier. Both were subsequently captured and tried in a court of law. In May 1830, both men were found guilty of six charges, including armed robbery and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy. Both Wilson and Porter received their sentences, execution by hanging, to be carried out on July the 2nd. Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was not. Influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, on his behalf. President Jackson issued a formal pardon, dropping all charges. Wilson would have to serve some time in prison, and then would be free. But, incredibly, George Wilson refused the pardon. An official report stated that Wilson chose to, and these are his own words, “to waive and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon.” In his own words, Wilson stated, he had, “nothing to say”, and he did not wish, “in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence”. But they didn’t know what to do. Here you have a guy that has been sentenced to die, and yet, on the other hand, he’s got a Presidential pardon and he says he didn’t want it. So, what do you do? Well, they sent it to the courts, and guys, this case went all the way to The Supreme Court. And listen to the, these are the words right out of the decision that was made by the members of the Court. “The Court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon unless he claims the benefit of it.” It’s a grant to him. It’s a gift that he’s been given. It’s his property that he owns, and he may accept it or not, as he pleases. And the eminent Chief Justice John Marshall wrote this. These are his words. Listen to this. This is incredible. “A pardon is an act of grace proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, but delivery of the pardon is not completed without the acceptance of it. It may then, be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and we have no power, in a Court, to force it on him.” And so, they hanged him. George Wilson chose to die.

Now, I share this illustration this morning because every single man in this room is in the very same situation that George Wilson found himself. We’re all guilty. In Romans 3, we’re told that every single one of us has sinned. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” Now, you may think, well, I’m not that bad of a sinner. Well, let me just show you how sinful you are. I don’t think you realize that our sin, most of our sin is in the thoughts and the intentions and the motives of our hearts.

Think about this, guys. Imagine that God could plug a microchip in the back of your brain and somehow record all of your thoughts, and then transcribes it into a document and then gives copies to your wife, your children, your friends, and the people that you work with. You’d have to leave town. You would.

Let’s face it. We are sinners. And then Paul says in Romans 6, that the wages of our sin, the consequences of our sin, he says, is death. Spiritual death. Spiritual condemnation. But guys, the good news is this. Just like George Wilson, we’ve received a pardon. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our sins on His body. As the Bible said, “God caused all of our sin and iniquity to fall on Him. And therefore, every single man in this room has received a pardon for their sins. It’s a gift of grace. It’s nothing you can earn by being good, but just as Chief Justice Marshall pointed out, the pardon is not complete without acceptance, and it may be rejected. And so, the question that I leave you with this morning is quite simple. What have you done with the pardon that God has granted you? Because the pardon is no good unless you have received it into your life. Now, as we depart this morning, I again would just say, we’re here to help in any way we can. I hope you’ll consider just the various options that Steve outlined. We try to help men either find their faith or grow in their faith because the most crucial issue in all of life, guys is, are you in right relationship with God. Let me close in prayer.

Father, we are so grateful, as we come before You on this Good Friday morning, we are so grateful that You are a God of such great compassion and mercy, and that You sent Your Son, Jesus, who the Bible says is the King of all Kings, and yet, this King of all Kings went and hung on a cross so that we wouldn’t have to. And most significantly, Father, we thank You for the glorious Resurrection, the hope that we have, that we put our hope, not in just any god, but The God Who raises the dead. I pray Your blessing on every man here, on their marriage, their children, their work, and we leave here this morning with a real sense of gratitude. For it’s in Christ’s Name that we pray. Amen.

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