Dec 15, 2008

Sermon from Sunday

I normally don't post sermons on my blogs, but I have had a few request it so here it is.

Now What?
Romans 8:28

As many of you know by now, David Brown took his own life on Thursday evening.

As a church, we have gone through deaths and funerals before. That’s part of the ministry. But somehow, this one feels different. There’s just something not quite right about this one.

When someone dies due to illness, old age, or even by a tragic accident, we hurt because we miss the individual but we don’t hurt because we feel hurt by the actions of the one who died. But that’s what this one feels like – suicides do that. It not only ends a life, but it injures everyone around. Suicide is devastating to everyone. There is no closure. No one got a chance to say goodbye. There is no explanation. It’s just pain all the way around.

And those who are left to pick up the pieces can’t help but wonder if there was anything we could have done to prevent this from happening, that somehow we could have done something, said something to prevent this.

And suicide makes a victim of all those left behind.

I have no idea why David did what he did.
I want to make sure that we all understand this – he did not do this to hurt any of us.

David is one of the most caring, loving, and giving persons I know.

He did not do this to hurt you – his friends, his church, his family.

We will never understand, on this side of eternity, why he did this? And even if we did know why, it still would not ever bring David back, and it wouldn’t change anything.

If David could speak to us now, I think what David would say is how sorry he is to have hurt the very people who he loves. I think David would say, that what happened on Thursday evening was a rash act and an act that he sorely regrets.

This morning, I would like to speak to you as frankly and directly I can. There’s no point in beating around the bush. We all know what happened. And the question before all of us is, “Now what?”

I would like to answer this question, “Now what?” by answering three sets of questions David’s death presents us with.
1. Where is David now? What is the relationship between suicide and salvation? Could a real genuine Christ-follower commit suicide? Don’t people who commit suicide commit the ultimate sin and go to hell?
2. Did God know that David would take his own life? Why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?
3. What does this mean for us now? Where do we go from here?

Where is David now? Could a real Christian commit suicide? Don’t people who commit suicide go to hell?

There are some terrible myths and misunderstandings about suicide and salvation.

In the fifth century, Saint Augustine taught that suicide was a violation of the sixth commandment - "You shall not kill."

And later Thomas Aquinas, taught that suicide was the most fatal of all sins because the victim could not repent of it.

So some Christians have taught over the years that those who commit suicide go to hell because they never have the opportunity to repent of their sin.

Let’s get some things straight.

Suicide is a terrible sin against God for only God has the power and authority over life. While suicide is a terrible sin, it is not an unpardonable sin. There is only one sin that Jesus says cannot be forgiven.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:31-32, “Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
• Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – to deny the works of God by taking God’s works and attributing it to the work of the devil.
• While suicide is a sin, it is not a sin that God cannot forgive.

But how can God forgive a sin that a person doesn’t have an opportunity to repent for?

This line of question is a misreading of scripture because it doesn’t take seriously the completeness and the totality of the work of God for salvation on the cross of Jesus Christ.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

I want to take each of those phrases one at a time.

Salvation is by grace alone.

God tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Salvation is always God’s doing. Only God can save. And God saves because He is a gracious God. There is nothing that we can ever do, or not do, or say, or not say, that will merit being saved. It is totally God’s grace. It is totally God’s love that saves.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith,” we are told. While God’s work of salvation is total and complete, it is only through accepting God’s gift of salvation that we are saved.

God tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.”

While God offers salvation to all, we must receive God’s gift of life through faith.

God tells us in John 1:12, “But to all who received him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God.”

God offers the gift of salvation to all, but only those who receive God’s plan for salvation are saved.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

God tells us in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

And in John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

It is only Jesus who can save. There is no other way to salvation apart from Jesus Christ.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

So where is David right now?

God’s word tells us that David is in the presence of His Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. David accepted and received Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Therefore God has forgiven David for all his sins – past, present, and future.

And that is the incredible good news of Jesus Christ. To those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior God has forgiven us of all our sins.

In the course of any normal day, we sin many times – thoughts of lust, anger, jealousy, acts of unkindness, etc. And it’s not like God says, I will only forgive you of the sins that you repent of. It’s not like God’s going to say on the day of judgment, “You know James, you lived a pretty decent life, and you asked for forgiveness of all your sins, except for that one time when you lusted after that woman on August 10, 1995. So, sorry dude, you’re outta here!”

God’s work on the cross is complete. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

You can rest assure that David is with God Himself right now.

Did God know that David would take his life on Thursday night? Why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?

Did God know that David would take his own life? Yes. God knows all things. What happened on that night did not take God by surprise. God knows all things.

If God knows all things why didn’t God stop him? How could God let this happen?

God didn’t want this to happen. God was pleading with David to the last moment, “Don’t do this son. This is not the answer. You have a bright future. Don’t’ do this.”

God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”

And God was with David to the very moment urging David to trust God and not do this terrible thing.

But God will not and cannot force any one to choose Him, because by doing so God would be unloving. Love necessarily requires a choice – love requires freedom.

When we obey God and follow His ways, the result is a blessed abundant life. But God will never force nor coerce us to obey Him. We must choose to do that.

And just as God was pleading with David to follow Him, God is telling us all the time, follow Me. Choose life. Follow Me. Don’t do this. Don’t do these things that will cause you harm. Don’t do these destructive things. Follow Me. Do life My way. Do marriage My way. Do dating My way. Do life My way.

But only we can do that. Love is only love when there is a choice to love. Love cannot be forced or imposed.

God gives each of us the ability to choose. When we choose to live life God’s way, we will reap the blessings God promises. But we must choose to live God’s way.

While the death of David did not catch God by surprise, God is deeply saddened that a life of such promise and potential was cut short by a terrible decision.

In a moment of excruciating pain and confusion, our friend committed a grave and serious error and sin. But this does not negate the awesome grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. David lives on for eternity.

On a cold dreary night some five years ago, a hurting and confused young man walked into our church because the sign outside said, “Lost? Come on in for direction.”

I was sitting in my office working when I heard a knock on the door and someone said, “There’s a young man who wants to talk with you.”

David walked into our church because he was hurting and was having suicidal thoughts and didn’t want to do that. He had nothing to lose. He had everything to gain.

I shared with David how God loved him and sent His Son to die for his sins so that he can truly start living.

That night, David accepted Christ in to his life and became a child of God.

Through the ministry of you and through church David Brown accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior. David gave his life to Jesus, served in our short-term mission trips to Uganda three times, taught Sunday School with our little ones, and committed to serving God as a minister as a chaplain in the military and was scheduled to attend seminary at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the fall of this year.

Many lives were touched and changed through David.

Through a terrible and painful choice, this promising life was cut short. And we here are reeling because of it.

We are going to miss David very much.

So now what are we to do?

If you have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, today is your day. Secure your place in eternity and allow heaven to enter your life today.

The same Jesus who spoke heaven into David’s life five years ago is here right now. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”

He is speaking to you. You did not come here by accident. God wanted you here. God sent His Son to a manger 2,000 years ago so that you can have this opportunity today. You too can have heaven enter into your present by accepting and receiving Jesus into your life.

For those of us who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, and for those of us who are hurting and in pain because of this, we must claim the promise of God in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”

Even as tragic and terrible as the death of David is, God will make it good. God will continue to save souls. God will continue to change lives. God will continue to bring healing. And God will do all this through you and me.

For every time you offer your life, your hands to those who are hurting, your lips to those who haven’t heard the good news, your ears to those who need to be heard, your shoulders for folks to cry on, every time we say “Yes” to Jesus Christ, God is ministering.

So love on each other church. Hug on each other. Cry and laugh with each other. And show and tell the world of the incredible news of God sending His only Son so that heaven can enter our present.

We all have some reflecting to do. We all have some decisions to make today.


Anonymous said...

I read with interest and heartache of the loss of one of your friends and church family members. I find myself in the same boat as David. I find so much varied opinion on the net as to the final destination of the genuine believer who clings to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but contemplates suicide. I would like to believe OSAS, but I find so much in scripture about persevering to the end which seems diametrically opposed to the OSAS. I don't want to commit suicide but I'm so weary with myriad issues piled upon me. I would appreciate your prayers and anything the Lord lays upon your heart to share.

James Kim said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you so much for reading the sermon and commenting.

Listen, no matter what you are going through, no matter what you are facing, the answer is Jesus Christ, and the answer is NEVER suicide.

Please, talk with someone. Please tell your pastor. Please call suicide hotline. Please tell your friends or family.

Suicide is NEVER the answer.

Your hope is in Jesus Christ.

I am praying for you. I hate that you are hurting so much. Know that Jesus knows your pain.

There are people who love you and people who would be devastated if you were to take your life.

God loves you.

Please talk to someone.

James <><