Creation is Groaning

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Romans 8:20-22 NLT

In these verses, Paul brings to the Roman Christians the thought that creation is not just about them. It includes everything God has made. And he makes a shocking statement – God’s curse has blighted everything He has ever created.  All because of Adam’s sin. As an aside, we should always be aware that sin has its consequences. But Paul goes on to say that it is not just humans who would like to be relieved of the curse hanging over them. All creation would like to experience curse-relief as well. Freedom from death and decay is right up there as the top creation priority.

God said that mankind would have to work hard to stay alive, as we read in Genesis 3:17-19, “And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return””. As a consequence of Adam’s sin, the ground was cursed, and it has been ever since. As we know, farmers go to extraordinary lengths to grow crops, with fertilisers to encourage growth and introduce the required nutrients into the soil, herbicides to kill and control weeds. Sophisticated farm machinery takes some of the sweat off the task – no more hand digging for example – but things in God’s plan for creation weren’t supposed to be like this. Some have even suggested that “work” of any kind is cursed.

We also read in Genesis 3 that animals were cursed, starting with snakes. Apparently, according to Genesis 3:14, snakes might one day have been more upright. “Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, grovelling in the dust as long as you live.” And from the same verse, the implication is that “all animals, domestic and wild” were cursed. 

Paul elaborates on his own “God’s curse” statement by adding that the curse manifests itself in “death and decay”. We, of course, know that every living thing will die and decay one day. As I look around the woods near my home (it’s early March when I am writing this) vegetation has died right back leaving only the hardiest of plants hanging grimly on to what life they can retain. Trees are devoid of leaves, and the fall from last year lies mouldering around the undergrowth. Can I hear it all groaning? In the stillness of my early morning walks, there sometimes seems to be a hint of pain in the air, punctuated only be the occasional birdsong, echoing around the saplings and more mature trees. But, thankfully, Jesus makes all things new in the right season. We read in Isaiah 43:19a, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it … ? In Revelation 21:5a we read, “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new …”. I know that these two verses are slightly out of context but they illustrate the point that God hasn’t forgotten us. Every year God breathes new life into His creation. We see it around us, as the buds start to swell and leaves slowly appear. Perhaps with a groan and with pain accompanying the new birth.

It won’t be long before the new foliage appears, fresh and green. Flowers start to emerge, blanketing the forest flow with wonderful colours. And this is the world under a curse. Just imagine how much more beautiful Heaven will be, once it is released in “glorious freedom” from the curse of “death and decay”. 

Dear Father, You created a glorious world but it is now blighted by sin. We pray for forgiveness for our sins and pray the prayer at the end of Revelation – “Come Lord Jesus”. We look forward to the new Heaven and Earth. Amen.

Residence Permits

“But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”
Romans 8:9-11 NLT

Scientists claim that there could be just as many non-human organisms living within or upon us as there are human. Wee beasties such as the bacteria in our gut. The microscopic mites that live on our skin. And many others as well. There is a synergistic process at work that mutually benefits both us and the other organisms. But none of this was what Paul was referring to. He said that there is also a synergistic process going on within our spirits. Within us lives either sin or the Holy Spirit. And we will be controlled by one or the other. 

Our spirits are home to a violent battle between two opposing enemies. They are battling to take control over our minds, our actions, over who we are. There will be no prisoners of war. It’s a fight to the death. But God, through His love and grace, will win in the end, if we let Him. Paul reminded the Roman Christians that “even though your bod[ies] will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God”. Sadly, we live in bodies that will eventually wear out and die – sin will overtake us one day. But our spirits will live on, in a wonderful partnership with the Holy Spirit.

But Paul continued by reminding his readers that the “Spirit of God” is so powerful that He raised Jesus from the dead. And through that same power He was going to “give life to your mortal bodies”. But we know that our bodies will become lifeless one day, and end up buried or cremated, ultimately to disappear from this life forever. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church the following words, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). One day we will receive a new body, and we get a few clues about what that might be like from reading the Scriptures about Jesus after His resurrection.

The Holy Spirit living within us has a transformational impact on who and what we are. We are given access to God’s thoughts. We are able to follow His ways. We really do become a new creation, as Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4. No more do we have to be controlled by our sinful thoughts. But we have a choice. Who have we provided a residence permit for? Sin or the Holy Spirit? Hmmm…

Dear Father. Thank You for Your grace and love. Without it we would be a miserable and lost people. Please help us to allow Your Spirit to refine and improve us, so that we become more like Jesus in true holiness and righteousness. Amen.

Mind Control

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Romans 8:5-8 NLT

What controls our minds? We have a thought life, that we think we can control. And it is true that, to a certain extent at least, we can align our thoughts to whatever interests us in that moment of time. We might find ourselves thinking about the latest news, or the next meal. We might have a meeting with a friend or colleague planned. There may be anxious thoughts about how to pay the next energy bill, or the mortgage. Thinking about the behaviour of a family member might be causing us concern. But in all of this, to say we might have control over our minds might not be true at all. Our thoughts are driven mostly by external circumstances. 

Are our thoughts sin though? Obviously, being human, there are human things that we have to think about. That’s why God gave us a mind. But Paul wrote that a mind dominated by its sinful nature would ultimately lead to death. And not just physical death, but spiritual death as well. Intermingled with all our necessary thoughts are sinful thoughts. For example, it is not wrong to plan how we can pay a bill, but sin creeps in when thoughts develop around doing something illegal to acquire the necessary funds. And before long, thoughts can become more focused on an evil way of life than a righteous one. A life “dominated by the sinful nature“.

In Genesis 6:5-6, we read, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart”. These verses were in the preamble to the story of Noah and his ark, and we know what eventually happened to the evil people God broke His heart over. God designed our minds for good, but sin corrupted them. In Noah’s day, God eliminated the problem. In our day He provided a solution.

God’s Laws, as given through Moses, brought clarity to people’s thoughts and behaviours. But sin still prevailed. There was nothing wrong with God’s plans, but in His grace and mercy He decided to provide a lifeline to help sinful men and women to be obedient to His righteous way of life. We know, of course, that the lifeline was God’s own Son, Jesus Himself. We read in Hebrews 4:15-16, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most”.

In Hebrews 4:12-13 we read, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable”. Regardless of our circumstances, we have a loving, caring God who has provided all the resources we need to live the life He designed us to live free of slavery to sin. By living the Spirit-filled life we will find peace because no longer will our minds be fighting God because of our sins.

Dear Heavenly Father. How grateful we are that You chose to help us to live a life free of sin through the power of Your Spirit within us. We worship You today. Amen.

The Human Jesus

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”
Romans 8:3-4 NLT

Our sinful natures, ubiquitous and universal, give control freaks a problem. No matter how hard they try, they will never be able to control their seemingly unstoppable ability to commit sins. As Paul said in these verses today, even with the help of the Law of Moses, they will be too weak to effectively live up to God’s righteous standard all of the time. We may all succeed in staying righteous for a few moments, but then, at the very least, our thoughts will wander off and focus on something sinful. But thankfully, God didn’t walk away from us, wringing His hands in despair. He sent His Son Jesus “in a body like the bodies we sinners have”. Surely, He must have thought, they will listen to My Son.

We know from the accounts of the Apostles that Jesus lived His life as one of us but in a sinless state. No-one has ever been able to point a finger at Jesus and say, “Aah, but what about …”. We know how His life ended. Surely the greatest and most devastating miscarriage of justice there has ever been. But by God allowing His Son to be sacrificed, He “declared an end to sin’s control over us”. 

We note from these verses today that God didn’t do away with the Law. But we know that, because Jesus said so in Matthew 5:17, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose”. The Law, according to Paul, had a “just requirement” that had to be fully satisfied. And it still does. Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to help them, and by following Him, they would be released from the power of sin over their lives. Jesus said in John 15:26, “But I will send you the Advocate —the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me”. And we know how that happened if we read Acts 2.

Through Jesus, there is no more condemnation for sinners like us. As the old song says, “It is no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me”. And because He lives in us through His Spirit, He helps us so that no more will we be under sin’s power. We are free! Praises be to God!

Dear Lord. You set us free from the power of sin and death at Calvary. Please help us to share that truth with all those we meet. In Your precious name. Amen.

Jesus Is The Answer

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Romans 7:21-25 NLT

Paul continues with the dilemma we found in a previous blog. He refers to a power within him “that is at war with [his] mind”. There is almost a picture here of a person who, regardless of his heart-felt desires and preferences, is hooked on a drug we call sin. This “drug” is so powerful that there is no natural antidote. There is no rehab centre that could help. The addiction to this drug is beyond anything Paul, or any other human being, could overcome by sheer mental determination. Yes, there might be brief periods of freedom, allowing entry into God’s presence, but soon the “old man” raises his ugly head, and the hassle starts again. In sheer frustration Pail laments, “Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Other versions of the Bible refer to Paul as being “wretched”, surely an undesirable place to find himself. Paul’s loathing of his sinful self caused him to write in 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all”. The Apostle Paul, the worst of all sinners? Hardly. But that is how he saw himself.

It is true that when we pilgrims hold ourselves in the light of God’s presence, we come up against feelings of guilt. We feel grubby and unclean. The light of His purity and holiness just shows up all that is sinful in us. We can get to this place just by reading the Jewish Law, or the words of Jesus in Matthew 5-7. but there is also a “still small voice” within us, the Holy Spirit, who is quietly reminding us that doing what we know we shouldn’t, repeating a sin, is perhaps not right in God’s sight.

But suddenly, a thought, probably inspired by the Holy Spirit, bursts into Paul’s mind. He exclaims “Thank God!”, as he suddenly thinks, “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord”. Jesus is the answer. Had Paul taken a long time to get to this point in his life, or was he re-running the sequence of events for the benefit of his Roman readers? Probably the latter, but the revelation of the saving power of Jesus was real and life-changing to Paul. And it is to us as well. 

Jesus told a man called Nicodemus what His mission was by coming to Planet Earth. We read in John 3:16-17, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. Well worn verses of course, but they will never lose their power. Jesus had the answer to Paul’s dilemma, and He is the answer to ours as well. We will find out more in the days ahead.

Dear Lord Jesus. Thank You for coming to this Planet two thousand years ago. And by doing do You showed us the way back to a relationship with Your Father. We are so grateful. Amen.

It’s Sin’s Fault

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:14-20 NLT

Paul is perplexed. In fact, he is so perplexed that he repeats his dilemma twice in these 7 verses. He says, “I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it”. But is this really the case? Is it a valid excuse to say before a judge, “I haven’t done anything wrong – it’s the sin living within me that is at fault”? Of course it isn’t but, superficially at least, that seems to be what Paul is saying. 

The picture emerges in Paul’s mind that within him there are effectively two people. One person who loves God’s ways, who wants to spend all his time with Him, and who really, really, wants to do what is right. And to help that “man” inside of him is God’s Law, which “is spiritual and good”. The other person inside him is the “old man”, his sinful nemesis, a part of him determined to continue in the ways of evil. Perhaps an internal battle that never seems to subside. The Godly part of him mourns and grieves over the thoughts and actions of the sinful man, leading to frustration and conflict. At least Paul doesn’t blame the devil, as some have done, for his sinful man. Personable responsibility is never avoided, in Paul’s life.

Does all this sound familiar to us pilgrims? Are we too caught up in this internal battle that never seems to end? Of course we are. And in the days ahead, we will, with Paul, journey into a place where God has provided a remedy. What a wonderful Saviour!

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your salvation, a gift so freely given. Help us to grasp it and grow in the nurturing soils of Your grace. In Jesus’ name.Amen.

Good to Evil

“Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.”
Romans 7:11-13 NLT

Paul found himself in a situation in which he was perplexed. Once he was exposed to the demands of the Law, he discovered that his thoughts and deeds, some habitually committed since his earliest days, were actually sinful. The Law was a standard against which he found himself falling short. However, he found that if it wasn’t for the Law, he would never have known that what he thought or did was wrong.

As an example from society today. The expression “Oh my god” is ubiquitous, even being abbreviated to OMG in messaging, but do the users of this expression know that they are violating the second commandment from Exodus 20, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20:7)? Without the benefit of the Law perhaps they would never have known. Of course, people, even Christians, claim that, because of Jesus, the Law no longer has any jurisdiction over them. But that isn’t really the case. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:17-19, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven”. 

So Paul lamented the fact that because of the Law, he found out that he was a sinner. He recognised that the Law was good, even holy, but because of it, it had effectively an evil purpose. 

Of course, we need laws to set boundaries on our lives and prevent society from falling apart. Without the Highway Code, drivers would have no idea of what constitutes a safe journey. Imagine the chaos if no-one knew what side of the road to drive on? But should we veer into the wrong lane, even by accident, we know that we have committed a dangerous act and put ourselves in danger. 

The Law acts as a constant reminder, a perfect standard, against which we pilgrims can gauge our progress in the Christian life. But thankfully, falling short need not be fatal, if we cover ourselves with Christ’s redeeming power, and listen to the Holy Spirit whispering within us. The old Apostle John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). What is He saying to us today? Many activities and thoughts will drown Him out if we are not careful and allow Him space. He is always more willing to speak than we are to listen.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your grace and mercy. Your care for us knows no limits. Thank You. Amen.

Coveting is Wrong

“Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died”
Romans 7:7-9 NLT

What is “coveting” all about? A dictionary definition is “to wish for earnestly”. Other words crop up like yearning and desiring. So I see a shiny new car in my neighbour’s driveway and “covet” it. I imagine how great it would be to own a model like that, and my imagination starts to kick in with all sorts of feelings, leading me down a sinful path at variance with the tenth commandment. Another example of coveting is with all those people who wish they could win the lottery. They start to imagine what they could do with all that money. Coveting.

Paul wrote that the Law exposed how sinful he was. He made the assumption that he “would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”  But is he right in this? Surely there is something inbuilt within us that would understand that coveting is a pointless exercise that could degrade into sin, should it be pursued to its limit? Perhaps. To take a modern example from the UK Highway Code, if we did not have such a reference book detailing the laws of driving would we still find ourselves driving safely, or would chaos reign? I suspect the latter position! Seeing something like a law written down in black and white draws our attention to a non-negotiable position, designed for our protection and safety. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses for a very good reason. It brought social cohesion and God’s expectations to a bunch of rebellious ex-slaves, and is expanded upon in books such as Leviticus.

But the specific Law, “You must not covet”, was included in God’s list for a reason. The commandment in Exodus 20:17 reads, “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.” It is interesting that this commandment is focused on what our neighbours have. Nothing about more general coveting, which is so often driven by national advertising, incessantly pushed on our televisions and media sources. But the principle is still there. 

How much debt and misery has been caused by people who have responded to an advert and got into debt as a result. A child nags their parents for a particular game, or item of clothing, or the latest type of mobile phone. Often unaffordable, the parent capitulates and runs up a debt that takes months to pay off. How many families get caught up in the commercial materialism of Christmas and end up trapped to a payment plan? It’s all starts with coveting and ends up in misery. 

When God issued the commandment “You must not covet” he knew what the propensity of human beings was like. We pilgrims will get caught up in this as well, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit drowned out by the coveting nature of our unredeemed sinful selves. When times are hard financially perhaps we should ask  ourselves whether what we desire is a need or a want. Hmmm… 

Dear God. You promised to provide for all our needs, so we trust in You and Your provision. Please forgive us for when we get caught up in the sin of covetousness. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Death to the Law

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”
Romans 7:4-6 NLT

Perhaps we can see how the Roman Christians became a bit confused, prompting Paul’s detailed and enlightening letter. They must have thought that if the Law was replaced by something far better – their faith in the redeeming power of Jesus – then they were free to do what they wanted. Paul associated the Law and its many rules and regulations about what to do and what not to do with arousing within them the desire to do what they shouldn’t. Imagine the scene. There is a door to a cupboard in the house and a small boy living there is warned to never open it and look inside. What is the first thing he would do when the opportunity arises? He will open it and have a look. Perhaps if he had not been given that instruction, he might never have given it a thought. Paul wrote, “the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds”. 

Paul wrote that because of Jesus and all that He did at Calvary, and through their faith in Him, they were released from the power of the Law. So for the small boy in our example, instead of listening to his “evil desires”, he has the opportunity to listen to the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit within him, leading him to make the right decision. Perhaps not a good example but it hopefully illustrates the point.

God’s Spirit has unfettered access to the hearts and minds of redeemed Christians. And we pilgrims welcome Him in with open arms. Without the Holy Spirit we are very spiritually impoverished and thrown back to a time when all we had was the letter of the Law. But thanks to God and His wonderful plan we have a new way – life in the Spirit.

There was a principle taught to youth groups a few years ago, and it spawned a number of wrist bands with the letters WWJD engraved on them. The letters stand for ”What Would Jesus Do”. Perhaps this could be a mid point between the legalism of “obeying the letter of the Law” and true life in the Spirit. For most people it is perhaps too big a leap going from a Law-inspired life of sinful thoughts and actions to one of pure obedience to the Holy Spirit within us. So on occasion there might be a fog of doubt and confusion as to whether the voice within was really the Holy Spirit. To put skin on the Spirit’s voice is often helpful in times of uncertainty. But as we listen more and more to the Holy Spirit within us we increasingly recognise His voice and learn, almost intuitively, how to learn the ”new way of living in the Spirit”.

Dear Father God. What would we do without Your Spirit’s dwelling within us? Going back to slavery in the Egypt of laws is not an option we can consider. We are so grateful. Amen.

Laws Are For The Living

Now, dear brothers and sisters—you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.”
Romans 7:1-3 NLT

It is as though Paul is now starting a new paragraph in his lengthy letter to the Roman Christians. He refers again to the “law” and he makes an obvious point – the “law” only applies during a person’s life. Once they have died it no longer has any hold over them. Though it may be very frustrating to a person seeking justice for a crime committed against them, if the miscreant is dead, they will have no redress in law. As an example, and to take a very high profile case in the UK in recent years, Jimmy Saville, a famous DJ and a man even knighted for his charitable work, left a trail of hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse that were only investigated after his death. The police concluded that he was a prolific and predatory sex offender but there was no legal redress for his victims because the law no longer applied to him. He was dead. 

There is a temptation for the victims of crime to feel cheated if the one who offended against them has died and can’t be brought to justice. But they forget one thing. Justice doesn’t end with our natural deaths. One day everyone will have to stand before God to give an account for their lives. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body”. And about evil people, Jesus said to His disciples, “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The old Apostle John recorded a revelation given to him by Jesus, and at the end of Revelation 20 we read, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12,15).

So we never need fear that anyone who dies before they have been called to account in a court of law has escaped the punishment they deserve. But of course we must also remember that God’s grace extends even to criminals. A confession of sin and a turning to God even with our dying breaths will ensure that our names are written in the “Book of Life”. One of the criminals being crucified with Jesus turned to Him in repentance, convicted of his sins, and he said, ““… Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise”” (Luke 23:40-43). Such love! Such grace! It may be difficult to think that someone who has lived a life of evil crime and makes a last minute confession can find a Heavenly future. But we need to remember that it is only God who has the final word. We trust Him for His righteousness and His fairness, and praise and thank Him for His grace and mercy. After all, we may not have violated any laws of our country, or at least we haven’t been caught offending, but we are all sinners. There is no distinction in God’s eyes between the seriousness of sins. They are all enough to ensure a “Guilty” verdict before God’s throne. 

I am always touched by mothers who have lost a son, killed in some event in the street, and who are able to forgive their son’s killer. They are the ones who have truly discovered God’s heart and perhaps they too will find themselves in paradise. They are able to trust God for the right outcome. Only He can see the end from the beginning. 

Dear Father God. Your grace and mercy knows no bounds. We praise and thank You today. Amen.