This past week, America witnessed the wonderful deliverance of three women who had been kidnapped and imprisoned in the home of their captor in Ohio for ten years. These women were re-united with their families and friends who had prayed and hoped — and even some who had given up hope — that they were still alive somewhere and that they would one day return home.
Those families and that entire community are relieved that an evil situation that lurked right underneath their noses for so long is finally gone. And the kidnappers who perpetrated this evil will finally face justice. “Justice” is an act of reparation where someone is fairly punished for what he has done wrong.
Throughout our lives, each of us has faced acts of justice because of our wrongdoings: a parent chastising us for disobedience, a teacher sending us to detention for not being cooperative in the classroom, and as we got older, law enforcement having to give us a ticket for driving faster than what the law says we are supposed to drive on the highway. This administration of justice is what keeps our society running in a harmonious manner.
There is one other very important matter where justice must be administered as well. And that is in the area of our personal relationship with God. The Bible tells us that God is a just God. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Because of our sins, we each must face justice from God.
From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the penalty (or judgment) for sin is physical death and eternal punishment in a place of fire and torment called Hell. God warned the first man, Adam, of the consequences of breaking his laws. He said, “for in the day that thou eatest [the forbidden fruit] thou shalt surely die.” During the thousands of years that followed, God repeatedly made the consequences of sin and disobedience clear. In Romans 1:32, he said, “they which commit such [sins] are worthy of death.” Death is the judgment for sin. It is the way justice is administered.
Because God is perfect and holy, his justice must be served, and sinners have to pay the consequences for their sins. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” And Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
However, because God loves us, he did not want to leave us in our sinfulness, waiting our entire lives to be punished by death and then to go to suffer in Hell. So, he decided to do something about it.
+ Plus, listen to Hillsong singing “Mighty to Save”
This past week Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae released the new music video for his song “Confessions of a Millionaire.” The powerful and insightful song talks about the tragedy of people who spend their time and money going after houses, riches, yachts, private jets, prestige, and power — all the things that money can buy.
Sadly, today, many people — not just millionaires — focus on going after things that money can buy, And what is even more sad is that people actually look for fulfillment and meaning in these things. The truth, though, is that life is about far more than success and gaining material things. And people who focus on these things their whole lives are often sorely disappointed. They were actually searching for happiness, joy, love, internal peace and assurance for the future — all things that money can’t buy.
These things last forever and keep our hearts at rest during times of turmoil and conflict. Money cannnot buy such things. Only a person can give them to us. And that person is Jesus Christ.
A lot of what happens in life is complicated and confusing. Life itself is complicated. For many people, their childhood is a blur. Navigating college and young adulthood is a challenge. Relationships are fraught with obstacles and difficulties. During these different periods of our lives, we often yearn for simple answers to the big questions that we face. We look for clear-cut solutions to the problems that we deal with. And we want straightforward advice on complicated life issues.
Life is like a narrow trail filled with twists, turns, hairpin bends, and deceptive forks in the road. We wish for clear road signs that will guide us throughout this life. But, as complicated as the rest of life is, there is one part of life that is, perhaps, surprisingly simple: that is the area of most importance — the matter of the destiny of your eternal soul.
People often ask questions such as: What happens when I die? Where do I go when I leave this earth? Will I go to Heaven or Hell? Thankfully, all we have to do is turn to God’s Word for clear answers to these questions.
The Bible states clearly that all people are sinners. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23 reads: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Because of our sins, we are automatically shut out of the family of God, and we are on our way to a place of punishment called Hell after we die. However, God wanted to provide a way for us to be reunited with Him, to become a part of His family. He wanted to save us from our sins and from the punishment of sin. That is why he put in motion a plan of salvation to give every human an opportunity to turn away from their old lifestyle and to gain a new life in Him. And salvation is not complicated.
+ Plus listen to Casting Crowns singing “All Because of Jesus”
This past week was certainly among the most turbulent weeks America and the world has ever experienced. It began on Monday, at the Boston Marathon, when a joyous event was turned into a scene of terror. Three people who had gathered with many others to cheer on the runners as they crossed the finish line were killed by two bombs that exploded on the sidewalk. One of those killed was a restaurant manager, another was a young Chinese college student, and the third was an eight-year-old boy who was there to cheer on his father. 183 other people were injured, many of whom had to have legs amputated because of the blast.
This past week, poisoned letters were also sent to President Obama and a U.S. Senator from Mississippi. Thankfully, these letters were intercepted before they reached their destinations.
On Tuesday, a massive earthquake struck the Iran-Pakistan border. The quake was so powerful that it was felt across the Middle East and Asia from Dubai to India. 34 people died from this earthquake.
On Wednesday evening of this past week, a fire broke out at a fertilizer company in a small town in central Texas. Volunteer firefighters rushed to the scene. While they were fighting the fire, a huge explosion occured. It was so powerful that it registered as a small earthquake. 14 people, including the firefighters, have since been confirmed dead, many people have not been accounted for, and dozens more are without homes or material belongings.
Finally, on Saturday, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck a region in southwestern China. At the latest report, over 200 people are dead from this quake and over 6,700 people have been injured.
Many people recognized that so much tragedy in such a short period of time seems unusual. Two CNN reporters even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing, the West, Texas explosion, and the poisoned letters sent to President Obama and a U.S. senator as being similar to biblical plagues that seemed to be hitting the country all at the same time.
The terrible loss of life that struck the world this past week is both astounding and heart breaking. All of the people who died from events that were beyond their control have one thing in common. None of them thought they were likely going to die that day. They were living their lives just like you and I are doing today. They just wanted to go to work, go to school, go to the store, and spend time with their family and friends. They wanted to enjoy a fun sporting event with other residents of their city. They wanted to spend a peaceful evening at home eating dinner or watching TV. Yet, all of them were here one moment and gone the next. In the space of a bomb blast, an earthquake, or an explosion, they each passed from life into eternity.
Such events should cause us to soberly remember that our lives are just as fragile. We are not special. We are no better than those people who died this past week. Hebrews 9:27 says that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” We, too, can be here one moment and gone the next. We can pass from life to eternity in a moment of time by some unexpected, tragic event that is totally beyond our control. Such events remind us that we need to be ready for what comes after death — our eternal destination.
Over the years, people have gained freedom through war, violence, protests, and as Winston Churchill said, “blood, toil, sweat, and tears.” The recent wars in several Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, the uprising in Egypt which often turned violent, and the current war raging in Syria proves that people love freedom so much that they will fight for it if they have to. They will fight not only with words, but with actions — and are often willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of freedom.
Many ordinary men and women have gone down in history as great freedom fighters. George Washington led the Continental Army to victory against Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War. Abraham Lincoln led the country to victory during the Civil War, saved the union from collapse, and ended slavery in America, which freed millions of men and women who were in bondage. Mahatma Gandhi led India in the non-cooperation movement.
Nelson Mandela stood against racism and apartheid in South Africa and helped lead his country to a place where all men and women are treated equally. Winston Churchill was one of the great leaders of Great Britain during World War II against Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Harriet Tubman led the Underground Railroad that helped free many black slaves in the 1880s. Martin Luther King Jr., led the Civil Rights Movement and helped blacks gain their basic rights as free people in America.
Down through history, many others who saw the importance of freedom, and used their God-given skills and talents to not only free themselves but to set others free as well.
It is wonderful to have religious, political, and physical freedom and to enjoy the benefits that come with that, but there is another type of freedom that we all need as well. And that is a spiritual freedom — a freedom for our souls. This freedom was paid for by Jesus Christ with His own blood over two thousand years ago on the cross of Calvary. He willingly gave His life for all of mankind so that we all can experience true freedom from the oppression of sin and the oppressor named Satan. Jesus fought the battle for this freedom for us. We do not have to do anything for this freedom except BELIEVE in Jesus Christ. We do not have to fight for this freedom or sacrifice our own blood. Jesus Christ offers the freedom He purchased for us right now today.