Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 26, 2015
1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you:whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
— Matthew 19:1-15, ESV
Francis Scott Key wrote the first national anthem in 1814. Tammy Wynette sang the second in 1968:
Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E; becomes final today,
Me and little J-O-E will be going away,
I love you both and this will be pure H-E double L for me,
Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
As that song climbed the country music charts, no-fault divorce rose from being legal in one state to being routinely practiced in all fifty. The national epidemics frequently criticized by conservative Christians — sexual immorality, homosexuality, illegal drug use, and underage use of alcohol — can largely be traced by the chalk outline of families killed with the weapon of divorce.
Spouting divorce statistics and the social ills it causes in the modern era will not surprise you. What may surprise you, though, is to learn that divorce is not merely a modern malady. It was a serious problem in Jesus’ day, too, being practiced wholesale by everyone from the liberal elite of the Roman Empire to the most conservative sect of Judaism. John the Baptist’s critique of the former earned him an execution, and Jesus’ confrontation with the latter was about to secure His.
The sin of divorce is not the sole reason Jesus died on the cross. However, this text in context teaches it was a contributing factor. It is a tale of Bible-thumping hypocrites, straight talk on the sanctity of marriage, and the blessings and forgiveness offered by the husband of the church.
Jesus’ popularity had waned in the last year of His public ministry, but this episode begins with a short-lived rise in the polls. As the Lord approached Jerusalem for the last time, crowds gathered, people clamored, and miracles were performed. If the religious rulers did not step in, the people might try to make Jesus their King, instead of calling for His crucifixion.
What weapon would work best against the wonderful messages and miracles of Jesus? How about the Bible! Though not meant to be a weapon, it becomes a very destructive device in the hands of a hardened hypocrite. The Pharisees fit this bill, and the bullet they fired at Jesus can still be found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, one of the few Old Testament passage offering any regulation regarding divorce.
Many of the Pharisees, as hypocrites often do, had taken a biblical text out of context to justify their sin and castigate those who dared to disagree with them. As we will elaborate upon in a moment, God clearly hates divorce because of the pain and suffering it inflicts upon His people, and only permits it in extreme cases of sexual sin and serial abandonment. However, the Bible-thumpers had interpreted “indecency” in Deuteronomy 24:1 as “anything” and used it to divorce their wives for any and every reason, including literally the burning of toast.
Furthermore, the Pharisees knew that Jesus would oppose this frivolous, chauvinistic gateway for free love, and that their many followers would oppose Jesus for opposing it. So, they fired away. Jesus fired back, and the fires of bigotry and hatred that fueled the cross were lit.
Through the years, religious hypocrites have used Holy Scripture to justify their divorces, their misogyny, their racial prejudices, and other mutations of their pride, greed, and lust. A leather covered Bible can provide a good cover for sin. It can also be used as a good weapon to attack another person, and in this case the Pharisees used it to attack the person and work of Christ. Sadly, they succeeded, but not before Jesus had His say on the sanctity of marriage.
The Sanctity of Marriage
The sanctity of marriage is to be kept by sanctified people. What Jesus had to say would not work on the Pharisees, for their hypocritical hearts were too hard. What Jesus has to say will really not work on any form of unbelief, and it is not the duty of Christian people to force Christian principles upon non-Christian populations. If the Mormons want to marry a dozen other Mormons, if homosexuals want to marry one of their own kind, if non-professing pagans and non-practicing nominal Christians want to marry and divorce and remarry for any and every reason, like the Pharisees, and if the laws of the land allow it, we the church must let it go.
But we the church must hold one another to a higher standard (see previous paragraph on church discipline), and the standard and sanctity of marriage is a perfect place to start. We must look at all the texts in context, we must carefully listen to the words of Christ on the subject, and we must love and obey the entirety of the word of God. So let’s begin here and break down what Jesus said.
Jesus said that divorce should be permitted but by no means encouraged. Moses, the credited author of Old Testament law, permitted divorce and Jesus did not deny this. However, it was permitted only for “indecency,” which I think Jesus defines as “sexual immorality” (the Greek word, pornea, broadly defines any serious sexual experiences outside the confines of covenant marriage). In an additional complex argument in 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul also addresses abandonment as a grounds for permitting divorce and remarriage. If your spouse breaks faith by engaging in sex with another person or persons, or breaks faith by driving away from the marriage covenant in the convenient vehicle of no-fault divorce, such hard heartedness permits the hurt spouse to divorce and remarry. But that’s it, adultery and abandonment, not the pursuit of happiness or burnt toast.
Jesus said that life-long commitment in marriage is God’s original ideal. The Pharisees wanted to debate the books of Moses, so Jesus took them all the way back to the beginning. Narrow-minded bigots can’t see the big picture of Scripture, but it is here for us to look at today. God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime. As with any other of the plans of God, when we do it His way we are blessed. When we do not, society suffers and people are hurt. If you are a Christian, do your dead level best to stick with God’s plan. Make a commitment and keep it. If it gets broken, seek repentance and reconciliation. Do not be the one to knock Humpty Dumpty off the wall and stand before God with the blood of a broken marriage on your hands.
Jesus said that the just alternative to marriage is not divorce, but singleness and celibacy. The Pharisees’ shots could be heard a mile away, but the disciples response to Jesus’ defense was quietly surprising. If I can’t leave my wife for any and every reason, thought the disciples, maybe I shouldn’t get married at all. That’s right, Jesus said. If you are afraid you cannot keep a marriage commitment, then don’t get married. If you feel you were born with sexual urges that cannot be contained in covenantal, heterosexual marriage, then keep yourself celibate. God can arrange this, or you have the freedom to arrange it with God. But just as Jesus said it would be better for some people to have never been born than to cause sin and strife upon God’s children, so it is better to have never married than to break a marriage and break people’s hearts.
The Blessings of Christ
But broken hearts do abound in the wake of divorce, and these hearts can find repair in the loving and healing hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all of God’s revealed disdain against divorce, there is no hint of any disregard of divorced people. God loves the sinners who cause divorce and holds out his hand for repentance and forgiveness. God loves the sinners who are victims of divorces, and points the way to recovery and renewed life. And God especially loves the innocents whose childhood homes and psyches are split when mommy and daddy d-i-v-o-r-c-e.
This is why, at the conclusion of Christ’s controversial teaching on divorce, the Lord Himself seeks out some little children to love and bless. It was a pure outpouring of God’s grace. He could see with omniscient eyes the great havoc that present and future divorce cultures would pour out upon the children. Even today’s secular scientists admit the great harm that divorce decrees upon young children and adolescents. Yet there is no end in sight, except for this picture at the end of the day, when Jesus loves and blesses the children.
If you are a child of God, or would become a child of God, and if you need forgiveness for your divorce, or grace to forgive the one who divorced you, or healing from the pain your parents’ divorced, let me bring you to Jesus right now so He can lay His hands on you and pray. Selah.
I was born in the 60’s, grew up in the 70’s, and became a married adult in the 80’s. In my lifetime, D-I-V-O-R-C-E has truly been our national anthem. It has been an extremely personal and painful issue for me. Too often I’ve seen it play out like a crime for which the victims are punished instead of the perpetrators.
Perhaps if there were tougher laws and stricter penalties there would be less divorce. But laws can’t make people love. And at the end of the day, this is what divorce is, a lack of love for God, for the people God placed in your life, and for the lives of the many other people affected by the culture of divorce. The remedy is not law, but grace.
Grace can reach the hypocrite who used the Bible to justify divorce, or the antinomian who just blew off the Bible to get what they wanted. Grace can heal the broken hearts of the spouses and children who are the victims of divorce. Grace is the answer because grace births faith, faith brings love, and love is what we need to change our current national anthem.
THE BUSINESS OF FORGIVENESS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 19, 2015
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. ’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe. ’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you. ’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
— Matthew 18:15-35, ESV
Inching ever closer to the cross, this three-fold turn of events tells us what the cross is all about. A solitary theme binds together the teaching of Christ in verses 15-20, the short question and answer session between Him and Simon Peter in verses 21-22, and the long and powerful parable that runs through verses 23-35. All of this is about the business of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is Church Business
“Church” appears only twice in the Gospels, both times in Matthew, once in 16:18 and then here (the word appears twice in vs. 17). The church is an embryo in the public ministry of Jesus and the disciples and it is given birth at Pentecost. The Gospels tell of the conception of the church, the book of Acts speaks of her birth and advancement, the Epistles generally tell of the development and organization of the body of Christ, and the book of Revelation tells of her ultimate triumph. Church business is serious business with God, and one of the chief businesses of the church is forgiveness.
For forgiveness to take place, there must first be an acknowledgment of sin. Sin, whether it consists of passive imperfections or active grievances, is not something people like to readily admit. Therefore, the church must deal with it delicately and directly. Delicately, when it comes to non-members, visitors, and the general public; but, directly when it comes to the confessing members of an accountable, local, visible body of Christ. This particular text deals with the latter, when a brother or church member sins in an outstanding or serious way.
The process for disciples disciplining disciples is didactically dramatized by Jesus. The first step is to go, person to person, and describe to your fellow church member the sin and its injury. If compassionate confidentiality does not secure a confession, step two is to make it a two-or-more conference. If this does not suffice, it becomes a matter for the church to handle as a body, urging repentance and outlining the consequences, which are implied as expulsion, since an unrepentant church member has as much right to retain membership as a Gentile or tax collector would have in a devout Jewish synagogue. The stated goal is forgiveness, repentance, and restoration. But the higher goal is the glory of God reflected in the purity of His church.
The business of forgiveness in the basics of church discipline seems to be lost in the modern church, and the modern church has lost much because of it. People at large today believe you can be a good Christian without ever attending public worship. Why? Because we have tolerated such in the membership of the church. People today believe you can be a good Christian and be a fornicator, adulterer, or homosexual. Why? Because we have tolerated such in the membership of the church. When we blur the lines of sin for those who confess Christ we make the gospel very foggy for those who do not.
We do not need a revival of the Pharisees or some sort of Gestapo in the church. But we do need a revival of responsible church membership, genuine discipleship, and true holiness (not holy rollers) in the church. It is the business of the church to uphold the standards and offer forgiveness when they are breached. Typically, if not exhaustively, those who bind together as the true church on earth will be bound together in Heaven one day. Those who shun the gospel, and its basic moral standards, will be lost.
Notice again how serious this matter is to God, as reflected in vs. 19-20. In a statement that affirms the deity of Christ and His constant presence and guidance for His church, the clear context is church discipline. This is something we must do, for the glory of God, for the good of the church, and for the goal of reaching sinners with the gospel.
Forgiveness is Personal Business
Christianity’s corporate personality, the church, needs strengthening in the business of forgiveness. But at its core, forgiveness is something that must spring from the heart of every born again believer in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is personal business, and often it is painful and repetitive.
Simon Peter, constantly portrayed by Matthew as both hero and goofball, poses a question prompted by prior teaching and personal pride. Jewish rabbis taught that it was magnanimous to forgive a person up to three times when they sinned against you. Though baseball had yet to be invented, the Pharisaical rule was three strikes and your out. Peter wanted a better batting average, so he pitched a perfect seven. Jesus’ seventy-seven times seems like overkill to demonstrate the need for ongoing and unending forgiveness.
But do we really have to forgive everybody for every thing all the time? The context governing this entire text is the forgiveness of a brother, implying a person who shares our Christian faith. Perhaps we are not required to forgive unbelievers, since unbelievers stand unforgiven by God? The implication in Peter’s question indicates repentance on the part of the sinner, that the process in the previous passage worked, but some sin happened again, which will require another chapter of forgiveness. Perhaps we are not required to forgive those who refuse to repent?
The ensuing parable told by Jesus clears up these questions. If you profess to be a Christian, a brother or sister in Christ, it is your business to forgive, period. Forgiveness means surrendering your rights to be angry, even though anger and hurt may persist. Forgiveness means dropping any ways and means to retaliate or punish, leaving that to God and government. Forgiveness means a willingness to love and help the very person who committed the sin. Forgiveness is hard at first, but it gets easier. Forgiveness can be quite painful, but the pain eventually subsides. Forgiveness is really the only way to make the hurt and hard feelings go away, which is one of the main reasons the Heavenly Father requires His children to give it. Forgiveness is your business, personally, if you are a child of God.
Why? Because if you are a child of God, God has already forgiven you of a debt you could never pay. The amount owed in the parable is astronomical, as is your sin debt before God. One sin against a supremely holy Supreme Being is one too many, and you and I have committed millions. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was slain in the most ungodly conspiracy ever committed by man, is on your hands and mine. Yet, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we stand forgiven and free forever. How can we not forgive others, unless we have not been truly forgiven ourselves?
How do we know we are truly forgiven? That’s God’s business.
Forgiveness is God’s Business
God is clearly the king in the parable, and the parable is completely about forgiveness. Forgiveness is ultimately God’s business. But unlike our mandate to forgive unconditionally and repeatedly, God places conditions and limitations on His forgiveness.
God’s offer of forgiveness through the gospel of Jesus Christ is free, gracious, and merciful. Many through the ages have grabbed a hold through some kind of profession of faith, whether it be baptisms or confirmations or so-called altar calls. But professing faith does not necessarily make one a Christian. Practicing your faith does. This is not salvation by works, but salvation that works.
And one of the ways salvation works best is in the business of forgiveness. The one given forgiveness in the parable could not give forgiveness. He wanted the benefits of grace without handling the responsibilities. He wanted the love the king but could show no love to the king’s other subjects. His idea of the gospel was what’s in it for me, a one-way street of getting without giving, faith without works. His profession of faith and possession of forgiveness was taken away, because it never really existed.
Then comes the chilling last line, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Forgiveness is God’s business, and He does not do business with everyone. God will not forgive the unrepentant, the unbelieving, and apparently, the unforgiving. Real repentance and real faith results in real forgiveness, and in God’s business it is a two-way street. You get forgiveness from God, you give forgiveness to others. If this is not easy for you, remember that it was not easy, nor cheap, nor free for God.
Remember these things happened on Christ’s walk to the cross. The cross is the pathway to forgiveness, which flows from His head, His hands, His feet, and His side. It flows through you, too, if you are a true child of God and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make it our church business, and our personal business, for our God is in the business of forgiveness.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHILD OF GOD
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 12, 2015
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
— Matthew 18:1-14, ESV
“Remember when the days were long,
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky?
Didn't have a care in the world,
With mommy and daddy standing by.”
— Don Henley
The opening lines of this song describe an idyllic childhood, one that fades as the song, and time, passes by. Children become adults. Adults often become a mess. The treasure of childhood gives way to the temptations and trials of adulthood, and one day neither mommy nor daddy are standing by. If only we could remain children, forever.
There is a way. Actually, there is the way, the truth, and the life (ref. John 14:6). And if by grace through faith you are a Christian (ref. Ephesians 2:8-10), then you were, you are, and you always will be a child, a child of God (ref. John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1).
You Have Been Born, Again
Just as my four daughters were born into the DeVane family, children of God are born, again, into an infinitely greater family, God’s family (ref. John 3:3, 3:7; 1 Peter 1:3, 1:23). It is a miracle of God, both childbirth and the new birth. One is wrought by the power of procreative providence, the other by the power of the Holy Spirit and regeneration. And in both cases, a child is the passive recipient of the precious gift of life.
Did you cause your parents to give birth to you? Neither did you cause God to save you and make you His child. Children of God are chosen by God, adopted by the prerogatives of the Father, and “caused to be born again” (ref. 1 Peter 1:3) through the preaching of the gospel and the power of the Spirit (ref. Titus 3:5). The text at hand in Matthew, an eloquent and elaborate answer to the disciples’ question, bears this out exegetically and theologically.
Children of God “turn and become like children” (vs. 3, ESV). The KJV and NASB use the word “converted,” and the NIV translates it “change.” In the original Greek, the verb is in the passive tense, meaning it is not something you do, but rather something that is done to you. Children of God, Jesus said, “Believe in me” (vs. 6), an active participle, describing those who have received the gift of repentance (ref. Acts 11:18) and possess the living, active, gift of faith (ref. Ephesians 2:8). And a child of God, converted by repentance and faith, “Humbles himself like a child” (vs. 4).
Children of God are humble, children, of God. They humbly love the Lord, without any reservation or shame. They humbly trust and obey the Lord, showing up at His house on Sundays and listening to His word every day. They humbly serve and “receive” (vs. 5) their brothers and sisters in Christ, and join them in inviting the world to come and join us at the Father’s table. Everything He owns is ours, everything we own is His. It is a good life, a great life, a child’s life, but not one without risks.
You Have Been Blessed, and Warned
When you leave the orphanage of this present world to become a child of God, there is a target on your back that sin aims to hit. The temptations come from your own still sinful flesh, misguided believers, scoffing unbelievers, and even the devil himself. It is a blessing to have all of your sins forgiven, but there is still a dire seriousness concerning sin in this life, to which children of God should take heed.
Children, as a rule, should not fall under the spell of strangers. Children of God, as a rule, should have the same kind of spiritual skepticism. This is not to say that the world at large does not offer any common grace, for it certainly does in the realms of nature, art, and enterprise. Christians can enjoy all things that bring glory to God, but should reject all things that do not. People in this world will use sex, money, leisure, and many other lesser things to try to turn the children of God away from God. Sometimes we stumble and fall. Always we will overcome and be forgiven. But the hottest place in Hell belongs to those peddlers of sin who deliberately lure away a child of God from the happy home of the Father.
Unbelievers better be warned about how they treat believers. So should fellow believers. Racism and legalism were packed into the first presentations of the gospel I ever heard. I rejected the racism immediately, but it took me years to cut through the legalism. Church people have caused me far more harm than any other people on this planet, but thanks in part to my earthly father’s advice, I haven’t let the church destroy my faith, I’ve only allowed genuine faith to help repair and reform the church. Christ said it would be better for unbelievers in the end if they had never been born. So it will be for those who pretend to be born again, too.
The punishment for sin was declared null and void on the cross, for the children of God, but the struggle ensues until we meet the Lord face to face. Though Christ uses hyperbole here, it is good practical advice. If any media, hobbies, social connections, or any other thing pulls you away from a pure and total devotion to Jesus Christ, get rid of it, fast. You do not need everything in this life you may think you need, and you do not need anything or anyone that causes you to look, reach, or walk away from Jesus Christ.
You Are Being Watched, and Guarded
Children of God are born and blessed, warned and watched. We are watched over by angels from the Lord, and most of all, by the Lord God Himself. The world may “despise” (vs. 10), or put us down, but God is always lifting up His true children. Angels watch over us, God the Spirit guards us, and the Holy Trinity guarantees us an end that will astonishingly, brilliantly, and cataclysmically never end.
I believe every child of God has a guardian angel or angels. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Their angels always see the face of my Father” (vs. 10). Though God is omniscient and sees all, He still choses to send angels back and forth between His throne and our footstools. I am not sure of their power, only their presence, but their presence represents the power of God. They are help when we are tempted, comfort when we are cold, guardians in times of stress, and ultimate guides who usher us into Heaven. Amen.
More importantly, every child of God is guarded and guaranteed by God. He is the Good Shepherd who shows us the way to go, provides for our needs, binds up our wounds, carries us on His back, holds us in His hands, seals us in His heart. Sometimes He allows us to wander, always He rejoices when we return. And at the end of the day, and at the end of our days, His promise to us is that we will “never perish” (vs. 14). I do not know if all dogs go to heaven, I would like to concur with Spurgeon that literal children go to Heaven if something happens to them, but I know with the certainty and weight of the word of God that every child of God, born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, will be with God in Heaven for ever, and ever, and ever. Amen!
You Are Great, and Greatly Loved
What does it mean to be a child of God? It means you are born again into the family of God, the kingdom of God, a family and kingdom that will never end. Your sins are forgiven, your struggles will be over, your security is guaranteed by the finished work of Christ. But it means something more, too.
Jesus did not answer His disciples’ question, directly. They asked with wrong, prideful, and selfish motives. They wanted to know which one of them was the greatest.
Jesus did answer their question, emphatically. You are all the greatest, He said, if you are simply and surely the children of God. This is true for me and you, too. If you are a child of God, you are of great value and worth to God. If you are a child of God, God has great plans to accomplish great things through your life. If you are a child of God, God has a great home for you to live in forever, once your time on earth is done. If you are a child of God, God loves you with a great and everlasting love. This makes you great, in the eyes of God. This is what it means to be a child of God.
“I'm taking you Home,
Where we can be with the ones who really care.
Home, where we can grow together,
Keep you in my heart forever!”
— Don Henley
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org