"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Stillwater Strong: Jesus Saves Us to the Uttermost

Saturday brought tragedy to our state. A 25-year-old woman recklessly barreled her car through a crowded Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing four individuals and wounding forty-four more, some critically. We had church members just a few feet away from the tragedy as it happened, and one person told me yesterday that he will never forget the horrific sight of the dead and wounded lying on the street and sidewalks around him. 
Watching the news Saturday night, I heard someone who narrowly escaped being hit by the car say to an interviewer, "Only by the goodness and kindness of God was I not hit."  It seems programmed into every person to believe the evidence of God's goodness and kindness is material and physical blessings or the avoidance of temporal tragedies. It seems unnatural to say that God's kindness is present in the lives of those hit by the car as much as it is in the lives of those not hit by the car. But because such an idea seems so unnatural, maybe we ought to conclude there's some truth in it because God's ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55;8).

Personally, I believe the gospel requires us to say that Christians who experience terrible tragedies are as much in the middle of God's kindness and goodness as those who don't experience such trauma.  

The writer of Hebrews makes an astonishing statement about Jesus Christ. "Christ saves to the uttermost those that come to God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Question: For "those who come to God by Christ," what is it that Christ saves us from? Answer; Christ saves us from ever "being cut off from the goodness and kindness of God" (Romans 11:22b). This is the teaching of the New Covenant, and Paul spends a great deal of time in his letter to the Romans teaching this principle. Paul says that believers in Christ abide in God's goodness, but those who refuse Christ are "cut off" from God's goodness and kindness.  There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying is only partially true. God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness."

"Behold the severity of God" (Romans 11:22a). It is a severe thing to be outside of the realm of God's goodness and kindness. One is "cut off" from God's goodness. However - and this is important - "to be "cut off" from God's goodness can only be measured by your attitude toward Jesus Christ. Those who come to God by Jesus Christ are never cut off from God's goodness, are never outside the realm of God's kindness, and are never "cut off" from God's grace, because Jesus "saves us to the uttermost."

The King James Version word "uttermost" - which means "completely," "fully," or "totally" - is the best word to translate the Greek word panteles. It's much better than the New International Version or New American Standard word "forever." It is true that Christ saves us forever, but when the Bible says "Christ saves us to the uttermost," it means He "completely," "totally," and "fully" rescues us from ever being cut off from God's goodness. 

One of the worst things a Christian can do is to measure "God's goodness" in terms of health, wealth and other material or temporal blessings. These things are good and definitely comprise some of the blessings that come from God ("for it is God who gives you the power to have wealth'), but these are not God's greatest blessings nor are they God's surest signs of His kindness and goodness. A rich, healthy, powerful man can be 'cut off' from experiencing God's goodness in Christ and be utterly miserable spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The internal belief that God is good to you personally, unconditionally, and eternally - regardless of your merit or ability to earn this favor - is a far superior gift than any external experience of temporal, material and physical blessings. Only the person who comes to God by Christ can have the assurance that cancer, job loss, accidents, and other tragedies are never a sign of being cut off from God's kindness and goodness.

Jesus Christ fully, totally and completely delivers us who come to God by Him from ever being cut off from God's goodness, no matter how things seem around us - even if we are struck by a car during a parade.

11 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

It's also good to remind ourselves that God's saving, healing and restoring grace extend even to the driver.

Curious Thinker said...

I think the mistake is that there are some Christians who believe that if they follow God's will and and obey his laws, He will reward them with good things in their lives and protect them from bad experiences. But believers can suffer tragedy or bad luck in their lives just like everyone else. I think the real point is God will never abandon you no matter how much tragedy happens in your life, just as long as you embrace Him, He will be there for you throuh all the bad and you can rely on Him to help you get through it, overcome it and even heal from it. Great post. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to skirt around your excellent post to say that from what I've been reading on this, the woman had just left work, has no memory of the accident and her lawyer says the toxicology report will show she hadn't been drinking.

Chances are good she had experienced some sort of seizure.

Shari England said...

I thought the same thing.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I printed your wonderful post for our church with the Anonymous comment that the lady probably had a seizure as I believe it gives closure.

Christiane said...

some thoughts after the tragedy in Oklahoma . . .

I think we can withhold judgment concerning the woman who drove that car into the crowd, because we are aware that not all the evidence is in concerning her condition at the time . . . but so many of us are prone to judge without knowledge, and without realizing that often there is much that cannot be known or understood . . .

there is a beautiful Orthodox prayer, this:

‘Lord,
as You will and as You know,
have mercy.’

I suspect the beauty of this ancient prayer is for me is that it includes the phrase ‘and as You know’, which is something we prideful people ignore when WE go to judge others AND ourselves . . .

The writer Flannery O’Connor once said about those who critiqued her dark, gothic short stories that it amused her that some of these critics ‘got hold of the wrong horror’ . . .
and I think about how we Christians must look to God in our judging of ourselves and of one another without ‘knowing’ what God knows . . . and how we, too, must often judge ‘having got hold of the wrong horror’. This awareness of our own lack of ‘knowing’ ought to help keep us humble

. . . like Cardinal John Henry Newman once said:
“This thought should keep us humble. We are sinners, but we do not know how great.
He alone knows Who died for our sins.’
(John Henry Newman)

'All Is Grace', yes, but we also know that God is not the source of the evil we encounter, but instead He is our deliverance from that evil . . . we know this because of Christ in Whom we have good reason to hope

prayers are being said for all who are impacted by this tragedy

Gordon said...

Wade,

Whether these calamities and tragedies of life come upon us by accident or through the deliberate action of others, the promise to the believer is : "I will never leave you nor forsake you ".

His grace has already been poured out upon the world and it is for us now to draw by faith on Him who is the Resurrection and the Life; that River that never runs dry; that Bread of Heaven ; that Light of the World; that Comforter of Souls. It is there for our taking.

Let us in all practical ways stand by those who sorrow and suffer, and if this event will cause them to call in faith on the name of the Lord, then everlasting good will be their reward.

Rex Ray said...

I need more copies of this post than the ones I ran for our church. When I wrote the first time on this post, little did I realize how much this post and comments would be a comfort.

You see, there’s a funeral for a beautiful girl this Saturday. She is a relative and only sixteen. She grew up with some of my ten grandchildren.
For a while it was believed she had run away from home, but a rope was found missing. There are deep woods all around her home. A search with dogs failed due to rain. On the sixth day she was found with fifty people looking. Her parents were divorced and she was on prescription drugs. Her journal had: My mind is messed up but I know God will take care of me.

Loddie R said...

Wade, the tragedy in Stillwater seizes the heart. It is difficult to comprehend, let alone to cope with such happenings when the belief of our hearts is in a good and loving God. At times like these my mind reverts back to Job and his difficultly in understanding why he should suffer such personal loss and physical misery when he had only loved God and served his fellow man with all his heart. Even the godly of the Lord will struggle should evil happen in their lives. The passage in Isaiah 57:1-2, while not necessarily comforting to the grieving, does shed some light (or at least something to consider) on why our Lord may bring us home before our time. “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.” For us left here death is loss and separation. But they who go to be with the Lord do behold His glory and know Him as they are known.

A couple of things you write in this article are puzzling to me. I have often heard Isaiah 55:8 quoted when seeking to explain why we do not understand what the Lord is doing when some difficult or traumatic happening occurs in our life. But I am a believer in knowing the context of a scripture quoted. If you read the two verses before verse 8 it is obvious the Lord is addressing the wicked. “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their WAYS and banish the very THOUGHT of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.” (NLT) The ways and thoughts of the wicked are not the ways and thoughts of the Lord. But for a child of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit we most certainly can know His ways and thoughts. In John 17 Jesus prayed that we might know our Heavenly Father, which would be eternal life for us. How can we possibly know and understand our Heavenly Father if we can’t know His ways and thoughts. That makes no sense to me. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2 that we have the mind of Christ and can therefore know the thoughts of God. “For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND and PURPOSES OF THE LORD, SO AS TO INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes].” (1 Corinth 2:16, Amplified) While me may not always understand what the Lord is doing in our lives at certain times it does not follow that we cannot know the thoughts and ways of our Heavenly Father.

You state “Paul says that believers in Christ abide in God's goodness, but those who refuse Christ are "cut off" from God's goodness and kindness. There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying is only partially true. God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness." Yet Jesus told us to “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is KIND to those who are unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35) I can find nowhere that Jesus ever insisted his blessings and healings were available only to those who were in a right relationship with God and believed on him. If as you say God does not extend His goodness to those who refuse Christ then why should I have to show kindness to those who refuse Christ? Christ’s enjoinder that I be kind to my enemies is based upon the fact our Heavenly Father is kind to His enemies, the wicked and unthankful. Anyway, perhaps I misunderstood what you were trying to say.

Wade Burleson said...

Loddie,

You ask a great question:

"If as you say God does not extend His goodness to those who refuse Christ then why should I have to show kindness to those who refuse Christ? Christ’s enjoinder that I be kind to my enemies is based upon the fact our Heavenly Father is kind to His enemies, the wicked and unthankful."

I love my enemies because my Savior told me too. And, because of this passage:

"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord." (Romans 12:19).

Which teaches me that God alone knows how to punish the wicked properly, justly, and righteously. Not I.