Remembering the Former Life

On my 21st birthday, I attended a tent revival near a swamp in Southeast Missouri. My partner for the event was a very large man from Southern Illinois whom I met while preaching in his town.

He and his wife had originally lived in Chicago. She was a nightclub singer and he was a small-time criminal. They had two disabled children.

My friend had a violent streak and took out his anger on his wife and children. Things got so bad at home that she returned to her Alabama Baptist roots, and began riding a bus with her children across town to a church on Sundays.

Her husband’s explosive anger was felt by the family each Sunday, as they traveled to church.

Their two disabled boys were not deterred by the anger and threats of their father. They begged to come to church and he finally relented.

Instead of taking a city bus to church, the father drove the family.

The Sunday morning service seemed to “touch” no one in the family, but in the afternoon the father announced that they were going to return and attend Sunday evening services.

That night, Jesus became real to my friend and he placed his faith in Jesus.

His dramatic conversion required the family to leave Chicago. His mob connections did not fit with his new faith.

When I met the couple, they were faithfully serving a small Baptist church in a Southern Illinois town.

Life Separate from Grace

Paul put theological language to the story of my friend and millions of other people.

Ephesians 2.1-3 – You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world,

Following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, doing the will of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

Before my friend from Illinois met Jesus, he (and I a few years before our meeting) fit Paul’s description.

I wasn’t a small-time gangster, but I was a rebel in God’s world all the same.

— We were spiritually dead because of willful sin.

— We were influenced by the thought patterns of the world’s system that resists God’s rule (see Psalm 2).

— Whether we recognized it or not, we were in the clutches of the evil one, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy humans (John 10.10).

— We were enslaved to and controlled by our “flesh.” The Biblical definition of “flesh” is a life that is lived separately from God.

— As we were influenced by the three classic opponents of God – the world’s system, the flesh, and the devil – we were subject to God’s wrath.

Wrath and the Cross

I hate black widow spiders and copperhead snakes. I once used a quart of gasoline to kill a black widow and nearly broke the handle of a hoe killing what I believed to be a copperhead.

In both instances, there were people in danger of being harmed by these creatures. My hatred was a defense of lives more valuable than spiders and snakes.

God’s wrath is similar to my hatred of snakes and spiders. God’s love for humans is so great that he has profound anger against anything that harms them.

The Bible proclaims God’s love for humans, but it also declares his wrath against sin. Why?

Sin, rebellion, transgression, and the like are tools of the evil one designed to steal, kill, and destroy life. Our loving God always firmly resists all of the works of the devil.

The cross is God’s solution to our problem. Given the truth of that statement, let’s imagine the severity of the human problem.

Like my friend from Illinois, God’s love reaches our rebellious state and grants us forgiveness and new life.

This is God’s solution to our sin problem.

Tomorrow, we will have the joy of examining God’s grace and love.

YouTube Video and Prayer

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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