Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mourning a Death. . .

It's been said to me by a dear old friend that mourning for the death of others is common in ministry. I'm new to this. Oh, I've mourned over the loss of those for whom I've given care as a nurse's aid. I've mourned over the loss of my brother. And if you've been tracking my blog since the early days, you recall my dad died in November of 2006.

But this was different. And, it was unexpected. For it was a mourning over what would appear to be the death of one who yet walks, breathes and talks. And it took me totally by surprise. I wasn't a bit prepared.

It was 1982. September. I had flown from my home in Illinois to L.A. to attend Logos Bible Institute at John MacArthur's church. And I made too few friends. See, I was there as a false convert. I thought I was saved, but wasn't. I was yet unregenerate. But it would appear I wasn't the only one.

Since those days, the Lord let me slip but by His grace and incredible mercy, showed me my sinful state and my need for Christ. There are others who, sadly, have not.

One was another Logos student whom I heard about through Rick Holland. Rick was also a Logos student but is now an elder at Grace Community Church, among other things.

The other is an old friend whom I had come to know well. We had rented opposing bedrooms in home on Foothill Boulevard in, I believe, Lakeview Terrace.

After Logos, I wouldn't see my friend again until 1998. My wife and I were on our honeymoon and had traveled to the Phoenix area for a few reasons. My wife had spent part of her childhood there. Also, we wanted to visit a dear friend who was the dean of Logos turned pastor of Scottsdale Baptist Church. And then there was my old friend from Logos. Yes, we were able to reconnect. And it was great to see my old friend again.

Over the years, I've thought of him often. And it was a couple of months ago that I tried to look him up. His dad had written and self-published a book, a copy of which I still have. There was just enough information there to, in theory, locate his father. But when I tried to contact him, the number was out of service.

Then over a week ago, I get a friend request on Facebook. "Is that really you?". It was my friend. "Good days be comin'" I thought to myself.

Well, you probably already know where I'm going. I've certainly thrown enough hints around. So I'll cut to the quick.

My friend told me in plain language that he is now "secure and content" in his skepticism. And from the discussion I had with him, both on Facebook as well as a conference call from a fellow brother in Christ, he appears to be totally apostate. Of course, I can't determine if he has "crossed the line" and has been abandoned by God but if he ever comes to faith it is going to be an extremely obvious work of God. And I pray this to be the case.

After my conversion, I struggled with doubts. Very strong doubts. But I always, always, always knew it was "doubt leaning toward belief". In other words, "Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief". My friend has doubt which is decidedly leaning toward unbelief.

He has read all the "experts" and has convinced himself that the Scriptures are not reliable. Yet, having done so, he wanted me and my friend to convince him (against his will?) that the Bible can be trusted.

While he clearly said he is "secure and content" in his skepticism, he also said "I want to believe, I really do!" Well, the two are mutually exclusive. If you are content and secure in your "faith", you don't want to abandon it. Pure, clear thinking rules out reconciling the two statements. Unless, of course, his heart is crying for what he knows to be true while his intellectual pride locks him from reaching out and grabbing what he knows he needs. And pride is the origin of all sin.

My *saved* friend and I did all we could. In the spiritual sense, we even tried "the paddles", hoping to give him a jolt. But he was totally unable to suspend his unbelief for even ten minutes while we tried to get him to listen to his conscience in light of God's Law. We told him "Let's just try surmising that the Scriptures are true...Have you ever told a lie? Lusted?". . ."what would that make you", etc, trying to get him to see that he, as all of us, are guilty of breaking God's law and are thus guilty before God. But, for whatever reason he couldn't (or wouldn't) do it. Conviction? I hope so. Salvation doesn't come without repentance. And without conviction of sin and guilt there is no perceived need for repentance.

He appears to have closed the door on faith, welded it shut, and put every imaginable piece of furniture in front of the door. I have found myself struggling against the conviction that he is merely going around looking for Christians to debate. It is certainly possible but I pray it isn't. He *did* say that he enjoys debating. And normally, I'd take it that such a person is arrogant enough to presume on my time for his own entertainment. Certainly possible but I resist accepting it in this case although, as I said, this would be my normal conclusion.

It was a hard time for me to go through this. And I'm glad my friend was there to help me speak with this guy because it helped me keep some objectivity. I've had tons of debates with unbelievers over the years. But never with a friend who has shown himself to be a false convert.

But I mourn, and have been mourning, over what most certainly awaits this old friend. Many of the feelings that I have experienced while watching someone die physically are close if not identical to watching this person die spiritually. And I never expected it.

To know what awaits him, knowing that he is not guaranteed one more breath. He hangs over the mouth of hell by the thinnest of strands, weighed down by the immensity of his sin. Yet he can't feel it because a corpse feels nothing. And he is a spiritual corpse.

And it was hard to read one of his closing comments to me, calling me "brother". No. He has a different father (John 8:44). But, rightly or wrongly, I just couldn't get myself to address that. It was just too painful.

Beyond hope? Only God knows where that line is crossed by any particular person. So, I mourn yet I pray.

And I ask you to pray as well.

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