Archive for July, 2014

Nothing is truly free — including salvation

July 31, 2014

Free. We love to hear the word, but it may be one of the most misused words in the English language.

We get offers for “free” stuff all the time, but are they truly free?

How many times have we been offered a “free” trip to Anywhere, U.S.A. All we have to do is agree to hear some kind of sales pitch.

I don’t know about you, but my time is valuable. If I sit through a sales presentation, the trip I received had a cost associated with it. It was not free. A lot of people have spent a lot of money because they thought something was “free.”

“Buy one, get one free.” That might be the closest we get to “free,” but even then you have to buy the first item.

Metro Nashville schools open next week. This year, for the first time, all students (not just those who demonstrate a need) will receive “free” lunches. Parents are no doubt excited they are not having to “pay” for their children’s lunch, but  lunch is not free. Taxpayers (including many of those parents who think they are getting something for nothing) are footing the bill for those “free lunches.” As the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

As Christians, we also misuse the word “free.” We refer to salvation as a “free” gift from God. It is indeed a gift from God, but it’s not free. Somebody had to pay something for you to have the gift. Specifically, Jesus had to pay for you to have the opportunity to receive the gift. Even then the gift requires confession of — and repentance from — sin.

We do people a disservice if we tell them there is no cost involved in being a Christian. Just think of Christians who have lost their lives or been persecuted because of their faith. There is a cost to accepting and serving Jesus Christ, but it is well worth it because He promises His presence and help during the journey and our presence with Him eternally at the end of the journey.

No, people don’t have to work for their salvation, but we also don’t want to leave them with the idea that following Jesus is no more than, as German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described it, “cheap grace.”

God’s amazing grace

July 10, 2014

Thirty years ago on July 10, 1984, my wife Joyce and I went to the hospital in anticipation of the birth of our first child.

Our joy soon turned to sorrow as the doctor could not find  the baby’s heartbeat. Our first son, David Randall Wilkey, was stillborn, having been strangled by his umbilical cord.

Words cannot express the grief and anger we experienced that day and the days that followed. As always when tragedy strikes we sometimes ask, “Why us?”

Then, I was not a mature enough Christian to counter with, “Why not us?”

We made it through those dark days only by God’s amazing grace.

As I have gotten older, I have forgotten a lot of things, but the memory of those days surrounding David’s death are still vivid.

I remember the comfort and help given by my former pastor Ken Clayton, now retired. He walked me through the process of arranging for my son’s burial.

I remember Rick and Debbie, a couple in our church who were good friends and were there for us when we needed them.

I remember Melody Rankin Ashworth, then a member of the college and career Sunday School class Joyce and I taught. Melody attended the graveside service for David and brought a single rose to place at his burial site. That began a tradition that has continued for the last 30 years as Joyce and I go to David’s graveside on the anniversary of his birth.

I didn’t know it then, but I know now that those kindnesses and other acts of love shown to us then were part of God’s amazing grace.

David’s death was the first major “setback” for Joyce and I as a married couple. We have had plenty more “trials and tribulations” since then, but just as God did when David died, His grace has been sufficient. I may never fully understand why David died before his birth, but I know God used that tragedy to bring Joyce and I closer together than ever before. We knew that if we made it through that darkest hour, we could make it through anything — and we have.

When things appear to be the worse, I lean on this verse, found in John 16:33 (HCSV): “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

To God be the glory for His amazing grace.

The price of freedom

July 2, 2014

America will celebrate another birthday this week on Friday, July 4.

For many Americans, the Fourth of July is a time to cookout, go to the lake, shoot fireworks, etc. I am fearful that many Americans do not take time to remember or, sadly, care that the Fourth of July is Independence Day. It is a day that we should thank God in heaven that He has allowed us to live in one of the greatest nations of all time.

I think too many people have forgotten their history lessons. They forget that we were once under British government.

They have forgotten that approimately 25,000 Americans died in the Revolutionary War and another 25,000 or so were wounded in the battles fought to gain our independence.

They have forgotten  the hundreds of thousands of people who have died in the wars fought since 1776 in order that we can be free today. Our freedom did not just happen. Men and women paid for our freedom with their lives.

Many Americans can put a face on freedom through relatives and loved ones who have died or suffered major injuries in wars. I can’t. I don’t have a relative that I have known who has been killed or injured but I do have a dear friend who paid a price so we can celebrate the Fourth of July.

Jerry Currey is a member of Tulip Grove Baptist Church where I attend and he is a dear friend and hero. We tend to use the word “hero” too loosely in America today. Athletes are not heroes in the truest sense of the word. Jerry Currey is a hero who paid a price for our freedom. In 1968 during the Vietnam War, Jerry suffered severe injuries that left him blind and crippled.

Jerry has shared his testimony many times over the years. One of his main points is that after he was injured in a mortar attack that he lay on the ground wondering if he would ever see his family again. His last thought before he lost consciousness was, “Lord, Lord, if you let me live, I will live for you.”

I have seen the life Jerry Currey has lived for his Lord for more than 30 years. There are days when he literally does not feel like getting out of bed but he never fails to praise Jesus and he will always share his testimony about what God has done in his life.

I wish every American had someone whose very presence or memory is a reminder that freedom is not free. Unfortunately, many do not. Perhaps that is why some people in our country do not truly realize the importance of the Fourth of July holiday.

Pray for our country, our president,  and other leaders of our government on July 4. We must never take our freedom for granted. Once we do, we are in danger of losing it.