2 Chronicles 32-34, Psalm 79
I have been blessed with three children. My son, Michael, my third child was very obedient through most of his life in my house before college. During, and after college, he rebelled against many things and for a couple of years after college resembled the Prodigal son. Without being specific he fully embraced a life apart from God. For years I tried to reach him as a father would and continued to pray continually for him. A little over 4 years ago, having dinner with him in the city, as we do weekly, just the 2 of us; I quoted Revelation 21:4 to him, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." I then told him that if he were to die tomorrow, I would never see him again, and yet when I get to heaven someday, I would be okay with that. I told him I wasn't sure how that works, whether God changes my heart or whether, like when Jesus said, "I never knew you; depart from Me..." (Matthew 7:23), maybe I would have no memories of him. Either way after this talk, he agreed to Bible study with me. So 4-5 days/week; 15-20 minutes per day we studied over the phone (he lives in NYC). The studies were intense as we began through John, Romans, Revelation, etc. After 1 year, while in the book of 1 Corinthians, God got a hold of his heart and he realized that the Bible was real. Soon after he became celibate and soon after that he stopped drinking to excess, etc. 3 years later he is a deacon at the Movement church in NYC, soon to be married to a beautiful young woman, who is the worship leader of that church. Through the Bible, my son, became a child of God.
We read today of two evil kings and the last good king of Judah. Though Josiah had a true conversion as we read after they found the Book of the Law after so many years, and it was read to him, in 2 Chr 34:19, "Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes." We read of God's words concerning Josiah in 2 Chr 34:27, "because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also heard you," says the Lord." Josiah's heart was truly changed and he brought about meaningful reforms but they lasted only as long as Josiah was on the scene. We read in 2 Chr 34:33, "...and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers." Josiah meant well but God wants the heart and you can't make anyone change their heart, this must come from the individual. Religion can have an effect, but God desires a relationship.
I often will tell my patients my son's testimony when they tell me of their prodigal children. There are no grandchildren in heaven, only children. Every individual will one day come alone before Jesus and be judged. Even if we put our children in every church activity and do everything "right", one day that faith has to be their own, independent of us. No matter how far anyone has strayed or even if they have never been dependent on God, we serve a God of mercy and grace who will readily accept any who come. The Bible holds the truth that changes hearts. For my son, all my years of well meaning advice could not compare with one year of intense Bible study. In Matthew 28:19 we aren't told to make believers, but "disciples of all nations". I pray that as we are about to launch into the New Testament, in 2 days,we would consider who God might be laying on our heart to join us in The One Year Bible Challenge, and who we would choose to disciple. Mature believers need to teach, and new believers need to be discipled. This is how lives are changed.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: