Thirty Plus Fifty is Eighty
Last week I became an old man: I am now eighty years old. Apparently none of my relatives lived this long. Subjectively I remember my childhood as if it were yesterday. The world we live in today is so different from the world I was born into that words fail me to tell my younger friends what it was like when I was a boy. I asked my mother when I was about 6 or 7, what the world was like when she was a girl---that is, in “the Olden Days.” She laughed. So I asked her if she had ever been a “flapper girl.” She laughed again.
I was sent to Sunday school a few times as a boy in the hope I would find purpose and direction there. No such luck. From after-school radio shows for kids, and SciFi monthlies, I was captivated by adventure tales and space travel. I was shy and very introspective, so science fiction really drew me in big time. From as far back as I can remember, I had to search for the missing something in life. I could not define that missing element, but I gradually become proficient in identifying all the things in life that were for sure NOT “it.”
Finally, when I reached 30, my search brought me to the discovery that Jesus Christ is alive today, as His true followers have always claimed. Spiritual rebirth had been a long and convoluted journey for me. Later I learned that we humans are not inclined to seek for God---instead it is God who seeks for us with patience and diligence. Looking back, it’s quite clear to me now that in a pitiful, naïve fashion, I assumed that I had looked everywhere but had found no real answers to the meaning of things, playing by my own arbitrary rules. Turning 30 I found myself in a state of existential despair. Life is meaningless, mankind is without hope, and the only meaning that can be found is inventing one’s own.
At 30 I was convinced that all my best years were gone. Everything that comes after 30, I said to myself, is surely downhill, and increasingly boring. At my lowest point in life a kindly Baptist pastor carefully explained to me who Jesus was and what He had come to earth to accomplish. For the very first time I read that Jesus loved people and that He would always respond when a “supplicant” was sincere and wanted a relationship with Him. Suddenly, in the Fall of 1962, I made the most important decision ever. It was simply, “Humble yourself as best you can and invite Jesus to enter your heart and take over. He WILL show up.” (My Search for the Meaning of Life, http://www.ldolphin.org/Faith2.shtml)
My conversion experience was powerful and dramatic, one of those rare “Road to Damascus” events (Acts 9). One moment I felt empty and lost, then in a flash I was certain I had been made completely new inside. The Presence I felt was surely Jesus.
In the weeks that followed I studied the Bible morning, noon, and night. I attended church Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday prayer service, plus all the Conferences and Retreats. I’m pretty sure my colleagues at work thought I had completely flipped out. Who was this man Jesus with whom I now had a very real relationship? Then too, I realized that my old view of the “known” universe was now far too limited. “By faith” Jesus began to unfold to me all manner of hidden things. Soon I found that I was becoming a whole new person as well. Layers of guilt and shame were going away. My outlook on everything changed. I had a clear sense of peace and a whole new direction for my life.
“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:13-21)
Fifty years later I am especially grateful that I followed the example of the solid saints I kept meeting at church. These were godly men and women who read through the whole Bible over and over again, year after year. Praying with my fellow Christians at every opportunity became a rich and powerful way of connecting with these fellow travelers, and more deeply with God.
Early on I realized that the Bible teaches that our race is fallen and that we do not have the power nor the gifts to save ourselves. Neither can we impress God with our “good” deeds. We are saved by grace alone, through faith, and apart from works.
When a person receives Christ, as I had done, by the simple surrender of one’s life to Jesus, God responds in two ways: All of our sins (past, present, and future) are transferred by Him outside of time and placed on Jesus. Jesus is punished in full for my sins (and for your sins as well). Secondly, the righteous nature of Jesus is “imputed” or credited to my spiritual account. These actions by God on behalf of sinners are instantaneous. From that point on, God treats us as if we had never sinned at all and He defends us against all charges made against us in the High Court of heaven.
Theologians talk about the three stages of our salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification. What this means in practice is that we must “Work out (y)our own salvation with fear and trembling, because God is at work in you, both to will and to do according to His own good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12)
We were born into this world self-centered persons, each seeking to run his or her own life, according to our own agendas. This selfishness is incompatible with the very nature of God. The death of Jesus on the cross purchased us back from sin and death and hell. The rightful ownership of the entire universe was also purchased back from an evil enemy. Jesus is Earth's absent Landlord who will soon return to clean up our mess and "make all things new."
God is self-giving. Being made members of His family destines us to be remade into totally new, self-giving people. That is actually a tall order for God to carry out, and we must learn to cooperate as the saints who’ve gone before us learned to do. Dying to self is not always pleasant, but it is mandatory.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11)
Sadly, not many people in the world are true Christians. God is kind, loving, patient, and gentle. He nurtures, raises, and trains each one of His children individually. He offers salvation to everyone—in fact He begs us to come to Him. Many people who start out on the journey with Jesus will drop out later – they’ve usually been unwilling to open up, to become vulnerable and transparent, not allowing Jesus to be their intimate Counsellor, nurturing Father, challenging Friend, tough Drill Sergeant, and Holy Companion. (He hates all manner of evil).
In many different ways, Jesus told us that we must die in order to gain real life. We must give up control and become servants in order to rule with Him.
You and I have come into this world late in the timeline of God’s redemptive history down here on Earth. Jesus is due back any day now. Jesus Christ is not hard to find; He is still seeking us. I fought Him for 30 years but thankfully He prevailed. Everyone who has ever lived will give a full account of themselves to Him. Jesus created everything that exists. The whole universe belongs to Him. Does not the Creator and Owner of all things have a right to come back and reclaim what is His own?
It is possible to believe in God and the Bible, to trust Jesus and to enjoy knowing Him daily! That path, in fact, is reality, the only path that makes sense.
The last time I wrote a newsletter, I had just lost hearing in one ear. My ear doctor was not hopeful, but friends prayed and my hearing came back. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching Ephesians at my church. Your comments are welcome. I certainly learned a lot. Audio files are on my web site, http://ldolphin.org/ephesians.
The Bible tells us to pray about everything and to take one day at a time. This simple formula works wonderfully well for me. I don’t have more than I can deal with, and God teaches me new things when I obey and act on truth He has previously given me.
In the matter of income and finances I learned from the Lord that I had been embarrassingly reckless with money for a good part of my life. Major repentance has allowed God to meet my actual minimum needs month after month. Contributions toward my support have dropped a lot in a part of the world where the cost of living is sky high. Most newly married couples find that buying a very modest home in Silicon Valley requires two incomes, which makes raising children especially difficult.
"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:7-19)
Finances: The Blue Letter Bible ministry has graciously provided me a better channel for tax-deductible donations. If you would like a tax receipt, send your check to: Blue Letter Bible ATTN: Lambert Dolphin Ministries (LDM), 29 Rancho Circle, Lake Forest, CA 92630 (Please make your check out to "Blue Letter Bible" and mark "LDM" in the memo field of your check). Thank you very much! I am very, very grateful for caring friends who contribute. You may send cash contributions directly to my PayPal account. Such contributions are tax free to me, though not to you.
Book: My colleague Ron Graf and I hope you will obtain copies of our book on Bible Prophecy, Connecting the Dots... http://bible-prophecy.com/connecting.
Contacting me: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: http://ldolphin.org; Apologetics and Q&A: http://paracleteforum.org; Previous newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news. While I try to answer all my email, I am not very good at returning phone calls. Everything I have written ends up on my web site. Please visit there often and write to me when you see something of interest.
May 31, 2012