Thursday, April 12, 2012

Looking for the Truth

Recently it has been more of a fight. More of a fight to BELIEVE what God says is true. We all have times or seasons in our lives where believing the Gospel is not easy because our feelings don't match up---we don't FEEL it is true. Well, this is one of those times for me. But even in the midst of such a difficult time, I am thankful for it. Scripture says that we are in a FIGHT of faith. Faith is a gift of God but it takes EFFORT to focus on what is true--it doesn't come natural all the time (some times a lot of the time). That is why the Bible is filled with action words, "set you mind", "stay alert", "be careful." And by, and only by, the grace of the Holy Spirit I am setting my mind on Hope and what is TRUE. It is hard and messy, but it is GOOD. This is one of those times when I really FEEL the refinement---I really FEEL the fire. But there is an eternal weight of glory on the other side. And some how, deep down, I KNOW that nothing this life or world has to offer is any good---it is complete rubbish. It will let me down and bring continual emptiness. It is ONLY Jesus that brings peace and hope and life and JOY.

So what was the catalyst for this struggle to believe what is True? Specifically, what was the catalyst for this fight to believe that God is LOVING and WISE and JUST? Strangely, it was not Anna having curved limbs. It was not the thought of her being disabled. It was not even the thought of her dying. It was the thought of her dying and not going to HEAVEN. Doubting infant salvation has never really been an issue for me. I pondered it a little with others, but when my dearest friend lost her little one suddenly there was no doubt. I took such hope in the words our Pastor spoke at her daughter's funeral (our Pastor is a wise man who knows and loves God's Word and has studied it in depth). So, why was I now starting to question it? I am not sure where the question came from (myself, the enemy, the Lord to bring me through a time or painful searching)? But suddenly I was thinking on the fact that God's Word isn’t SPECIFIC about this issue. It isn't written in bold letters that all infants and severely mentally handicapped will go to heaven. I know I have heard my whole life that babies go to heaven. But all of the sudden I needed truth to cling to. I couldn't just lean on sentimentality, which would reason that God wouldn't send sweet little babies to hell. If I know my Bible I know that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Because we are all descendants of Adam we are ALL born into a sin nature. We are ALL without excuse. We are all enemies of God before He awakens our hearts to salvation and grants us faith and repentance. So where to little ones fit in here? What do we believe for those who have not the ability to understand that they are sinners and in need of God's grace? I WANTED to believe that God's grace covers them but all the sudden my heart was in a swirl of doubt and confusion. All of the sudden, my reasoning went, "if God won't save my baby then how can I believe that He is loving and just and wise?" All of the truths I had been clinging to---the rocks on which I were standing---seemed to be crumbling from under me. All I felt was the worst pain I can imagine when I thought of my infant baby being sent to an eternity without Jesus. And it really wasn't because I want to see her in heaven. I DO---no matter how long she lives on this earth! But, that is not why I look forward to going to heaven. None of us can look forward to going to heaven just to see loved ones who have gone before us. All of us have to YEARN for heaven because that is where JESUS is and He is our EVERYTHING. I really couldn't bear the thought of Anna spending an eternity without JESUS. I want for her (and Cara) to know the sweetness and wholeness and forgiveness found only in our Savior. So on the path of searching I went. I was desperate for answers. For solid truth to cling to that went beyond feelings and emotions.

Well God, who is a gracious and loving Father (even when I don't believe it), was so merciful to me. Instead of just wallowing in my pain and confusion or trying to ignore it, He gave me the grace to search for answers. So I went to some men of the faith whom I believe to know God's Word and stick to it even when the Words aren't easy. Remember, I wasn't looking for someone to just pacify my longing for Anna to go to heaven if she were to die as an infant. I wanted the TRUTH no matter what it was. Well, while no one can say for sure, I did find some firm ground to stand on. There are passages in Scripture that give evidence that God (in ways we can't understand) gives special grace to the young and severely mentally handicapped. There are those in scripture who lost their babies and seemed to believe that they were with the Lord (David being one of them). But the hardest place that God has brought me to through this searching is this: I CANNOT doubt who God says He is just because He is not perfectly clear on an issue that I would wish Him to be. I have been reading through John. Jesus was wise. Jesus said hard things. Jesus was about a greater purpose that no one really understood while He was on this earth. Jesus was just. And Jesus was LOVING. He was FORGIVING. He was MERCIFUL. And Jesus submitted to His Father's will not matter how painful and costly---He knew the reward. Jesus let Lazarus die because He knew His Father had greater plans through is death---to show His POWER OVER death. Yet, Jesus WEPT over Lazarus. Jesus also didn't turn any of the little children away. He wasn't too busy for them or above them to take time with them. He WELCOMED them. And Jesus is the exact imprint of our Heavenly Father. Yes, all of scripture points to the fact that God is indeed a LOVING, WISE, JUST God. No matter how unclear He may or may not be. No matter how much at times I may not like was He chooses or what He says. He is God and has shown me that I can NEVER doubt His Love, His CHOICES, or His WSIDOM. I can trust Him with Anna’s eternity. I may not have all the concrete answers I would like, but I CAN trust Him. And while my heart still may not like that at times. That doesn't matter. I CHOOSE to trust Him and rest in Jesus's loving embrace. His arms are big enough for me and Anna. :)

But, I did want to share with you some of the findings in my searches (which will, yes, make a super long post even longer). But, I am doing this for anyone who may like to know the answers I found. There is so much good stuff out there. This is just a sampling. 3 men I really respect are John Piper, Albert Mohler, and my beloved Charles Spurgeon. Not knowing what any of these men would have to say on the topic, I began my quest. I found all three of these men to believe that God does save infants. They don't believe just because they are basing it on emotions. They base it on truth from God's Word. I am actually copying below Al Mohler's blog post. I, personally, found it most helpful. There are also two links---one to a sermon to read by C. H. Spurgeon (a very impassioned sermon I might add) and also a blog post on Piper's blog by Matt Perman. Hope they are helpful to any who may read this blog post.

Piper's blog:

Spurgeon's sermon:

Mohler's blog (and copied below for you to read):

The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin

The death of an infant or young child is profoundly heartbreaking – perhaps the greatest grief a parent is called to bear. For Christian parents, there is the sure knowledge that our sovereign and merciful God is in control, but there is also a pressing question: Is our baby in heaven?

This is a natural and unavoidable question, calling for our most careful and faithful biblical study and theological reflection. The unspeakable anguish of a parent’s heart demands our honest and humble searching of the Scriptures.

Mere sentimentalism ignores the Bible’s teaching which bears on the issue. We have no right to establish doctrine on the basis of what we hope may be true. We must draw our answers from what the Bible reveals to be true.

Universalism is an unbiblical heresy. The Bible clearly teaches that we are born in sin and that God will not tolerate sinners. God has made one absolute and definitive provision for our salvation through the substitutionary atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ our Lord. Salvation comes to those who believe on His name and confess him as Savior. The Bible teaches a dual destiny for the human race. The redeemed – those who are in Christ – will be raised to eternal life with the Father in Heaven. Those who have not believed in Christ and confessed Him as Lord will suffer eternal punishment in the fires of Hell. Universalism is a dangerous and unbiblical teaching. It offers a false promise and denies the Gospel.

The Bible reveals that we are born marked by original sin, and thus we cannot claim that infants are born in a state of innocence. Any biblical answer to the question of infant salvation must start from the understanding that infants are born with a sin nature.

The shifting of the focus to election actually avoids answering the question. We must do better, and look more closely at the issues at stake.

Throughout the centuries, the church has offered several different answers to this question. In the early church, Ambrose believed that baptized infants went to heaven, while unbaptized infants did not, though they received immunity from the pains of hell. His first error was believing in infant baptism, and thus in baptismal regeneration. Baptism does not save, and it is reserved for believers – not for infants. His second error was his indulgence in speculation. Scripture does not teach such a half-way position which denies infants admission to heaven, but saves them from the peril of hell. Augustine, the great theologian of the fourth century, basically agreed with Ambrose, and shared his understanding of infant baptism.

Others have taught that infants will have an opportunity to come to Christ after death. This position was held by Gregory of Nyssa, and is growing among many contemporary theologians, who claim that all, regardless of age, will have a post-mortem opportunity to confess Christ as Savior. The problem with this position is that Scripture teaches no such post-mortem opportunity. It is a figment of a theologian’s imagination, and must be rejected.

Those who divide infants into the elect and non-elect seek to affirm the clear and undeniable doctrine of divine election. The Bible teaches that God elects persons to salvation from eternity, and that our salvation is all of grace. At first glance, this position appears impregnable in relation to the issue of infant salvation – a simple statement of the obvious. A second glance, however, reveals a significant evasion. What if all who die in infancy are among the elect? Do we have a biblical basis for believing that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect?

We believe that Scripture does indeed teach that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect. This must not be based only in our hope that it is true, but in a careful reading of the Bible. We start with the biblical affirmations we have noted already. First, the Bible reveals that we are “brought forth in iniquity,”(1) and thus bear the stain of original sin from the moment of our conception. Thus, we face squarely the sin problem. Second, we acknowledge that God is absolutely sovereign in salvation. We do not deserve salvation, and can do nothing to earn our salvation, and thus it is all of grace. Further we understand that our salvation is established by God’s election of sinners to salvation through Christ. Third, we affirm that Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient Savior, and that salvation comes only on the basis of His blood atonement. Fourth, we affirm that the Bible teaches a dual eternal destiny – the redeemed to Heaven, the unredeemed to Hell.

What, then is our basis for claiming that all those who die in infancy are among the elect? First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body.”(2) That is, we will face the judgment seat of Christ and be judged, not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each will answer “according to what he has done,”(3) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin. We will answer for our own. But what about infants? Have those who die in infancy committed such sins in the body? We believe not.

One biblical text is particularly helpful at this point. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty years of wandering. “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers.”(4) But this was not all. God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and even explained why He did so: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.”(5) The key issue here is that God specifically exempted from the judgment those who “have no knowledge of good or evil” because of their age. These “little ones” would inherit the Promised Land, and would not be judged on the basis of their fathers’ sins.

We believe that this passage bears directly on the issue of infant salvation, and that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy. Knowing neither good nor evil, these young children are incapable of committing sins in the body – are not yet moral agents – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Newton, the great minister who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace was certain of this truth. He wrote to close friends who had lost a young child: “I hope you are both well reconciled to the death of your child. I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace.”(6) The great Princeton theologians Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield held the same position.

One of the most eloquent and powerful expressions of this understanding of infant salvation came from the heart of Charles Spurgeon. Preaching to his own congregation, Spurgeon consoled grieving par
ents: “Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days.”(7) Spurgeon turned this conviction into an evangelistic call. “Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there, too? He continued: “Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to Paradise. Father, ungodly, impenitent father, the little eyes that once looked joyously on you, look down upon you now, and the lips which scarcely learned to call you father, ere they were sealed by the silence of death, may be heard as with a still small voice, saying to you this morning, ‘Father, must we be forever divided by the great gulf which no man can pass?’ Doth not nature itself put a sort of longing in your soul that you may be bound in the bundle of life with your own children?”

Jesus instructed his disciples that they should “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”(8) We believe that our Lord graciously and freely received all those who die in infancy – not on the basis of their innocence or worthiness – but by his grace, made theirs through the atonement He purchased on the cross.

When we look into the grave of one of these little ones, we do not place our hope and trust in the false promises of an unbiblical theology, in the instability of sentimentalism, in the cold analysis of human logic, nor in the cowardly refuge of ambiguity.

We place our faith in Christ, and trust Him to be faithful to his Word. We claim the promises of the Scriptures and the assurance of the grace of our Lord. We know that heaven will be filled with those who never grew to maturity on earth, but in heaven will greet us completed in Christ. Let us resolve by grace to meet them there.

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