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Posts Tagged ‘regeneration’

This is the third and final post by guest blogger Joe Blackmon on the characteristics of genuine saving faith in Philippians 3:3.  Joe has done a great job on these posts and I am glad he has given them to me to post here!

The Mentality of Genuine Saving Faith

The reason Jesus is such a touchy subject to non-Christians is because of what He represents.  Most people who have been blinded to the truth of the Gospel by the Devil regard salvation and heaven as something they can earn through their own goodness.  They believe either they are capable of attaining righteousness on their own or that they are already righteous.  However, Christ’s death on the Cross destroys that theory.  By His death, He affirmed that sin demanded a penalty.  He also demonstrated that sin’s penalty was death.  Therefore, if I recognize that He paid my debt by His death and His resurrection is true, then I must conclude that He is God and I have to stop doing things my way and submit to Him.  To do so, I would have to acknowledge my sin and my inability to make myself right with God.  People want to create their own righteousness and earn their way to heaven so they don’t have to submit to God.  However, we who are Christians, have “no confidence in the flesh”.  We do not believe that our flesh has any power to save us.  In fact, we have come to Christ and trusted in Him for just that reason.  In Romans 7:18-25, Paul says “18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”  We submit to God and trust Christ when we have come to the conclusion that we are incapable of producing righteousness.

A true, saving faith is characterized by our mindset and our actions.  Ultimately, those who trust Christ for their salvation rather than trusting themselves and those who serve the Lord are the ones who are spiritually circumcised.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Responding to the Bread of Life is a series of posts on the reaction of the Twelve to Jesus in John 6:60-71.

Series Index:

  1. Introduction and Background
  2. The Bread of Life Discourse is a Hard Saying (6:60-61)
  3. The Spirit Gives Life (6:62-65)
  4. Many Stop Following Jesus (6:66)
  5. Jesus has the Words of Eternal Life (6:67-71)

Application

1. The gospel is a hard saying to those who do not believe.

Only the Spirit gives life and only by the words of Jesus, the Son of God. All of this is strangely damning to those who despise Jesus, especially the Jews, because they know they need a Savior. They know they are naturally sinful, yet they hear the gospel and reject it.

This is the natural response of every sinner to the gospel–unbelief!

No sinner freely follows Jesus with saving faith apart from the grace of God. Yet to any sinner who hears and believes, Jesus is sweet and lovely, Lord and Savior! God could have justly left us to perish, but thankfully, we may eternally hope in Jesus who will raise us up on the last day!

2. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.

Surely no other lie is so readily told and believed–that one may be good enough to gain mercy. Perhaps no other sin is so misleading! Why?

To be sure, in every generation in nearly every city, church, family and community, no other sin has so viciously attacked the truth of the gospel–the truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not by works whatsoever. No man is made alive by works.

3. Jesus’ hard sayings often confirm one’s unbelief.

One may profess Jesus, and yet not truly know who Jesus is. How many were following Jesus before they deserted him in John 6? How many were excited about Jesus?

Such texts are humbling. Jesus performed signs and wonders and many followed him, listened to him, but yet so many did not believe! When they were confronted with the gospel, they turned away from Jesus, offended by his words.

How could he be the Son of God? How could he take away the sins of the world? Many who flock to mega-churches across the country, who listen to a gospel about health and wealth, may not even know what the real gospel is! It is a hard saying to those who refuse Jesus. If they hear it, they will reject it. Praise God that he can save false followers too! He can defeat and tear down all unbelief, and draw sinners to saving faith in Jesus. How? It is the Spirit who gives life in Jesus. The flesh is no help at all.

4. Jesus has the words of eternal life. Are you in Christ today?

Believe and be saved. Be reconciled to God through faith in all the promises God is for us in Jesus. We are all a part of fallen humanity, and we all make mistakes. We have all willfully betrayed God. Yet Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, so believe!

Conclusion

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But the gospel is folly to sinful hearts apart from the divine grace of God, sovereignly drawing hearts to Jesus. To those who believe, Jesus is the only Savior, the only teacher who has the words of eternal life.

So the theme of this text is sobering. Just as many rejected Jesus in John 6, many reject him today. On the other hand, the Spirit is cutting to the hearts of so many by the gospel! That is why the gospel is Good News to take to the world. God is presently seeking out lost sinners to rescue them from death to eternal life in his Son.

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The spread of non-lordship teaching on repentance should concern evangelical churches today as it calls many essential New Testament teachings into question. Non-lordship salvation proponents have difficulty making sense of the biblical doctrine of regeneration and its place in salvation as their theology envisions regenerate Christians living altogether pagan lives. Hodges makes this clear when he says “though genuine repentance may precede salvation . . . it need not do so.”[1] Non-lordship teaching on repentance leaves open the possibility that someone could be elect but not regenerate. Hodges “radical disjunction between saving faith and repentance . . . creates a Christian who is hostile to God, who cannot submit to God’s law, and who does not belong to Christ” (contra Rom. 8:1-13).[2]

In addition, Ryrie claims that, “a believer could come to the place of not believing, yet God will not disown him.”[3] Thus, the radical separation between repentance and faith results in little if any criteria for discerning which people in a church are believers. Such teaching would significantly harm the health of a church, specifically in the area of church discipline. It is difficult to make sense of how non-lordship proponents would conduct church discipline. How could a church justify treating one as a “gentile and a tax collector” who the church, according to their theology, believes to be regenerate? Therefore, the lordship position on repentance presents both a more consistent theological front and a healthier view of the church than the non-lordship position.

While non-lordship proponents would make a radical separation of repentance and faith in the ordo salutis (order of salvation), it is clear that Scripture makes no such radical separation as both repentance and faith are inseparably wed together in the gospel call. Furthermore, those in the New Testament who did not exhibit lives marked by repentance are to be treated as unbelievers (Matt. 18:17, 1 Cor. 5:1-2, 1 John 2:19). The necessary connection between repentance and faith together as the human response to the gospel call clearly reflects the biblical data. Neglect of this essential connection reflects departure from biblical soteriology and ecclesiology. The lordship position on repentance must be maintained in order for the gospel to be rightly preached and for the church to rightly reflect the glory of God.


[1]Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 146. It is at this point that Hodges significantly departs from traditional reformed theology as much biblical teaching on salvation is modified to refer to fellowship with God. Hodges cites Calvin in defense of his view that faith apart from repentance is the lone condition for salvation. However Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion wrote, “Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means! But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished . . . repentance and faith though constantly linked together, are only to be united not confounded.” Thus Hodges fails to accurately portray Calvin’s teaching that faith and repentance are inseparably connected. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. The Library of Christian Classics, Vols 21. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960). III.iii.5.

[2]Nettles, “Review of Absolutely Free!“, 244.

[3]Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 141. Ryrie grounds this on the assertion that “believe” is almost always in the aorist tense.

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I have established that the overall pattern of Jesus’ preaching in gospels and the apostles’ preaching in Acts is clearly marked by the call to repent. This is because repentance in part and parcel of the gospel message. Thus, the New Testament simply does not envision believers who have not yet repented. Repentance is inseparable from faith in the call of the gospel and it is the necessary fruit of true conversion. In this short post, I intend to show that in addition to the gospels and Acts, the New Testament epistles also echo Christ’s command to repent and believe.

It is clear that Christ’s message was one of repentance and his disciples were faithful to retain Jesus’ pattern of preaching as their teaching prominently features repentance as well. For example, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Thus, Paul clearly believed that repentance is intricately tied to salvation.[1]

Peter’s second epistle also clearly ties repentance to the fulfillment of God’s promises in salvation: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It is extremely difficult to make sense of these passages if repentance is understood to be something that takes place after conversion. Faith and repentance, if rightly understood, should be placed together as the biblically commanded human response to the gospel call. Repentance is a work of God and man–sinners must repent to receive salvation, yet God enables them to do so (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). The Gospels, Acts, and the New Testament epistles clearly tie repentance to conversion–a great deal must be read into these texts in order to see repentance as applying only to sanctification.

In my next post, I will discuss the Greek words used for repentance and how both lordship and non-lordship proppnents understand them. I will argue that non-lordship teaching incorrectly defines “repentance” to the detriment of the church.


[1]Other key Pauline texts on repentance include 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and Romans 2:3-4.

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In this post, I will address the centrality of repentance in the gospel call in Acts and the Gospels. In posts to follow I will address repentance in the New Testament epistles and develop a brief theology of repentance. I hope to set forth the place of repentance in Salvation. I want to argue that “salvation” devoid of repentance is no salvation at all because the gospel call to salvation in Scripture is to repentance and faith.

Mark 1:14-15, serving as a summary statement concerning Jesus’ preaching, says, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” Therefore, for Jesus, the gospel message demands its adherents to both repent and believe—no member of the kingdom of God may choose one and not the other. In “God’s salvation, faith and repentance are inseparable.”[1] Non-lordship proponents, however, object, claiming that “there are one hundred and fifteen passages at least wherein the word ‘believe’ is used alone and apart from every other condition as the one way to salvation.”[2] Chafer also claims that of the one hundred and fifty portions of Scripture that address human responsibility in salvation, none of them “make any reference to repentance as a separate act.”[3] The New Testament data, however, reveals that repentance is a foundational part of the gospel message to be preached to those who do not believe. While the Bible does, at times, speak of salvation by faith without mention of repentance, it should be noted that the Bible also gives commands to repent without making mention of faith (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25).[4] Thus, the New Testament’s teaching on the gospel call does include the call to repent.

The call to repentance must be adequately addressed for the gospel to be rightly preached. In Christ’s final command to his disciples, he tells them “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Jesus'] name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Thus, Ernest C. Reisinger rightly notes that Jesus “both began and closed His ministry on the subject of repentance,” signifying its essential place in the gospel.[5] Luke 24:47 reveals that Jesus himself clearly tied remission of sins to repentance. John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance: “John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’” and John continues by quoting Isaiah saying, “the voice of the one calling in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight” (Matt. 3:1-3). Therefore, “repentance makes the path straight between the Lord and the repenting person.”[6] The preaching that served to prepare for the coming of the messiah was preaching centered on repentance. Furthermore, when Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, “they went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12).

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost set forth the call to repentance, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”[7] Paul’s preaching in Acts reflects a similar formula to that of Peter, in his famous sermon on Mars Hill, he boldly claims that “the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Thus, Paul sees Christ as inaugurating a new age where all men (i.e. people from every nation) are commanded to repent.[8]


[1]Ernest C. Reisinger, Lord and Christ (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1994) 64.

[2]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Salvation (Philadelphia, PA: Sunday School Times Company, 1919) 49.

[3]Chafer, Systematic, 376. Chafer’s argument here represents a dangerous hermeneutic where the majority of texts are placed over and against the minority. Chafer doesn’t address the fact that repentance continues to show up in summary statements of the gospel, nor does he address whether or not these texts rule out repentance.

[4]Randall Gleason, “The Lordship Salvation Debate,” Evangelical Review of Theology 27.1(2003) 62.

[5]Reisinger, Lord and Christ, 60.

[6]Roberts, Repentance, 25. Roberts further discusses John the Baptist’s message of repentance in Mark 1:4, “John the Baptist appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Roberts claims that here, “one follows the other: repentance must precede forgiveness; forgiveness does follow repentance. There is something grossly unwise in supposing that a person can enjoy the forgiveness of sin while resisting or merely remaining ignorant of repentance.”

[7]Peter’s preaching in Acts continually reflects Christ’s message of repentance and faith (see also Acts 3:19; 5:30-32).

[8]See also Acts 20:20-21 where Paul summarizes his past ministry to the Elders at Ephesus, saying, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Furthermore, Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa in Acts 26 clearly contains the call to repentance, “repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 26:20).

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It could be argued that the Lordship Salvation Controversy has been around for ages–ever since repentance lost its rightful place in the church’s gospel preaching. In this post, however, I will briefly trace the clear development of non-lordship theology from its early 20th century beginnings to its present form.

The Lordship Salvation Controversy can be traced back to the interaction of two early 20th century theologians, Lewis Sperry Chafer and Benjamin B. Warfield. Warfield was concerned about Chafer’s soteriology, claiming, “in [Chafer] we hear of two kinds of Christians whom he designates respectively ‘carnal men’ and ‘spiritual men’” (B.B. Warfield, “A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That is Spiritual,” 324). Chafer grounded his belief in two types of Christians on his commitment to Sola Fide, claiming that, “the eternal glories which are wrought in sovereign grace are conditioned, on the human side, by faith alone”  (Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, 371). Chafer claimed that repentance and faith are essentially the same thing, thus Chafer could affirm both that “repentance is essential to salvation and that none could be saved apart from repentance,” and that “it is clear that the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation” (373, 76). Chafer directly addresses how his theology should influence preaching of the gospel, claiming that, “in all gospel preaching every reference to the life lived beyond regeneration should be avoided as far as possible.”

Thus, according to Chafer, the gospel preacher is to call sinners to believe but not explicitly to repent and believe. Hence, Chafer saw two great spiritual changes taking place in Christian’s lives: “the change from the ‘natural man’ to the saved man, and the change from the ‘carnal’ man to the spiritual man” (He that is Spiritual, 8). Chafer claimed that what many evangelicals termed “repentance” and placed alongside faith should actually be placed after conversion in an act of adjustment toward the Holy Spirit. Chafer’s theology reflects the movement of removing repentance from the gospel call and placing it in the arena of sanctification. (Randall Gleason, “B. B. Warfield and Lewis S. Chafer on Sanctification,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40.2, 250). Warfield, seeing “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15) as unitary call unto salvation, claimed that “these things [repentance and faith], cannot be separated, and it is a grievous error to teach that a true believer in Christ can stop short in ‘carnality,’ though having the Spirit with him and in him” (Warfield, “A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He that is Spiritual,” 326). Warfield thus saw Chafer as teaching that Christians could be justified without experiencing the Spirit’s progressive work of regeneration.

The Lordship Salvation Controversy was later taken up in Eternity Magazine through a brief exchange between Everett F. Harrison and John R. W. Stott. Harrison, effectively workng out Chafer’s theology, placed repentance in the realm of discipleship (Everett F. Harrison, “Must Christ be Lord to be Savior? NO!” Eternity, 14). Stott, arguing that Jesus Christ must be accepted as Lord and savior, emphasized the inseparable connection between saving faith and repentance (Stott, “Must Christ be Lord to be Savior? YES!” Eternity, 17-18). In recent years, Charles C. Ryrie and Zane C. Hodges, both opponents of the lordship position, wrote books in response to John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus, a major work representing the lordship position. Ryrie, much like Chafer, argues that repentance should be understood simply to mean “changing one’s mind about Jesus,” whereas repentance that denotes a conscious turning from sin should be practiced by believers for the purpose of restoring “fellowship with our Father and His family” (Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 100). Hodges takes Chaferian theology to its logical conclusion claiming that “faith represents the call to salvation” while “the call to repentance is the call to enter into harmonious relations with God” (Hodges, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, 146). Hodges represents bold and significant departure from the traditional reformed position on the doctrine of repentance by clearly placing repentance in the realm of sanctification. In so doing, Hodges establishes his belief in two kinds of Christians.

MacArthur, however, claims that “repentance is a critical element of conversion” and “not simply another word for believing” (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 178). Therefore, while Lordship and non-lordship proponents have debated over regeneration, justification, and sanctification, it has been shown that at the heart of the lordship salvation controversy is a fundamental disagreement on the biblical doctrine of repentance. In posts to follow I will set forth a brief biblical theology of repentance and answer a number of non-lordship objections.

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. . . they would just “ask Jesus into their heart,” they would be saved. Don’t miss-hear me. I am all for people being saved. There is joy in heaven over just one sinner “who repents” (Luke 15:7). Did you catch that? There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

Paul Washer says that the greatest heresy in the American protestant and evangelical church today is the widely preached idea that “if you ask Jesus into your heart, he actually enters in.” That might be a bit of an overstatement. I say might because I feel the burden that Washer has for the gospel of Jesus Christ which no where calls anyone to “ask Jesus into their heart” nor does it ever ground salvation on praying a prayer.

The message Jesus preached was this: “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15, cf. Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist’s message was similar, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Peter preached repentance at Pentecost and Paul called all of those he preached to on his missionary journeys “to repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 2:38, 26:20).

My issue with the “just ask Jesus into your heart” language is that at best it isn’t biblical and at worst it leads to false conversions.

You may think I am being harsh. You may be thinking, “isn’t it true that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as believers and so in a sense, Jesus dwells in our hearts?” Yes that is true, but the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers. Why would we go around telling those who are slaves of sin that all they need to do to be saved is invite Jesus into their hearts? That is easy to do, but it’s not biblical nor is it the gospel that the Jesus and the Apostles preached.

You might also be thinking if we preach repentance instead, aren’t we making repentance a work in and of itself? While it is possible to preach repentance such that we make it the key to salvation, that is not how we should preach. True repentance is a change of the mind and will. The Bible tells us that we are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:15-22) and dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1). Dead men don’t will themselves back to life! In fact the Bible tells us that the man living apart from Christ “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 1:14). Thus repentance is ultimately a supernatural work of almighty God to make dead men alive and to change men’s hearts such that they begin to love what they once hated and hate what they once loved (Rom. 7:9-25). Repentance is not a human work meriting God’s favor but a divine supernatural one that God works out in the hearts of sinners who have turned away from him.

So here is my suggestion: instead of telling people to ask Jesus into their hearts, tell them to repent and believe. And instead of asking whether people have ever prayed to ask Jesus into their hearts, ask them if God has done such a supernatural work in their hearts that they love God and the things of God and now hate sin and the things of the flesh. Ask them if God is making their dead heart alive to the greatest joy of all, the joy of knowing Christ and making Him known!

If there is one thing we are passionate about here at EE, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ, so if this post offends you please let me know why. My hope is merely to help people preach the gospel faithfully and biblically–the way Jesus and the Apostles did.

Anyone can pray a prayer, but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to bring dead men to life.

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Though I do not endorse the movie, during one scene in Fight Club, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) looks at Jack (Edward Norton) while standing in a bus and comments on a Calvin Klein advertisement showing a man with rock-solid abs:

“Is that what a man looks like?”

fightclub1Jack responds with a smirk. To the two of them, the poster resembles structuralist consumerism’s monopoly on image and gender. While indeed it may represent just that, I think it represents so much more. In the news today, a new surgical procedure promises perfect abs to its patients through “abdominal etching.” Apparently washboard abs are all the rage these days and instead of being the result of many hours in the gym and a disciplined diet, they can now be purchased. You can now live up to Calvin Klein’s expectations. Good news if your stomping grounds happen to be territories of the business world and not those of your local gym.

Of course, this is part of a much larger movement that is dead set on making everyone into supermodels and pornstars. This movement has been well-documented and analyzed before, so there’s nothing new here. But I believe today it serves us as a good reminder of the other reformation going on that has little to do with Martin Luther.

How are we supposed to read the poster in the bus? How do we interpret and understand the surging cosmetic surgery industry? And what does it have to do with reformation? There’s much to be said of how this relates to identity and certainly much more to be said of what C.S. Lewis rightly recognized as an over-indulgence of the sex appetite, but I’ll leave those topics for another time. It’s 2007, not 1517, and I believe this has everything to do with reformation.

In a world permeated with sin and cursed with death, even a secular world that lives in the here and now cries out for a reformation; a re-formation of the body. As Christians we know that we have been given a foretaste of this re-formation (regeneration) with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We are a new creation now while not yet entirely. At the same time, God is working to redeem the whole of the cosmos from an enemy that Christ has defeated (death).

Think in terms of generation, degeneration, regeneration, and consummation. God created the cosmos (generation), we cursed it (degeneration), Christ redeemed it (regeneration), and God will make it new (consummation).

When we see an ad from Abercrombie & Fitch or a doctor’s office selling improvements on the body, it has much more to do with eschatology than we might think. Perfect abs and liposuction are a poor substitute for the resurrection, but that’s exactly what they are. The world admits that our bodies are cursed when they seek to overcome an enemy that only Christ can overcome.

As we look forward to the coming resurrection of the body and restoration of all things in Christ, we can put industries like that of cosmetic surgery into proper focus. We live in a world that cries out for a savior, is terrified of death, and acknowledges sin unwittingly through the repudiation of imperfect bodies.

Tyler and Jack were right to read the picture beyond what it desired them to, but they didn’t really get the point. Death surely comes to us all, but not so with age. Should we have the privilege of many years on this earth, our wrinkles and so-so abs (if any at all) should serve as a reminder of how much we have been blessed. They should terrify us as we consider our stewardship of that time. Yet they should also cause us to laugh in the face of an enemy that we all must face, knowing that the battle has already been won.

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