Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:13-17 What Is Your Life?

James 4:13-17 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

“Now listen!” That is how this section begins. I don’t believe this phrase occurs anywhere else in the Bible. “Come now!” James is saying: “Pay attention!” It is bluntly authoritative, and so guaranteed to antagonise the contemporary non-Christian who has his own truth. “Now listen!” says James. People object because they think all claims to truth are equally valid. One Christian student wrote an essay for his philosophy tutor, and he was told, “[Now listen!] Remove the parts of this essay that contain absolute values and you will receive a much better mark.” In other words, if he wrote something less Christian he would get better academic prospects. That request was equally authoritative. It came out of a belief system just as James’ words do.

James says, “Now listen!” because he is conscious that he is not speaking as an individual, or an enlightened man, but that he has all the light and power of the Godhead behind him. What he is going to say is the most important thing men could possibly hear. James has been observing the way people think and talk, how they plan their futures so confidently. They are utterly inconsistent. They say that we live in a world that came out of chance which is ruled by chance: even space itself is mutant and fluid: life certainly has no overall meaning or purpose: they say we exist in a communications blackout and they deny the possibility of some transcendent Voice telling men who we are. Yet these same people are strangely full of plans for the future. They have no philosophical basis for it, but they can’t exist without goals. For them life has value and meaning. “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” That’s what they say. James says to then, “Now listen!” He is going to make some statements about ourselves, and at each stage I want you to ask, “Is this true?” If you feel your hackles rising and you want to switch off or shout back at me, I want you to pause and ask yourself this question, “But is this true?” The only reason we should look at these words and let their power affect us is their truthfulness. The first thing James observes about mankind is that:-

1. We Fall Into Presumptuousness.

We talk about the ‘trip,’ “Today or tomorrow we will go to this city or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” (v.13) You have plans for your future. You cannot exist as if life has no meaning. A.J.P. Taylor was a great modern historian. He was asked what did he think we are doing here? He replied, “I haven’t the faintest idea. There’s no purpose whatsoever. I’ll tell you simply. We are here because of certain biological actions by our parents. That’s it” (Sunday Telegraph, April 15, 1984). That despairing view of life is echoed by a character in the film “Trainspotting” where he says, “It is all a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of narrow escapes.” Then why, if there is ‘no purpose whatsoever’ and if life is ‘meaningless tragedy,’ do people plan for the next days and years? Sir Clive Sinclair (who “disbelieves profoundly” in God) lives by this maxim, “Accept things are ultimately pointless, but do them anyway.” You have to do things in life because not doing anything would be a worse trip. So everyone is on a trip. For some it is to the drug-dealer, or it is to the store that sells the cheapest wine, or to the warmest piece of pavement to spend the night. But everyone is on a trip with plans for “today or tomorrow” if not for the year. Isn’t that true?

It is total presumption. You know nothing about today – how the next twenty-four hours will end. Think of Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, that beautiful young woman. She did not deserve to end up as a preacher’s illustration. No mother’s daughter should die as she did. She left the Paris Ritz that night with her boy friend saying, “today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city.” There was that familiar presumption that life would go on and on, and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” But life is not our right. The Lord Jesus spoke of a farmer who was a fool. He lived for his land, extending it and developing it, planning for its future, saying to himself, “I have ample goods laid up for many years.” Then God spoke, “But this night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:16-21). The only time you have is today. Remember the old chant children used when skipping:

Doctor, doctor, will I die?
Yes, my child; and so shall I.

The only moment you can guarantee is this moment. All the rest is presumptuousness. Is that true?

Or think of the presumption of choice, “we will go to this or that city, spend a year there.” We will decide, and so it will happen. Right? Wrong! The Lord Jesus said, “in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day …” (Matthew 24:38). What day? The day they refused to think of or believe in, but the day which could happen any time, and did happen that day; the day of the flood; the day of their death. We decide we will go on vacation, and we watch a programme about an interesting place and choose it as our destination. We make our plans and put down our deposit, but it never happens. Something unforeseen prevents it. Things will not happen just because we have decided. Isn’t that true? Sir James Barrie as he grew old would not make any promises for the future, not accept any long-term speaking engagements, “Short notice now” he would mutter. Is that true?

Or think of the presumption of ability: “carry on business and make money” (v.13). James was looking at the middle-east trader, circumnavigating the known world, sailing to Wales and Ireland to buy skins and gold, and to sell wine and dried fruit, and bringing the profits home. “Of course we’ll succeed.” One of the major pathologies of our own society is that we are overextended in our commitments, stressed out and pressured more than a sensible man could desire, away from our home perhaps over twelve hours a day all the year round. Then it comes – accident, illness, a collapse of the market, a take-over, a cutback, reorganisation or devaluation in south-east Asia, and it changes everything. We are out of a job, the house is mortgaged, and we are on the dole with no prospect of another job. Is that true?

Alec Motyer says, “One of the functions that Scripture fulfils towards us is that it teaches us the real nature of sin – verse 13, ‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money”‘ – that is very far from being the commonly accepted picture of an arrogant person. For one thing, it is all so ordinary. That is exactly the point. When James exposes the blemish of presumptuousness, he exposes something which is the unrecognized claim of our hearts from time to time. We speak as if life were our right. We speak as if our choice were the deciding factor. We speak as though we had the ability to make ourselves succeed: the presumption that my life belongs to me. That is what James is against” (“The Tests of Faith,” IVP, 1970, p.94).

You see the dilemma of the natural man. Without God and without any overall purpose he has no grounds for planning ahead, yet he cannot exist just living for the moment. That is an utterly selfish and cruel lifestyle that always ends in destruction. Nothing is attained on the philosophy that life is all “a random lottery of meaningless tragedy.” So we flee from nihilistic despair into planning for the future, and we end in the fires of presumptuousness, because all the time we are forgetting our creaturely limitations.

Life is short;
Death is sure;
Sin the cause;
Christ the cure.

2. We Forget Our Limitations as Mere Creatures.

How rare it is to meet a man imbued with the Old Testament spirit, saying, with Moses, at the outset of every undertaking, “If thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence.” How few possess the spirit of the patriarchs, who were bold as lions provided that God led the way, but timid as lambs when they could not see his footsteps. James makes three observations about men without God in their thoughts.

i] They won’t face up to their ignorance of the future: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (v.14). You are talking about spending a year in some distant city. The fact is you don’t know what is going to happen this evening. The rich fool thought that he had planned for anything that might happen for the rest of his life … except his own dying. He planned for whatever could possibly occur, but he did not plan for what is certainly going to happen.

Let me remind you of the terrible event that happened just a week ago, January 23 1999. Veteran Indian missionary Graham Staines of Australia said goodbye to his wife Gladys and 13 year-old daughter Esther and took his two sons Philip aged 11 and Timothy aged 6 with him to a camp in the forest in Mayurbhanj Dist in Orissa where he was preaching to a group of Christians. The service over, he and the boys went to sleep in the van. He tucked them in, prayed with them and they went off to sleep. Then at midnight – it was just a week ago – a large mob of fanatical Hindus torched the van and incinerated the three of them. Graham had served the Lord amongst the Ho and Santhal tribes for well over thirty years. His friend and fellow missionary Ron Perry describes him as a “wonderful, gracious self-effacing man of God, full of faith, confidence and humility; warm-hearted and a wonderful father.” We Christians have no prophets who are going to predict the church’s dangers and deaths; “we do not know what will happen tomorrow.” We live our lives obeying God and trusting him for all that’s to come. What we know is that “For thy sake we are killed all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Roms. 8:28). We live by faith not by sight. Face up to your ignorance of the future by obeying the One who knows and plans our futures.

ii] They won’t acknowledge their frailty: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (v.14). When I was six years of age sixty years seemed an interminably long period of time. I want to tell you that it’s a moment. It’s as transitory as a programme on TV, as brief as a joke, as rapid as the calculation of the check-out till. Jay Adams says that “every birthday you celebrate, every funeral you attend, every serious illness you suffer, and every time you sit down to plan is a potential reminder from God that your life is but a vapour, a mist, a puff of smoke. How short it is! Take the family snapshot album; look at those old slides or home movies. There’s Mum and Dad whose voices are now silent. Just yesterday they spoke, laughed, kissed you….Now they smile at you from a faded photo and with the force of silent lips declare: ‘Our life was a vapour, a mist – smoke!’ Don’t scoff, ‘Emotionalism!’ No, you are the one who is emotional and unrealistic if you think otherwise. You only deceive yourself when you act – or plan – as if you will live indefinitely” (“A Thirst for Wholeness”, Victor Books, 1988, p.122). Archbishop Leighton observes, “The whole time of the world’s endurance is but one instant or twinkling of an eye, betwixt eternity before and eternity after.” The Psalmist says, “Men are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up: in the evening it is cut down and withereth.”

There is a custom which Jay Adams’ family has: “Every three years Betty, my wife, writes a letter to each of us describing how things are, mentioning our present plans and asking how they worked out over the intervening years. We seal them, put them away for three years, then open and read them. How differently things turn out from what we expect! Indeed, we usually exclaim over those few plans that actually do pan out as we anticipated because they are the exception rather than the rule” (ibid, p.123). Our lives are so frail. Think of those leaders of the Soviet Union who exercised such life and death authority over millions of people. How hard and enduring they appeared, immortalising themselves in arrogant statues in each Eastern European city, yet how quickly their statues were pulled off their plinths. They were not in fact like the names which they had given themselves, Stalin (‘steel’) and Molotov (‘hammer’), but they too were just ‘vapour’ and ‘breath’. So are all tyrants. And so are you and I, “a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes” – the frailty of life. Take your frailty to God. Go in your weakness and cast yourself upon him. “O Lord, this mist, which is just for a while, is coming to you Ancient of Days and lying before you. Don’t blow me away with the blast of your nostrils, but hold me in your powerful hands that I might live for ever.” Then in God you will find strength. It’s true!

iii] They wont accept their dependence upon God: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that'” (v.15). What is he saying? That this world is not a closed system, but that it is all in God. The Lord who made it is in it, and constantly works in it to fulfil his purposes for his glory and our good. For the atheist this universe is as much a closed system as the drum of the National Lottery. The balls fall into the revolving drum and round and round they bounce and turn. You see them through the transparent sides but you cannot influence the trajectory of one of them. You cannot will them to move your way. No force of wind, or magnetism, or air pressure, or human concentration, or anything at all can affect them. It is a totally closed system. That is how the atheist views the world. The atoms move and the galaxies spin, and they do so according to their own laws and rules, and there is no divine intrusion whatsoever. And we ourselves also operate by the laws that govern our lives. That is all there is – a mechanistic universe.

How different is the Christian view. The creation is not a locked-in system at all, but a universe sustained by its mighty personal and loving Creator. “In him all things hold together” (Cols.1:17). The apostle Paul was so conscious of this fact. His future wasn’t dependent upon the devil, or the fluctuating feelings of fellow Christians, or the decisions of Nero, or unpredictable Mediterranean storms, or fate. The Lord’s will was sovereign over everything that would touch a hair on Paul’s head. When he arrived in the noble city of Athens in Greece, and met the leaders of that community he told them, that in his God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He had got those convictions from the Scriptures. The psalmist said, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15). Daniel declared to King Belshazzar that the Lord was “the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways” (Daniel 5:23). Your very heart-beat, all your movements, your times however short or long, in sickness and in health, even your very breath depend upon the will of the Creator of the Universe.

This conviction affected the apostle’s entire attitude to life. He writes a letter to the Corinthians who were so confident of the gifts of the Spirit that they had and the power of God in their midst that they thought they were irresistible. Paul says to them, “I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing” (I Cor. 4:19). “But Paul, you are an apostle, and if you want something surely you can have it.” The apostle wants to remind them of his dependence upon God, not any miraculous knowledge of the future or power to adapt it to his own will. He writes again to them, “I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” (I Cor.16:7). That is always his mentality. He writes to the Roman church and he says, “I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you” (Romans 1:10). When he sets sail from Ephesus he promises them, “I will come back if it is God’s will” (Acts 18:21). The one certainty he had about the future was that he would always have the Lord’s will. Nothing could take that from him. God’s providence is our inheritance. Every day is God’s workmanship. You don’t get another day by chance. You don’t get another day by natural necessity. You don’t get another day by mechanical laws. You don’t get another day by right. You don’t get another day by courtesy of nature. You only get another day by the covenant mercies of God. “As long as the earth endures … day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).

That means every plan of ours is brought to God, and rolled out before him. Each trip is evaluated by him and we know that ultimately he who sits in the heavens does whatsoever he pleases. We bow to that. Can you picture that country church, and the erect elderly deacon stepping up to the big seat to make the ‘intimations’ every Sunday, and the boys in the back pew yawning as he ends the announcements each week without fail by saying, “And the services next Sunday will be at 11 and 6.30 and will be led by our pastor, the Lord willing”? But then a Sunday comes when their pastor is not there and his funeral service is being announced by the same sober and saddened gentleman. All “as the Lord wills.” The church only gets what the Lord wills.

When we say ‘D.V.’ (Deo Volente), or “if God wills” we are making a statement of faith. We believe God does will. It is not a word of pious hope that things might work out, nor a word of protestation that he does not interfere with our plans. It is a word of assurance that in our lives we are submitting to God’s superior wisdom. Jay Adams says, “James stresses conditional, providential planning. Such planning is planning with God. It takes God into consideration when planning, recognizing that his plans may not coincide with our own. It is acknowledging his sovereignty over our lives, and one way of telling him that we do. It is planning that says, ‘I will do such and such if God wills.’ James’ ‘if’ is vital; it makes all the difference. You must plan with that in mind. It isn’t the ‘if’ of doubt, concern or fear. Rather, it is the ‘if’ of confident reliance on the benevolent wisdom of a sovereign Father who has promised to work out everything for our good. This is the ‘if’ that removes all others. It is the one that takes worry away and points to the beneficence of an all-powerful God who is conducting your affairs with perfect competence. The person who plans with God rejoices in the assurance that the expert Planner is at work alongside.” (ibid)

Jay Adams concludes, “Clearly, you must plan. God wants you to. He himself plans. He planned his work, then worked his plan, bringing Christ into the world, just as he predicted. Unlike God, you must learn to plan with a ‘holy caution’ and you must develop enormous flexibility. You must plan according to your best understanding of biblical principles applied to circumstances as you best understand them. But because you are both sinful and limited, and because you do not know specifically what God’s will for you may be, you must always submit your plans to God for his blue-pencilling. Then you must expectantly await the Holy Spirit’s additions and corrections, all the while anticipating them with excitement. Think of it – the God of creation is helping you plan your future. Taking God into your plans will keep you from ever thinking your plans are final. The Medes and the Persians, who thought they could set their plans in concrete, were wrong. When you plan providentially – depending on God to providentially handle your plans as he sees fit – God will review what you have done, make his alterations and hand them back to you for your good and the good of his kingdom” (ibid)

Does this mean that we can never make any predictions about the future without actually saying the words, “if it is the Lord’s will”? Clearly not. Then the words would be a sort of fetish or talisman little better than ‘touch wood.’ A Christian housewife doesn’t say, “God willing, I am going to cook lamb for dinner tonight.” And students don’t say, “D.V. we are going to Burger King for a chicken sandwich,” and we don’t use a great phrase like that to joke about or trivialise holy things. The actual words are not needed, and they are not slavishly repeated in the New Testament. Listen to Paul writing to Timothy and saying, “Do your best to come to me quickly …Get Mark and bring him with you … when you come bring the cloak … do your best to get here before winter” (2 Tim. 4:9-21). He never mention the will of God once. You find this throughout the Bible. John Calvin says, ‘we read everywhere in the Scriptures that the holy servants of God spoke unconditionally of future things, when yet they had it as a fixed principle in their minds that they could do nothing without the permission of God.’

Again Jay Adams is helpful saying that, “James’ concern is not about some formula. He is concerned about you – the inner you. He wants you to say ‘D.V.’ in your heart, to yourself, before or whether you ever say it to another. He wants to replace the merchant’s self-confidence with a confidence in the providence of God. It is an inner matter – a matter of heart. Saying this to yourself is reminding yourself that God is running the world, not you, and that he has something to say about your plans. If you will remember these considerations when laying your plans, you will always plan providentially, telling yourself: ‘Well, this is the best I can do. Now I’ll turn my plans over to God to see what he will do. Surely he will improve them.’ That is the spirit and power of saying ‘D.V.'” (ibid p. 125).

But why do we forget our creaturely limitations and act as if we were God? This is the third thing James has to tell us, that we are sinful men.

3. We Are Sinful Men.

“As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (v.17). There are two root problems:
i] Our boasting. Everyone is blinded by their boasting. Individuals like Nebuchadnezzar walking on the roof of his palace breathe in self-satisfaction these words, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Listen to the boast of the leading British chess player, Nigel Short, when asked if he were religious: “No. I don’t think any of the major chess players are. I don’t want to offend anybody, but I think people with a religious belief need an emotional support and I think chess players can see through things like that” (The Times, 3 February 1988). What did John Lennon say in 1966? “Christianity will go. We are more popular than Jesus now.” Mobs boast too, as they did of their hero Herod, shouting, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man” (Acts 12:22). Think of sporting mobs and the way they brag in their heroes and literally sing their praises. Look at this London Millenium Dome dwarfed by a vast figure of a man. It is full of the praise of human achievements – as this hideous century in which man came near to destroying the whole world draws to a close. Without God men have only their fellow men to boast in. This word ‘boast’ means to exult and rejoice in something. It is used of the worship of God, but here it is used of man bragging in himself.

A striking example of this took place in 1971 when I had a summer in New Jersey near New York city. One of the men I baptized at that time was a converted Jew called Sam Rotman who is an outstanding pianist. Then he was studying in the Julliard School of Music in New York. One day some friends came to visit him and they went together to the recording of a TV chat-show programme with a well-known presenter. One of the guests on the show was a man called Rodale whom I had heard about. He was the editor of a vitamin and health food magazine called “Prevention” which my parents-in-law took and kept. It was full of suggestions about overcoming sickness, living longer, and the family consulted it. Sam Rotman told me that Rodale looked a fit fifty year-old, and when he announced that he was in his seventies the audience applauded. “I am going to live until I am a hundred,” he added. More applause. Then he moved along the couch for the next guest to be interviewed. He did not appear to take much interest in this person, bowing his head and looking at his feet, so that the audience began to titter. But the merriment soon stopped as he slumped to the floor. The cry went up for a doctor. The programme’s recording ceased and the focus of attention was on Rodale. But he never got off the floor. He who was going to live until he was a hundred did not live another five minutes. He had died of a massive heart-attack. We are feeling so good about ourselves, so self-promotional and boastful, and then, as Milton says, “comes the blind Fury with th’abhorred shears and slits the thin spun life.” The audience quietly left the TV studio and that programme was never shown. I e-mailed Sam yesterday and he told me that he remembered the incident quite vividly.

“As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” Boasting is evil because we are defying our utter ignorance of the true state of thing, turning a blind eye to the frailty of the fittest man and the fact that we depend upon God for everything. God wasn’t in Rodale’s thinking. There in that New York TV studio was a man who in one area of life had some knowledge, that is, of vitamins and healthy eating. He had one piece of the jigsaw and had become an authority in that single piece. But the other pieces? Such as length of life? And human unpredictability? And the divinely forged connection between sin and death? And the whole picture? He knew nothing at all about these things. The youngest child in the kingdom of God knew more than he did. John Calvin once observed, “Men arrogate too much to themselves when they think that they excel in anything.” James says baldly, “That is evil.” Not just the great cruel crimes that we read about too often. Yes they are evil too, but boasting and bragging. Its source is the evil one. From the beginning he boasted what he could do for our first parents. He boasted to the Son of God that if he would fall down and worship him he would give him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Every time you hear a man bragging, think of the pit. That is the source of all pride. Our boasting shows that we are sinful men. Then there is the other root problem.

ii] Our Sins of Omission. v.17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” You know the good you ought to do? Yes. Because the things of the law are written in every heart. You know that it is wrong to lie and to steal and to kill and to worship an idol and to boast and brag. You know because God has given you a conscience – his great monitor that commends you when you do well and condemns you when you do wrong. The famous Puritan illustration of the conscience compares it to a sundial. That is, it operates effectively only when it is enlightened by the light that strikes it from the Bible. It will give you a reading if you shine your torch upon it. It will tell you a time but it is inaccurate, because it only works effectively by the light of the sun. So our consciences will work best when they are illuminated by the Bible. Think of the conscience of the cannibal! He does it in conscience. Think of the conscience of the Auschwitz guards! They acted by the light of their conscience. Driving the Jews into the gas-chambers and going home to sing ‘Silent Night’ with the families at Christmas. Men can muffle and distort the voice of conscience.

But what of your consciences? Enlightened by the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been in this nation for over 19 centuries, leaving its mark on jurisprudence, literature, music, education, medical care and our very language. The Bible is available in every big bookseller. But you also have had preaching every Sunday, and Christian parents, and youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers, and friends who have spoken to you and prayed for you. You hear the Word of God each Sunday. You go to camp. Can you honestly say that the reason you are not Christians tonight is that you are ignorant of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is? Can you plead that you don’t live a Christian life because you don’t know what the Christian life is all about? Every mouth stopped, and all the world guilty before God. You know the good life, that it is loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbour as yourself? Yes. You know the good life, that it is loving your enemies? Yes. You know the good life, that it forgiving those who have hurt you seventy times seven? Yes. You know the good life, that it is turning the other cheek? Yes. You know the good life, that it is purity before marriage and faithfulness within it? Yes. You know the good life, that it is not being a hearer only but being a doer of the word of God? Yes. You know the good life, that it is coming to Jesus Christ when he says “Come”? That it is turning from your sins when Jesus says, “Turn”? Yes.

And you don’t turn? No. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” So, all the knowledge that you have picked up has made your situation worse not better. You have gained more and more truth from God. He has clarified the law he has written within you. He has illuminated your conscience. He has brought you to hear the Word of God week by week, so that you are totally without excuse. You know what you ought to do, and you are not doing it, because you choose not to. It is your free choice. I know you are more afraid of your non-Christian friends than of God. I also know you love your sins so much. I know you fear whether you will be able to keep going. But how much will those arguments stand up when you appear before God? “Did you hear the gospel?” Yes. “Did you know why I sent my Son into the world?” Yes. “Did you know that he died that we might be forgiven, he died to make us good?” Yes. “Did you know that if you believed on him I would save you?” Yes. “Then why didn’t you ever trust in me?” I didn’t think I could keep going. “You believed that I could save you from the guilt and shame of sin, but not from the temptations of the world? You were that arrogant, that you judged I couldn’t keep you. I keep every other Christian, but not you. I keep the Milky Way and all the planets in the solar system. I feed every living thing, but you thought I couldn’t keep you. That’s your excuse? What sort of God were you told that I am? Cosmic weakness? You knew the good, but you didn’t do it. That’s sin. Depart from me.”

When Judgment Day is drawing nigh,
When God the works of men shall try,
When east to west the fire shall roll,
How will it be with your poor soul?

When wicked men his wrath shall see,
And to the rocks and mountains flee,
When hills and mountains flee away,
When all the works of men decay,
Where shall you be?

Act on the knowledge you have. It is not perfect knowledge, but it is true. It is not comprehensive, but it is sufficient. How much knowledge did the dying thief have? See how wonderfully he improved the knowledge he had! Do what he did. Cry mightily to Jesus Christ to rescue you from your presumptuousness, your bragging and boastfulness, all your sins of omission, and your excuses why you are not a Christian. Ask him to remember you when he comes in his kingdom, and you will hear him say, “You will be with me in paradise.”

January 31 1999 Geoff Thomas