The Highest Average
Among Those Who Failed
A Sermon Preached
The Day Before My Dad’s Passing
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
I will begin by reading two verses of scripture from Ephesians 2:4-5.
Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
The title of today’s message is The Highest Average Among Those Who Failed. I get that title from a story that Dad tells from the days when he was in dental school. Apparently there were some pretty ornery old fellows that were instructors, and one of those old professors was handing back test papers from exams that had recently been given. As he came to one of the students in the class, he handed him his test and declared, “Congratulations son, you had the highest average among those who failed.”
You had the highest average among those who failed. As I think of that story, I think about my Dad. I’ve thought about him a lot the last few days. He had a lot of good stories. As of last night we were told that he may have thirty minutes, or he may have two weeks to live. Of course, we don’t know that for sure; only God knows those things.
As I think back and remember, I might say that Dad was a good man, and that he had the good life. He was a good man, and he had the good life. But what does having the good life down here have to do with eternal life? Let me begin reading in Luke 16:19:
Luk 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Now there is a fellow who had the good life. Wouldn’t you say so? I guess his son could have said after he was gone, “He lived the good life. He had the good life.” He fared sumptuously every day. He was a rich man; he had nice clothes; he had it pretty good in this old world.
Luk 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
Luk 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Well this fellow didn’t have the good life. Would you agree to that? Old Lazarus didn’t have anything to eat. He had some kind of dreadful condition, sores all over his body, and the dogs licked his sores as he lay by the gate of the rich man.
Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luk 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
One man had the good life. The other has the good life now. Before we go further, let’s clear some things up. Having the good life down here doesn’t mean that you’re going to hell. God blessed Abraham to be a rich man. He had so many sheep and cattle that at times there was not enough grass in the land to feed them all. Abraham had the good life down here, and he’s in heaven. King David had great riches. He had the good life. Now he wasn’t perfect, but he was a man after God’s own heart, and surely he’s in heaven. Think of the splendor, the gold, and the riches of David’s son, Solomon. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells of his wealth, and women, and wine, and entertainment, and all manner of things. Yet in the end he decided that these things didn’t really make a good life. There was a certain nobleman in John 4:49. As a nobleman, he surely had the good life, but he seemed to also be a good man. Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich man with the good life, but he came and buried the body of Jesus. So the possession of riches and good things in this world doesn’t condemn you to hell, but neither does having the good life down here guarantee the good life up there.
Now we might come to the conclusion that having the good life down here has nothing to do with the whole scheme of eternal things. At this point we might just want to end this discussion by concluding that having the good life down here doesn’t guarantee the good life up there, but neither does it prevent the good life up there. But God’s word doesn’t seem to take such a neutral stance. I can find no place in the Bible where living the good life down here counts in our favor as far as attaining the good life up there. If anything, living the good life down here probably counts against us. There is one rather sobering verse, especially for us as Americans, who have the relative good life compared to so many people in this world.
1Co 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. [Emphasis added.]
The calling in this verse is equivalent to the new birth. It’s what theologians refer to as the “effectual call”. This calling of God regenerates a person from spiritual deadness to spiritual life, and this calling is necessary in order to get to heaven. But according to this verse, it appears that God does not call very many who are wise in the ways of this world, or very many who are mighty in the things of this world, or very many who are among the noble ones with high positions in this world. Now the verse doesn’t say that nobody who has the good life down here ends up in heaven, but it does say “not many”. Some of the wise, and mighty, and noble are called, but we’re led to believe that the majority of the ones who are called are the Lazarus’s who didn’t have the good life. I don’t know the percentage of the ones who had to eat crumbs in this world and the percentage of the ones who fared sumptuously. I don’t know who ends up in heaven. God knows those things.
I’m going to say some hard things now, and I’m saying them about my Dad. Now I remind you that he may not have had the highest average among those who failed, but he had some pretty good marks. I’m sure that there are other sinners who had higher averages than him, but as for all those other sinners who might have had higher averages than him, they ultimately failed too. We all fail, and none of us get there by passing a test. I’m not trying to beat up my Dad. I’m just trying to share some things that he believed. I may talk like this at his funeral. I don’t know what I’ll say at his funeral, but I don’t think that he would mind if I said these things today, or at his funeral, because I think that he knows that he failed. I’ve heard him admit that he has.
So let me tell you what the Bible says about all those times, when Dad was living the good life. It says in James 4:17 that if we know to do good and do it not, then to us it is sin. Think of all those good times that he had, all those fishing trips that he took his little boy on, all those rounds of golf that he played, all that good life that he lived. None of that was not exactly patterning his life after Jesus Christ. Now was it? There was nothing specifically bad about those things, but he could have been doing better things. Am I being too hard? I don’t think I am; I hope I’m not. There are always things that we can do that would be better things than all the wasted time that we spend on our pastimes. Oh we’re all guilty of wasting so much time in this world, but I don’t think Jesus was ever guilty of wasting time. He was continually about His Father’s business. I don’t think Paul had near the problems with these things that we do. Paul said, “You follow me, as I follow Christ.” I don’t think any of us are anywhere close to living the life of Paul, or especially the life of Jesus. So having the good life sure doesn’t get you there. If anything it might be a “minor mark” against you. May I say it that way?
We’ve looked at the good life. Let’s look at the so-called good man that lived the good life. Dad was a good man, as men go. He was a great Dad. Let me tell you a story from when I was about four or five years old. Dad was always an avid fisherman, fished seriously, and he was going fishing the next morning. Well I sat in to begging to go with him. He said, “I’m getting up too early. You won’t be able to get up that early.” I answered, “I’ll go sleep in the car.” I was a big chicken, and he knew I wouldn’t go sleep in the car—Or he thought he knew that. So he called my bluff and said, “Okay. Go ahead.” Well I must have really wanted to go fishing. I can remember getting my pillow and blanket and going to the car. I can remember waking up on the way to go fishing. (Years later Dad told me that he had carried me back into the house that night and had brought me back to the car the next morning, but I thought I had slept in the car all night.) So we went fishing, and after that he never told me again that I couldn’t go. He was a good Dad.
I’m sure I ruined a lot of fishing trips. Let me tell you of one in particular. We were in a boat at a little lake called Maple Sink. I reared back and threw rod, reel and all in the middle of the lake. So here was this avid fisherman, whom I was already slowing down, and now this episode shut down the whole scene. Well he stopped fishing and tied on some weight and some treble hooks. He cast out and finally caught my line and dragged in the rod that I had thrown in the water. He got it all dried out, and oiled up, and handed it back to me. I probably got a much-deserved lecture about being more careful, or at least some good advice about not throwing my rod in the lake, but he didn’t quit letting me go with him. He was a good Dad, and that’s just one of many stories that I could tell.
He was a good man. I think of the description in Matthew 25 of one of the sheep. There was somebody thirsty, and he gave him something to drink; somebody hungry, and he gave him something to eat; somebody without any clothes, and he gave him something to put on. It’s not listed in that group of things that you give away to somebody that needs it, but Dad gave away a lot of dentistry through the years. He charged ridiculously low prices, even unheard of low prices. He and Mom were content to retire to a forty-foot mobile home, because he had given away a lot of stuff in his life. He really wasn’t a rich man, though he could have been. He had the skills to be. I’ve seen a lot of dental work in thirty years of practice, and that man was a good dentist. There’s an old saying that you get what you pay for in this world. But his dental practice was one place where you didn’t get what you paid for. You got a little more than what you paid for.
Okay, he had a good life; and he was a good Dad; and he was a good man; and by his name, he was literally a “Good Old Joe”. As “Good Old Joes” go, he was better than most. A while back I read a book by a rather famous man. The title of the book was How Much Good Is Good Enough. Is it good enough to be a good Dad? Is it good to enough to live the good life? Is it good enough to give your stuff away? Is it good enough to have the highest average among those who failed? How much good is good enough?
Just being a “Good Old Joe” isn’t good enough. It says in James 2:10 that if we fail in one point of the law, we are guilty of it all. That’s harsh, isn’t it? If we fail to keep one point of the law, then God puts a big “X” on the test. If we fail to keep one point of God’s law, then we fail the test, and to have the highest average among those who failed is still to fail. I’m not trying to make my Dad look bad. I’m certainly not trying to make God look bad. Sometimes we can begin to think bad things about God when we hear how He grades. I want to tell you that perfection is demanded in order to be in the presence of the Holy God and coming close doesn’t get it. Coming close is not perfection. How much good is good enough? All the good that you can do, all the charity that you might bestow, and all the kindness that you might have for others, won’t cover one mistake that you have made, won’t wipe out one sin from the presence of God. God is a hard “grader”, but don’t get mad at God. He has a solution, and it cost Him a whole lot.
How Much Good Is Good Enough? I read through that book and just ate it up like it was sugar. The man made so many good points about how we can’t get there on our goodness, and that none of us are really good, and that with one mistake you have blown it all. He went to the word and proved that we can’t make it to heaven by our good works. None of us can ever be, or have been, or ever will be good enough. But then he got to the last page of his book, and he said now here’s what you have to do, you just have to have enough faith. He really let me down there. I wrote a letter to the man. I tried to be short, because I knew that he must be a busy man, as famous as he is. I complimented him on what he had said. I told him that he had done a fantastic job in declaring that we can’t get there by our works. Then I asked him the question, “How much faith is faith enough?”
Think of the Apostles who had the faith to cast out demons, who left everything to follow Jesus, who had so much more faith than I’ve ever had. Jesus looked at them one time and said, “Oh ye of little faith,” and another time He said, “Oh ye of no faith.” No faith! I think of the faith of the grain of mustard seed, which if we had we could be moving mountains. I think of the daddy of the lunatic boy who said, “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” What if we die in a down cycle? I do believe, but sometimes I wonder if I really do believe. I don’t know if you ever feel that way. My conclusion is that if my belief is what’s going to get me there, I’m probably not going to get there. I have trouble trusting in my trust. I can’t put a lot of confidence in my works, and come to think of it, I can’t put much faith in my faith. If the Apostles fell so far short, who am I to believe that I can believe my way into heaven?
To have the highest average among those who failed is still to fail. To fail in the eyes of the Eternal Judge has the reward of eternal punishment. The Bible says that there is none righteous, no, not one. The Bible says that there is none good, no, not one. The Bible says that the law came that every mouth might be stopped, and that all the world might become guilty before God. The Bible says that no man is justified in the sight of God by the law. No man can stand before God by the doing of good—by the works of man. It’s not of works, lest any man should boast.
Yes indeed, our God is perfect, and being perfect, He is the perfect Judge. And being the perfect Judge, He cannot ignore a sin—not even a little one—not even one little one. So if you’re standing in His courtroom, and you’ve made one little mistake, you are as guilty as the man who stands there having committed great crimes. You are guilty and not perfect, and you have to be perfect to live with this perfect God. That’s His rule, and He is God and can make that rule—has every right to make that rule—and it’s a perfect rule. Now God loves us with a great love, but He didn’t love us enough to break one of His rules. He didn’t love us enough to quit being what He is. He didn’t love so much that He changed His very character of being the perfect God who demands perfection. God didn’t love us enough to ignore a sin. He can’t do that; He won’t do that; and it’s good that He doesn’t do that. Oh He marks every iniquity, even the little ones, even the ones that might go under the heading of “Wasting Time”.
You might have never thought about Jesus having to pay for those “wasting time” sins that you’ve committed. Yet God loved you so much that He sent Jesus, whom He also loved a whole bunch. Jesus is His Begotten Son. Jesus is His Eternal Son. But God loved Dad so much that He sent Jesus for him. God looked down and saw a child, who was by nature a child of wrath: full of wickedness, full of selfishness, self-absorbed, and having no real concern for others by nature. Oh God loved unworthy sinners, and aren’t we all unworthy of the gift that was given? God loved us to the extent that He sent His Son, even knowing what He was sending Him for and what He was sending Him to do. God spared not His Son, but He delivered Him up. It was all in God’s plan, and the full plan of God unfolded in that Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death was an appointed death, even appointed by God, so that every crime—even the little white lies—even the sin of living the good life, when you could have lived a better life by serving Jesus better—and all those things that sometimes seem so harsh—but in the eyes of the Eternal Judge, these things describe what “right” would really be in this life.
So whatever it was that Dad fell short in; whatever it was that got that “X” on his page; whatever it was that caused him to fail in the eyes of the Eternal Judge; Jesus took upon Himself all those mistakes, big or small. Jesus hung on that cross long enough for God the Father to look down upon the suffering of His soul, Jesus’ soul, and God declared, “I’m satisfied. The price has been paid for Joe Winfrey. His sins have been covered—the big ones and the little ones. My anger against the sins that that man has committed is gone. I’m not angry any more over his sins. I poured my wrath out upon my Son, Jesus Christ, so that my child, Joe Winfrey, could truly be in my eyes a good, Joe Winfrey.” Joe Winfrey is a good Joe Winfrey, not of his own goodness, but by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, through whom God now sees Joe Winfrey.
Yes, God is a harsh judge. The greatest proof of His being a harsh judge is what He did to His Son. The salvation of Joe Winfrey could have come in no other way. If God could have done it some other way, surely He would have. Jesus said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” (If it would be possible to do it some other way, then lets not do it this way.) But it was not possible to get Joe Winfrey in heaven, unless Jesus drank that cup. And Jesus said, “I’m willing to drink it because of my love.” Don’t get mad at God because of His severity. Whatever harshness and severity He had toward sin, He poured it out upon His Son. You surely can’t be mad at that.
There’s good news, but it’s not in our good works. There’s good news, but it’s not in our weak faith. There’s good news in the words Jesus said on that cross: “It is finished.” Now that’s good enough. That’s the good that is good enough. Ever how much good that was needed to be good enough, that’s how much Jesus suffered on that cross. Whatever the price was for countless sins of countless people, a vast host that no man can number form every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue under heaven, that is what Jesus paid. Every one of those iniquities of all those people was marked: every great crime, as well as every idle word, every wasted moment, and every missed opportunity to do better. Whatever was against us, God was for us. And if God be for us, nothing can be against us.
Now let’s change directions a little bit. Let’s go back to Ephesians and begin reading in Ephesians 2:1. Here we find a description of God giving life to the spiritually dead. We find dreadful words of what we were by nature. Oh, but then we find the words—But God.
Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Eph 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) [Emphasis added.]
Now God is rich in mercy, but it takes the same mercy to save a “Good Old Joe” as it does to save a dying thief on a cross. Both were dead in trespasses and in sins. Both were by nature children of wrath. To be quickened is to be made alive, to be given spiritual life. God gives spiritual life at the new birth. At some point in a natural life in this world—the same God that loved us and sent His Son for us—the same Jesus that gave His life for His friends (and there’s no greater love than that)—for His great love wherewith He loved us (because of His great love with which He loved us)—even when we were dead in sins—God quickens us together with Christ. God gives us spiritual life.
He makes us to be a new creature. If we drop down to Ephesians 2:10 we find the words, For we are His workmanship, a workmanship of God, something God is working on. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. This is the new creature, after the new birth, after the quickening, after having been raised from spiritual deadness to spiritual life. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We become His workmanship at that point, not that we haven’t been His workmanship in a sense even from before the foundation of the world. If we had started in the first chapter of Ephesians, we could have seen that aspect. But here it talks about us being a work of God in this world, where He fashions, and molds, and shapes, and influences. He works in us that which is well pleasing to Him. It is God that works in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Oh that enticing Spirit, that encouraging Spirit, that convicting Spirit, that Holy Spirit begins a work in the heart of that one who is God’s workmanship. God is now working in that new creature that has been born from above, that one who has been given spiritual life though he had been by nature a child of wrath.
From that point you start seeing new things in that one who is God’s workmanship. You start seeing good things in that person, and those good things that you see are great evidences that God is at work and that something new is going on in that man. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Dad like that, but I can remember lots of times that I did know him as a good man, as men go. I never knew him as a perfect Dad, and I never knew him as a perfect man, but I knew him as a so-called good man, as men go.
I saw a faith in Dad, a faith in his Lord Jesus Christ. And I want to tell you that in this same passage in Ephesians 2:8, it says that faith is a gift of God. Faith is surely a good gift, and James 1:17 tells us that every good gift comes from the Father above. Yes, faith is a very good gift that God gives to a man, and a man in whom you can see faith is a workmanship of God, a good man, as men go.
So let’s look a little closer at this good gift of faith and at a man who possesses this good gift of faith. Most will say that an unregenerate person first has faith, and as a result of that faith, the Holy Spirit then comes into that person with spiritual life through the new birth. But I believe that the Holy Spirit first comes into an unregenerate person with spiritual life through the new birth, and as a result of the Holy Spirit, that newly regenerated person then has faith.
It says in Galatians 5:22 that faith is the fruit of the Spirit. So the Holy Spirit first comes in, and the fruit of that Spirit (what is produced from that Spirit) is faith. Faith is certainly connected with the new birth, but not as the cause of the new birth. Faith is a result of the Holy Spirit having come in, not the cause of His coming in. The new birth does not come by faith; instead, faith comes by the new birth. Faith is a result of the spiritual life that is given by the Holy Spirit at the new birth and in no way is the cause of the new birth. Faith is the fruit of the Spirit that results from the new birth.
So according to God’s word, a person’s faith in Jesus is evidence that God is working inside that person, that the Holy Spirit has given to that person the gift of faith, the ability to believe. Let us look at 1 John 5:1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God… Whoever you can find in this world that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. It doesn’t say that if he believes, then he will be born of God. It says that if a person believes, he is born of God. If he believes, then he must have already been born of God, because it takes being born of God in order to believe in Jesus as the Christ.
Look at a further statement in 1 John 4:15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. This is saying the same thing. God dwells in any person who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son. You don’t invite God into your heart by confessing Jesus. That’s getting the cart before the horse. God is already in the heart of anyone who confesses Jesus. It takes God on the inside of a person in order for that person to believe in Jesus. But if God is in that person, then a fruit of that Spirit of God that dwells in that person is belief. So belief is evidence that the person with the belief is already born of God. Thus the point is that if faith is a fruit of the Spirit (and it is), and if the Spirit comes in at the new birth (and He does), then anybody who has faith must have already had the new birth. Any person who now believes, who now exercises faith in Jesus, must have already been given the gift of faith in order that he could believe in Jesus. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. [Emphasis added.]
When God makes a person to be that new creature, when He brings him from death to spiritual life, He gives him the gift of faith. While that person is still dead, he cannot believe spiritual things. The natural man won’t receive spiritual truths. To him they are foolishness; he cannot know them. (1 Corinthians 2:14) But once he’s been given spiritual life, once he’s been born again, once he’s become a new creature, once God has begun a good work in him, once God has put in that man the makings of a good man, once God has given him the gift of faith, then he can believe spiritual things. So faith is the gift of God that allows a man to believe in God. Faith is an ability that comes from the newly given spiritual life. Faith is not what makes the new creature; God makes the new creature, and then God gives faith to the new creature. God’s gift of faith is a part of God’s workmanship in that new creature, and that faith will lead that new creature unto good works, which God hath before ordained that he should walk in. That faith that is in that man will begin to show its workings with evidences that that man is a good man, as men go.
So God is good, and after God moves into a man at the new birth, there is good in that man. Faith is a good gift, given by God at the new birth, and if faith is in a man, then something good is in that man. Faith is evidence of goodness in an individual, even goodness that comes from God. So after the new birth and the resulting faith there is real good in the so-called good man. And what about the righteous works that might come from this good man? As with the faith, the good works are also a result of the new birth. Let’s look at 1 John 2:29. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Here is another evidence that an individual is a born-again child of God. If a man does righteousness, then he is born of God. If a man does good works, then he is born of God. Again we point out that the doing of righteousness is not the cause of being born again. Instead of the cause, it is the result. But the conclusion of the matter is that everyone that truly does righteousness is already born of God. Any man who does good works is a workmanship of God, and any man who does righteousness is being worked upon by God to be a good man.
So faith is a fruit of the Spirit, and if you see somebody who presently believes in Jesus, then you can be sure that he is already born of God. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. His present belief is evidence and proof of the new birth. In addition to faith being an evidence of having already been born again, so the doing of righteousness is also an evidence of having already been born again, because every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. So if you find anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, and if that person does things that are right things (is a good man, as men go), then you have pretty good evidence that that person is born of God.
Let’s look at yet another evidence of having been born again. Let’s think about love and look at 1 John 3:14. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren… How can we know that we have passed from death unto life? How can we know that we have been quickened by God and are in possession of spiritual life? The verse says that there is a way to know. We can know that we are no longer dead in our sins, that we have been given spiritual life, that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.
Thinking further on the evidence found in love, let’s look at 1 John 4:7. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God… How can we know whether or not we have already been born again? The verse says that love is of God, or in other words, love comes from God. Love in your heart results from having God inside your heart. The Spirit of God enters into the heart at the new birth. As with faith, love is a fruit of the Spirit, so love is an effect of having been born again. Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God. To say it the other way, since love is a result of having been born again, anyone who now has love for the brethren must have already been born of God. So this is yet further proof and evidence that allows the born-again child of God to know that he is a born-again child of God.
So the Bible says that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are born of God. The Bible says that if you do righteousness, then you are born of God. The Bible says that if you have love for your fellow man, then you are born of God. In these three things we can find evidence of the new birth. In these three things I find evidence that God dwells in my Dad. First of all, Dad has God-given faith in his Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, Dad has been a doer of righteousness, though not perfect, he has been a doer of right things. And thirdly, Dad has that first fruit of the Spirit, love for his fellowman. So I have good evidence from God’s word that Dad has been born again. I have strong evidence that the Spirit of God dwells in him, and if God dwells in him, he is more than that so-called good man. Yes, there is Bible-based evidence that a good God dwells in my Dad, and if a good God is on the inside, then there is some real good on the inside, and that good on the inside is the makings of a good man.
So Dad was in a sense a good man. Now what about the good life? I want to tell you that Dad had the good life, but not in the way we were talking about a while ago. There is a good life to be lived when you understand the truth that salvation comes totally by the Lord Jesus Christ. To have the peace that comes from knowing the gospel of grace is to truly live the good life in this world. Many years ago Dad wrote an article that was published in a Primitive Baptist periodical about a kingdom of heaven that can be experienced while still living in this world. He received criticism about the article because some people didn’t understand what he was trying to say, but Dad’s ideas were on target. Jesus described a kingdom of heaven that is at hand, within reach even now in this world. It is an experience of peace, joy, rest, and contentment that is much akin to what we will experience in heaven. Oh but it’s available now, even before we die and go to the heaven up there. This peace and rest comes from understanding that salvation is totally of the Lord, without man having to contribute a thing.
I have many times heard Dad pray that all God’s children could have the peace that comes with truly understanding the gospel of grace. His desire was that each of God’s children could experience what he had experienced in knowing that salvation is all of the Lord: that salvation is totally, truly, and completely accomplished by God for His children. Dad prayed for others to have the peace, the joy, and the assurance that he had in understanding that salvation is all of God and all by grace. He desired that all God’s children could rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He desired that all could have the good life that is available in this world to the ones who know that Jesus has accomplished everything necessary for the next world.
The Bible speaks of us having the earnest of our inheritance. Earnest is money that is received before the final transaction in order to prove that the deal is for real. If you receive earnest money, you have strong evidence that the rest of the money is coming. Now speaking of our eternal salvation, it is the real deal. It’s going to happen and nothing can stop it from happening. It’s all of God and nothing can stop God from bringing His will and purposes to pass. God shall save His people from their sins, and He will do it whether we know anything about it or not. But when we can know these things that God already knows, then we can begin to look forward to what’s coming. The earnest of our inheritance, which can be enjoyed even now, is the assurance and rest that we now have in knowing that we’re going to get the rest of our inheritance. To live a life in this world where we know without a doubt that eternal life is waiting for us in the next world truly is living the good life. Having that understanding in this world is truly an earnest of our inheritance.
When the struggling child of God experiences the peace that the gospel of grace affords, he truly experiences the good life. When a guilty sinner understands that salvation is all of God and not of self, he is then living what Jesus called the abundant life. In John 10:10 Jesus said that He came not only that we might have life, but also that we might have an abundant life. What does He mean by that? Jesus came and has secured our eternal life. That’s a done deal. And when we understand that He has secured our eternal life, and that there is nothing that can keep us from having that eternal life, and that our eternal life is not dependent upon us with all our weaknesses and our failures, then we can live not just the good life, but even experience the abundant life.
If we can have an assurance of heaven, even while we’re still in this world, then that is to live the good life. A life that is lived in trust and full confidence in Jesus Christ is a good life. That life is a good life to live. That kind of good life doesn’t have a thing to do with faring sumptuously every day. It doesn’t have a thing to do with playing a lot of golf, or catching a lot of fish, or lots of things the world might describe as the good life. Dad had a good life in that he had a certain hope of eternal life, and that can even make the bad parts of life okay. If we know that Jesus has made us okay in the eyes of God, then we have all that is needed to live the good life.
God is good, and Jesus made sinful men good, even good enough to satisfy a good God. Jesus makes a sinful man good enough for God to declare that sinful man to be a good man. And if that sinful man knows that Jesus has made him good enough to satisfy God, then that made-good man has what it takes to live the good life of resting in the finished work of Jesus.
May God bless you to live the good life and to be the good man.