Yesterday was a great morning at ChristCentral Baptist Church. You could sense the Holy Spirit’s presence the entire morning. People were expecting God to speak and visit His people. It was evident to me that God had answered my wee-early morning prayer time to give me Holy Spirit anointing in preaching the text from Philippians 1:19-21 “Christ Magnified.” I spoke of two promises God makes to His children that it is worth it to sell out to Jesus Christ and magnify Christ with our lives. Those promises are the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of an eternity with Christ. Those two promises are encapsulated in vs. 21 from Paul: “To live Christ, to die gain.” I challenged our church to give God a blank check with your life because wether you live or die, you have the Holy Spirit living empowering you from within and death is a promotion to Heaven. It’s nowhere to be found in my notes but I even used an example of if someone walked into church and put a gun to you head demanding you renounce Christ - what would you do? For believers; they can be assured the Holy Spirit would help them in that moment.
Little did I know a mere 117 miles up the road at FBC Sutherland Springs Texas an evil madman, an agent of Satan himself, was going to church to murder as many people as he could who were there to worship Jesus. As of this morning I heard he had murdered 26 innocent people including a number of children. Many of us are trying to make some sort of sense out of this awful, evil act of a coward. We are asking “why God?” I wish I could give you the answers to the why questions. I’m sure the evil motive of the murderer will come out as the law enforcement investigation continues. But that will not answer why.
However, Jeremiah 17:9 gives us an insight as to why: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” The Ralph Green translation of that verse just concludes: “And don’t we know it?” If there was ever an illustration of that verse it was what took place at FBC Sutherland Springs yesterday. The evil in that man’s heart goes back to the fall of man in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve plunged this world into sin by rebelling against God presuming themselves to be like God. Satan authored that evil act and he authored the actions of this murdering gunman preying on people who were intent on worshipping Jesus Christ. It mirrors the evil in Cain’s heart that rose up and murdered his brother who was worshipping God the way God commanded and not through Cain’s invention.
Secondly, we’re angry. I mean boiling angry that causes us to say things like we hope that guy rots in Hell forever and ever. I’m sure he is doing just that even now as I type this based on the Word of God. But the anger we feel in no way compares to the anger God has against all sin. We really have no clue how much our own sin angers God. We have no idea how much evil we are also capable of carrying out. And we certainly can barely grasp how just one of our sins was enough for God the Father to take His wrath against our wickedness out on His own Son Jesus Christ. We may not like it and we may not want that evil murdering gunman to have access to salvation but the fact remains Jesus’ death on the cross paid for that unconscionable deed yesterday too. I think about what God said through the prophet Isaiah in 18:23 - “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” God continues down in verse 32 with a clarion call to repent: “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” We must remember in our anger that we’re are capable of this and much more apart from the grace of God. I know I’m a great sinner; but I am so grateful to God I have an infinitely greater Savior; His name is Jesus Christ. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Finally I think events like this should remind us of the urgency of our task to be witnesses for Christ and share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if this madman had heard the Gospel. Some reports say he had family ties to this church. Maybe he attended VBS or Sunday School. I have no idea.While we cannot do anything to introduce him to Jesus Christ today; there is someone today God wants us to engage with the Gospel. Events like this illustrate the uncertainty of life and that we’re not guaranteed our next breath. So we need to spend our lives for Jesus and His Kingdom because it’s the only thing that will not disappoint in the end.
My heart is broken for the families of those slain, the pastor of that church and his precious wife who lost their 14 year young daughter and half of their church. I’m broken hearted for that community, for people in my own church who know families and victims of this senseless act of evil. My heart is broken for the trauma on the law enforcement and first responders who are processing the scene and what it does to them. Having served in law enforcement myself; the gruesome nature of their jobs today is more than enough to break even the most seasoned of them. They will carry those scars forever. Pray for God to pour out boatloads of grace upon those heroes and everyone grappling with senseless loss.
Say a prayer of gratitude to God for a couple of resident heroes - one who had the God given courage to engage this madman with his own rifle to put a stop to the carnage and the other resident who drove the truck in pursuit of an evil doer. It is rare to find people who charge after danger and evil like those two men did yesterday. And as you go about your day; keep looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith knowing full well He is King Jesus, He’s seated on His throne and He’s making intercession for us. He will make all things right someday and we will trust in His divine redemptive plan. Even yesterday I listened to our state convention director Jim Richards being interviewed and he clearly and calmly shared Jesus who a national audience. It was Christ being magnified as I had been preaching that morning!
Trying to make sense of the senseless, from my little corner of the world to yours…