The Gospel and my Special Needs Son

By Sean Cole

I am the proud parent of a special needs child and I thank God for sovereignly choosing my wife and I to be his parents. Our son Zachary has a rare chromosome disorder which causes autism and epilepsy and developmental delays. When he was first diagnosed with this disorder as a one year old, we as parents experienced all the wide range of emotions—fear, sorrow, doubt, anger, and many sleepless nights. But there was one day during the midst of this time where God showed up in power and proved His faithfulness to me. I was praying one morning crying out to God and He reminded me that I was not in charge of my son. He reminded me that he was a gift and I was only to be a steward of that gift. God was sovereign over Zachary’s life and He would glorify Himself through Zachary. In that moment, I gave up all rights to my son and offered him up to the Lord to use in whatever way He saw fit to bring the most glory to Himself.

            To this day, I cannot say that at times it has been easy raising a special needs son, but there is one thing I can say—Zachary has brought me more joy than anything I can express. He is a wonderful boy with a contagious smile, an infectious curiosity, and a childlike innocence. I get the privilege of seeing a side of Zachary that nobody probably will as I tuck him in bed at night, as I feed him breakfast, as I see the joy in his eyes when he gets a new toy, or when he flaps his arms and speaks gibberish in a high pitched frenzy! I would not trade any of these precious moments as God has given Zachary to me as gift to be cherished.

He is not an “accident” or a surprise to God. He is not a “genetic mistake” or a “freak of nature”(hurtful words that have been spoken to us as parents by those who do not fully understand God’s plan).

Listen to how Psalm 139:13–14 describe my son: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” God formed Zachary and his chromosome disorder was part of God’s sovereign plan. Every person is created in the image of God and deserves respect, dignity, and compassion.

Many different groups in our culture today are complaining that they are not given “equal rights” and that they are the objects of prejudice and injustice. I do not in any way want to downplay their legitimate claims to unequal treatment, but there is one group of people in our culture that may bear the brunt of prejudice and unequal treatment more than others—people with special needs and disabilities—especially children.

Our nation prides itself on how progressive it has become in accepting those who are “different” as we “celebrate diversity”, yet I have seen firsthand how those with special needs are often ostracized, misunderstood, and sometimes actually discriminated against.

This article serves in no way to condemn our community or to cast stones or lay blame on anyone in particular. My goal in writing this it to express my joy in my son Zachary, and in God’s providence in allowing me to be his father. I also write this to encourage all of us to be more accepting of those with special needs. I encourage us all to see them as people who have dignity, value, and can contribute to society. I encourage us to see them as God sees them—as “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image.

Zachary may not be able to talk or express his joy verbally, but I have the confidence that Jesus has given him a deep joy that I don’t think we can fully understand. I believe God has reached down in his heart to reveal Himself and that Zachary may know our Savior in a way we won’t comprehend. For that I am thankful. I am also thankful that in heaven, Zachary will be whole, complete, and in the presence of his true Father and I will have gotten the privilege to being able to raise him as his earthly father. May God receive glory in all of this and may we all be humbled by His amazing grace!

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What Does it Mean to be Born Again?

By Sean Cole

What does it mean to be “born again”? The Bible teaches that no one is a Christian who has not been born again. So in essence, everyone who claims to be a Christian must have experienced the new birth that Jesus spoke about in John 3.

In John 3:3-6, we find these poignant words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus makes it very clear that two things in fact cannot happen unless a sinner has been born again. First of all, he or she cannot see the kingdom of heaven. Sinners have been blinded by Satan from seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel and thereby cannot see their need of salvation. 2 Corinthians 4:4 states, “ In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Unless a person experiences this supernatural birth through the power of the Holy Spirit, he or she cannot even see heaven or understand their need for God.

Secondly, Jesus makes it very clear that people cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless they have been born again. So not only do sinners lack the ability to see their need for salvation due to spiritual blindness, but they also lack any inherent power or ability to come to Christ and enter eternal life. So why do sinners lack this ability and why the desperate need for the new birth?

Paul paints this devastating picture of the effects of sin in Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Every single person is born into this world spiritually dead, in bondage to Satan, enslaved to his or her own sinful flesh, and under God’s condemnation.  None of us can get ourselves out of this terrible situation. We cannot cause ourselves to be born again. We cannot make ourselves go from spiritual death to spiritual life? We cannot open our blind eyes to see our need for Jesus.

That is why we need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to cause us to be born again. Jesus tells us that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  So how do spiritually blind eyes receive sight? 2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God must sovereignly overcome our blindness and open our eyes to the glory and beauty of Jesus as the only way of salvation.

How do spiritually dead people get raised to life? Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us: “ But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Again, He must sovereignly make us alive.

As sinners, we cannot open our own blind eyes. Neither can we make ourselves alive. We cannot produce this new birth. Only the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit can reach down from heaven and penetrate the dark recesses of our evil hearts and give us new life. And once the Holy Spirit does that wonderful work of grace, we as sinners freely respond in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian today, it is solely because God made you a Christian. He gave you the new birth. He opened your blind eyes. He raised you from deadness to life. He gave you a new identity. So in reality there is no such thing as a Christian who is NOT “born again”.

1 Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Have you received this great mercy from God? Has He caused you to be born again? Do you have this living hope? If not, would you call upon the name of Jesus to be saved. Ask God in His grace to open your eyes and raise you to life. Ask Him to grant you the gift of the new birth!

Who is the Holy Spirit?

By Sean Cole

One of the most famous lines from one of the most influential movies of all time is: “Use the force, Luke!” These venerable words from Star Wars are etched into our cultural psyche. Yet, when it comes to understanding the Person of the Holy Spirit, we often think of Him as a vague, mysterious “force” that floats through the atmosphere waiting to zap people with power or to gently nudge them into some type of religious action. Biblically speaking, that portrayal of the Holy Spirit is the farthest from the truth.

Who exactly is the Holy Spirit and what does He do. In Christian circles, sometimes the Holy Spirit is relegated as the “red-headed step child” of the Trinity and pushed to the fringes and never discussed. On the other extreme, the Holy Spirit is given a prominence and hype that Scripture will not allow. One newspaper article cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but I will set forth four very crucial descriptions of God, the Holy Spirit.

First of all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and is thus fully divine. He is the third Person of the Trinity and shares equality and eternality with God the Father, and God the Son. In other words, the Holy Spirit was not created. And since He is a Person, He is not a mysterious force. He has personality. The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). He can be resisted (Acts 7:51). He was present at creation as evidenced from the words of Genesis 1:2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Secondly, He is called the Spirit of Truth. John 16:13-14 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit guides believers into the truth of God’s Word through helping us understand what the Bible means. The Spirit also glorifies Jesus. He serves as “floodlight” on the side of a house that shines all of the attention on Jesus. Any group or ministry that puts more focus on the Holy Spirit than on Jesus Christ may be in danger of mistakenly elevating the Spirit to a role that He Himself has not been given.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit convicts men of sin and then sovereignly regenerates them to spiritual life. The Apostle John again says in John 16:7-8: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Holy Spirit brings conviction upon the souls of men by awakening their consciences and showing their guilt in breaking God’s law. The only way sinners can flee from their sin and fly to Christ is through the power of the Holy Spirit in opening their blind eyes to see their need for a Savior. 

Those for whom God has chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), at a point in time, the Holy Spirit sovereignly overcomes their resistance by causing them to be born again. Those who have been dead in sin and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), He makes alive through the working of regeneration or what is commonly called the new birth. Again, John writes in John 3:6-8, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” When the sovereign Spirit decides to blow new life into a lost sinner, He does it like the wind. You can’t predict it. You can’t plan it. You can’t program it. God is totally sovereign in the salvation of sinners and sends His Holy Spirit to give them new life by granting them the gifts of repentance and faith.

Finally, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells believers guaranteeing their eternal salvation and empowers them to boldly testify about Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:13-14:  “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The moment of our new birth, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us and by virtue of his continual presence, we can be solidly assured that heaven awaits us and that we can never lose our salvation.

In addition, the Holy Spirit also emboldens us for witnessing. If you trace the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” through the book of Acts, you will discover that once the Spirit filled a person, he or she boldly spoke the gospel. The only way we can ever be successful in spreading the glorious gospel to all the nations of the earth is from the promise found in Acts 1:8 which states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  The question we must all ask is this: Have I truly been born again by God’s Spirit and given the gifts of repentance and faith whereby I have trusted Christ personally for salvation as my Savior and Lord.

Why is Jesus Worthy of Worship?

One of the amazing truths of Christianity is the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Many of you are probably familiar the disciple named “doubting” Thomas who needed absolute proof that Christ did in fact raise from the dead. John 20:27-28 states, “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” His confession is none other than an absolute surrender to the Lordship of Christ as God! Thomas’ confession is heartfelt worship in the presence of the risen Savior.

 

Are we like Thomas who bows in worship and adoration of Jesus as our Lord and God? Why is Jesus worthy of all our worship? Why is Jesus more than just a good example for us to follow, but in fact, a sacrificial Substitute who died in our place and is worthy of all our worship?

 

Allow me to offer a “Top Ten” list of reasons why we as Christians should worship Jesus.

 

Number One: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. John 1:29 says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus died the death we all should have died because the wages of death is sin. He suffered in our place and took the full wrath of God against our sin and secured our complete forgiveness.

 

Number Two: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the bread of life.  In John 6:35 Jesus says these words: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus promises to satisfy our souls and that we will never go hungry or thirsty spiritually. He is the only true source of nourishment and life for sinners who need salvation.

 

Number Three: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the Light of the World.  John 8:12 reads, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We live in a world of darkness and sin where people do evil deeds of wickedness. Jesus shines brightly into that darkness and provides hope for the hopeless and direction for the aimless.

 

Number Four: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the Good Shepherd. John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He voluntarily went to the cross on behalf of rebellious sinners because the only way we can be reconciled to a holy God is through the penalty of death. We are lost, helpless, hopeless and hell-bound sheep without a shepherd going our own way into sin and destruction, and Jesus reaches down into our depravity and chaos and brokenness and doesn’t wait for us to get our act together or somehow earn His favor. No, instead, He takes the initiative as the good shepherd and lays down HIs life for the sheep.

 

Number Five: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the resurrection and the life.  In John 11:25–26 Jesus says, “ “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Through Him, we can have eternal life and not have to suffer eternally for our sins. Because of Christ, we will not have to endure eternal conscious torment in hell, but will live forever with Him in heaven as our glorious home.

 

Number Six: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the ONLY way of salvation. Listen to what Jesus says about Himself in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is not just one of many good or desirable ways to be accepted by God. He emphatically claims that He alone is the sole doorway or entrance into a relationship with God.

 

Number Seven: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the giver of indestructible joy. In John 15:11, Jesus desires that our joy be full and in John 16:22 tells us that no one can take away this joy. The joy Jesus’ gives is that deeply rooted and settled confidence and peace in His sovereignty where we trust in His promises no matter what our circumstances.

 

Number Eight: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. John 14:16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” We have the promise from Jesus that the Holy Spirit will live in us forever and will never leave us nor forsake us.

 

Number Nine: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the resurrected Lord.  Act 2:23-24 states, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

 

Number Ten: Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the Coming King. We find the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 1:7-8: “ Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

Should we follow Jesus? Absolutely. We should follow His example and walk in obedience to His commands and love our neighbor as ourselves and engage in ministries that help alleviate suffering in our world. Absolutely. But yet at the same time, we need more than just an example in Jesus. We need more than just do good works in Christ’s name. We need a Savior. At the end of the day and into eternity, we need an absolutely sovereign King who is worthy of all our worship.

 

 Philippians 2:10-11 reads, “ so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

 

 

What is Marriage?

There is no surprise that the institution of marriage is under attack today in our culture.  We see the devastation of divorce, couples cohabitating before marriage, and the proliferation and nation-wide acceptance of gay marriage.  Many look to sociology, biology, and cultural opinions to arrive at their definition of marriage, but as believers in Christ our sole and final authority on this issue is the inspired, infallible Bible. What does the Bible say about the sanctity of marriage?

We find God’s definition of marriage in Genesis 2:18–24: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

What is the Biblical definition of marriage? It is this: Marriage is a lifelong and sacred covenantal bond between one man and one woman instituted and defined by and publicly entered into before God, (whether or not this is actually acknowledged by the married couple).  According to the Bible, we discover the sacredness of marriage.

God is acting as the Sovereign Creator King. He brought the woman to man. This is the first marriage ceremony ever. God in essence, walks Eve down the aisle to be given away to Adam. God orchestrates this union in His power and sovereignty. It is a sacred union and covenant that God is performing.  Because God is the one performing this first marriage, He sets the rules. It is a sacred union where God unites a couple together.  

That is why marriage is not merely a human or civil agreement between two consenting adults.  Marriage is not a “civil union”, but instead is a covenantal bond before and under God’s sovereign authority.  Since marriage is a sacred covenantal bond between one man and one woman, there can be no such thing as a same sex marriage. In view of the Scriptures, that terminology is an oxymoron. You cannot put “same sex” in the same sentence as marriage, because in God’s eyes it is not a marriage.

Many people will say that Jesus never said anything about homosexual marriage and since He is silent on this, we can take a huge jump and condone and even endorse same sex marriages.  Matthew 19:4–6: He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  

First of all, notice that Jesus appeals to the written Scripture as His authority. He says, “Have you not read?”  He doesn’t appeal to the general consensus or to the poll numbers or to what Hollywood or politicians or social media says. He appeals to the Scriptures as the authority. And this is very important in the discussion, because Jesus always went back to the written word of God.

Notice secondly, that Jesus makes that statement “From the beginning” meaning that this was God’s ordained and instituted plan from the beginning. In other words, how God defines marriage and gender and sexual roles does not change over time. As it was in the beginning, so it is today.

Thirdly, also notice that Jesus emphatically says, “God has joined the two together in marriage”.  Marriage is a sacred covenantal bond in which God performs the actual marriage whether the couple acknowledges this or not.

So therefore, if God’s ordained plan from the very beginning as revealed in the Scriptures to which Jesus appeals to as His authority says that God joins a couple together, why in the world would God join together two people that are living in direct violation of His will?

Whether or not culture or even non-Christian couples who are getting married acknowledge it or not, marriage is a sacred covenantal bond that God ordains, defines, and creates and we have no right to redefine it and we need to protect its sacredness.

I know that many readers will find this view offensive, narrow-minded, and maybe even consider it bigoted hate speech. But on the final Day of Judgment, I will not have to answer to any human court for my stance of marriage, but will have to stand before the Lord of the universe, Jesus Christ, and answer to Him and His opinion is all that counts. I write this article with love for those who may disagree and offer the life-changing gospel of Christ to forgive us all of our sins. But in the end, as a man of God I must answer to Him and hold fast to how He sovereignly defines the institution of marriage.

 

What is a Christian?

Have you ever wondered how a person actually becomes a Christian? Many people have this faulty assumption that just because they were born in America or have attended church their entire lives, they are in fact Christian. What does the Bible actually say? 

While there are many answers to this question, we find a very powerful one in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.  In verses 1-2, Paul writes, “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” and later on in verse 9 he writes, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Three times the word “called” is used to describe what it means to be a Christian so we can conclude that Biblically a Christian is called by the will of God to have fellowship with Christ.

God in His sovereignty has chosen to call us to Himself. What is the significance of this calling? What has God called us out of? Before we were made Christians by God’s sovereign grace, we were enslaved to the kingdom of darkness and were by nature spiritually dead. Romans 3:10–12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Colossians 1:13–14 tells us that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Paul also writes in Ephesians 2:4–5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

So here’s a theological question about calling—if we as sinners do not seek God, and we are spiritually dead, and we are enslaved to darkness, how in the world can we ANSWER the call? If God calls us, how can we actually answer? Do we have the inherent ability to answer the call?

We find the story of the death of Lazarus in John 11:43–44: “When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Does it make sense for Jesus to call out to a dead man to come out of the tomb? Does Lazarus have the ability to respond?  He is dead. But yet, there is power in the call. When Jesus called Lazarus there was inherent power in Jesus’ call that sovereignly affected power for Lazarus to be made alive and come out.

It is the same with any sinner who comes to Christ. We cannot in and of ourselves respond to the call because we are dead. But when Jesus calls us to salvation, He sovereignly affects His power within us to make us go from spiritual death to spiritual life. He imparts faith into our hearts so that we freely believe in Him.

This affects how we do evangelism and share the gospel. What is the spiritual condition of every person to whom you share the gospel? They are not seeking God, they are dead in sin, and they are enslaved to the kingdom of darkness. Can you by your persuasion or words actually affect the CALL? Can you produce within a lost person the ability to come to Christ? Can they produce this ability to come to Christ and answer the call? They cannot and you cannot! So we are both helpless to produce sovereign regeneration in the life of a sinner.

There is one thing you can do. You can call them to come to Christ. This is called the “External Call”. It is the call that goes out of your mouth to sinners which commands them to repent and believe. You tell them to trust Jesus. You call them to repentance.

But yet, there also has to be the “internal call” because not everyone believes when the gospel goes out. Why do some people believe the gospel and others don’t? With all things being equal, can anybody respond to the gospel as spiritually dead sinners? Then why do some respond to the call and others do not? It is because God by His will has chosen to affect salvation in those whom He chooses to do so and brings about the power to believe through the call—just like Jesus did with Lazarus.

You and I cannot control the powerful efficacious call of God to bring a dead sinner to life, but you and I can control the external call. We can tell every single person we come in contact with that Christ saves sinners and urge them to repent and believe. So a Christian is one who has been sovereignly called out of darkness and deadness and depravity into God’s family.

Did God have to call us? Was He obligated to rescue us out of darkness? NO! His call is a call of love. God loves to save sinners.