Ever since entertainer Whitney Houston passed away, almost one week ago, rumor-filled stories of the way she died and gossipy tales of how she lived abound in the news.
At the grocery store yesterday, my eye caught the Newark Star Ledger touting headlines something along the lines of: 'The Sacred Being Made Into A Circus.'
And today, that same newspaper's online headlines announced: 'Whitney Houston Funeral To Be A Star Studded Event.'
Yes, no matter where you go -- television, online news feeds, newspapers, magazines, Facebook, blogs -- you can't get away from the media feeding frenzy. EVERYBODY has something to say about Whitney, be it good, bad or indifferent. And I guess you can say that now, I'm just adding to the 'noise' with my two cents.
Fans and local pastors are in an uproar because they cannot attend Whitney's funeral service at her childhood, hometown church in Newark, New Jersey, due to her family's decision to make it an 'invitation only' event. Folks who serve or have served in the military are appalled that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has designated that American flags throughout our state be flown at half staff tomorrow, February 18, the day of her funeral, in honor of Whitney. I can certainly understand their indignation over this, although I do not share in it.
But I'm not here to address any of that. I'm here to address something that someone wrote about Whitney Houston which I believe is just absolutely WRONG.
I'm not certain of where I read this. Again, there is so much out there right now about Whitney, it may have been on someone's blog (no one's blog I actually follow, just one I happened upon) or I might have read it as a post that someone shared on Facebook. That is unimportant. What is important is that someone actually believes this and is spreading this lie. Perhaps they heard it preached in their church.
This person was questioning people (family, fans and such) who are consoling themselves with the fact that Whitney is at peace and in the presence of her Heavenly Father. This person stated that they should NOT be doing so because more than likely, Whitney is not in God's presence at all. They declared that she had lost her salvation because she had turned her back on God by choosing drugs over Him.
Ok, whoa, WHOA, WHOA!!! Stop right there, someone hit the Rewind button!!!!
I make no apologies for stating that this is SUCH a load of malarkey!!! To me, this is appalling. Really!!!
Appalling because, if this is so for Whitney, then it stands to reason it is true for everyone. True for me. True for you.
Again, I have no clue as to where this person came by such a belief; perhaps, as I said, they heard it preached at their church. But this is a false teaching!
Now, I didn't know Whitney Houston personally, so I have no idea if she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. I've learned that just because someone goes to church and sings in the church choir doesn't necessarily mean they are followers of Christ. I can say this because I lived this way for many years. I grew up singing in the choir and was a pew warmer extraordinaire for over half my life.
But, for the sake of argument, let's say that Whitney had surrendered all to Jesus and she was His follower, despite the fact that she battled a drug addiction for some years (and let's 'judge not, lest ye be judged' here because believe me -- everyone is battling something). She was offered and accepted the free gift of salvation -- free to her (and to us), but at great cost to Jesus: purchased with the shedding of His precious blood on the cross. If this is so, we would consider Whitney Houston 'saved.' Saved by grace. The apostle Paul makes it ever so clear in Ephesians 2:4-8 ~
'But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God....'
We are saved by grace, a gift from God. Yet are we to believe that if we 'mess up' in life -- as Whitney did....as we all do -- our loving, Abba, about Whom James says 'does not change like shifting shadows' (James 1:17), about Whom Balaam declares in the Book of Numbers '...is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind' (Numbers 23:19), and Who Himself says in the Book of Malachi "For I the LORD do not change," (Malachi 3:6) -- are we to believe God will change His mind and snatch back that awesome gift?? I just cannot wrap my brain around this mindset.
Because really, if we are honest with ourselves -- we will admit that we all 'mess up' in life, many of us on a regular basis. And that's why there are Christian counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists available to us; that's why there are Christian support groups like 'Celebrate Recovery' popping up in so many churches. Because we are a fallen, flawed people, saved by grace, yet still in a battle with some temptation, some addiction, some sin in our lives, threatening to take us down.
|'Calvary,' by Stephen Sawyer|
I want to believe that Whitney Houston gave her life to Christ and called Him her Lord and Savior somewhere along the way in life, so despite the fact that her addiction to drugs ended her life, she found herself in the arms of Jesus. Truly, I do. So I cannot speak the following truth to her.
But -- perhaps there is someone reading this today who believes or knows and loves someone who believes that their salvation can be taken away. That in the midst of their battle with some sin or addiction, God will come along and snatch back His gift of salvation, His gift of amazing grace and unending, everlasting love. That in essence, God is what they used to call back in my day 'an Indian giver.'
I am no learned preacher or educated theologian, but I am here to say:
Please DO NOT believe the lie!!!
My pastor has preached and taught on this subject many, many times. And interestingly enough, I recently heard a sermon podcast which addressed this very subject! I'd like to share some of what I learned from it:
*For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, NOTHING can hijack their salvation. Grace always triumphs!
*Jesus's death paid for our sins. Sins we could never pay for ourselves.
*Don't cheapen grace. Our sins cannot undo Jesus's work by His death on the cross at Calvary and His resurrection from the grave three days later. Because if that were so, then NONE of us has ANY guarantee of eternal life with our Savior.
And finally, this statement:
*Jesus's death either pays for ALL sin, or it doesn't pay for ANY sin.
So, regarding the above statement, let me ask you now:
Which do YOU believe?
Believe that you are saved by grace. That you are safely in the hand of God and NOTHING can snatch you out of His hand. Nothing.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace ~ Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), by Chris Tomlin