Should Christians Watch Movies About Jesus?

By Colton Corter

It’s nearly Easter time and with Easter comes movies about Jesus. From the infamous Passion of the Christ to last Sunday’s Tyler Perry’s semi-live The Passion, many people have tried to retell or portray the greatest story of all time – the best news about what God has done in Christ to save sinners.

But most of these renditions are blasphemous at worst and unhelpful at best. There has long been the discussion about visual representations of Jesus. The larger Reformed tradition has avoided pictures and statues of Jesus, citing the 2nd Commandment and the incident of the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus. Calvin and those who have followed in that stream saw the idolatry of Rome and wanted no part in it. Reformed Evangelicals today normally avoid such representations today if not simply for the fact that they can take away from the spiritual sight of Christ’s glory found in this age only in the gospel. For whatever good could come from such movies or television programs, there are a few major things that I think should cause us to steer clear from enjoying such programs.

1.They tempt us to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.

Behind the impulse to make such movies is often the desire make the story of Jesus relevant. It is thought that if people could just see what happened then they would reconsider their previous notions about the Second Person of the Trinity. But the cross has always been foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). Our job isn’t to make the gospel more palatable. We cannot improve upon its sweetness. The Holy Spirit takes the objective facts of the gospel and gives us the eyes and the hearts to see them and savor them as our only hope and our highest good.

How does the Spirit do this? Over and over again, God tells us that He brings new life through His Spirit by the written Word of God. It may seem like a far-fetched strategy but we need to remember that it has worked for thousands of years. It was the Word of God that created everything that we see and it is with that same creative power that God creates light in dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6).

Brothers and sisters, it is not a healthy impulse to want to improve upon the words of Scripture. Creating good music and art is a wonderful and biblical thing! However, our main source of life and the hope of the world is found in the Book. God wrote a book! And that Book is able to do all that we need for life and godliness (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:3). Do you want the Bible to come alive? The answer is not to go to Israel and walked where Jesus walked. Neither is the answer to make a movie about it. We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God in Christ and ask that as a consequence of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, he would by His Spirit open our eyes to see the beauty of Christ. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17). This is an age of faith, not sight. One day, beloved, we will see Him as He is with our sinless eyes! But that day is yet to come is and our greatest longing. Until then let’s seek Christ where He is to be found: the gospel as found in the Bible.

2. It misses the point of the gospel.

The physical sufferings of the cross were so gruesome that they are hard to imagine. Jesus Christ never, ever sinned. He alone can say that He has loved His Father with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). His heart was so incredibly sensitive to the sin that was around Him. His very meat and drink was to do the Father’s will of displaying His glory by enjoying it as His highest good! Never was there a least deserving man to die.

But Jesus was not a victim, primarily. When we only focus on the physical death of Jesus then we lose the entire importance of the cross. We lose the gospel. Truth is, a lot of people had died on Roman crosses. It was kind of standard fare. If all that happened in Jesus’ case was that an innocent man was put to death by a corrupt government then we are most to be pitied. But infinitely more happened. Isaiah 53 happened! This innocent One, who fulfilled the Law perfectly on behalf our His people, was executed by His Father according to His predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). The Son of Man came with the express purpose to purchase a people for Himself by paying the penalty for their sin (Mark 10:45). Jesus was not slaughtered on accident or by force but in an act of unfathomably free mercy He gave up the life that no one could take from Him (John 10:18). He died for our sins. “In our place condemned He stood.” Jesus is not some revolutionary who died because he tried to overcome social structures by a code of ethics. Jesus earned a righteousness for His people to be received through faith and satisfied the just wrath of God in His body. Jesus is God.

But you miss all of that with these movies. They leave us with a less glorious gospel, not a more glorious one. The cross and the resurrection make no sense apart from the character, worth and value of God. They make no sense without explaining the cosmic treason that is sin and how the whole world sits under the judgement of a good God because He alone is worthy of our affections. Without the clear call to repent from lesser joys and run to the finished work of Christ to save and satisfy, you don’t have a gospel. Without explaining that God is the prize of the gospel then you leave the world with something less than the end for which God created the world.

Too Picky? 

I only say this out of a concern to see the real glory of Christ hallowed among the nations. To that end, I work for our joy – both yours and mine. The gospel of the Bible, found in the Bible, is far better. The power of God for salvation is found here! This is the Word of God that has given us the greatest gift imaginable – being enabled to glorify the Triune God of the universe by enjoying Him forever. We must stand against error, even sometimes error that is well intended. But we only do so because the light of the glory of Christ is eclipsed by such attempts to make Jesus “cool again.” Jesus is far better than cool, far better than anything that could be shown on a screen!

Jesus is infinitely glorious and beautiful.

Let’s all do the work of an evangelist as we strive together with our local embassy of Christ’s Kingdom to reflect the glories of God in Christ to the world by our words and deeds.
 

 

Santa Clause, Just Because?

By Colton Corter

Why in the world would you want to invite Santa Claus to your Christmas celebration this year? He sees you when you are sleeping. He knows when you are awake. He knows when you have been bad or good and then says, “So be good for goodness sake.” Sounds like a creepy guy, to say the least.

But seriously, why in the world would a Christian want to invite Santa Claus to their Christmas celebration this year? I know exactly why the world around us would. Santa promises everything that a natural heart wants. He promises wealth, stuff, happiness and all in a way that we can look back at the end of the year and say, “I deserved this.” My confusion comes from seeing well meaning brothers and sisters take their children by the hand and lead them to Santa Claus. They sing all the same songs. They watch all the same movies. Growing up in a nominal Christian home, I have to admit that this way the norm. Santa was just another part of the holiday or, more accurately, he contributed in equal part with Jesus in an combined effort to make the yuletide gay. I was always confused about how Jesus fit into this whole Santa story and truth be told I was more compelled by Santa anyway. He flew, had reindeer and brought me stuff; not completely dissimilar to the Jesus I was taught but with a “cooler” story. Even after I stopped believing in Santa I still considered him and old friend. It was fun to play along, as Santa brought a warmth and good feeling to the holiday season.

I wonder if this is how you have celebrated Christmas. For all of the recent talk on syncretism (the meshing together of two religions) we must not neglect to mention the blatant syncretism in the American church today. Even if we don’t believe the Jews and Muslims worship the same God as us, we do still tend to blend aspect of our culture’s religion with real gospel truth. It is my hope to suggest a better way. I think you will find more joy, not less, this holiday season if you spend it taking a long hard look at the Lord Jesus. Oh that we would be more like Mary who pondered the Christmas events in her heart and treasured them above all else (Luke 2:19). Jesus is far greater than Santa.

Is it sinful to celebrate Santa?

I don’t want to say no right out of hand. It probably is in some ways. First, it is a lie. Telling our children that Santa is real is simply not an act of truth telling. Lying is certainly a sin against God and it won’t do much to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Second, Santa represents a false message. Santa rewards based on merit. Do we want our kids to be good? Yes! The Christian life is a virtuous life. But virtue is not the basis of our reward. Far and away, we have received much more than we deserve. The Bible says that we deserve hell and that anything outside of that is pure grace. What’s even crazier is that God has not only let us out of hell for now, but that He has done so for all eternity through the blood of Jesus Christ. “Good for goodness sake” will never work and will never make us just before a holy God.” Third, Santa elevates the gifts of God over the giver. Santa is not the sovereign creator of all things. The function he plays in the lives of non Christians world-wide is that of gift-giver. You pay him his due, he gives you the goods. Sadly, this is how most in America treat God. We do stuff to get his stuff. But the highest good of the gospel is that we get God. Sin, at is root, is the preference of anything to God. We have exchanged the glory of the Giver for what He gives (Romans 1:18-32).

Santa preaches an anti-gospel message. Now, you may be saying, “If we avoid all of that, what is the problem with having some sort of Santa figure to entertain the kids and give them something to look forward to?” This question shows that we have a light view of sin, holiness and the glory of Christ. Far too often, we only operate with the categories of “sinful” and “good.” We think that if something is lawful then it is automatically profitable. Santa Claus celebrate may not be sin per se and therefore it is fine to do. But that is not what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23:
[23] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
(1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)
The context is dealing with lawful practices in the Corinthian church. As Christians, we are free in many regards. We can drink. We can watch TV. Maybe we can teach our kids about Santa. But all of those things can cloud our vision of the God. They may be “ok” but will not serve to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. Santa is actually more dangerous than TV watching or drinking. You can have a drink to the glory of God on Christmas Eve, but I am not so sure you can bake cookies for Santa in the same way.

This really gets down to the “why?” Why would you want to let Santa in your house? For all of the sophisticated answers, for most people, it really comes down to tradition. Our families have always done it this way. Our neighbors have always done it this way. In other words, we do Santa Claus just because. But this is a poor way to live the Christian life. We want to be making concerted effort to fight sin and produce sweet thoughts about the gospel of free grace.
Christ offers superior beauty. Leaving Satan out is not the pursuit of less joy but the radical pursuit of more joy. The heavenly hosts proclaimed this the night that Jesus, the eternal second person of the Trinity, was born in a lowly stable:
[14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV)

Christmas does not need Santa’s help. In all of our celebrations, this proclamation of the glory of God should be preeminent. Jesus has come! We see the perfect image of the Father, the One through whom all things were created, lying in a manger to grow up and fulfill the law on our behalf and die on a cross for our sins. God’s being known and and glorified works for our great joy. At Christmastime and every time, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If you know Christ this season, let Santa go. Your time will be countercultural, but will give off a supernatural glow. Your salt with be saltier.
John the Baptist seemed to get it. When he saw Christ he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Let’s follow suit. Go ahead, put up a tree, buy your family gifts. But open your Bible. Draw your eyes to God. Joy is here. As John Piper put it, “If you think Jesus is boring, you don’t know Him that well.”


 

Colton Corter is a student at SBTS and member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville.

Clothed and Unashamed: A Theology of Clothing

By Cade Campbell

Earlier this week Amy and I drove into town to pick up some new winter clothes – some sweaters and jackets. A few things in our closets have gotten worn and tattered so we needed to replace them. So we went shopping. After nearly six years of living north of the Ohio River, I’m still not adjusted to or prepared for the winters. It gets much colder here than it does in south Mississippi! But we do what we can, and part of doing what we can includes making sure our wardrobe is ready for the cold, making sure our closets have enough scarves and gloves and boots.

As I was sorting through my winter clothes in my closet I was reminded again how important our clothing choices are. It really does matter what we wear. We’ve heard that “the clothes make the man,” and while we may not fully buy into that, we do want to dress appropriately. Whether we’re dressing in a ballroom gown, trying to present ourselves as hipster, or just trying to convince ourselves that Doctor Who was right about bowties being cool, deep down we know that the clothes we wear make a statement about the person wearing them. And the clothes we wear keep us alive. We don’t want to be stuck outside too long in a t-shirt, flip-flops, and Chubbies if there’s a blizzard outside. A person may endure a brief polar plunge, but some warm clothes are going to be needed if that plunge isn’t going to be permanent. Our clothing has consequences.

And the Bible agrees.

We might not think of the Bible as a book about fashion, or a book with an underlying theme of “best and worst dressed.” It’s certainly a long way from a Land’s End catalog, but it does spend a large amount of time considering what we wear. The Bible implies that the very fact that we wear clothes reveals far more about us than our personalities or the current season. Clothes are a wholly theological affair:

The Bible begins in the shade of a fertile, tropical rainforest. Eden is the sanctuary of God on earth and the home of God’s vice-regents of his new creation. It is the base of operations for his cosmic enterprise to fill the earth with images of himself. Adam and Eve, the first humans, thrive in this environment. It’s where they belong. It’s where they are most themselves, and the Bible describes this innocent kingdom by describing them as “naked and unashamed.”

We read that statement and nervously pull at our collars. What on earth does that mean? We’re not comfortable thinking of Eden as the original nudist colony. So what’s so significant about the fact that they were “naked and unashamed?”

Well, the significance is profound. These two humans, the only created beings shining forth the image of God to the cosmos, were wholly satisfied as creatures living in relationship with God. It’s not merely that their bodies were perfect. Nor is it simply that they didn’t know any better. The fact that they lived innocently without clothes reveals the startling truth that there was nothing, literally nothing, between them and God and between them and one another. They were in such a perfect union as a married couple and as the friends of God that nothing else mattered or could matter.

But then things changed.

Adam and Eve got trapped in an early morning conversation with a cobra. They took the unholy initiative to transgress God’s command and assume God’s authority. They ate the fruit that was poisoned with the serpent’s lies, and suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, they knew, deep down they knew that something had gone really wrong. In one horrible moment they had become the original cast members for Naked and Afraid.

Up until that time their skin had only felt the warmth of each other’s touch and the perfumed coolness of Eden’s breezes. Now it seemed the snake had breathed a frostbitten front through creation. They felt a chill. They stepped back from one another, dropping each other’s hand from their embrace. They suddenly felt panicked, trapped, exposed, ashamed, dirtied, and destitute. In that moment they realized that their nakedness was only as good as their obedience to God, and now their obedience to God was a train wreck. Now they no longer liked what they saw in each other or in their own reflection. So they had to run. They had to hide. They had to cover their shame. They were no longer the perfect royal family of God’s earthly kingdom. Now they were fugitives.

So now they had to find something to wear.

So they did. They hid from God and from one another in the tall grassy thickets growing on the edge of Eden. They sewed fig leaves into pajamas. They tried to cope. But their attempt at coping was really pathetic. Their fig-leaf PJ’s couldn’t relieve their guilt. Neither could their backwoods hideout conceal them from God. He knew where they were, and in the most amazing act since the first moment of creation, the creator called out to the creature-convicts. They fearfully crept out from the bushes, caught red-handed with fruit stains still on their lips and fig-leaf robes barely covering anything.

In that moment God could have struck them dead. He could have wiped their memory from creation and begun again with another lump of muddy clay. He could have, but he didn’t. Instead he gave them mercy. As they began their exile out of Eden into the thorny wildernesses of the world, he took fur-robe skins and provided them their first real set of clothes to cover their nakedness. He could have exposed them for the little nightmares they were. Instead, in love he covered them in grace (Genesis 3:21 ).

The rest of the Bible tells the story of how this good God continues to cover the sins of his beloved and continues to clothe them in the remarkable wardrobe of the gospel. Jacob presents his beloved son Joseph with a robe of many colors (Genesis 37:3 ) that is stained with blood as he is swept off to Egypt, only to be turned into garments of fine linen that Pharaoh clothes Joseph in after he is released from prison (Genesis 41:42 ). We sing with David the truth that God removes our tattered sackcloth and clothes us with gladness (Psalm 30:11 ). We watch Isaiah rejoice because God has clothed him with the garments of salvation (Isaiah 61:10 ).

Then the unthinkable happens. The divine tailor, the one who clothes himself in glory and clothes his people in grace, steps into the story and instead of wrapping himself in unapproachable light, he wraps himself in swaddling clothes. He grows, and he teaches, and he tells us what God is like.

Jesus tells us about a prodigal son covered in pig-sty manure-mud who is embraced by the loving Father, who then covers his son’s shame by giving him his golden signet ring and clothing him in his best robe, his robe. So the bankrupt prodigal walked home wearing the ring of the heir and the robe of the master of the house (Luke 15:21-23 ).

Jesus warns us about the danger of entering into a marriage feast without the needed attire (Matthew 22:11-14 ), expressing the very real importance of being clothed for the occasion.
Jesus confronts a demon-possessed man who was known for three things: his uncontrollable madness, his graveyard home, and his constant nakedness. Then he meets Jesus. The demon is cast out. The man is healed, and we’re told that the townspeople come out and see the amazing sight of the formerly insane and naked-necrophiliac sitting by the edge of the sea at the feet of Jesus, outside the tombs, very much alive, and miraculously “clothed and in his right mind” (Luke 8:35 ). The God of Eden was still walking in the cool of the day and clothing the shame of forgiven fugitives.

Then he does the most amazing thing of all. He goes to a cross. He becomes the curse. He embraces our shame. He covers himself in our own sinful nudity. In one dark and horrific moment this God who clothes fugitives is taken as a prisoner himself. He is mocked. He is wrapped in a scarlet robe and offered false-worship. A thorny diadem is placed on his brow (Mark 15:17 ), and then he is taken to Golgotha, and there he is stripped naked, exposed to all the world, suspended between heaven and earth, stapled to a tree to die.

And the executioners crouched at the foot of the cross with the naked God above them, casting lots to divide his clothes between them (Luke 23:34 ).

And it is in this one moment, this shocking and horrific moment, that God, by wearing our shame and nakedness, secures the unending life of his people in his presence, clothed in him forever. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, believers are clothed with the Spirit (Luke 24:49 ) and are the guaranteed heirs who are assured of walking into the heavenly mansion, a ragtag group of prodigals all wearing a shiny signet ring and a brand new robe of royalty.

That is the hope of the gospel, the great joy of the wardrobe of grace. The work of God is and always has been to clothe his children, to usher us into a new garden, another Eden, an Eden shining and shimmering with the glory of Christ, a world where we will not be “naked and unashamed,” but as living, breathing, displays of his suffering’s victory, we will be a people who stand clothed in Christ, “clothed and unashamed.”

So the storyline of the Bible begins with the tattered attempt to sew a wardrobe out of our own efforts, to piece together fig leaves to undo the damage that we’d done. But the story of the Bible ends (and then truly begins) with sons and daughters of Adam and Eve living in paradise again, fully in the presence of God, and reigning forever in the wardrobe of redemption. The book of Revelation describes the redeemed who live into eternity as those who are “clothed in white garments” whose names will never be blotted out from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5 ), because they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14 ).

We will truly sing into the ages, living the never ending reality of the song we sing now on earth…

“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.”

In Jesus Christ, his children will always be dressed best, for we will always be dressed in him.

You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.


Cade Campbell, a native of south Mississippi,  is Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCadeCampbell.

 

Remember Me: The Hope of the Gospel in the Horror of Alzheimer’s

By Cade Campbell

“Mom, it’s time to go to bed. Mom? Look at me. I said it’s time to go to bed.”

“What? Go to bed? Where? I’ve got to go home now. Where am I? I want to go home. Who are you? I want my mama.”

Last week my wife Amy and I were in her hometown of Natchez, Mississippi. We were there so Amy could help her mom with her grandmother for a few days following her surgery. Amy’s grandmother had hip surgery, a procedure complicated by the fact that she’s also suffering from Alzheimer’s. Over those few days we were reminded of a truth. Nothing hurts quite as bad as looking into the eyes of a loved one, a parent, a child, or a friend, or a grandmother – and knowing that they don’t know who they’re looking back at. Words cannot describe the piercing pain of looking into those eyes and only seeing a blank and confused and frightened stare blinking back. Physically Amy’s grandmother was right there in the room. But in a very real sense she wasn’t there at all. In many ways, we haven’t seen her grandmother in a very long time.

Is there a more horrific disease than Alzheimer’s? If there is, I don’t know what it is. Living in this world we all have more than enough options for tragic illnesses, but Alzheimer’s stands in a class by itself. Other diseases attack the body. Alzheimer’s attacks the mind, the very heart of a person. Other diseases steal the strength, vitality, and health from those we love. Alzheimer’s steals the person we love long before it turns its attention to killing the body. So we end up losing those we love only to know that we still have to lose them again. It is one long living loss.

I’ve watched family members sink into that sea of forgetfulness. I’ve sat at the bedside of family members who had left us long before their deaths. I’ve sat up in the long hours of the night with family members who had a mother or a father who had gone missing, who had simply walked away from home. As a pastor I know of church members and families who are even now walking through that valley shadowed with death. I’ve held my wife as we’ve cried over and prayed for her grandmother.I have stood in that darkness, and I have wept. Like so many others, this disease has stalked my family. It still is.

And that strikes at the heart of why it’s such a nightmare. It is a rare disease that is able to tunnel itself into the fabric of a family’s life and identity, but that’s exactly what Alzheimer’s does. It’s like a boa constrictor that squeezes the life not only from its victim but from everyone they know and love. This isn’t the way things are supposed to be. Parents aren’t supposed to forget their children. Grandparents should always know their grandchildren. Husbands shouldn’t be strangers to their wives. Alzheimer’s is a monster that kidnaps our loved ones but leaves their bodies behind. It makes its victims wholly dependent on others even as they forget who those others even are. It locks family members outside its steel-strong prison and it locks its victims on the inside, completely unable to get back. This is a strong enemy. So it needs a stronger gospel.

And we have one.

The good news of Jesus Christ is the only hope in the face of this horror. The gospel is the triumphant message that Jesus Christ has defeated every enemy and unlocked every prison. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s is sinking hopelessness, but the hallmark of the gospel is indestructible hope. The gospel invades this world and turns everything on its head, upside down. Even the worst things that we could ever fear.

If you’ve lost a loved one to this disease, or if one of your family members or friends is currently suffering from this illness, I want you to be encouraged with the good news that Jesus Christ is the only anchor and only shelter for this storm. The gospel’s hope is the only refuge in a world where we lose those we love in such horrible ways. If you’ve walked down this dark path before, or if you’re walking down it now, I want you to embrace three gospel truths that shine light on your steps, three gospel truths that really do change everything:

1. Jesus knows. One of the silent cries of Alzheimer’s is its hiddenness. It attacks in the shadows. Family members watch what’s happening, but most people on the outside never see it. Sometimes we feel like no one else on earth understands, knows, or notices. It is a very lonely disease, maybe the loneliest disease.

But God knows. He knows it all. One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. The God of Jacob hadn’t been heard from. They may have felt like God had abandoned them, and yet Exodus 2:25 tells us the truth. It simply says, “God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.” God heard their cries. God saw their suffering. God was not blind to their pain, and he’s not blind to your hurting either. In the throes of suffering God can seem silent. It can seem like we scream out into the heavens and only hear our own voices boomeranging back in reply, and yet the Bible tells us that God is not ignorant about the hurts of his children.

What’s more, he knows exactly what you’re going through. He understands. The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). He gets it. He’s been where you are.

Now you may ask, “how?” Jesus didn’t suffer from Alzheimer’s, and as far as we know he didn’t have a family member to suffer with it, so how could he possibly know what we’re experiencing as we suffer through this wrenching pain? Well, that’s just it. He has experienced what every family member experiences with an Alzheimer patient. He knows what it’s like to look into the eyes of those he loves, his closest family members even, and know that they don’t recognize him for who he really is.

John begins his gospel by telling us that Jesus was in the world “yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10-11). Jesus’s own family didn’t know who he was. In Mark 3:21 we’re told that his family tried to take him into custody and lock him away because they “thought he was out of his mind.” Jesus knows what it feels like to love someone who didn’t recognize him. He identifies with you. He knows.

2. Jesus is strong. As bad and as powerful as Alzheimer’s is, Jesus is stronger still. Alzheimer’s is big. Jesus is bigger. Alzheimer’s kidnaps our loved ones. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who doesn’t let his sheep get stolen. Alzheimer’s is a wolf that terrorizes the flock. Jesus kills every predator that threatens his flock.

One of the questions I hear sometimes from the family of Alzheimer patients is this: “What happens when they forget the gospel?” I know longtime believers, longtime Sunday school teachers, faithful saints, who have reached a point in their battle with Alzheimer’s where they don’t remember Jesus. When they hear about the cross they ask, “Who is Jesus? Who died and why?”

As you can imagine, that question knocks the wind out of us, and for good reason, and yet it is at this very moment when the truth of the gospel shines in its sparkling beauty, and it is in this moment that we have to hold onto everything the gospel is. The power of the gospel is stronger than any disease. The gospel is mightier than memory loss.

Romans 8:38-39 tells us that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul’s statement here is gloriously broad! Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! Nothing! Jesus in John 10:28 tells his disciples how strong he is. He tells us that he gives his followers eternal life, “and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus’s words are gloriously broad too! “No one will snatch them out of my hand!” And he really means it. He doesn’t lose those who are his! No one is strong enough to be snatched from his grip, not even you. Our God is a God mighty to save.

3. Jesus wins. Because Jesus is stronger, we can have confidence in the face of Alzheimer’s that Jesus will be triumphant. There is coming a day when every tear will be wiped from the eyes of God’s people. And therein lies our hope. Jesus is victorious. Satan will not conquer. Satan will not seize God’s sheep as spoils of war. God will defeat every enemy. Paul ends his letter to the Romans with that assurance. He tells the believers in Rome that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). The great reversal is coming. Christ’s resurrection assures that death itself will work backwards, giving up those who have succumbed to its curse. As Tolkien might say, everything sad will come untrue.

I know what it’s like to look into the eyes of a loved one and hear them say, “What’s your name?” Who are you?” But I also know a Savior who has assured me that in the age to come he will restore all creation and resurrect our bodies. And so I am confident that there is coming a day, a day on my calendar as certain as any day that I’ve ever lived, when I will once again look into the eyes of those that Alzheimer’s has stolen and hear these words in their own voice: “I know you.”

And that’s only because Jesus knows those who are his. Satan, the accuser of the brothers screams out accusations of those suffering with Alzheimer’s. He whispers a serpentine lisp that says, “Look at him. Look at her. They don’t know you God. They don’t trust you. They don’t even remember you.” That’s what Satan says. And the Father turns to our advocate, our mediator, our faithful high priest who identifies with us, and asks for a response. And Jesus stands and says, “He’s right. She doesn’t remember me. But I remember her, and I have paid her debt, died her death, and given her my life. This one is mine. Case closed.”

And that is the verdict that Satan cannot contest. Jesus’ triumph isn’t in our feeble memories, feeble bodies, or feeble faith. Jesus’ triumph is Jesus’ work, Jesus’ victory, and Jesus’ finished accomplishment.

Just before he died on the cross all those years ago, in between the mocking screams that were hurled at him from the crowds, Jesus turned his blood-drenched head to hear a gurgling gasp next to him. One of the criminals who was dying on the cross by his side cried out to him, and in the midst of pain-choked cries and straining lungs the thief made one last minute appeal, one desperate plea: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

That thief had no reason to expect a response. He had no good works to plead with. He had nothing to offer. He had no gifts or payment to bring in his hands. His hands were nailed to a piece of wood. But he did have one last hope – a hope that suggested that maybe, just maybe, the thorn-crowned king next to him would save him a place in his throne room, would know his face, wouldn’t forget his name, and wouldn’t forget his request. As he faced his end, all he could do was cast every hope he had on this dying Savior by simply asking him to remember.

And Jesus did.

And Jesus does.


Cade Campbell is Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCadeCampbell.

Some through the Flood: Reflecting on Katrina, Ten Years Past

By Cade Campbell

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light…
Thomas Dorsey, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
George Young, “God Leads Us Along”

Not long aKatrinafter a powerful EF-4 tornado tore through our town on March 2, 2012, Pastor John Piper wrote an article on Desiring God’s blog reflecting on that event. It was titled “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God.” As I read Piper’s article, one particular sentence stuck out: “God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.” That sentence jumped off the screen at me because as I stood in the wrecked rubble surrounding me in Henryville, I already knew from my own encounters with God’s grace, goodness, and sovereignty that it was true.

In August 2005 I was dividing my time between the small town of Monticello in south Mississippi, where I was serving as a youth pastor, and New Orleans, Louisiana, where I had moved part-time with some friends to attend graduate school at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. My weekdays were spent in New Orleans and my weekends were spent in Monticello. In late August 2005 I had just started the semester. I attended one week of classes. Then I drove back to Monticello for the weekend, never dreaming that I wouldn’t be coming back. I had watched the news. I knew a powerful storm had just entered the Gulf of Mexico, but as one of many who have grown up in that region just north of the Gulf, I’d seen storms come and go all my life. I wasn’t expecting very much. It wasn’t until the weekend that I began to see just how bad it could be.

On Saturday (August 27) one of my best friends and fellow seminary student, Jacob Helsley, left New Orleans and stopped over in Monticello to spend the night at my apartment. We got up Sunday (August 28) before church and watched the news. The satellite images showed the monster storm inching closer to land. “I’ve got to get back home to South Carolina,” Jacob said. “And I’m going to try and get further north after today,” I replied. We went and worshiped through the Sunday services. Jacob left that afternoon heading back to his home in Columbia, and after the evening service at my church I got in my car and joined the line of traffic creeping northward, evacuating ahead of the hurricane, inching toward Vicksburg, Mississippi where my parents live. A drive back to their home should have taken me less than an hour and a half. That Sunday night it took me nearly four hours. I made it to my parents’ home around midnight. Katrina hit just a few hours later, making landfall in the early Monday morning hours of August 29.

I rode out Katrina in Vicksburg. We spent that Monday in relative safety, watching the endless rain and wind outside. We lost power sometime that morning, and wouldn’t get it back for several days. We dealt with gas shortages and the sporadic robberies and looting that happened in the wake of the storm. But all in all, we were never in any real danger. My apartment in Monticello took more of a hit. We didn’t get power back there for quite some time, and just about everyone in that area further south of Vicksburg had a much harder time of it. When I finally was able to get back (and even able to drive further south toward the Mississippi gulf coast), the damage and devastation was beyond imagining. Those who hadn’t (or hadn’t been able to) ride the storm out on its edges like I did had suffered and lost and experienced far more.

That included my wife Amy. I didn’t know her yet. We met two years later, but in August of 2005 she was just starting a new semester in Hattiesburg where she was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her parents had encouraged her to come home, to get to Natchez before Katrina hit. But like a lot of college students she decided to stay with her friends. Like me, she never dreamed it would really be as bad as it was. On Monday morning she woke up to the sound of rainfall, and things got progressively worse. She spent a frightened day and night huddled in a friend’s house in the dark, hearing the wind and rain sweeping outside, and watching trees fall dangerously close to where they were standing. Katrina was still a category 1 hurricane when it passed Hattiesburg, and Amy will never forget literally riding it out. Amy’s older brother Chris was able to get to her the next morning and they made their way back to Natchez.

That’s our story of living through Katrina, and it’s hard to believe that it’s really been ten years. It’s sometimes equally hard to believe how much God used the events of those few days to move us where and make us who he wanted. That’s because for both Amy and I the hours spent living through that storm have come to be seen as a watershed moment in both our lives. Katrina, from first to last, was a hurricane in the hand of Christ.

The aftermath of Katrina led me in the months following to a major move. I ended up walking away (for a while) from my plans for seminary. I was offered a position and came on staff at a school in Vicksburg and began teaching full-time. Two years passed, then one evening I attended a revival service at my grandparents’ church, East Fork Baptist. A second cousin whom I rarely saw asked me what I was doing since Katrina. I told her my story, and told her I was living back home and teaching high school. She responded by saying, “If you’re not seeing anyone, you should really meet a girl that lives just down the road from me in Natchez. She just graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s a teacher too.” And so I was introduced to Amy.

While teaching high school I had the opportunity to supply-preach a good bit all over south Mississippi and Louisiana. One afternoon I was called to serve a church just south of Vicksburg on a temporary basis as an interim, preaching on Sunday mornings. Their pastor had been in a horrible accident, was on life-support in Jackson, and if he lived his recovery and rehabilitation was going to take some time. So I began serving the church. Their pastor lived, and we met and became fast friends. His name is Toby Jenkins. A little later (about the time Amy and I were getting married) he and his family moved north to go back to school. Not long after that he was called as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. Our paths would cross again, leading ultimately to Amy and I moving to Henryville when I came on staff as a pastor there in 2010. We had quit our jobs and moved north to finally restart my seminary education that had been paused five years earlier. I didn’t go back to New Orleans. The winds blew me north along Katrina’s path. I began serving as a pastor alongside Toby and picking up where I left off in seminary at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

All of these threads, these interconnected storylines began to be sewn together in the months and years after Katrina, and in many ways they are not merely events that occurred after Katrina. In a very real sense, like a series of dominoes or railroad tracks that shift to redirect trains in different directions, they all happened as a result of the changes that occurred because of Katrina. Now, don’t get me wrong: That storm was about far more than me and my little life. My story is just one small story in the storm’s wake. There are millions of other things that were all happening as a part of God’s sovereign plan for that storm. We might change Piper’s sentence ever so slightly to read “God is always doing an untold number of things, when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.” God’s plan to lead and orchestrate my life through the storms of life, including a real storm called Katrina (and more recently an EF-4 tornado in Henryville) is just one of the billions and billions of things God has always been doing in his eternal and meticulous and sovereign plan…for his glory and my good.

And so over the next few days I’ll be thinking about those days ten years ago. I’ll watch the anniversary specials on television. I may pick up Doug Brinkley’s book The Great Deluge that tells the history of the storm and its aftermath. Amy and I will remember together what happened in those hours when we were apart. But in a far more specific way, my marking of Katrina’s anniversary will be a celebration not of a storm but of a Savior. It will be a remembrance of the ways and means God used to bring me where I am today. Katrina is one of the many Ebenezers that has been set up as a marker of God’s victorious grace in and over my life, a grace that is marked infinitely more by the blood of Christ than by the flood of a hurricane. As I look back on these last ten years, I don’t hear the sound of wind, rain, or thunder. I hear the soft singing of another song: “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me home…”


Cade Campbell, a native of Mississippi, is Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCadeCampbell.