Jump Start # 3372
Matthew 18:3 “and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.’”
I was preaching in another congregation recently. At the end of the sermon, I told the story about Jimi, the powerful example of a man on death row who read the Bible on his own and wanted to become a N.T. Christian. Jump Start #3348 tells Jimi’s story.
We sang an invitation song after I told Jimi’s story. It was a hymn I had never sung before. It’s called, “Praise the Lord, I’m coming home.” The ending chorus says, “…with each day I get closer to Heaven; praise the Lord, I’m coming home.” Tears were running down my cheeks. I was thinking about Jimi. The next morning, I wrote Jimi and told him about that church service and I referred to those powerful words in that chorus. My letter to him ended with “Praise the Lord, I’m coming home.”
Today, Jimi is to be executed. Forgiven by the grace of God, Jimi will sings hymns with the Heavenly Host. My heart is heavy thinking about Jimi. He wrote a letter that he wanted me to read to our congregation, thanking them for thinking about him. He was amazed how far and wide and touching his story became. He said that he looked forward to standing before us and thanking us in person. He wasn’t thinking about getting out of prison. It wasn’t a dream to come to Indiana and stand before our congregation. He was thinking about Heaven. He was anticipating thanking us when we see each other in Heaven.
Now, some thoughts:
First, the love and faith and courage found in Jimi is so fresh and impressive. There are so many things that Jimi doesn’t know or understand. He hasn’t sat in Bible classes for decades as many of us have. He has never heard a sermon before. He never sang with other Christians. He never took the Lord’s Supper. Locked away in solitary awaiting his execution, Jimi prayed and read his Bible. His faith is like a child’s. His heart is as big as the universe.
Sometimes we get down into the weeds and argue about the meaning of words and the applications of passages, and that simplistic, child-like faith, found in Jimi and longed for by the Lord, is often missing among us. The “lawyers” that often tested and challenged Jesus, were not the kind found in courtrooms. They were “experts” in the law of God. They knew the law and they knew meanings of words. Some of the modern commentaries are written that way. This word comes from that word which means this and is a form of that. And, after about three paragraphs of that stuff, one is so confused that he is none the better before reading those pages. A simple, trusting heart that may not know where the root words come from or how it is connected here and there, but simply believes in Jesus, like Jimi, catches the eyes of God. In lowering our nets so deep into Scriptures, I wonder if we have forgotten the qualities of a child-like faith. A child will ask, “Why is the sky blue?” You answer, “God made it that way.” And, before you can say anything about light rays and reflection and atmosphere, the child has gone on his merry way. He doesn’t understand or even care about light rays. God made the sky blue. Cool. That’s all he needed to know.
Second, how many among us have a gold mine of Bible classes, blogs, podcasts, sermons and so many resources that we let slide by because we are “too busy.” Too busy may well be our curse. Too busy to learn, when Jimi would love to have what you have. Too busy to connect, when Jimi would love to have a fellowship of believers. Too busy to attend. Too busy to pray. Too busy is just too busy. Jimi’s situation is very unique. Even when Paul was in prison, he had fellowship and worshiped with the people of God. Not Jimi. His conversion came while behind bars. Except for a few Bible studies once a week and some Jump Starts that I mailed to him, he was alone. No one to encourage him. No one to ask questions to. But, with that wonderful faith, he longed to see the Lord.
Third, I think of all the fussin’, gossipy ways that some spend their days engaged in, while a man sitting in prison is thinking about going to Heaven. It’s shameful the way some act these days. Give me a dozen Jimi’s. Innocent. Naïve. Pure. Trusting. Just wanting to go to Heaven.
Today, Jimi dies.
Praise the Lord, I’m coming home.