The Branding

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One afternoon last month I visited a ninety-one year old man in the nursing home.  In the aftermath of many reversals in his lifetime, he lay there, fully conscious and quite able of mind, albeit very hard of hearing. I knew that this now frail body had experienced life at its hardest. The son of a sharecropper, he had learned the value of material things early on. He had experienced emotional loss when his young bride became unfaithful to him and their marriage ended in divorce. I also knew that in this difficult time in his life, he had walked away from the Lord. I knew that a faithful church of God’s people had withdrawn fellowship from him according to the instruction given in First Corinthians five. I knew this man had never been reconciled to this faithful church and I knew that the day when he meets His maker cannot be too many days away. So, in tones that I’m sure all of the staff could hear, I talked with him about his soul. I told him how very simple it would be to make his life right with his family in Christ and with His God. I volunteered to write a note for him and take it to the elders of this church and ask for the forgiveness of the church and for their prayers for him as he prepares to leave this world. Absolutely nothing but his own pride could stand in his way of being certain of His eternity with God.
But his reaction was one of willful stubbornness.  He made me know in no uncertain terms that he was neither humbled nor penitent. I’m confident he will go to his grave having sealed his own doom. He let the reversals of life make him a very bitter person.
The following afternoon, my husband and I visited an eighty-six year old sister in another nursing home. She, too, was widowed several years ago. She has lost her sight. She has no children and only one brother. She had to forfeit all of her familiar surroundings and finally acquiesce to life in one tiny little room in the lonely hall of that home.  She doesn’t make the trek down the hall anymore to the dining room because of her inability to see the food on her plate and because of the tremor in her hands.  She eats quietly in her room, so that she won’t embarrass herself as she clumsily struggles to get the food from her plate to her mouth.  Only a few Sundays before our visit, this sister had made her way down the aisle of the church auditorium. One of our elders’ wives hurried to help her to the front pew. She confessed to the church that sometimes she had allowed her disabilities to keep her from faithful worship. She asked for forgiveness and prayers. Now, in spite of blindness and shaking and having to rearrange meals that she misses in the home, she climbs on that church van every Lord’s Day and faithfully offers her best to the Lord.  Her smile was huge and her eyes still twinkled as she told us how very happy and blessed she is.  She grabbed our hands with fervor as we prayed with her. She made us happy and blessed, too.
How can two children of the same loving Father end their lives so differently?  What is the hardening agent that can cause a man to turn deaf ears on the pleas of those who love him to make things right before death?  What is the tenderizer that opens blind eyes to the beauty of God’s grace even in the darkest hours of life?  Both of my friends are shortly to meet the Lord. In piercing tones my deaf friend will hear the words “Depart from me, you who work iniquity.” My blind friend will see His face with clarity as He ushers her into bliss.

First Timothy 4:2 tells us it is possible for people to have their consciences seared as with a hot iron; a branding iron. When a cow gets the owners brand burned into his hide, he can no longer feel the prick of pain in the branded spot. It is a terrible thing to become so hardened to sin that we no longer feel the prick of the conscience pain that we once felt when we disobeyed. Have you ever thought about how God is going to restore conscience for those who’ve been seared on the last day? It will be a dramatic restoration when they, like the rich man in Luke 16 begin to remember and wish and plead for the chance to go back and undo some things done while they were still on the planet.  I believe the deaf man will hear. He will hear his conscience and long to escape the weeping of his then tenderized heart, but it will be too late.

Are you branded in the worst spot of all…your conscience?  Is there any hope of reversal for you before the last day? What a blessing for the branded that we are still on time’s side of eternity.
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