August 14, 2015

You Can Change

Last month, I had a conversation with someone on Facebook about Josh Duggar. Josh is the son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting."  It was reported back in May that Josh molested five girls (four of which were his sisters) when he was fourteen.

After news of Josh's past broke, the dialogue on Facebook centered primarily around the actions the parents took after Josh confessed to them what he had done. An article published by the LA Times reported that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made Josh confess what he had done to the local authorities, sent him away to a center that mentored young men who had made "unwise choices," and forced the boy to pay for his own counseling while all those affected also participated in counseling. After all that was revealed, many argued that the parents should have had Josh punished to the fullest extent of the law, ensuring time in a juvenile dentition center, while still others defended the Duggars, saying they did everything they should have done given the details of the situation.

I am not writing this blog post today to compose an argument for either side of that debate.  Rather, I felt the need to write because of something that was said to me while I was discussing this topic online.

I got involved in a chat about Josh when my interest was piqued over the subject of whether or not Josh Duggar, now twenty-seven, could be a changed man.  An in-law of Josh's is quoted as saying, "Josh found forgiveness and cleansing in Jesus Christ."  In fact, it seems that everyone who knows Josh personally has testified to him being a totally different individual deserving of mercy and not condemnation. So when I asked someone online if they thought Josh could truly be a new person, the reply I was given greatly disturbed me:

"Honestly, and I know this is terrible, I believe in redemption for anyone but those who commit sex crimes because there's proof that they cannot be rehabilitated."

I was floored. I was saddened. How could she limit God's redemptive scope? How could she so confidently label someone as a "lost cause?"  

In a way, I do understand where this individual was coming from.  Popular belief is that crimes such as molestation have a high rate of recidivism, so there is where the caution lies. However, Josh's story made me think about someone in the bible that was also doubted to be a changed man - even by Jesus' disciples, themselves!  I'm talking about the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul.  

The reservations surrounding Saul's conversion were, like Josh's, understandable.  The website Bible Path describes Saul's background:

"Saul did everything he could to try and stop the growth of Christianity.  In fact, when Stephen (the first recorded Christian martyr in the New Testament) was killed, Saul was there (watching the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephen.)
On the day Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the Christian Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  At that time, Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off Christian men and women and put them in prison.  Eventually, he obtained letters from the Jewish religious leaders to Jews in Damascus, and he went there to bring the Christians (known as followers of 'The Way' at that time) back to Jerusalem to be punished."

And yet, Bible Path also reports that after his conversion, "Saul's great abilities and earnest enthusiasm in spreading the gospel of Christ have made his name revered wherever the Christian religion is known.  It is his writings which make up much of the New Testament of the Bible."

How is it possible that someone could be so drastically changed?  I only have one word for you, folks: Jesus.

I believe Jesus can transform anyone! If you are willing, He can take you and change you to such an extent that you'll need a new name by which to identify yourself (much like Saul did).  

My God can redeem the vilest of sinners and turn them into the most treasured among saints!

So, do I believe that Josh Duggar could be a changed man? Yes. I believe it is possible. I believe all things are possible with God.  (Matthew 19:6)

Do you want to be released from sexual immorality? Jesus can do that in you!  
Do you want to overcome the alcoholism that seems to be ripping you apart? Our Lord can help!
Do you want to conquer homosexual desires in your life? God wants to show you how!

No matter what it is, I firmly believe Jesus can heal and restore and redeem everyone. He can because He's God - it would be illogical to think otherwise.

Besides, He can do this because He already did it, on the cross. All you have to do is accept it (see steps to peace with God). Accept His message.  Accept His word.  Accept Jesus.


Today's forget-me-not: You can find true freedom in Christ!

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