Last Sunday I listened to a sermon from a pastor who shouldn’t have been alive. I sat in the pew in fervent attention as Nelson Chapman, pastor at Songtan Central Baptist Church, South Korea, described the events that took place only two months prior. At the end of his personal story, Pastor Chapman told the congregation that he wonders why God saved his life. “Why did you spare me Lord and what do you have for me to do with the time I still have on this earth?”
I don’t know the answer to that question any more than Pastor Chapman does, but I can tell you this. Had he not survived I would not have heard his message that day, and would not be writing about it now, hoping that you would read it.
It was two months ago when the chest pains began, right in the middle of a sermon. The drive to the nearest hospital was a long one, as American heath care is only accepted in a few hospitals within this region. Mrs. Chapman drove while Pastor analyzed his pain from the passenger seat.
He wasn’t entirely convinced that this chest pain was a possible heart attack. In fact, his focus was more on his hunger pains than those which spoke of impending death. Pastor Chapman recalled that there was McDonald’s just up head, along the way to the hospital, and asked his wife to stop for a Big Mac. Apparently his wife shot him a look that meant, “I love you, but I officially think you’re off your rocker,” to which Pastor Chapman responded, “How about just a plain hamburger?”
Mrs. Chapman never stopped for fast food; she drove straight to the emergency room, and thank goodness she did, because that day she saved her husband’s life. While Pastor Chapman’s stomach was begging for McDonald’s, his heart was starving for blood, and without the emergency surgery that occurred the moment he was admitted to the emergency room, he probably would have died.
After surgery, Pastor Chapman’s doctor advised him to revamp his diet altogether: out with the Big Macs and in with the salads. I listened as he chuckled from the pulpit. “Do you think that cardiologist had to pull my arm to get me to (change my diet)? Ab. So. Lutely not. I was very motivated because I’d just gotten a slap in the face – a wake up call – to how I was living. I’m in my 40’s living like I’m still 25.”
A decision for a change in lifestyle is easy to make when faced with certain death. However, people will not seek a cure until they know they are ill.
It took decades, but Pastor Chapman’s poor diet finally caught up with him. In that hospital bed he made the decision to turn in a different direction: away from unhealthy meals and towards those that would nourish his physical body.
In the same way, Pastor Chapman preached to the congregation, repentance of our sins turns a Christian away from the unbridled path of the flesh and instead, leads us in the direction of God’s will.
The disciple Peter is a wonderful example of human sin, repentance and the rewards thereof. At Pentecost, Peter, the man who only 50 days earlier had disowned Jesus and in effect, sent Him to His crucifixion, stood up, raised his voice and spoke to a crowd saying:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. Acts 2:38-39
Make no mistake, my friend, we are ill. The sins you and I have committed condemn us not to a hospital bed, but to an eternal disease, a dark path headed in the opposite direction of God’s will. Without repentance there is no turning away, there is no healing, there is no peace. The remedy for human sin is God’s amazing grace — a complete cure available to all.
Pastor Chapman leads worship services at Songtan Central Baptist Church. You can listen to the entire sermon referenced in this post at the following link: http://www.songtanbaptist.com/2014/11/16/but-peter-lifted-up-his-voice/