What is the age of accountability? If someone was to ask me at what age I felt I was able to start making knowledgeable decisions and really understand what I was doing, I would say about age 23 – 25. Not to say I did not know the difference between right and wrong before then but rather there was still a lot of foolishness in my heart that hindered me from making responsible decisions (i.e. assessments which weighed out the consequences for my actions). Our nation marks the age of 18 as being when a child becomes an adult and can then be held accountable by a court of law for his or her actions. But the Old Testament sights the age of 20:
Deuteronomy 1:39: Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. (Emphasis added.)
Numbers 14:29-31: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. (Emphasis added.)
Numbers 1:45-46: So all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel – all who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty. (Emphasis added.)
Numbers 26:64: But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest when they numbered the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai.
Joshua 5:6: For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord – to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us a land flowing with milk and honey. (Emphasis added.)
This of course, as I mentioned before is all in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we are reminded that Jesus died for our sins and we are shown (as my dear sister in Christ, Wendy, pointed out in her blog yesterday) the thief who repented while on the cross next to Jesus and was forgiven.
Luke 23:39-43: Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed [Jesus], saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Emphasis added.)
This gives me great hope for my loved ones (and strangers alike) who are not currently followers of Christ. This past Tuesday, May 26, 2009, marked the three year anniversary of my precious cousin’s death. Amber Lynn was murdered (at the age of 19) at her grandparents’ house while hosting a get together with some of her friends. At first my heart cried out in great anguish, upon hearing the news, knowing my beloved cousin was not a follower of Christ at the time of her death…or so I believe. Admittedly, I did not know her heart, only her actions and words. (Yet, there was no evidence of grace and a new heart.) I have mourned her death deeply over the course of the past three years and have hoped beyond hope that her heart was changed, that she heard Christ’s voice in her heart, felt faith, repented, and received grace even if it was right then and there as she lay slowly dying, alone. (There was a bit of confusion & her friends were not with her as her life faded. Perhaps they did not realize the severity of her condition.) The tears sting my eyes as I am hopeful beyond all words the Holy Spirit was with her, convicting her, moving her, warming her like a blanket as her frail, crushed body slowly grew colder. My heart meditates with a desperation regarding my cousin’s soul as I compare the stark contrast of the dark ugliness of her horrific death against the bright, beauty of God’s mercy and grace. I cling to Luke 23:39-43 and the possibility that my dearly loved cousin could have been like the thief if overcome by the Holy Spirit and called out (even at the very last moment), “Lord, remember me!” But sadly, I will not know until the day comes when I leave this world.
Perhaps these are the selfish notions of a foolish girl (me). I cannot even look at a picture of Amber without shedding tears of immeasurable love (with a hint of regret and remorse). The last time we spent time together seems like just yesterday. The final words that were spoken between us over the phone still echo in my head as, I figure, is typical of the fleshly response to losing a loved one. But I am not angry. I do blame God or anyone else (really) for that matter. I only feel hope! An indescribable overflow from my heart that she, like the thief, was saved.
My darling cousin’s death was also an invaluable, immeasurable lesson to me to continue preaching Christ no matter what! I feel Charles Spurgeon said it memorably:
[T]o hope ever to bring sinners to holiness and heaven by any teaching but that which begins and ends in Jesus Christ is a sheer delusion. None other name is given among men whereby they can be saved. If you have to deal with highly learned and educated people, nothing is so good for them as preaching Jesus Christ; and if the people be ignorant and degraded, nothing is better for them than the preaching of Jesus.
A young man said to another the other day, "I am going down to preach at So-and-so, what sort of people are they there? What kind of doctrine will suit them?" Having heard of the question, I gave this advice,?"You preach Jesus Christ, and that will suit them, I am sure, if they are learned people it will suit them; if they are ignorant it will suit them?God blessing it."
When the great Biblical critic, Bengel, was dying, he sent for a young theological student, to whom he said, "I am low in spirit; say something good to cheer me." "My dear Sir," said the student, "I am so insignificant a person, what can I say to a great man like yourself?" "But if you are a student of theology," said Bengel, "you ought to have a good word to say to a dying man; pray say it without fear." "Well, Sir," said he, "What can I say to you, but that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin?" Bengel said, "Give me your hand, young man; that is the very word I wanted."
A simple gospel text is the word which every man needs who is in fear of divine wrath, and he may be sitting next to you at this moment, or he is in the same house of business with you, and needs that you should tell him about Christ. Do that, and bless his soul. May you all understand the Scriptures in this way, and may God make you a great blessing to those around you.