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Cancer and the Joy of Total Depravity

Jerry Sisto

How can the doctrine of being spiritually dead lead to joy? Our first friend, Mr. Arminius, hears that Jesus loves him and has a wonderful plan for his life. He will be happier, have new friends, better health, and more, more, more of everything. Please come to Jesus. Give him your life. He will take care of you. Make the decision, raise the hand, walk the aisle, say the prayer. That's all it takes. Please come, and you will make God happy.

He then comes to Christ with the attitude that he and Jesus partner up to save him and deep in his heart he takes pride in the fact that he was indeed smart enough to come. Twenty years later he gets cancer. As he sits in the hospital suffering with the poison of chemotherapy, wondering if he will live or die, he may begin to think, "Why is God doing this to me?! Where is Jesus? This is not fair. I teach Sunday school, I am a deacon, I tithe! If Jesus loves me, why is this happening?" He is told that he must have done something wrong or he doesn't have enough faith.

Our second friend, Mr. Calvin, hears and understands that he is totally dead in trespasses and sin, under the wrath of God, unable to come to Christ without the mercy and power of God to save him. He comes to Christ. As he reads his Bible and hears sound teaching, he understands that Jesus promises eternal life in heaven and resurrection on the last day and that in this world he will have tribulation and that it is appointed unto man once to die. He reads how sickness and death come to even the saints of Scripture. Twenty years later he is sitting in the same hospital having some of the same thoughts as Mr. Arminius, but he now recalls the fact that God caused him to be born again, that God resurrected his totally dead soul. He understands that death is necessary for the full promise of salvation to be complete. He even begins to thank God that soon he can rid himself of this body of flesh that continually commits the sin that his new heart hates. How can he be angry with the God who gave him new life? How can he fear death when he knows he was once really dead and now he is truly alive? Mr. Arminius is angry because he was promised joy in this world and feels that he has been let down. Mr. Calvin knows that all the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ in eternity.

Jerry Sisto is a cancer survivor and serves as an elder at Calvary OPC in Ringoes, New Jersey.

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