Summary: Charlie was an Army man who gave his life to Christ. He was also "a Character" - a little eccentric, and offbeat. Find out why he made it to heaven.
One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ephesians. Paul wrote it as a letter to the church at Ephesus and the first chapter focused on how important that group of Christians was to God. But then, when you get to what we call Chapter 2, Paul gives them a reality check.
(God tells us that once) “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
OPEN: As I was talking to the funeral director, she noted that Charlie was the most common visitor at funerals over the years (he knew so many people from being a barber in town). When asked why he was so committed to attending these funerals, he replied “Well, if you don’t go theirs, they’ll not come to yours.”
When I was first introduced to Charlie and Sandy, I was impressed by how much they’d done for this church.
For example, Sandy (his widow) has always an encourager. You could always count on her sending letters of encouragement, or calls to check on folks.
For Charlie – he had taught Sunday School, taken communion to the shut-ins and he (and Sandy) bought half the books we have in our church library. And then there were the carry-ins where everyone looked forward to the ham he’d bring and prepare at church. There was rarely any of it left afterward.
But that actually wasn’t the first thing I learned about Charlie. When I first came to Logansport, I was told there was one thing I wasn’t allowed to do at Sunday Night Worship. The Elders said I couldn’t have a hobby night (frankly, that had never crossed my mind). When I asked why that would be a problem, the Elders replied that at the last hobby night Charlie had brought his AK47… and it was loaded.
OPEN: When I was a boy, they had a name for men like Charlie. They called them “characters.” A Character was someone who was a little eccentric, offbeat, unique. That was Charlie. Just as an example of how “unique” Charlie was, he’d often brag of his time in the army he knew ALL the rules and regulations. He knew the book by memory. Then, when a sergeant or colonel or authority figure violated those rules, Charlie took great pleasure in making sure they knew what the rules said. And he would NOT back down in the face of ranking officers.
Charlie was a character, and he was loved by many for that very reason. At this point, I’d like to open the floor to those who’d like to share some memories. OPEN FOR SHARING
A little bit ago I told you about much of what Charlie did for the church. And in the memories you’ve shared, its obvious you thought he was a great guy. There are those who might say “if anyone deserved to go to heaven, it would be Charlie. I mean… it’s kind of like being in the Army - as long you knew and kept all the rules and regs you were OK. And that’s how some folk view getting into heaven: If you keep all the rules, live a decent life, and don’t sin too much you could earn your way into heaven.
In fact, that’s what just about every world religion teaches… its called KARMA. Karma is the belief that if you do enough good in your life… it will outweigh the bad, and you’ll earn heaven, or Nirvana, or whatever. The idea is that once you’ve done enough good in your life you are guaranteed the right to get to heaven. Your own personal self-righteousness gets you in the gate… and God couldn’t keep you out if He wanted to.
The only problem is… that’s not true. The Bible repeatedly drives home the fact that you and I could never ever be good enough to be good enough. Romans says we’ve ALL sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We weren’t just “characters” in God’s eyes… we were damaged goods. We were so damaged that we couldn’t do enough good to fix it. And that’s the bad news!
The good news is what we read in Ephesians “… because of the great love with which God loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ it’s by grace you have been saved.” What that passage says is that God loves good works, but they won’t save you. Only Jesus can do that.