Many younger members of the Churches of God Pod may not have known Dr. Ernest Martin or Bill McDowell. Those who did may have had mixed feelings about them during their lifetimes. Both are now gone. They have finished their life cycles and their legacies are forever what they are. For them it’s over.
For us, life goes on – at least for the moment. We are all on a conveyor belt that can only convey us to one place. Sooner or later, we will all join Bill and Ernest in death. As we read in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die…”
Then what? “…but after this, the judgment.”
Judgment awaits all of us. “…we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ”(Romans 14:10). At that time, “…each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
When the Lord takes into account the lives of Ernest and Bill, I hope he will consider the ways in which they have blessed others. Ernest had the courage to tell the truth about tithing, the identity of “Israel,” and other subjects while others cringed from doing so. Though I did not agree with all of his theology, I do believe he was sincere in his motives. He genuinely sought understanding. He was willing to be a maverick, a loner and a pioneer. He loved history and he mined it for all the nuggets he could extract. He was passionate about his studies. Only time will tell whether he was right about the “Star of Bethlehem,” or the location of the 2nd Temple. At least he was willing to explore. He sought to be an original thinker and to break new ground. He was willing to think outside of the box. I admire such people.
Bill McDowell gave the best sermon I have ever heard. Nothing I’ve heard since has surpassed it. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles in Squaw Valley back in the 60’s. The sermon was about the sacrifice of Christ. Bill showed that Psalms 22& 23 were the actual pre-recorded words and thoughts of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross (or stake). He used Andrew Jukes’ book The Law of the Offerings to show how Jesus’ own personality reflected the characteristics of the five types of offerings used in the Temple services. It was a powerful sermon, perfectly delivered. There wasn’t a dry eye in the Blythe Arena after that sermon. I’ll never forget it. May the Lamb himself remember it when he takes into account Bill’s life and legacy. That sermon helped me appreciate my Savior as never before. Bill created for me a spiritual touchstone to which I often return.
Both Bill and Ernest leave behind a void that no one else can fill. They were unique. Their contributions were unique. Now they’re gone. Hopefully, we will see them again at the resurrection of the saints. May those they leave behind be comforted as they grieve over their loss.
It is clear that a generation is passing. Many of my slightly older contemporaries have already exited stage left. The rest of us are here for whatever brief time the grace of God allows. It behooves us to walk softly. It is time to think about the legacy we will leave behind. Are our lives filled with good works – works of love, compassion and caring? Are we seeking to pass our best understanding of truth on to the next generation? Are we actively spreading the Word of God among those with whom we have influence? Are we seeking to build each other up in the faith? Are we honest enough to pursue truth wherever it leads? These are the important things in a true Christian’s life.
Paul wrote, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself…” (Romans 15:1-3, excerpts, NIV).
Bill and Ernest are now resting in their graves awaiting a resurrection. We’ve still got work to do. So long as we are alive, let us “live to the Lord.” As Paul put it, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8).
The sacrifice of Christ about which Bill McDowell so eloquently preached more than 30 years ago, paid the price for each one of us. It paid for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay for them. It also purchased us for the Lord: “…you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:20).
None of us knows how long the Lord will allow us to live. For each of us, the night will come when we can no longer work the works of God. Before it does, lets make the most of whatever time we have left.