Let me introduce myself. My name is Elon Todd Wood. I cherish my first name, Elon. It is a name that can be traced all the way back to the 1700s among the men in our family genealogy. Also, Elon is a biblical name, where the Semitic roots provide the Hebrew meaning of oaks. Hence, Isaiah 61:3 has become the theme verse for my immediate family. We are “growing oaks” planted by the waters for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
I was born on December 13th, 1969 in the old LDS hospital that at one time existed along the Snake River in Idaho Falls. At an early age, I came to realize that the Bible is a book read and referenced by many in this city.
In this divinely, inspired book, on the very first page, I discovered God the Creator. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” I realized that from where I stood, everything below me owed its existence to God. And everything above me, as far as the eye could see, and beyond, stretching into the galaxies and even spiritual dimensions, owed its existence to God. God is the Creator of all – both matter and life on this earth and in heaven. It is amazing how God can create things and life into existence by His spoken Word alone. Therefore, being the sovereign Creator, we the creatures must be subject to His perfect and beautiful will.
Yet things went terribly awry. Satan tempted the first man and first woman in Paradise. They sinned. They wickedly broke the law of God. They sadly doubted His love by not trusting. They rebelliously succumbed to unbelief. Explained simply, it was a horrendous fall downward for the human race. A curse fell upon Adam and Eve and all of the rest of earthly creation. The just God needed to judge. Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise. Thorns and thistles sprang up everywhere. Men groaned in their work. Women experienced sharp pain. And because of sin, death entered the world. And since the first man’s sin, every man sinned thereafter, continually falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). All men and women stand guilty and condemned before a Holy God. They are rightfully deserving of an eternal hell because of their abominations committed in front of the eternal God, the pure One who cannot even look upon sin.
Questions arise. Is there any hope for soiled humans, ruined by the fall? How can a guilty man be justified? Can Paradise be regained?
Let me discuss with you the good news, the great Evangel, the gospel. Growing up in Idaho Falls, I lived a good life. I sought to obey my parents. I externalized in an excellent way – religious activity. I first read through the entirety of the King James Version of the Bible when I was in 6th grade. Gift Bibles were given to me in elementary school for my memorization of many verses. I distributed tracts. From the time that I can earliest remember, I went to Sunday School, morning Sunday services, and evening Sunday services. I went to children’s and youth clubs on Wednesday evenings. I received public acknowledgement in both junior high and early high school for displaying outstanding Christian leadership on the west side of town.
But let me share with you a truth that is sometimes not communicated very clearly in this community. It was not my very intense and personal, Christian moralism that justified me before God. It is extremely attractive and gratifying in such a community as ours, I would not debate that. Many people enjoyed and complimented me on my Christian lifestyle lived outwardly before others. But during my senior year and the summer that followed, I struggled. I struggled so badly with inner emotions, that I wished for death. I had no inner peace. No joy. I was not resting in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible states that before the foundation of the world, God made me one of His elect. But how could He? I didn’t feel like I measured up. I struggled with inward doubts and selfish desires. I constantly battled pride in this sense – wallowing in a focus on my own inadequacies and then marshalling a renewed offensive plan of personal discipline to counteract. Was this gospel Christianity? I was growing weary. I easily empathized with the words of a brother, Milton Vincent: “I would never have acknowledged this to be the case at the time, but I labored for most of my life to maintain my justified status before God, and I was always left frustrated in my attempts to do so.”
The Word of God in the book of Romans literally changed my life, ending my gospel fears and frustrations. The Holy Spirit of God convicted me and set me free with this truth. It is not my personal faith that is my savior. It is the object of my faith – the Lord Jesus Christ, the great and glorious Hero of my human faith. Faith is not the end. Faith was just the tool or the human instrument to lay a hold of my glorious Redeemer.
Jesus saw me. He really saw what was behind all my outward Christian moralism. He saw the real me, standing on the slavery block, chained to my sins and with no hope for escape. He paid my enormous ransom (which I could not pay in order to obtain freedom) by shedding his precious blood on the cruel cross. He took on my sin – past, present, and future. In a propitiatory act, He absorbed the full wrath of God’s judgment through efficacious, vicarious atonement. He died for me – in my place. In exchange for the robes of my sin, Jesus placed upon me the perfect robes of His righteousness. And all this is sure, because after He died, burying all my sin, He rose again! And I, who was once spiritually dead, am now alive.
Looking upon me now, God, the divine Judge, gives the verdict. I am without guilt. I am a new creature created in righteousness and holiness. I am eternally loved by the Father, and it is a love not based upon my religious performance in Idaho Falls. I want to be godly, not because I want to move up in my religious status before God, but because I love Him. I love Him because He first loved me. I am completely accepted by God, my Lord and King. I am eternally safe. I am eternally free. I am eternally loved. No one here on earth can condemn me. Nothing in heaven, or on earth, or in hell can shatter my spiritual and vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The best days of salvation are yet ahead. I have been freed from the penalty of sin. Daily, I am being freed from the power of sin. And soon, very soon, I will be completely freed from the presence of sin. The Bible does speak of so great a salvation!
Dear friends, concerning the Gospel principles in scripture, there is only one way, only one hope for you escaping the just wrath of heaven. Look in faith to the One who was lifted up on the cross for you. Turn from your sin in repentance. Turn to Jesus in trust. Be washed. Be made new by the Spirit.
And then as you have experienced the amazing grace of gospel salvation, be an ambassador of reconciliation in this community. We have so much good news to share!
It is all God. All grace. All glory. Paradise regained.