February 2, 2017
Volume 21, Number 5
“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” is a line written by Samuel Clemens (AKA Mark Twain) in May of 1897. Clemens was traveling abroad, and reports had been published of his “grave illness”, eventually leading to his reported death. A reporter had written to inquire about his condition; Clemens responded with his now-famous line, surely one of the greatest examples of understatement.
It seems there is a modern counterpart of this story, except this contemporary report was begun by the one who had supposedly died. Yesterday 63-year-old Jose Lantigua was sentenced in Jacksonville, Florida to 14 years in prison for bank fraud, identity theft, and other charges.
Lantigua, who had owned a furniture business, told friends he had contracted mad cow disease and was traveling to Venezuela for treatments. In fact, he went there to obtain a fake death certificate. Recently he was arrested in North Carolina when he applied for a passport in another man’s name.
There is, of course, no law against dying. But when reports of death are exaggerated, someone needs to be held responsible.
In Romans 6 the apostle Paul was responding to people who should have died, but apparently had not. He first notes the problem: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) There were some who believed they could continue committing sin because God’s grace would “abound” for their need. They would simply call on God to “bail them out of jail”.
Paul’s response was to the point: “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2) He goes on to note that they had even buried their old person in the act of baptism (Romans 6:3,4). Had that dead person somehow come back to life? Or had they never actually died to sin?
In Colossians 2:11,12 Paul noted how these Christians had died “by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh”, and were then “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” He then appealed to them to follow through with their claim to have died: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth …” (Colossians 3:5).
The state of Florida did not look favorably on Mr. Lantigua for faking his death in order to claim benefits. Do we suppose God will react differently if we fake our death to sin in order to be called a follower of His Son? Have we exaggerated the claim of our death?
Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.
Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version (Copyright, 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.).
“LightGrams” is produced by the Central Church of Christ, 2722 Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37601, and is written by Tim Hall, minister. It is sent free of charge every Thursday to all who request it. To subscribe or to receive more information, write to “Tim@GraceMine.org” (our E-mail address), to the U.S. mail address above, or call (423) 282-1571.
Permission to reproduce and/or use the messages for noncommercial purposes is freely granted provided the messages are not altered.