FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 21, number 41, October 13, 2022
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? -Jeremiah 17:9
In the winter of 1994 while I was the pastor of Golden Isles Presbyterian Church (PCA) at St. Simons Island, Georgia, I was talking to a visitor who attended our worship service that Sunday morning. He was on his way to Florida for a vacation. I asked him what kind of work he did and he said he worked for Christian Book Distributors. I said, “I know your company very well. I buy almost all my Puritan and Reformed books from you.” He then said, “Here’s something interesting. Just the other day Jeffrey Dahmer bought a Bible from us and we shipped it to the prison in Wisconsin where he is incarcerated. The word is that Dahmer has become a Christian.” I was amazed and thankful, praising the Lord for His free grace bestowed on such a well known wretched and vile sinner.
Dahmer’s name is very much in the news media these days because of a documentary of his life now on Netflix. I have not watched it nor do I plan on doing so, but Dahmer’s life is a vivid illustration both of the utter depravity of the human heart as well as the only remedy for the sinfulness of sin. Dahmer (1960-1994), an admitted homosexual at the time, was convicted in 1991 of sixteen counts of murder and dismemberment. Shortly after his imprisonment he asked for a Bible and over the next couple of years gave clear evidence of being born again. His father also was converted and they both became avid readers of creationist books from the Institute for Christian Research. Dahmer was baptized in 1994 and was discipled by the pastor who baptized him. He often asked the pastor if he was sinning against God by still being alive. He knew he would eventually be killed in prison and was ready to accept it when the time came. He said to Stone Phillips in an interview in 1994, “If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway.”
Never, never underestimate the deceitfulness of the human heart or the utter sinfulness of sin. In defining sin, the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith says:
Q. 24. What is Sin?
- Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
In other words, we are sinning against God anytime we do not conform to the commands of God in Scripture or whenever we violate those laws by our willful disobedience. This refers not only to original or indwelling sin but also the acts of sin we commit daily. The effects of sin are always with us now and forever unless an amazing work of grace takes place.
Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
- The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments, together with death itself.
In Dahmer’s case there was blindness of mind, strong delusions, hardness of heart, and vile affections of homosexuality, murder, dismemberment, and necrophilia, resulting in his own death when he was beaten to death with a sixteen inch iron bar.
I remind you that in your unregenerate state you are or you were capable of being another Jeffrey Dahmer or worse. The unregenerate heart is capable of evil beyond one’s imagination.
Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
- The punishments of sin in the world to come are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire forever.
Without question, Jeffrey Dahmer deserved the deepest hell that God could create, but he did not go there. Instead, when he died in prison his soul went immediately into the presence of Jesus, if in fact he was truly born again and there is no reason to doubt that reality. How can this be? What kind of God is this who forgives such wretched, horrible people? Well, allow me to go one step further. If any of Dahmer’s sixteen victims were unconverted, when they died they went to hell. How can this be? How can God allow such a wretched sinner to go free, to be forgiven of all his sins, and now be in heaven for eternity while those he murdered and dismembered are possibly now in hell?
There are mysteries in this world we cannot fathom. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of His law,” (Deut. 29:29). “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord, (Is.55:8). “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires,” (Rom.9:18). “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides Thee, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him,” (Is.64:4).
The only remedy, my friend, for Jeffrey Dahmer’s great evil and the only remedy for your great evil, is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in taking out the corrupt, deceitful, wicked heart of the sinner and in turn giving the heart of Jesus. This work of regeneration is the free grace of God on sinners. We certainly do not deserve nor can we ever earn it. It is sheer grace.
Allow me to encourage those of you who have children, grandchildren, spouses, or lifelong friends who are enslaved to sin and give absolutely no indication of interest in the gospel of grace. You have spoken to them many times. They don’t want to hear from you anymore. They are falling deeper and deeper into sin and you are powerless to stop their slide toward perdition. What must you do? Never, never give up praying for their conversion until either they are saved or they die. God can change them in an instant, utterly transforming them from perverse, godless, vile, wretched, arrogant idolators into joyful, obedient, and prayerful saints who live in progressive sanctification and holiness.
And if you are already a believer by free grace, be sure daily to watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life (Prov.4:23). Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Daily cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double minded (James 4:8). Indwelling sin never is eradicated in this life. Your flesh is always attacking, always corrupting, always tempting, and always seducing. Daily cultivate the love of Jesus in your heart so that you may stand strong in the faith.