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Photo of father sleeping on hospital floor goes viral: The path from sincerity to spiritual transformation

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Photo of father sleeping on hospital floor goes viral: The path from sincerity to spiritual transformation
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden speak with a priest as he departs after Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Joe Duncan came home from working a twelve-hour shift as a cement technician to learn that his daughter was having difficulty breathing. His wife, Sara, wanted to take her to the hospital, but Joe had to return to a morning shift a few hours later. She encouraged him to stay home and rest, but he insisted on making the one-hour drive with his family to the hospital.

Their daughter received treatment and was cleared to go home after two hours. Sara found Joe napping on the hospital floor using the car seat as a pillow. She took his picture and wrote, “I was looking at him thinking how thankful I am for him and how I wouldn’t want to do this life without him.” Her post went viral.

Father’s Day gave us all an opportunity to thank our fathers and to thank our Father for our fathers. Being there, showing up, and doing life with our families is the foundation of fatherhood.

Sincerity is not enough

Here’s the problem with this wonderful story, however: being there is essential, but it’s not enough. Sincerity is not enough.

The Bible tells us that parents are to teach God’s word “diligently to your children . . . when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7; cf. Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6).

God’s word also tells men how to be good husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19; cf. Ephesians 5:25); “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28).

Sincerity is essential, but it is not enough. However, our secular culture disagrees.

Boris Johnson says he is a “very, very bad Christian”

US Catholic bishops announced on Friday that they had voted to prepare a document laying out conditions under which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, including President Biden, may be denied Communion. Watching the media’s largely negative response, it is clear that many consider Mr. Biden’s apparent religious sincerity to be sufficient, regardless of his positions on official Catholic doctrine.

In other political news, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently married fiancée Carrie Symonds at Westminster Cathedral in London. The fact that they were married in a religious rather than secular ceremony interested the media, since the prime minister has been less than forthcoming about his personal religious views. He did, however, tell an interviewer for The Atlantic, “Christianity is a superb ethical system and I would count myself as a kind of very, very bad Christian. No disrespect to any other religions, but Christianity makes a lot of sense to me.”

In our culture, sincerity is enough. If the prime minister sincerely believes he is a Christian (albeit a “very, very bad” one), he must be a Christian. Just as I can be a fan of the Texas Rangers or Dallas Cowboys by declaring myself one, I can be a Christian by declaring myself one. Sincerity has replaced truth in our culture.

Why won’t this work?

The death of the president’s dog

One answer is logical: Our postmodern, relativistic culture rejects the existence of absolute truth, which is an absolute truth claim. In a brilliant new article I hope you’ll read, philosopher R. J. Snell observes, “One cannot deny our ability to know the truth without making truth claims and by that very act affirming the possibility and necessity of truth.”

Another is practical: I can sincerely deny that Boris Johnson exists, but my sincere opinion doesn’t change his reality. I can ignore the fact of death, but death won’t ignore me. Even the president of the United States is just as mortal as his beloved dog Champ, whose passing was marked with grief by the Biden family Saturday.

Iran’s new president is obviously sincere about his commitment to Shiite Islam. However, he has been accused of systematically sending as many as three thousand people to slaughter on orders of his religious leader, the former Ayatollah Khomeini. We can be sincere but sincerely and tragically wrong.

“Go back to your beginnings with God”

However, if our sincere faith is faith in the one true God, everything changes. Consider three biblical facts.

One: It’s not too late to come to Jesus.

The New England Aquarium honored a woman’s thirty-eight-year-old ticket that had been in her great-aunt’s wallet. Jesus is even more gracious: he will welcome your faith whether you are young (Matthew 19:14), old (Luke 2:25–38), or even at the end of your life (Luke 23:42–43).

Two: It’s not too soon to come to Jesus.

A new medical device is giving surgeons “x-ray vision” by fusing digitally enhanced images into the microscope of a surgical device. Jesus is even more omniscient (Luke 6:8) and will lead all who will follow into his providential and perfect will (Matthew 11:28–30).

Three: The best way to serve others is to help them follow Jesus.

A father’s best gift to his children is leading them to their Father. If we sincerely love others, we will want them to love our Lord. However, we cannot give what we do not have or lead others where we will not go.

To this end, let’s close by focusing our grateful sincerity on our loving Savior.

Billy Graham’s personal pastor, Don Wilton, told of a time he asked the famed evangelist, “Please tell me what I need to know as I try to serve the Lord.” He writes that Dr. Graham “looked at me for the longest time, and then he began to talk.” Dr. Graham advised him, “Go back to your beginnings with God. God will never be able to use you unless you are totally surrendered to him. A surrendered man never forgets where he came from as a sinner separated from Christ.

“From a heart of gratitude will flow loving the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind. From the act of surrender will come the love you have for your wife and children. From that same heart will flow the love with which you love your people and preach the Word.”

Would Jesus say you are surrendered to him today?