Webster’s Dictionary defines immortality as living forever, displaying enduring qualities and having lasting fame. Who do we often think of as such? Some examples might be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln; men who were instrumental to the beginning and sustaining of our country and its ideals who gained “immortality” through what they did and stood for throughout their lives. They are remembered beyond death while others are memorialized because in death they made their final stand. Would you like to be immortal in both memory and fact? Paul says the way to true life and immortality has been brought to light through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:10) and further states that it will be given, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality.” Romans 2:7 (See also Ephesians 2:8-10)
Does this mean we will never grow old and die? Obviously not. But the real you, the person or personality that inhabits your body will live forever. (See 1 Corinthians 15:53,54) So, all I gotta do is believe. Right? Romans 10:13 does say, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But Matthew records Jesus as saying, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven,…” Isn’t that contradictory? A casual reading of these scriptures would appear so, but in reality they give us a more complete depiction of what it means to call on the name of the Lord when read in conjunction with one another. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord sincerely and wholeheartedly will be saved. As a result they will be willing to be led, to do as the Savior asks and expects. The second half of the scripture quoted above insisting that admittance to heaven is guaranteed, “…only (to him) who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Mat.7:21
Peter was later asked by those who had just heard the first Christian sermon at Pentecost, “...what shall we do?” What must we do to be saved? To which Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Acts 2:37,38 Is that it then? Not quite. Mark and Luke record Jesus as saying, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:24 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35 While Matthew and Luke recall Jesus saying, “...anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 “...and cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27
Paul elsewhere reminds us that, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:1-8
One of the finest examples of this may be found in an old Franciscan mission outside of San Antonio. A group of men had gathered to debate the future of the Mexican province of Tejas and their response to a government that had lured them to this place with promises of cheap land and unlimited opportunity with few restrictions. What they found was a beautiful but harsh land, sparsely populated, lightly governed at best; fought over by Indians, Mexicans, and the recently recruited settlers. They worked, lived, fought and succeeded on their own – little noticed and little helped – in a big way. Their success is what finally got them noticed and in trouble, the government of Mexico now wanting to come in and “help”; telling them what to do, where to do it and sharing in the benefits of their labor. The settlers rebelled, eventually throwing off the yoke of Mexican rule, creating a new republic in 1836 – Texas; becoming the 25th state of the union in 1845.
The men meeting at the Alamo’s deserted mission had a major problem. General Santa Anna was coming north with an army of 4000 men. The rebels had decided to use the mission at San Antonio to at least slow down his progress through the countryside. He in turn decided to make an example of them as they holed up in this improbable little “fort”; the problem being they had only 155 men to defend it with. They immediately sent out pleas for help. The army being put together by Sam Houston was ill-equipped and ill-prepared to oppose Santa Anna and he opted to wait and fight another day. (He and his army later defeated Santa Anna and his army at San Jacinto – screaming ‘Remember the Alamo!’ as their battle cry.) But that left the Alamo and her 155 men in a precarious position to say the least. They could leave or stay, slowing down the Mexican armies relentless progress or join Houston’s army and hopefully turn the tide at a later date. They stayed put, buying precious time for the gathering of additional equipment and men for Houston’s army.
What motivated them to stay? The thought of being proclaimed a hero, a martyr for the cause – a dead idol? No. Honor and courage. They stood despite the deplorable odds against success. They believed in the cause of freedom and democratic rule. They wanted to keep that which they had worked so hard to gain. Again, pleas went out for help. There was virtually no response; except for 32 men – later called the “Immortal 32” – whose fame ultimately rivaled that of the 155 who were already in the Alamo; raising the total of men there to 187. The original 155 were given a chance to leave, they chose not to. By doing so they sealed their fate. In the end 181 men were killed in the assault, six were taken prisoner and executed, while a black man and several women were allowed to leave unharmed to report what had happened. To give Santa Anna some credit, he did sound the De Guello, a dirge played as a warning of total war. A blood red flag was flown signifying that no quarter would be asked – none given. There would be no prisoner exchange as all would be killed if they refused to surrender. Still they did not.
The significant thing about the 32 men from Gonzales was that when they finally arrived, the Alamo’s fate had pretty much already been sealed. They left their wives and children, sweethearts and friends, their homes and occupations to go where it was almost certain they wouldn’t return; for by now the Alamo was completely surrounded. They didn’t just go in, they had to fight their way through the Mexican army to get to the mission, all 32 making it in alive and unhurt; then turn around and fight to keep the Mexicans out, knowing the latter was virtually impossible! Again why?
They responded on principle, beliefs so firmly held that they couldn’t ignore the pleas for help; the call to defend freedom and stand as men. They didn’t just believe, they were committed to action regardless of the consequences. They stood – and fell – in a battle that was lost before it began. But their example of courage and strength of character helped motivate others to turn the tide of defeat into victory and freedom.
As sure as the sun rises and sets, everyone will one day experience their own crisis of conscience. You too will hear that plea, ‘Help or we perish! Stand firm with us – for us – or we are ruined! Be strong and lead, so we may follow!’ Each of you will have to decide between right and wrong, convenience or inconvenience, action or inaction, possibly life or death – safety in Gonzales or battle at the Alamo.
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