Subtitle: Are You Abounding In Christ or Just An Empty [Dangerous] Shell?


Last week we were horrified to hear of yet another senseless mass murder of innocent victims—this time in Atlanta, Georgia. The news accounts tell us that Mark Barton, a former chemist and lately a "day trader," had lost over $100,000 in the stock market. Apparently the loss of money was the last straw that pushed him over the edge and into a murderous rage. He subsequently vented his frustration by taking handguns into two brokerage firms (where he had used their day trader computer facilities) and began killing innocent people. He fled from the scene and some time later, after police had cornered his van in the parking lot of a convenience store, he killed himself. During the follow-up investigation officers discovered the bodies of his wife and two children at their home. Notes left on the bodies indicate that he killed them to spare them from the suffering that would result from what he planned to do.


Mark Barton was very obviously a disturbed individual and our sympathies are with his family members who are left to try to cope with the aftermath of this tragedy. But as we look at the contents of the notes he left behind, we are struck by the contrasts between his lamentable existence and that of those who are safe in the loving arms of Jesus Christ.


Although we do not know all of the details of his life, it does appear that he—like so many others today—was caught up in the insatiable desire to amass wealth. According to the news reports, Mark Barton was a chemist. More than likely this means that he was a college graduate and had the ability and training to make a living for his family. Yet we find him trying to "play the stock market," by engaging in the highly risky business known as day trading. Reaching for the stars he tripped over the clods and lost more than he could afford to repay. Dissatisfaction with the average and an intense yearning for the ultimate is in the process of ruining us as a people. Ambition is a good thing as long as it is kept within the bounds of propriety, but when it is allowed to consume one’s life—it becomes an evil force to be reckoned with.


By way of contrast, mature Christians learn to be content with that which the Lord gives us. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we are taught this principle. Verse 25 says:


"Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, and about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).


In his writings, the apostle Paul had much to say about contentment:


"Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances, the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and to spare or going without and being in want" (Philippians 4:11-12, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).


"[And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness accompanied with contentment—that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency—is great and abundant gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied)" (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).


The next contrast we see is found in this quotation taken from the note found in the living room of the Barton’s home:


"…I have been dying since October. I wake up at night so afraid, so terrified that I couldn’t be that afraid while awake. It has taken its toll. I have come to hate this life and this system of things. I have come to have no hope…"


I don’t know about you, but to me the words "no hope" just leap off the page! How many times have we read or heard those same words expressed by those who have reached the absolute limit of their endurance? My heart aches for those who have been driven to this extreme and especially so when I realize that but for the grace of God it could be me! Hopelessness is a cancer that eats away the soul and to face the challenges of each new day with nothing to look forward to and nothing but emptiness where happiness and joy should be, is a sure recipe for disaster. Mark, like countless others are in the process of doing, became a slave of circumstances created by his own bad choices. From all indications it would appear that he had a wife and children who loved him. He had the ability to make a decent living for his family, but he was not satisfied. Then as life spiraled out of control, he became terrified as he saw what was happening to him and in desperation took matters into his own hands. His suicidal actions express the ultimate preoccupation with self! (Notice how many times the word "I" is used in his note.) Extreme selfishness will never find this world to be hospitable and over a period of time, even hope will be lost.


On the other hand, for the Christian our hope is spelled with a capital "H"! We find this fact expressed in First Timothy, chapter one and verse one:


"Paul, an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus by appointment and command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, our Hope" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).


The Bible, the Word of God, literally abounds with references to Christ as being our hope and the anchor of our soul. For instance, let’s look at Hebrews 6:18-20 where we find these very thoughts expressed:


"This was so that by two unchangeable things {His promise and His oath], in which it is impossible for God ever to prove false or deceive us, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before [us]. [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul—it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it—[a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil, [Lev.16:2] Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order [with the rank] of Melchizedek. [Ps.110:4]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).


There is even a very strong contrast between what the world defines as "hope" and the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. The worldly hope is a nebulous desire—something that is wished for and longed for, perhaps never to actually achieve—The "carrot" that some dangle in front of their eyes as an incentive to go on with life. But the Christian’s hope is sure and certain and never in doubt because it is to be found in the Person of Christ. He has promised to never leave nor forsake us and to go with us through the trials of life. I like to think of the problems of this world as being the Christian’s "boot camp"—designed to toughen us, teach us personal discipline and prepare us for a lifetime of service. That which often overwhelms and destroys people who are empty and hopeless, just makes a Christian more determined to go on! We have a heavenly "finish line" as our ultimate goal and that hope of eternal reward in the presence of God is what impels us onward and upward.


What happened to the joy of living in this man’s life? Making our way through this world is no picnic and certainly there is more than enough trouble to go around, but how did happiness and contentment completely elude him? He appears to have wound up as a shell of a man, only filled with bitterness and hatred. While I personally believe in the possibility that a genuine Christian can suffer mental breakdown and even commit suicide, it is very likely that Mr. Barton did not know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. His rampage of murder has a smell of brimstone about it. But when an individual is truly a Christian and has the Holy Spirit of God residing within them, love, joy, peace and a host of other wonderful things are routinely evident in their lives. These things are said to be the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) and are brought about in the life of the believer through the actions of the Holy Spirit. God intends that the Christian be a walking, talking dispenser of this "fruit" wherever he goes as a testimony to His (God’s) saving grace. By no stretch of the imagination can anyone legitimately accuse me of being a Pollyanna because I tend to be pessimistic by nature, but I rejoice in the love, joy, and deep down peace of heart and soul that comes with Christ. Also my personality is not one of a cheerleader and you can believe that I am sincere when I say that happiness and contentment are my constant companions. Oh, how I wish that everyone would throw themselves upon the mercy of God and come to know His Son in the free pardon of sin. True happiness, contentment, and fulfillment can be found nowhere else.


The music of a people is a window into their soul and a barometer of their collective values. And as I hear the nerve-jangling and gut-wrenching racket blaring from amplified, multiple-speaker audio systems in cars passing by, I am dismayed by what I hear! The lyrics would make a sailor blush—but beyond that, the naked rage and frustration is thinly veiled by the noise. Our society is sick—terminally so—and the music of our present day culture reflects this fact. When we contrast the sentiments expressed by today’s music with the titles found in most hymnals, we find another reason to rejoice in the separation of light from darkness. Rather than lyrics of hatred, prejudice, sexual themes and a myriad of other social ills superimposed upon viscerally-tuned music, we find instead expressions of love, peace, joy and devotion. The words are set to music that complements the messages expressed. Perhaps you are familiar with some of these titles, but let me quote them as a demonstration of the point I am trying to make:


"Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight rolls a melody sweeter than psalm; In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls o’er my soul like an infinite calm. Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above, sweep over my spirit forever, I pray, in fathomless billows of love."


"A pilgrim was I, and a wan-d’ring, in the cold night of sin I did roam, when Jesus the kind Shepherd found me, and now I am on my way home. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."


"Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best—Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest."


The chorus, "Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before" echoes the sentiments of Christians around the world and expresses the reality of our daily walk with Him. And these are just a sampling of the hundreds of hymns and choruses which speak volumes relative to the contrast between light and darkness—between the hopelessness of this world and the unspeakable joy we have in serving Jesus Christ.


Finally, the attitudes and actions of Mark Barton reveal the age-old problem that mankind has with sin. Rather than face the reality and consequences of his own mistakes, he lashed out at everyone else. He ended his letter by saying, "…I don’t plan to live much longer, just long enough to kill as many (sic) of the people that greedily sought my destruction. You should kill me if you can. (signed) Mark O. Barton." He then went to the brokerage firms and brutally murdered as many as he could—showing us the ultimate contrast between spiritual light and darkness. A life devoid of Christ will always end in death and destruction, because Satan fills that void and he is a murderer! (John 8:44).


Perhaps someone is reading this and would have to admit that you too are empty and without hope. Life has become a nightmare and seemingly without any meaning or purpose. Thoughts of hatred and self-destruction are seldom far removed from your consciousness. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to find any escape from the stark reality of everyday problems. Maybe you have done the booze and drugs and found out that they are at best just temporary—because when you finally wake up, the problems have just gotten bigger in the meantime. I call this "butting a stump". The stump aint gonna move and all you get is a bloody head for your trouble. If this in any way describes how you feel, let me just say that it is seldom that anyone will look up until they are so low that up is the only direction left open to them.


Where do we go from here? What can possibly be a remedy for one in such a predicament? For the answer we turn to the old familiar hymn "Amazing Grace" and read the lyrics penned by John Newton (1725-1807), himself a notable sinner before he was converted:


"Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!

Thru many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we’d first begun."


You see, the fact of the matter is that God is in no way obligated to save any of us! When He does save someone, it is purely a matter of grace on His part. Grace—God’s grace—is defined as His "unmerited favor". We do not deserve it and we cannot earn it. Only He can bestow salvation upon an individual and He has promised to do so if you will believe in Him, throw yourself unreservedly and wholeheartedly upon His mercy and grace and call on Him to save you. Have you ever done this? If not, I sincerely implore you to do so before it is eternally too late.


If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.

  If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.

We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order -- Kingdom of Antichrist -- in their daily news.

Return to Pastoral Articles index

Finally, we would love to hear from you. You can write us at:
Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466

You can also E-Mail  Pastor Ronald Riffe  regarding questions or comments about this article.

God bless you.