“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, June 19, 2009

Death - Part II

We looked at death as a state of being in the last post, and in this one we will look at why it is inevitable and undeniable?

Romans 5:12 -- Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…

1st Corinthians 15:21, 22 -- For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.


Death is the result of sin – the sin of Adam, our father. Not just physical, but spiritual death was ushered into the world through the disobedience of the first Adam.

When someone dies, we are again reminded of that first sin of Adam, and the fact that the whole of creation groans for it’s redemption, looking forward to the return of the Savior, to the new heaven and new earth. Many Christians claim that when a fellow Christian dies we should not mourn; as if the act of mourning is somehow sinful. Believe me, I have done enough funerals to know that Christians mourn!

In reality, Paul says – 1st Thessalonians 4:13, 14 -- But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

When a loved one dies, we mourn, for our loss, for the fact that we miss them, for the very real fact that death is a reminder of man's fallen condition. However, having said that, we do not mourn LIKE those who have no hope, for we know that death for a Christian is a transition from here to heaven.

2nd Corinthians 5:6 – 8 -- So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

So, we now have a working definition of death, and we understand why death is, so let us now take a brief look at the reality of death and life for the Christian.

THE HOPE SET BEFORE US

So many today, even within Christendom, want to remove the pains and inconveniences of life. Some go so far as to say that these are caused by a lack of faith! But truth be told, these people are misled and misleading – like Job’s misguided and misinformed friends, they view pain, suffering and death exclusively as God’s punishment for their personal sins, whereas the Bible says that all people will undergo these things because of our sin nature that is inherent within mankind, and even more, Christians will undergo suffering and death for God’s glory. Much like Job’s suffering brought glory to God!

Having said that though, what is the hope of the Christian?

Well, first and foremost let us look again at 1st Corinthians 15:20 – 23 -- But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Yes, death is a state of being, and yes, it was introduced into the world by the sin of the first Adam, but here is the great hope for all who are called by Christ – death has been defeated! Think about this; Jesus Christ came down to this earth, setting aside all of the glory that was rightfully His, and lived amongst man. During His first incarnation, He suffered – rejection, weariness, hunger and thirst, betrayal and many more things. Just as we are called to suffer, He suffered for righteousness sake. And then, He was nailed to a cross and suffered death – for sins that He never committed! He lay in the tomb for three days and was raised. It was as if we had died with Him – when He was raised, so were we. Into a newness of life!

Jesus was the firstfruits, and we will follow. Yes, when we die physically, our bodies will lie in the ground; but on that day when He returns, we will experience a resurrection like His – we will be in glorified bodies and will live in eternal joy in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

And in the interim, for those in Christ – they will dwell spiritually with Christ until they return with Him and like us, will be assume glorified bodies. So, when we lose a loved one who is in Christ, we can take comfort in knowing that they are in the presence of Christ; just as the thief on the cross, truly they will be in paradise – awaiting that glorious day when we will all be like Him, and know as we are known – when every tear shall be wiped away and we shall dwell in the light of the Lamb forever!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Death

The last few posts have found us examining God’s providence and the purpose, place and probability of suffering in the lives of God’s children. These are not simple topics and I pray that God’s Word has comforted you as we have examined these subjects. In this post, the third installment of this series, I will post some thoughts regarding death and dying from a Christian perspective.

This is a subject which, we in the USA, hate to even contemplate. We see many death-defying products on the market today, and people are in a mad scramble to never grow old, nor to experience pain, death or even a hint of dying. But, the truth is that death is 100% terminal – everyone gets it, and succumbs to its inexorable pull.

So, let us look at this uncomfortable subject from the perspective of the Bible. Let us see what comfort the Word of God brings to this subject.

When most people define death, they think of it as an event – i.e. “Death is the ceasing of life functions”, or “Death is when the brain stops responding”, “Jane Doe died at 5:47pm”. Death is defined as an event in time, when in reality, as this post will examine – death is not an event – it is a state of being we all live in, until and unless Jesus Christ draws us to Himself and we turn to Him in repentance and faith.

So let me propose a working definition of death for our purposes in this post:

Death is the state that we find ourselves in due to Adam’s sin. While physical death may occur at some specific date and time, in truth, we have all been born into, and live in a body of death until, in Christ, we are redeemed into eternal life.

We simply cannot understand eternal life, death, dying or suffering without having a Biblical understanding of these terms. So, we have looked at providence, we have looked at suffering, now let us examine death from a Biblical vantage point.

If our definition is correct – that death is not an event, but a state of being; where do we get this thought?

Ephesians 2:1 – 7 -- And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:13 – 15 -- And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.


Notice that Paul did not say anything about an event – no, he is pointing out that the STATE of the person outside of Christ is death. You see, we have it all wrong, we are afraid of death the event, but what we should be doing is focusing on death as a state of being. If we understand that all who are outside of Christ are walking dead men, and all of those who are in Christ are ALREADY living eternal lives, it will change our perspective on the event of death and dying.

We who are in Christ have ALREADY died – and have been raised with Him! We may depart from this place, but we will be with the Lord, waiting that glorious day when all are resurrected and will stand before him. We can truly look at death and say, “Where is your sting?

No doubt, we will still experience a physical event, but to quote Thomas Boston; “I feel a sting, may the dying saint say– yet it is but a bee sting, slinging only through the skin – but, O death, where is your sting, your old sting, the serpent's sting, that stings to the heart and soul? The sting of death is sin – but that is taken away.

In the next post I will discuss why it is that we die, and conclude my thoughts on death and dying from a Christian perspective.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Suffering - Part II

To continue my thoughts from the last post -- we saw that suffering may be a direct result of sinful actions or decisions, yet, at other times, we cannot discern the reason behind our suffering. Sometimes we suffer in order to be tempered and refined, drawing out the dross in our lives, and causing our faith to gleam like pure gold.

1st Peter 1:3 – 7 -- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In previous posts we have also looked at the secret and revealed will of God and how this should affect our understanding of suffering. Now I would like to close out this post by explaining why we can take comfort, even in the midst of suffering, in an all-knowing, all-caring, all-wise God and Father.

There are many Christians who are suffering, and many of them struggle with the 'why' of their suffering. As I have posted previously, there are several answers to the questions – why? Sometimes the answer is “I do not know”.

However, I would like to close out this post by telling you what I do know.

This world is full of trials and tribulations; yes, we suffer, get sick, grow old(er) and eventually die. And if the Lord tarries, there is not a person reading this who will not suffer these things; but having said that, there is something far greater that awaits the redeemed. I will post on this in more detail soon, but, I want to touch on it in the closing portion of this post.

The redeemed have a blessed hope! This hope carries them through the trials and tribulations of this life, and has carried several millenia of Saints through persecution, privation, and punishment.

I may not understand why you suffer, or why I am struck with a malady, but I do know one thing that is more comforting than a thousand great doctor reports, and it is this fact; God loves us and sent His only begotten Son to die on a cross for our sins. And while the physical affects of sin still work themselves out in mankind, those who are found in Jesus Christ have no longer to fear death and the grave, for these have been defeated – we have a home in heaven, prepared by our loving God, for His beloved children!

My dear friends, we WILL suffer while on this earth – of that we can be sure. There are many places that speak of that in the revealed word of God.

But listen to Paul as he wrote to the Roman church in Romans 8:19 – 21 -- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Paul says – “Hey, I know suffering – I live it every day. But, I do not consider my temporal suffering worth comparing to the reality of what awaits me in glory!” Paul had an eternal perspective – recognizing that suffering is a part of the fallen world, he nonetheless, turned his eyes towards the reality of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross, and what that had bought for him. Paul suffered much in this life, but it was nothing compared to the life He lives, even now, in Jesus Christ!

John tells us in Revelation 21:1 – 4 -- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

My friends, take heart, our Savior is nigh – He is coming – with His angels to take us unto Himself, that where He is, we might be also. And when that happens, there will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more death – all we can say is response is maranatha – Lord, come quickly!

If you are suffering, may I say to you that you can rest in the Lord? Trust Him in all your ways and He will make all your paths straight, never leaving nor forsaking you. Regardless of your suffering, our Father in heaven watches over you and will sustain you until He calls you home.

You do not have to take my word for it. Open God’s Holy Word and read of His love and care for His children. Read of His breathtaking promises to an undeserving people – He will be there God and dwell amongst them for all eternity. Take heart my friend, suffering is for a little while, but joy comes in the morning!