What a brutal Winter! At least here in Indiana, where we’ve not seen the grass but a few times, thanks to the perpetual white-out we’ve experienced. I’ll even rejoice to be able to mow the lawn soon. Thank God that He decided to follow the relative drabness of Winter with the COLORS and WARMTH of SPRING!
Recently I was privileged to do the memorial service for a longtime believer whom I loved dearly. Afterward, one of the attendees said to me, “John, you really make death live!” I took that as a compliment. Why? Because if one does not fully grasp the horror of death, he will not fully appreciate the glory of resurrection!
Have you ever heard the poignant exhortation, “It’s a matter of life or death!” Isn’t that to emphasize the stark contrast between the two, as well as the urgency to act in such a way so as to preserve life?
But is that what most Christians are taught about the ultimate contrast between life and death? No. Famous Christian personalities, mega-church leaders, and TV preachers pound their people with Satan’s first recorded lie: “You shall not surely die.” They teach that only one’s body dies, but his “soul” (or maybe it’s his “spirit”) lives on, winging its way into the presence of Jesus—and the guy’s former golfing buddies who have already gone on to that great fairway in the sky.
One well known TV personality called the death of his friend a “graduation.” But how many congratulatory cards do you think the widow received? Why would people carry on the way they do when a loved one dies if he or she is now with Jesus? How selfish of them! Follow the logic, and you can see how the lie that there is really no such thing as death begets not only other lies but also extensive emotional conflicts. People are angry at God for taking their child, or they feel guilty for wanting the child back from “heaven” and with them.
Perhaps we should ask how Jesus viewed death as he came to its precipice in Gethsemane. Was he cavalier about it, like Socrates before he chugged the poison hemlock? Not quite. The Son of God “sweat bullets,” as it were, as he prepared his heart to trust His Father’s promise to raise him from the abyss of death. Why? Because he knew that words have meanings, and that in Hebrew, Greek, English, Sanskrit, and Pig Latin, “death” means the absolute “end of life.”
Given that Jesus had perfectly internalized the written Word of God, he, like His Father, abhorred death. That’s why he wept when his friend, Lazarus, died. How pumped was Jesus a few days later when he stood before his grave and boldly declared, “Lazarus, come forth!” As you may know, that was, both for him and for us, a preview of coming attractions.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a SHOUT.“ What do you think he will shout?
(a) “Oops, I meant to bring you partying people with me from heaven!”
(b) “Sorry I had to put you in the ground to make this look good!”
(c) “Why did I have to go through all that if you people are already alive?”
(d) “Hi, Socrates!”
(e) “WAKE UP AND LIVE FOREVER!!!!!!!”
After his resurrection and ascension, our Lord gave the apostle Paul the revelation we know as the Church Epistles. 1 Corinthians 15:26 states that death is an ENEMY, not a friend that introduces you to Jesus. In truth, death is the ultimate enemy of mankind. For those who do not embrace Jesus as Lord, it is the DEAD END on the road of life. Both God and Christ agree with what our popular bumper sticker says: DEATH SUCKS
Do you realize that our Hope is also Jesus’ hope? How much do you think Jesus misses the apostle Paul and longs to see him again? How badly do you think he wants to meet David for the first time? To see my longtime friend whom we recently honored in memoriam? And to THANK the countless Christians (most of them nameless in the annals of His-story) who lived their lives for him, some to the point of martyrdom? The Lord has to be pacing the floor up there and asking God, “Is it time to go to Church yet?”
Was Jesus a stickler for the truth of God’s written Word? Yes. In fact, it is a little known fact that his donkey had an IT IS WRITTEN bumper sticker (The upcoming white horse will have DEATH SUCKS). Did Jesus believe that Truth Matters? Of course he did, and so should we.
Yet I know believers who have been taught the glorious truth about life and death yet who now attend churches where Satan’s lie is regularly set forth. There are enough Christians promoting error; the minority of us who know the truth should herald it proudly. One Day With The Creator is the best tool I know of to do that. Do you have a copy? Have you shown it to family and friends?
How thankful should we be that Jesus paid the ultimate price to save us from sin and death? Here’s part of Paul’s answer:
2 Corinthians 5:14, 15
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
What does it look like “to live for him who died and was raised again”? I think it means doing our best to thankfully look to him moment-by-moment and ask him to help us become like him. I think it means to stand fast on the written Word as he did, and internalize it so that his heart is reflected in our words and deeds.
I love the Christian song that contains the following words: “TRUTH has a name: JESUS. LOVE has a name: JESUS. JOY has a name: JESUS. HOPE has a name: JESUS.” He was the embodiment of the heart of God. This man who died for us now lives for us, and there is nothing he won’t do for you or me. Let us gratefully hold fast to him and live for his sake, and for the sake of the Gospel that exalts him.