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MARCH 2012

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Death, What is it?

 

Genesis 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

 

Death is the last enemy that will be destroyed by the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:26). Most of us understand that the Bible teaches that there is physical death (death of the body) and spiritual death (complete separation from God), but many of us really do not fully understand either aspect of death. We have heard people say that "God is dead!" Now of course He is not dead at all; but even if He were, what would that mean? People who talk this way seem to think that death means that we cease to exist. However, if we believe the Bible, death is always separation from someone, but it is never the cessation of existence.

We see this confusion when we think about the death of Christ. Christ did die for our sins. But Christ is God. So did God die? Of course He did. He died physically when He bowed His head and delivered up His spirit. He died spiritually in the three dark hours when He was separated from the Father. Christ was God and He did die, but He never ceased to exist.

We know that we are composed of body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The body is the container for the soul and the spirit. The soul seems to be our "real self" (our personality or our minds) while the spirit is associated with breath and seems to be the energy that allows the body and soul to function. If I were to use a car as a rough analogy, the car would have a body which contains an engine. The body would be comparable to our physical bodies. The engine would be comparable to our souls. The gas that must be ignited to make the engine run so we can ride in the body of the car, would be comparable to the spirit. Now I realize that Biblically soul and spirit are sometimes used interchangeably, so it is obvious that soul and spirit are sometimes difficult to separate and define. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow."

Most of us are concerned with what happens when we die physically, that is when our body ceases to function. Since we are physical people living in a physical world, we can say exactly what happens to the body. Once we die, the body is no longer able to sustain itself and so it decomposes. We normally bury bodies. Is that all there is to death? No! The soul continues to exist. We know that was true for Moses and Elijah because they appeared along with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration (Mark 9:2-4), and they were talking with Jesus. They were very much "alive" in some sense and could talk and be recognized. It is obvious that death is not "final" and that our existence is not over when the body dies.

The Lord tells us that our bodies will be raised from the dead and that we who are saved will serve Him in heaven after the resurrection in resurrected bodies. I assume that Moses and Elijah were not in their resurrected bodies on the mount of transfiguration since the resurrection had not yet occurred, but whether they appeared in bodies of another sort or whether they were simply spirits at that point, I do not know. But I do know that they had not ceased to exist.

The Scripture makes it clear that those who die "in Christ", that is, having believed in Him before death, go to be "with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)." Those who die "without Christ", that is, having rejected His claim to be the Son of God and the sacrifice for our sins, go to a place of eternal conscious punishment (Luke 16:22-23). Both await their resurrection (See Revelation 20). The unbeliever will be raised to ultimately end up in the Lake of Fire in a body prepared for that place. The believer will be raised to serve God eternally in a body prepared for that purpose.

Physical death is not the end. That is why it is so important to remember that the decisions made in this life will affect us forever and ever. Unbelievers don't "live" forever because living is always associated with a relationship with the Lord. But they do exist forever. Our eternal bliss depends on whether we have trusted Christ in this life so that we can "live" with Christ for eternity.

 

Meditation for the week of March 4, 2012

How can we Properly Respect the Lord?

 

Mark 12:6 Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, "They will respect my son."

 

Respect is something that is hard to come by in our day. We are told that it is earned, but often it is given to those who are in the right society or who are wealthy or powerful. We often do not respect those that God tells us to respect, and sometimes we give our respect to those who are completely opposed to all that is good and right and reverent.

In our story, a farmer's son was slain rather than being shown respect. The farmer was an absentee land owner, and he had sent servants to collect his rent which the tenants wouldn't pay. So he sent His son, thinking that surely they would respect him. But instead, they killed him thinking that they could then have his inheritance for themselves. What the tenants thought of the son was apparently what they thought of the owner of the property.

Obviously, the farmer represents our Father God who is in heaven. The servants represent the old testament prophets. The tenants represent Israel and the son represents the Lord Jesus. Instead of receiving the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and worshiping Him, Israel as a nation rejected Him. As a result they were destroyed. Titus, the Roman general, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. And the people of Israel that didn't die when Rome defeated the Jewish nation were dispersed into all the nations. The Jews had their minds made up as to what their Messiah should look like, where He should come from, and how He should act. The Lord didn't live up to their standards, and they missed the blessing that could have been theirs. The Jewish leaders were also afraid that if they gave the Lord respect, they might lose their positions of authority. Even Pilate knew that when the Lord was being charged with blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God that the Jews had really delivered him out of envy (Mark 15:10).

Is it any different today? The Lord who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8) is still despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3). His name is used as a curse word by many. People don't use the names of Presidents or heads of state or corporate C.E.O's as curse words, instead they use the name of the Lord. They don't even use the name of the god's and prophets of other religions. Rejecting the Lord and His claim to be the Messiah and the Savior of sinners is not enough for many. They must also show their utter rebellion and disrespect for Him.

But we also have many so-called good people who do not respect Him. It is obvious that they have a way that seems right to them, but they are headed down a path that leads to utter destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Their conversation is filled with self-righteousness not with a love for the Lord. They tell us about their good works or church membership or baptisms rather than telling us how they needed to be saved and how they are depending on the Lord alone to save them. Their Gospel is not good news at all, but it is a Gospel that deals with moral evil without offering the proper solution. Their self-righteous solutions have nothing to do with respect for the Son.

How can a person properly respect the Lord? This is a matter of attitude and of the heart. A person who has never fully understood that they are sinners that have offended God will never humble themselves to see their need of the Savior. Whenever we make the Gospel something that we do instead of Someone we trust, we are not respecting the Lord. The Lord doesn't HELP US to get saved or delivered from the penalty that our sin deserves. He DOES ALL THE SAVING. We must do the trusting.

Those of us who have been made to see the value of the Son to the Father, the value of the Son in the plan of salvation and the value of the Son to us personally can say like the bride in the Song of Solomon 5:16, "Yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, And this is my friend"

A person who is saved and who knows it and who gives the Lord all the credit for his or her salvation is the only one who has given the Lord, the Father's beloved Son, the respect that He deserves.

 

Meditation for the week of March 11, 2012

Must is a good Four Letter Word!

 

Mark 14:48-50 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures MUST be fulfilled." Then they all forsook Him and fled.

 

MUST! It is a good four letter word. Do we know what MUST means? In John 3:7 the Lord says we MUST be born again. In John 3:14 the Lord says He MUST be lifted up or crucified. In Acts 4:12 Peter says that we MUST be saved.

Now if the Scriptures MUST be fulfilled, what Scriptures would the Lord be talking about? It would have to be the old testament Scriptures that the Jews knew and studied. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and other Scriptures told of the suffering and rejection of the Messiah. Those Scriptures MUST be fulfilled. One of the great proofs that God Inspired men to write the Scriptures is that they speak so vividly and accurately about the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord. But these passages were written years before they were fulfilled.

Saying we are Christians while not knowing what the Scriptures say is like saying we are lawyers without knowing what our constitution says. We are fortunate that we have the Bible translated into our own language. We have many scholars who have researched the manuscripts we have available in the original languages who tell us that we can rely on these manuscripts. Now while the Lord may be referring to old testament Scriptures in our verses for today, obviously the new testament Scriptures also MUST be fulfilled. I am sure that it is possible to be a Christian without having a good knowledge of the whole Bible; but, in our day, should we be Christians who do not have a grasp of the basic truth of the whole Bible? It is impossible to be saved without depending on the promises of the Scriptures. Many people have depended on those promises through the oral testimony of others. Some have depended on those promises while knowing only a few promises of the Bible, but ultimately, if we are saved, we are depending on the promises of the Bible so we need to know those promises.

Ignorance of the Bible by people who are educated and have numerous Bibles in their homes and who go to churches of some sort regularly is a real problem today. People used to know what John 3:16 meant and nearly every child could quote it. That is not true today. And even when people can quote it, many do not know that John 3:16 is "the Gospel in a nutshell." One would not need to know more than John 3:16 to go to heaven, but should we be satisfied to only know John 3:16? No!

No matter how we came to faith in Christ and no matter how confident we are that we are saved, Satan at some point will try to get us to question the truth of the Bible concerning our eternal destiny and our current relationship with God. When Satan puts doubts in our minds, we have to have know the Scriptures well enough to rebuke Satan with promises that God has made. That is what the Lord did when Satan tested him after being 40 days in the wilderness. The Lord rebuked Satan with quotations from the old testament and started every rebuke with "it is written." He was the original Bible Banger.

People are often discouraged from reading the Bible for themselves because they are exposed to so many different interpretations of the Scriptures. We need not be confused, however, because our teacher is the Holy Spirit; and He is going to reveal Christ to us through the Bible. In the old testament Christ is coming, and in the new, He came and is coming again. In the old testament God had an earthly people called the Jews. They are an object lesson for the church, the spiritual people that God has chosen to represent Him in this age. The old testament helps us understand Who God is and the principles by which He works. But the old testament is written to the nation of Israel and its ceremonies are not the church's in the new testament. While those old testament ceremonies speak of Christ, today we have Christ Himself and worship Him according to new testament teaching. When reading the Bible, we need to stick to three principles of interpretation. 1. Context. 2. Context 3. Context. And remember, if you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior, then there is another principle that must be remembered. That principle is that what you think is right is probably wrong. God does not think like we think. That is why we must repent (have our thinking changed) in order to believe.

There are too many MUSTS in the Scriptures for us to be careless in our study of the Bible.

 

Meditation for the week of March 18, 2012

Our Compassionate Savior!

 

Luke 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

 

The Strong's dictionary says that compassion shows sympathy or pity to someone. The Webster dictionary says, "A suffering with another; painful sympathy; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration. Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow; at least some portion of love generally attends the pain or regret, or is excited by it. Extreme distress of an enemy even changes enmity into at least temporary affection."

Our Lord had compassion on the multitudes when they were hungry. He had compassion on the sick, the lepers and the blind and He healed them. He had compassion on sinners and died to save them. He set an example of true love and pity. Our Lord showed compassion that had no racial boundaries. He did not show favoritism to the rich, the powerful or the social elite. In many cases, He reached out to those that society had rejected.

One of the objections to the Gospel has to do with God showing absolutely no compassion to nations that had deserted Him and had turned their back on Him in the old testament. We know that what happened to those nations is an object lesson or analogy having to do with those who reject Him today. God has no compassion for an unbeliever or a Christ rejecter. But still, to slay all those people seems cruel until one realizes that the children were spared being raised in cultures that would have biased them against believing in the Living God. Young children that have not rejected the One true God in the old testament and in the new are "safe" should they die even though they are not saved. John 3:18 tells us that the reason people are condemned eternally is because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. I believe this unbelief is a deliberate act of the will. It is not an unbelief caused by ignorance or lack of opportunity to believe. So those children who died when God destroyed the unbelieving nations in the old testament will be in heaven since they couldn't have rejected Jehovah while those who are critical of God for destroying those nations will likely go to hell. Yes, destroying those nations was an act of kindness to the children who died, and it was an act of kindness to the israelites since then they would not be tempted to serve heathen gods by those who had turned away from Him. At the same time it was an act of judgment on the nations who knew the truth and turned away from it. All of those nations had descended from Noah and knew that God judged those who rejected Him. So was the judgment of those rebellious nations that had been given years to repent of their evil an act of kindness or an act of cruelty? It certainly was a kindness to those who were preserved and saved because of it.

In our passage, the Samaritan represents the Lord and he had compassion on one who was probably a Jew who needed to be rescued. The priest wouldn't help the man and the Levite wouldn't help the man, but the Samaritan did. The priest represented the religious leaders of the Jews, the Levite represented the religious workers. Both represented legal religion. Religion and law does not have compassion, but the Lord does.

Today there is a great deal of public professions and displays of religion. Some religions are formal systems that are opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, but some religion is a so-called Christianity where a proud moral lifestyle characterizes those who claim to be Christians. There is no emphasis on repenting and believing in many of these Christian groups. People in these systems talk a lot about God but seem to be uncomfortable mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus in a reverent way. A legalistic morality based on law rather than a devotional morality based on a love for the Lord seems to be all pervasive. But religion was of no help to the man who had fallen among thieves, and it is of no help to a fallen society or to the sinner in need of the Savior today. A Samaritan, a despised and rejected one by Jews, was the one who met the need of the man who had been beaten and robbed. I am glad my Savior is like this. I wonder if I would have been like the Lord if I had seen a robbed and beaten man that I didn't know and who was from the wrong part of society on that Jericho road. Would I have stopped and helped him because I had compassion for him?

I believe God was merciful and compassionate in the old testament, but I am still glad to live in new testament times where the Lord is presented as a Samaritan who has compassion. He had compassion on me. Others are going to see His compassion through Christians. Thank God for every Christian who has a real heart of compassion for others.

 

Meditation for the week of March 25, 2012