His Commandments

I’ve come to the last chapter of 1 John in my lectio divina study, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3b

Many worldly people believe that to become a Christian, to submit to God’s will, would impact their life in a negative way. How boring to spend free time reading the Bible, praying, and going to worship services! How dull to be barred from behaviors that our society considers acceptable! Life would not be fun at all!

When our children were young, we tried to stress the truth that following God’s rules was not meant to be a punishment, but would make our lives easier. We might miss out on some momentary “fun” but the rewards were far more important. We would have better relationships, a support group in our church family, peace during difficult circumstances, and more. Better yet, at the end of our lives, we would not have too many regrets.

In the book of Matthew Christ tells us:

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That yoke is really simple, in fact it boils down to one word: love. Love God and love one another. The more you practice love, the easier it will be. And the rewards are great.

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.” Romans 6:23

For more about obedience see these posts:

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Walking in Obedience

Obedience?

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The Life Everlasting, part 2

This is a continuation of a sermon on the Apostle’s Creed.

Some Christian groups have argued for what is called “soul sleep.” This position says that when we die we are simply not conscious, as if we are asleep, and we will awaken when Jesus returns, as if we had a nap. This can correspond to the Old Testament idea of Sheol.   There are verses in Scripture that can be made to read this way, but those which deny this position are stronger. In Psalm 16 the psalmist writes of God, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let your holy one see corruption.” And in Psalm 49, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.” The Lord Jesus tells a parable of a poor man who has died and rests in the bosom of Abraham and a rich man who is in torment in Hades which is a Greek term for Sheol. Jesus, you’ll remember tells the robber crucified beside Him, “Truly I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.” Note the words “this day.” And the final example I’ll share this morning is Paul writing to the church in Philippi where he tells this beloved congregation, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better [than to remain in the flesh].”

There is another error common about death, although less among Christians than others, that people become angels when they die. Angels aren’t human and humans are not angels any more than we are armadillos.

For the earlier part of this sermon see:

The Life Everlasting, part 1

The Life Everlasting, part 1

My husband recently completed a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed.  The last sermon dealt with life after death.  I found it very interesting, as it deals with a number of misconceptions people have about this subject, so, with his permission, I am posting it here.  This is the first section

We pick up now the final section of the Creed, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

I’ll start by noting that many people, including many in the Church, do not have a biblical view of what happens after death and what the Lord’s return will mean for creation. The first error we consider is the one that says our death frees the soul from the body where it has been imprisoned, if you will. When we look at God’s Word we find that the soul, like the body, is a creation of God and does not exist prior to our earthly birth nor is it to be thought of apart from the body except in one way which we’ll deal with later. Death is not a freeing of the soul, but it is, as Paul writes in 1st Corinthians, the last enemy. The idea of a soul freed from the body comes from Greek philosophy and has no place in the views of people instructed by the Scriptures.

A second error that is very common may surprise you even more. When we die we do not go to heaven. I can almost hear the gears in your heads grinding at that one. No, when we die we enter what is called an “intermediate state.” We will retain our own personal consciousness, you will not stop being you. Scripture doesn’t tell us if we will have some sort of “body” or not, although in Revelation we see the martyred saints and they are clothed, so it’s quite possible we will. In the intermediate state we enjoy the presence of God, but it is only a waiting place, a place where we enjoy God’s grace. It is not purgatory, for there is no such place. Purgatory is a false doctrine because it says that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient for our forgiveness, a position contrary to Scripture. While we are in God’s presence we will be unaware of what is going on this side of the veil, for our whole attention will be on Him.

Katelyn’s Question #5

What happens to people after they die?

This is a continuation of the following posts:

Is There a God? If So, What is God Like?– Or Katelyn’s Question #1

Katelyn’s Question #2

Katelyn’s Question #3

Katelyn’s Question #4

After people die they either go to heaven or hell.  If the person was a believer of Christ, then their soul ascends into heaven to be with the Lord.  In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the repentant thief on the cross:

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

While on the other hand, if a person did not believe in Christ, then they descend into hell.  Heaven or hell is the final destination of all human beings.

Christians are described as having eternal life, thus meaning that after their physical death, they live forever spiritually in the kingdom of God.  While their body stays buried in the ground their soul goes to heaven.  One passage in the Bible which speaks of death is Ecclesiastes 12:7 which says,

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was;  and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.”

Though everyone dies, in John 11:25, Jesus says,

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

When Christ comes again, He will reunite the soul with a new body and all believers will live in the kingdom of heaven.

The True Blessing

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

Most of us in the United States grow up looking forward to achieving “the American Dream.”  That means all manner of material blessings:  a nice car, a beautiful home, a stylish wardrobe, exciting vacations and more.  All those things are blessings, although we would do well to remember that they come from God, not as a result of our own merit.  The big problem is, they don’t last.  I love to go to thrift stores and it’s amazing to see all the things, some very nice things that end up there.  I imagine many of them are collections and treasured belongings that were once important, but are no longer;  the person who owned them has died, moved on to another interest or hobby, or possibly had to “downsize” and couldn’t afford to keep them.  So the question is, why invest our time in acquiring all these “things” in the first place?  Why not spend our time and money on treasure that is real and permanent?

I’m no different.  I spent a lot of my life acquiring things that I’ve now lost, things that wore out, became outdated, or that I had to sell or replace.  In retirement I look back and see that many of them weren’t as important as I imagined.  So what is?  Relationships, for one– our relationships with our parents, children, friends, and most of all God.  The Bible teaches:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

and

“Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:8

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the rich young ruler is told that loving God and his fellow man is the way to eternal life with God.  That’s the true blessing and the only treasure that lasts.

That’s What You Get for Loving Me

I seem to be on a kick of remembering old songs.  When I was in college, the one above was popular.  It’s about a scoundrel who tells all the girls, “if you love me, expect to be abandoned, broke and forgotten, because that’s just how I am!”  “Fair warning!”  (I’m not sure why I liked it, this guy is unbearably arrogant).  Anyway, it began bouncing around in my brain the other day, causing me to think about the many, better things we get for loving God.  I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list:

  • Someone who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Someone who will always listen (John 9:31)
  • Our daily needs and pleasure in our work (Ecclesiastes 3:23)
  • Wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Christian fellowship (1 John 1:7)
  • Fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  • Spiritual gifts to serve the others (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  • The Holy Spirit, who encourages and comforts (Acts 5:32)
  • Forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9)
  • Salvation (6:23)
  • Eternal life (John 3:16)

If we’re willing, even eager to take a risk on loving a flawed human being, who will no doubt disappoint us, why wouldn’t we take a chance on God’s love?  We stand to gain all the things above and more.  Love and trust God, and see what you get for loving Him.

The Wrong Bread

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”  John  6:27

These words of Jesus are to the crowds who follow Him after he feeds 5000 people with five barley loaves and a few fish.  Who wouldn’t follow?  Free food for life, and all I have to do is listen to this rabbi.  What a deal!  Jesus sets them straight.  This food will only fill us up temporarily;  the food we really needs leads to eternity.

Times have changed, but people haven’t.  Human beings are focused on the needs they perceive as primary, starting with food and shelter, moving on to love, self esteem, and other things that make life worthwhile(remember Maslow’s Hierarchy?).  We spend our time chasing after them, only to find in the end we’re still not completely fulfilled.  That’s because, as Saint Augustine said:

Sometimes we also seek Jesus for the wrong reasons;  we think Christianity will make our life easy;  we want to have “nice” friends; we want to be admired and respected for our piety;  we may even think God will bless us by making us successful in a worldly way. These things aren’t only wrong, they aren’t even necessarily true.  We need to seek Jesus because of who He is:  the way and the truth;  the bread of life;  the only one who can truly satisfy all our hungers.

 

Remembering Those We’ve Lost

“But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as those 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.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

The most recent issue of The Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine, contained an article by a pastor who remembered his grandfather, and all the things he had done for him and meant to him.  One of the best things about being a Christian is, we believe the friends and loved ones we have lost through death are not lost to us forever.

My grandfather is also one of the people I remember and know I will see again in Heaven.  He is the person in my childhood who loved me, helped me go to college, and had confidence in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do in life.  That’s a great gift, and one day I didn’t fully appreciate as a young person.  I’ll be able to thank him for that one day.

Then there are the two Christian women who joined our church.  One was ill when she began attending, the other became ill shortly after.  I know if circumstances had been different, we would have become fast friends.  We would have worked hard for the Lord together.  We would have spent joyful times in fellowship, if only we had had more time.  One day we will have that time.  Our friendship will blossom as it should have.

There are so many things I now wish I had taken the time to ask older relatives about.  What were there lives of my grandparents and great grandparents like?  Who did they love?  What did they like to do?  I’ll still be able to ask those things some day (that is, if they are still important to me).

The list could go on.  The point is, life is not over for those who are in the Lord.  We don’t have to have regrets about all the things we didn’t say or do with them or for them.  Who wouldn’t want that comfort?

Who do you remember?

 

 

Worth Waiting For

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This has been a favorite passage of mine for a long time.  It’s easy to become depressed as we age.  We lose our parents;  our children don’t seem to need us anymore;  we can’t do the things we used to do physically, and even our mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  Paul reminds us in this letter to the Corinthian church that these things are only outer and temporary–they’re not what really counts.

What really matters is our relationship with God.  As we worship, study, pray and fellowship with other Christians, that inner nature grows stronger.  It doesn’t depend upon health, or a great job, or material possessions or other people.  God loves us as we are, and meets us where we are.  He is the one person in our life who will never change and never leave us.

Paul tells us that all the painful and frustrating losses are really just growing pains.  They are preparing us to let go of this world and ready ourselves for the next.  That new life with God will be so glorious, we won’t even miss all those fleeting things that seem so important right now.  Listen to this description of the things that will last forever:

“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 then 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.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Isn’t eternal life with God worth waiting for?

 

Let’s Make a Deal!

“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness, But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:20-23

I suspect a lot of people have trouble seeing Christians as free.  They world (and the devil) tell them we are people who are governed by old fashioned rules and ideas;  people who give up their time and money in an effort to appease an angry, unreasonable God who probably doesn’t even exist.  Honestly, Christianity to many is a strange delusion, possibly even a mental illness.  What could be the advantage of being a Christian?

In the verses above from Romans, the apostle Paul outlines how wrong this thinking is and  exactly what a deal Christians have.  Sin doesn’t make anyone happy.  Eventually things like dishonesty, envy, greed, immorality catch up with us.  We’re left with broken relationships, shattered reputations, increasing dissatisfaction, shame and yes, as Paul says, even death.  The Christian deal sets us free from ALL of that.

Who wouldn’t want the free gift of God which brings peace and eternal life?  Who wouldn’t trade conflict for brotherhood, jealousy for contentment, acceptance for condemnation, death for life? Tell someone today about the deal Jesus is offering them.