The Day Death Became Life

It was darkness, and it was light. It was torment, and it was peace. It was death, and it was life. The Cross; two heavy wooden beams, shouldered by the man of sorrows. It pressed hard upon His back. A back that had already been turned into an open wound by the lashes it had received. Compared to the burden He was about to bear, it was nothing, but it brought Him to His knees.

It was His choice to do it, but it was a choice that caused Him to sweat blood as He wrestled in prayer in the garden. He had made His decision; He would drink the cup that caused Him so much dread. If this cup were visible, the sight of it would have caused our hearts to stop, our stomachs to turn, and all our strength to vanish. It was a mixture of every dark deed we, as His people, would ever commit. It also included every foul emotion, every impure motive, and every heart’s desire for evil that we were unable to fulfill. If you have ever felt the weight of sin, you know it can break your heart and darken the soul, and because our hearts are still clouded by our lust, we have never felt it to its full degree. It is crushing.

Not only were every one of our sins in that cup, but everything they deserved as well. The cup contained distress, depression, and despair. It included desolation, disease, and death. That cup was the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful God of righteousness. What we saw in the bodily suffering of Jesus was only the surface, and He drank the cup until it was dry.

At that moment, life left His body. His chest stopped moving, His tongue lay still, and His eyes went cold. The enemy of death had taken Him. He was supposed to be our Savior, but He was dead. The wages of sin had taken the sinless one who was meant to set us free. They wrapped His body, laid Him in a cold tomb, and covered it with a stone. Our hope had died. He had borne the brunt of our sins, and it had killed Him.

Then something happened on the morning of the third day. Though it occurred in the dark of the tomb, a light came back into his eyes. There was a newness to His body unlike anyone else who had ever returned from the grave. His body was alive, never to die again! The stone rolled away, and He emerged. Death had not defeated Him. He bore our wrath, and it had not overcome Him. He had conquered it. The bonds of death could not hold him!

In the resurrection, we have confirmation that His redeeming work was complete. He was a hostage to our debt, and now that debt had been paid. He died for our sins and rose for our justification. Death could not hold Him because He had laid His life down of His own will; no one could demand it from Him. He could lay it down, and He could take it up again.

Since the bonds of death cannot hold Him, neither can they hold anything that belongs to Him. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith will be saved. Child of God, what is it that brings you down? Is it sin, guilt, failure, shame, condemnation, accusation, or a body that is experiencing death? Whatever it is, it will find its defeat in Jesus Christ.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lord! He has risen, and He is alive!

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus (John 11:25-26)

D. Eaton

Longing to Die Yet Eager to Live

There are tensions in the Christian life which are the direct result of knowing Jesus. These are tensions we are meant to feel. They seem to be two desires pulling us in two different directions, but in reality, they are two balancing forces driving us toward holiness and happiness. One of these tensions is the desire to depart and the eagerness to live. Paul expressed it this way.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:22-26

Every believer will long to die and be with God from time to time. Conflicts, persecutions, and illnesses can cause us all to long for home, and during those times, we are often more willing to depart than usual. The problem is, if we only long to die and be with our Savior in times of trouble, then maybe we desire to avoid difficulty more than we desire to be with Christ.

When the scripture talks about longing to die, it is talking about our desire to be with Jesus, and this yearning should be something that is steady in times of pleasure as well as in times of pain. To be with Christ should be our daily desire, and if going through the door of our enemy death is the only way, then death becomes our hope.

At the same time, we are to be eager to live, because to live is also Christ. Every moment of life, whether it be lived in weakness or strength, pain or pleasure, or joy or sorrow, can be a testament to our glorious Savior. Some of the greatest men and women of the faith were men and women who lived in constant weakness and hardship, yet their lives were beacons pointing the world to Jesus.

Since Christ is both our desire to depart and our desire to live, we should never desire one more than the other. Both longings provide us with a balance that keeps us steady. To desire death more than life is to neglect Christ’s work in this world through our lives and shows us that personal peace is more important to us than Christ. At the same time, desiring life over death produces a fear of dying which indicates that being with Christ may not be our true desire.

Both the fear of death and the desire to die to escape difficulties, to the neglect of our calling, shows us that Christ is not our greatest hope. Both of these errors will produce a discontentment in us which will be revealed in times of trouble. During those times, we will be tempted to seek our answers outside of Christ. Only if Christ is our greatest longing will we both long to die and be eager to live, and in that we will find joy in any situation.

For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

D. Eaton

Earthly Glory Always Fades

Earthly glory always fades. I have been reminded of this over the past few weeks by the death of a couple of celebrities. No matter how beautiful the bloom, the flower will start to fade. These were people who had the world by the tail, but it is all gone now. For those who have placed their hope and confidence in the kingdom of this world, this evaporation of earthly splendor is troubling because eternity has been written on their hearts, yet they acknowledge no higher aim.

It has been said, the greatest tragedies are not those who pursued greatness and failed to reach it. The biggest tragedies are those who achieved it and realized that it could not give them the fulfillment for which they longed. We were made to pursue glory by a glorious God. The problem is we have a natural propensity to exchange the glory of the everlasting God for created things, but the things of earth can never give us what we are seeking. No matter how fast we run, how high we climb, or how many accolades the world gives us, it is ultimately not enough. Even then we will continue the pursuit to see if we can find something else in this world that can lift our heads, and we always seem to find something: temporarily.

There is only One who can give us what we are seeking, and that is the Lord of Glory Himself. Our glory is found in Him, and until our pursuit turns from the things of the world to the eternal God, we have nothing to expect in the end except disillusionment. In Christ, however, it all comes together. Our sins have been forgiven, which causes even death to lose its sting, and no matter how insignificant the world thinks we are, when Christ, who is our life, appears, then we also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). He is our honor and triumph.

Influence, affluence, legacy; none of these are wrong in themselves. They can even be used to bring glory to God, but when we put them in the place of God, they will all fail to deliver. Instead, they will destroy us. We must not seek from the world what only God can give. There may be times when the things of this world will cause you to hold your head up high, but it will be brief for it is all passing away. Your glory is not found in your attractiveness, your talents, your bank book, your health, or even your legacy. Your glory is found in Christ, and so is your rest. He is our glory and the lifter of our heads.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. – Isaiah 40:8

D. Eaton

You Will Soon Be Home

“These all died in faith . . . they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” – Hebrews 11:13

The day of life with them is ended. Its duties are ended. Its responsibilities are passed. Its hours are fled away.

What a trying day some of them had! How stormy. How sultry. How often overcast. How gloomy. But it is now past–and past forever! The toils of the wilderness are over! They had much to afflict and pain them . . .
a difficult and dangerous journey,
a long wearisome march,
many a heavy cross to carry,
many a stubborn foe to face,
many a painful doubt,
numerous gloomy fears.

But now the wilderness is all behind them! The afflictions of the pilgrimage are terminated. Those sufferings were sharp, and some of them continued long. Many of them were endured in secret, without sympathy and without relief. They were soul sorrows, agony of mind–as well as sharp pains of body. But however multiplied, however severe, however protracted those sorrows–they are past and gone, never, never to return!

The sweetest repose is now enjoyed. The poor tabernacle has been taken down, and is laid in a quiet resting-place until the resurrection morning. The soul is gone to be with Jesus. It has traveled through the rough path of life–and is now in God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore!

As Christians, we are going to the same place. The graves will soon be ready for our bodies–and the mansions of glory for our souls. We are going home! Home to our Father’s house! Home where our hearts have long been. Home where all our prayers will be answered, and all our best desires will be gratified. “Home, sweet home! There is no place like home!” Especially our home! A paradise without a tempting serpent! A paradise where all are holy, all are safe, all are happy. Those pure and perpetual joys, which are at God’s right hand, await us! We taste them now and are delighted with a sip–but there we shall soon drink full draughts of eternal glory, eternal joy, and eternal blessedness!

Amidst present toils and trials, dangers and distresses–when wearied, way-worn, and tempted to fret–remember that you will soon be HOME! Think, think, O my soul, of an eternity of enjoyment–when the sufferings of time are ended!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!” Revelation 21:3-4

-James Smith (1802—1862)

Freddie Mercury: A Christian Meditation

 

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The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has hit the theaters to chronicle the life of Freddie Mercury and his untimely death to aids.  To reflect on such a life as a believer is sobering.  To reflect on the life and death of anyone would do the same, but there seems to be something more significant when we think about the death of someone like Freddie Mercury.  To imagine that rock royalty, Queen, will one day stand before the King of kings, should cause us all to pause and reflect on our lives for a moment.

Image result for freddie mercury

Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, then the judgment (Heb. 9:27).  All men, even those who seemed to have the world by the tail for a time, are subjected to it.  What is more troubling for the Christian who considers such an event, is to see how many people are still clamoring to have what Freddie had at the height of his fame, knowing that they fail to see how quickly these kingdoms will come crashing down.

There is no doubt that the pursuit of fame has engulfed many to the point that it seems to have consumed them. Knowing this, it should not surprise us when we read in scripture that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20).  Even if we end up with all that we dreamed of in this world, unless Christ is our treasure, we will be unable to find the rest that seems to be eluding us (Matt. 16:26).  In fact, we often impale ourselves with many troubles as we continue the pursuit (1 Tim 6:10).

There is a restlessness in the human heart as Augustine pointed out when he said,  “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  This restlessness comes from the fact that there is a knowledge of God written on our hearts, and in our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with it (Rom. 1:18-20). It is from this point that our pursuits for peace take us everywhere except the one place we would be able to find it.

In our sinfulness we reject God, knowing that we have violated his ways (Rom 1:32), and to cover up that knowledge, we tend to work even harder to find things that can distract us from that truth.  In it, we tend to go further and further down a path of vanity, for all is vanity apart from Christ (Ecc. 1:2).

From here we create our own standards of what we think a virtuous person ought to be, but even by our own standards, we fail to measure up. Only by deceiving ourselves are we able maintain any level of self-approval. Often during these pursuits, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of aberrant behavior merely trying to measure up to our own standards and fill our emptiness. In it, we cling to our own righteousness to appease the God we know is there and to assuage the guilt we know is ours.  We, even in our suppression of the truth, will create a God to our own liking and will try to appease it (Rom 1:23), and these little gods are tyrants without mercy. On top of that, the God of scripture tells us that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and he wants nothing to do with it (Isa. 64:6).  But, praise God, He then goes on to tell us of the remedy that he has offered in Christ Jesus, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  God the Father sent his son to die upon the cross to bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him (John 3:16) to bring us into a right relationship with Him and give us the peace we are seeking.

Image result for freddie mercuryAs was mentioned before, it is appointed once for a man to die then the judgment. The only way anyone will be able to stand in the judgment is if they are in Christ because he is the only one who has lived a truly righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins (Acts 4:12), and if we are not in Christ, we will have to pay our own penalty for sins.  This truth applies to all men and women, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved by the world or not.

To paraphrase John Donne, when we hear that someone has died and we wonder for whom the bell tolls, there is a sense in which it will always be tolling for us.  It is a constant reminder of our own frailty, telling us to be cognizant of our own end, and to ponder what awaits us afterward, and whether or not we are living life the way it should be lived; to the glory of God (Psalm 39:4). In it, you will find the fulfillment, rest, and, most importantly, the forgiveness of sins, you so desperately need. It was for this reason Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

 

Sin Digs Every Grave

A man's views of sin give a complexion to all his character.

Sin digs every grave and wrings out every sigh and wail from earth and hell. Sin is the worst of all evils. Nothing can compare with it. It is worse than the plague. Sin is unspeakably hateful. God calls it horrible and abominable. Godly men in every age lament it–lament it much in others, most in themselves.

A man’s views of sin gives a complexion to all his character. If he regards it as a trifle, he will laugh at it, when he should weep over it. He will make a mock of it. He will dally with it. He will take his fill of it. He will have low thoughts of God, and low estimates of salvation. He will despise Jesus Christ.

If, on the other hand, he considers sin as very dreadful and very hateful–he will hate every false way. He will long for holiness. He will hunger and thirst after righteousness. He will loathe and abhor himself on account of sin. He will have exalted thoughts of the being, perfections, word, and government of God. To him, Christ will be most precious, the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.

Job’s sense of sin was vastly increased by the great discoveries he had of God’s majesty and glory: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!” Increased views of God’s glory had the same effect on Isaiah, and made him cry out, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” (Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5).

God’s presence is infinite; His power is infinite; His nature is infinite; His existence is infinite; and so to sin against Him must be an infinite insult and wrong. Sin is an infinite evil. Sin is that abominable thing which He hates. He hates sin with infinite loathing.

-William S. Plummer-

3 Reflections on Sickness and the Christian Life

Being laid up for three days gives you some time to think about your frailty. Day one was enough in itself, but when you expect to get better on day two, and it gets worse, it starts to lower your spirits.  Today, the third day, is the first day I have had enough strength to sit up and write, and I am even finding this exhausting. I only have a flu virus. I’m sure if anyone reading this has battled, or is battling, cancer or some other serious disease, they are shaking their head saying, “you have no idea.” I’m sure you could teach me more than I could you, but I will put my thoughts here regardless, in case someone finds them edifying. Here are three thoughts that have been going through my mind as I have been laid up.

1. Sin is Serious  

There would be no sickness if it were not for sin. The reason we have to deal with any of it is because we live in a fallen world. Let me be clear, I am not saying that anytime someone gets sick it is a result of some sin they have committed. What I am saying is that because sin has entered our world, there is sickness in general. I’ve seen sickness ravage the lives of some of my friends. I saw it once in a friend whose life was taken by a virus, that, for the last several weeks of his life, he lost all control of his body. Up until a couple of months earlier, he was physically fit and running every day.  I saw it in another friend who lost his life to cancer. These two examples are enough to show us that sickness is serious, and though I do not believe these two friends were suffering because of any particular sin in their lives, they were suffering because sin has ravaged our world.

What does this say to me? It says sin is dangerous in any form. We often play around with it like it is a tame pet, but in reality, it is a deceptive brutal killer. Every time I play around with sin, I am playing with the very thing that brought not only sickness but death into the world. We must stop taking it lightly.

2. We Are Not Our Own

This life is not our own. This is true for everyone, but for the Christian, it is true in two senses. First, it is true for everyone in the sense that life is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to no one. We should never take our health for granted. None of us know when our last day of feeling good may be. It can happen overnight, all of the things we take for granted can be taken away. We live in a culture that hates to be reminded of this. We often try to hide sickness and death-keeping it as far away from us as possible. Being mindful of our frailty, however, is a valuable thing. Even David cried out, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! ( Psalm 39:4)” He wanted to be reminded that his life is a vapor: here today and gone tomorrow. There is a grace in knowing this, as it keeps our vision clear.  We must redeem the time. Our sinful hearts are pulling us in so many directions it is easy to get lost: to lose our center. So many things are vying for our attention, and much of it is vanity.

Once you are laid out on your back, you quickly realize just how unimportant many of the things you are pursuing are. Even if you know that your life is in no real danger, the questions still come. “What if this were it? What if my days of health were behind me? Was I spending it on what mattered?” The interesting thing about these questions is you would think the answers would make you speed up. Instead, they challenge you to slow down. So much of what we are chasing is vanity, and we don’t need to work so hard to have other people be impressed with us. We do not need to put on so many masks to make people believe we are something that we are not. In the end, none of that will matter. Our lives are not our own, and as much as we think we are, we are not in control of when or how it will end.

For the believer, there is a second sense in which our lives are not our own. We have been bought with at price: the cross of Jesus. Let that cost sink in for a moment. Remember what your Savior suffered to save you. Even knowing this, we rarely sacrifice our time for Him. As Thomas Watson put it, “Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” We are so busy chasing the things that we think will bring us glory and pleasure that we have little time for the One who really can. We have hardly any time for the Word of God and even less time for prayer. The pursuit of holiness is rarely as enticing as chasing status in this world, and they are often opposed to one another, so it is impossible to go after both. The fact that we have little time for God tends to show us where our treasure is.

3. Suffering is Crucial to our Spiritual Health

The first two reflections leave me with one final thought on the role of Suffering in the Christian life. Suffering is essential to our spiritual health. If our Savior, who had no sin, had to suffer in this fallen world, how do we, who have sinful hearts think we will escape it. We should neither seek affliction nor run from it. As one theologian once said, “It will find us,” but when it does, it wakes us from our slumber. We are naturally drowsy and need to be frequently awakened. Not only do we begin to see the power of sin in these times, but we are also awakened to the suffering of others. It is not until we are comforted by the Lord in our times of suffering that we will be truly able to comfort others.

It is all coming to an end one day, and our health has not been promised to us. What are we doing with the time we have? I for one do not want to find myself on my deathbed saying, “I wish I would have spent more time living for my Savior, in His word, in prayer, and showing a suffering world that Jesus is the answer.” Sin, in general, and, in particular, is our greatest problem, and He bore it on the cross. He has even defeated death by rising again, and though we are sown perishable, we will be raised imperishable. I will live for Him. Everything else will be vanity on the last day, for the things of this world are passing away.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:8

D. Eaton

Death: A Gaping Hole in the Old Testament Priesthood

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. – Hebrews 7:23-24

There is a depth to these verses that is often missed. The basic truth is clear, under the old covenant, though there was only one high priest at a time, there had to be many of them because they were prevented from continuing in the office by death, but think about this a little deeper.

The priesthood under the old covenant was a wonderful picture or shadow of the reality that Christ would fulfill. Some people, including the original readers of the book of Hebrews were tempted to go back to the old system for several reasons, but one of the benefits was that it was tangible. You could see the sacrificed animal, you could smell the incense burning, and hear the priest make intercession for you. This was undoubtedly a comfort, but in this picture of our true salvation in Christ there was a gaping hole. The priests kept dying.

The role of the priest was to mediate between God and man, and they would illustrate atonement from sin, but the wages of sin is death and even the priests continued to die. If you are in desperate need of salvation and you understand that death is part of what you need to be saved from, how much hope could you receive from priests who continue to die? You could only gain hope if you understood that it typified something greater that God was going to provide.

Every one of us, unless Christ returns, is going to face death. Some of us may already be feeling its effects. We are unable to do many of the things we used to do, and the older we get the more illness and health issues we have to deal with. When death becomes more of a reality for us, to whom are we going to turn and place our hope? To priests who still die? Your own goodness or heath regimens? Since none of these have defeated the enemy of death, there must be something greater in which we can place our trust.

V. 24 But he [Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently. He will never stop being our high priest because he continues forever. He has defeated death, even after tasting it on our behalf! So when your body starts to break down, when your work hours begin to outlast your physical strength, when you begin to see the doctors more frequently, you will know you have the correct High Priest if he has defeated death and continues forever. No other priest will ever truly be able to mediate between God and man and make atonement for sin and its wages. Never shrink back from Christ, and never lean on any substitute, for Christ and Christ alone is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For those who have faith, we have peace with God. He bore our wrath and His righteousness is accounted as ours so we can be co-heirs with Him, and since He lives forever, exalted with the Father, His work as our mediator is an ever present reality in the true tabernacle. In Christ, because of His priestly work, all of God’s actions toward you are grace, and none of it wrath. Even His chastening hand is moved by love.

Draw near to Christ today, approach the throne of grace with confidence, and if you are feeling the effects of a body tainted by sin, let it drive you to your Savior’s side, for all those who are in Christ will live with him forever. Though we are sown in weakness we will be raised in power, and though we are sown perishable we will be raise imperishable.

D. Eaton