Fighting For The Prize.

fight

Yesterday I reflected on the powerful and dynamic faith of Corrie Ten Boom who steadfastly kept her eyes on Jesus while harboring Jewish refugees, being arrested and enslaved at a concentration camp and losing her sister and other family members to the atrocities of WWII.  The entirety of the New Testament promises that when we look to Jesus and remain in Him and in His words, we will have Spiritual peace.  But it also promises that we will be persecuted, hated and even killed because of our faith.  Jesus Himself stated:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

– John 16.33

You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

– Matt 10.22

Paul even goes so far as to say,

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

– 2 Tim 3.12

There it is, in black and white.  Everyone who desires to live godly lives in Jesus will be persecuted.  We will be hated by the world, by everyone who does not know Jesus or have saving faith, because of our faith and our actions.  This is not a license for us to act in an unbecoming way.  We are commanded to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us and to live at peace with all men so much as it depends on us (Matt 5.44, Rom 12.18).  We are to turn the other cheek, give more to those who steal from us and return love for evil (Matt 5.39-40, 1 Peter 3.9).

These commands seem impossible at times.  Sure, we can romanticize them and have idyllic pictures in our minds of being the ever-loving victim that never holds a grudge, but it is an entirely different picture when someone intentionally seeks our harm or attacks us without cause.  We can return good for evil in our own strength once or twice, but it is impossible to make a lifestyle out of the habit without Christ.  Sometimes a soft answer does not turn away wrath.  Sometimes loving our enemies does not heap burning coals upon their heads.  Sometimes they have already made up their minds to hurt or destroy us and it is only years down the road that our loving response impacts them on any level.  All we can do is trust God for His plan in those situations.  Our obedience is driven by love for God, not a desired outcome in the other person – our enemy.

But yet we still continue to believe the lies that God will make our lives soft and comfortable if we follow Him.  Many have sold out to the health and wealth gospel, following false prophets like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn faithfully.  Consider this:  if God pours out blessings, security and health on those whom He loves, He must have despised Paul and the apostles.  They all had no homes, no security, they were persecuted and all but one murdered simply because of their faith.

Even if we deny the traditional health and wealth gospel with our mouths, we often believe it in our hearts and exemplify it by our actions.  When we find a job, get a raise, have healthy and obedient children, and go an entire year without visiting the doctor, we proclaim “God is good!”  When tragedy strikes, when a job is lost, when a loved one dies, when radical Muslims attack our cities, we cry out “Why me?” and “Where is God?”

Have you ever been hated on account of your faith?

I am not advocating self-imposed suffering or intentionally seeking martyrdom.  Jesus told the disciples to flee to the next city when persecution arose, and it was only by the direction of the Holy Spirit that Paul was led to Rome to be murdered – and that after fleeing numerous other times.  However, it is indeed the promise of Scripture that all – not some – but all who desire to live Godly lives will be persecuted and hated because of our faith.  If you are hated for any other reason, it does not count.  Peter says,

“For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

– 1 Peter 2.19-20

When we sin, we should suffer the consequences patiently and in humility.  That is just common sense.  But it finds favor with God when we suffer unjustly, and bear it with patience and humility.  When was the last time you were wrongly accused – because of your faith – and counted it a blessing to be able to join Christ in His sufferings?  Or did you cry out “this is not fair”, and rebuke God in your heart?

Peter teaches us that we should always be prepared to give an answer or defense for the hope that we have.  Does your living, in the wake of trial and tribulation, cause people to stop and ask you about your hope?  Or do you only proclaim God’s goodness when things are good and life is rosy?  Isaac Watts bemoaned the point beautifully:

Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
and sailed through bloody seas?
Sure I must fight if I would reign
increase my courage Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by Thy Word.

– Isaac Watts

So let’s step back and reconsider.  What is it that we consider a blessing and benefit from God?  What is it that leads us to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness?  What is it that we pray for, long for and lose sleep over?  A job?  Health?  Life itself?  Money?  Do you fight to persevere in your faith?  Do you fight for the prize rewarded to those who serve God and die to the flesh?  Does your life look like the American Dream, or like the apostles?  Have you ever had to defend the seemingly nonsensical hope that you have?  If not, we need to reconsider our faith and our priorities.  Let’s start storing up treasures in Heaven and dying to our flesh.

Look to Jesus and you will be at rest.

holocaust

In the last twelve days,  we have seen ISIS attack Istanbul’s major airport killing 45 and setting the world on edge because Istanbul serves as a sort of gateway between the western world and the Middle East.  Then gunmen linked to ISIS killed another twenty in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and then ISIS pulled off their most deadly attack killing at least 121 in Baghdad.  Droves of people are being murdered around the world and here in the states we are watching racial tensions lead us to a new level of hate where people now embrace “their killers” based on race or profession.  I have seen friends on social media post about inequality because “Our murderers are dead and your murderers receive a paid vacation”.  Really?  That is where we are as a nation?  And then at least 6,000 Turkish military personnel rise up under the leadership of an Islamic minority group in an attempted Coup of the government.

The world is in a tragic state.  As Americans, we regularly look only as far as our own backyard and we are all in an uproar about Black and Blue lives that matter wile nations are quite literally falling apart and killing one another at much more alarming rates.  Yes, I believe that black lives and blue lives matter.  I also grieve for the hundreds who have been murdered this week while celebrating their version of Christmas all around the world, and the entire nation of Turkey (and Syria and many African nations) who have lost all sense of security in their worlds.  Just consider what would change if a military coup occurred in the US.  Jobs, schooling, the banks, all of our retirement plans, all of our “rights” and expectations as fat and happy citizens would be instantaneously changed or gone.  Everything.

But that is Turkey, not here.  We will keep fighting over who has to make a cake for whom and consequently bemoan the terrible injustices we encounter daily.

Corrie Ten Boom is one of those people who exemplified the most remarkable faith and has forever impacted my life and worldview.  She, along with her family, were Dutch nationals who helped hide and rescue Jews during WWII.  The family was arrested for their actions and Corrie was imprisoned alongside her sister Betsie in concentration camps.  Betsie died in the camp.  The girls led Bible studies, worship services and continually praised God throughout their imprisonment, and after the war ended Corrie returned to the Netherlands where she began a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors. The girls’ faith was poignant and bold – praising God for even the fleas in their barracks, which they only later learned were the reason that the guards did not come in to rape and harass the women as they did the other women.  Corrie made this simple, yet profound statement:

“If you look at the world, you will be distressed.
If you look within, you will be depressed.
If you look at Christ, you will be at rest.”

– Corrie Ten Boom

Can you imagine:  quite literally starving to death, being worked with the intention of extermination, fearing for your life with no relief in sight, living in barracks with no heat and infested by fleas, having no idea the fate of your family and loved ones, and all the while being able to say, “Look to Jesus and you will be at rest”?

How can we be at rest?  Perhaps you live in fear of the police.  Perhaps you are a police man living in fear of random assassination.  Perhaps you look at the upcoming election with fear, considering both of the candidates unfit to lead our country.  Perhaps you look at the alarming rate at which ISIS is growing, attacks are being successfully carried out and governments are failing.  Perhaps you are stuck in your own little bubble – needing a job, fretting about retirement or arguing about social injustice because someone looked at you funny.  And all of these things are things worth discussing and fighting for (or against).  But these things are not eternal, and these things – if rectified – will not bring us joy and peace.  Only Jesus can do that.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

– John 16.33

Jesus has already overcome the world.  He has defeated sin and eternal death, and is delaying the end of the Age for the salvation of many.  But the war is already over, the end has already been written and we know that He will bring all of His own into His final rest.  But He also offers rest now, while we are still living on this Earth.  How?  By assurance that our eternity is secure and promising that everything that happens on Earth is working out to His glory and our Spiritual best.  God’s best for the Ten Boom family was obedience to protect Jews, incarceration in a labor camp, murder for some of them, and unthinkable suffering.  They were given faith about which most of us can only dream.  They were sustained through trials – the likes of which would send many of us into depression and abandonment of the faith.

Our eternal life has already begun in the New Birth, and eternal life is simply knowing Him:

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

– John 17.3

Do you know God?  If you do, then you have eternal life.  If you do not, then you do not yet have eternal life.  We will have worldly suffering and trials.  We have difficulties.  Just like Jesus did.  Just like the apostles did.  Just like the early church did.  But all we have to do is look to Jesus, and we will have rest.  Let’s look to Him today – while we are fighting for justice, while we are praying for our nation and the world, while we are seeking economic stability and while we are planning for the future.  Look to Jesus and have rest.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

– Matt 11.28

He loves us as a bride.

wedding

Perhaps the most well known verse in the Bible is John 3:16, and rightfully so.  It is clear, it is succinct, it is full of hope and promise, it is beautiful:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

This verse gloriously exemplifies the general love that God has for the entire world, and what theologians identify as the “general call” to salvation.  God loved the fullness of humanity such that He offered His son to pay the penalty for our sin.  Anyone.  All.  Whosoever believes in Jesus Christ will not perish, but will be saved.  It is tempting, and extremely dangerous, however, to bring our personal and cultural understanding of love to the Scripture, and to utilize such a glorious promise as John 3:16 to negate a much more profound type of love which God has for His children.

While God does indeed have a general love for the world, and while the offer of salvation includes, in part, a general calling for everyone, there is also the much more beautiful love which God has for His children which He equates to the love of His bride.  We are taught clearly in Scripture that the Church (everyone who believes, and everyone who was saved by faith from the people of Israel) is the bride of Christ.  Husbands love their brides in a unique way.  They love their friends, they love their sisters and mothers, they generally love the women in the church or community, but the love for a bride is specific, incomparably strong and special.

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’.”

– Rev 19:7-9

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

– Eph 5.25-27

This special love that God has for the Church is also known as electing love.  I know, I know, it sounds so cold and impersonal.  If God chooses us and makes us able to love Him then it is not true love, right?  We are not robots, we choose and experience our love for Him personally.  But let’s set aside our offense and look at how Scripture defines it for us.

Before Christ came, God set apart the people of Israel to be His chosen people.  Abraham was a moon worshiper whom God set apart and declared to be the father of His people.  He chose Abraham and He chose the Jews for no other reason than His own prerogative:

“The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you.”

– Deut 7:6-8

It was God’s choice alone, and God chose Abraham and the Hebrews simply out of love:

“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”

– Deut 10.14-15

He did not have the same, choosing love for all of the other nations – it was special for Abraham and his descendants.  It was a choosing love.  It was as setting a bride in a special place of honor before all other women – never to be matched and never to be diminished.

Jesus gives us another analogy to help us grasp this fact:  He calls us His sheep.  After Jesus died on the cross and paid the punishment for sins, he broadened the call from the Hebrew people to the entire world.  It was God’s intention from the beginning to bring in people from every tribe, tongue and nation, but it was through the work of Jesus on the cross that the electing love was broadened by grace and no longer identified by Law.  Jesus says that there are “sheep” (believers) from other “folds” (nations) who need to be brought in (John 10.16).  Interestingly, however, Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and know Him – stating clearly that belief comes only because one already belongs to Jesus:

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.  But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand’.”

– John 1-.27-28

Jesus stated that the men listening did not believe in Jesus because they were not His sheep.  Our natural inclination would lend us to believe that these men were not Jesus’ sheep because they did not believe, but Jesus reverses the order:  He chose first, and their belief was contingent upon their identity as sheep.

This is exemplified clearly in Jesus’ teaching of New Birth:  The Holy Spirit blows and gives life to whomever He pleases, and we can neither understand nor direct where it moves or to whom it gives birth:

“Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

– John 3.7-8

The Holy Spirit gives us Spiritual birth by His own choice, and based on that new birth we believe.  Yes, we are believing.  Yes, we have that responsibility.  But we cannot help but believe when we have been made alive in the Spirit.  The things of God are irresistibly beautiful and we long to love, know and serve Him.  We are His sheep.  We are His bride.  We are also His children!  Not everyone is a child of God:

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

– 1 John 3.9-10

How, then, can it be that “whoever believes shall be saved”?  John himself goes on to explain in the following verses:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

– John 3.16-18

The one who does not believe is already judged, because he is not a sheep, he is not part of the bride, and he has not been given new birth. D.L. Moody gave a beautiful example of how we might understand this tension in our Spirits.  He used to teach regularly throughout his ministry that the pearly gates of Heaven could be imagined to have a sign overhead reading “Whosever will may come”, but upon entering into the gates if one were to look at the back side of the sign it would read, “Chosen before the foundation of the world” (John 3.16, Eph 1.4).

Jesus loves His bride with a special, choosing love.  It is not based on anything we have done, but on His providence and grace alone.  If we attempt to merit His love and choice, we greatly disgrace His love and work on the cross.  When He loves us, He gives us new birth and when we are awakened Spiritually we cannot help but turn to Him, cling to Him, and love Him.  Because we are His sheep and we hear His voice and we know Him.  We are His bride, and He teaches husbands to love their wives in the same way He loves us:  giving up everything for us, loving us lavishly, dying for us, and presenting us to God holy and blameless.  Let us rejoice in that great love today, and not diminish it by equating it with the general love that God has for the entire world.

I suppose Satan shall not love you…

opposition

Consider this fact:  Satan was created during the first week of creation.  He has been functioning in his role as the deceiver and accuser since the time of Adam and Eve.  He has a host of angels (commonly known as demons) who assist him in his efforts on Earth.  He is called in before God with all of the angels and heavenly principalities to give an account of their efforts on Earth:  he knows God, he knows God’s character and he knows the Bible.  Everything that we read in Scripture Satan not only knows from reading it, but he was present when the events happened and the words were written.

In short, he has much greater power than we do, he knows the Bible better than we do, he knows the prophecy of the End Times better than we do, and while his every action is governed by God, he is intentionally seeking to deceive and destroy believers as well as keeping others distracted from the Truth so as to not become believers.  He wants to make us ineffective as disciples and disciple makers and destroy as many as possible as he himself is headed to an eternity in Hell (Rev 20.10).

All of that being said, Satan is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.  He does have demons who can keep account of things that are happening, but he himself cannot be everywhere at all times.  Therefore, the chances of us personally being attacked by him are slim.  The chances of us being attacked or influenced by demons, however, is not only high; it will happen.  Satan and his demons know the temptations, the desires and the tendencies of this world.  He knows that most Americans will not be affected by the supernatural but will be easily distracted by lusts and sin:  money, sex, reputation, success, entertainment, etc.  They also will learn our personal tendencies and be able to tempt us and draw us back into our sins of habit if we do not develop strategies for fighting these.

In the most clever of situations, the demonic forces will even utilize religion and the Bible to distract or tempt us.  When Satan encountered Jesus, he tempted Him utilizing Scripture.  Thankfully Jesus knew the Scripture better and was able to recognize the twisting and false interpretations of it – and respond with Truth (quoting other Scripture that exemplifies the heart of God!).  We will find this in false teachers throughout the world!  Thus Jesus warns us to beware of false teachers:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

– Matt 7.15

We must also be aware that Satan and his demons will not like efforts that we as the church and we as individuals make to make disciples of the world.  John Newton, the famous hymn writer, had an often simple yet profound way to communicate the Gospel and encourage people.  A man named Henry Martyn who was desiring to be a missionary and had been met with opposition.  People told him that he had an “insipid and inanimate manner in the pulpit”.  Newton, however, refuted each of the criticisms which he had been dealt with hope.  Most poignantly, when Martyn brought up the opposition that he might meet along the way, Newton simply said,

“I suppose Satan shall not love you for what you are about to do.”

Many had sought to oppose Martyn, but he was confident in God and his calling, and after being encouraged by Newton, he moved to India where he translated the entire New Testament into Urdu, Persian and Judaeo-Persic, as well as the Psalms and other books.

If we are about the things of the Lord, Satan and his demons will oppose our efforts.  This should not deter us, however.  He opposed and tempted Jesus – utilizing the most deceitful of methods:  pitting Scripture against Jesus!  We must know His tactics and we must know God.  We must have discernment and ability to rightly read and interpret Scripture.  And most importantly, we must remain strong in the face of opposition – because He will oppose us.  He will not love us for serving God.

Love ≠ Tolerance

intervention

The seventies instilled in us the belief, er, wish that “all you need is love” to be happy and succeed in life, politics, the workplace, relationships, whatever.  Love and peace were the mantras echoed against the Vietnam war and turmoil of the draft amongst other things.  Today the battle cry has morphed into tolerance.  We do indeed long to be loved, but we are more concerned with having the freedom to believe and do whatever we darn. well. please.  Sure, it would be great if you loved me for what I do – but I want the government to protect me from you disagreeing with me, bullying me, or trying to prove me wrong.  This mindset is permeating our culture at such a rate that parents are now hesitant to teach and discipline their children, friends consider the highest form of mutual respect to be unmitigated acceptance, and employers and professors are now afraid of their employees and students – for fear that the wrong policy or statement might end in a lawsuit.

Deep in our hearts, on the most visceral level, we know that tolerance does not equal love and tolerance is not a sustainable value in education, maturation and interpersonal relationships.  If a child wants to play with a poisonous snake we tell him no and we explain the dangers.  If a young person believes that babies arrive by storks delivering them to happy parents, the eventually need to be given sex education to learn about how our bodies work and why certain changes have happened to them as they grew older.  If an American moves to England, someone must sit him down and explain driving on the left-hand side of the road and how the turn signal is opposite from the windshield wipers in the US.

Tolerance sounds great:  Live and let live, however we all recognize that there must be confines within which that tolerance resides.  Proclaiming “peace” and declaring that “all we need is love” will not stop terrorists from killing people who are not fighting.  Withdrawing from war will not force the Sudanese people to suddenly get along.  Ignoring evil will not make evil go away.

We also recognize that we must teach children to read and write, to learn math, to walk, and countless other basic skills.  To play a sport or a game there must be rules otherwise the game falls apart.

Ok, so the philosophically elite argue then that tolerance should be encompassing of our “immutable characteristics and belief systems”.  Simply, religion and carnal desires – and general worldviews that would encompass cultural tendencies and desires, as long as you are not hurting or imposing on someone else’s rights.  Again, this sounds very neat and tidy up front, but what about the culture that marries children?  What about the culture that allows multiple spouses?  What about the person who is born with the addiction to cocaine or the person who is genetically prone to alcoholism?  What about the religion that sacrifices animals?  What about the religion that eats human flesh to interact with their gods?  Or has sexual relations with animals?

We are left again with a difficult situation:  to tolerate and allow one person to practice their worldview will cause another to feel discriminated against in almost every situation.  If there are no absolutes, then everyone will find an opponent and it is asinine to expect the government to be able to rule on such a wide and vague range of topics.

That, however, is a side topic.  My main argument is that this kind of tolerance is not only impossible, it is illogical.  If a person truly believes whatever it is that he is proclaiming, then the truest form of love is to tell others and try to convince them of this belief.  If I truly believe that you will die if you step onto the street in front of that speeding bus, then it is not loving of me to philosophically evaluate the situation and consider your worldview and decision.  I will shove you out of the way or pull you back onto the sidewalk.  If I truly believe animals have rights and deserve to be treated humanely, I will join PETA and try to save animals from abusive homes and from religions that would sacrifice them or fight them for sport – and try to convince you why it is wrong to do so.

And most importantly, if I truly believe that apart from Jesus Christ we are all sinners and condemned to Hell, the most loving act for me is to warn you of the coming judgment and tell you of the hope in Jesus Christ.  If I believe that you are headed to Hell because of your sin and never tell you how to be forgiven in Jesus, I either hate you or do not truly believe that, because an eternity separated from God in the lake of fire and torment is infinitely worse than getting hit by a bus.

Tolerance, therefore, is essentially indifference.  To allow someone to do something and live something that is contrary to your belief system – if there is a consequence involved – is to not care.  Or worse, to hate.  One cannot truly validate another’s worldview and opinions without invalidating his own – unless he someone has a completely illogical all-inclusivism which would leave him with fundamentally no belief system.

Philosophy is greatly complicating our relationships and politics.

Therefore, let us cling to the long-standing authority of the Bible which has never been disproven and has withstood the test of centuries of critiques and cultures.  Alcoholism is not new.  Mysticism is not new.  Homosexuality is not new.  Nothing that our culture attempts to throw at the Bible in an effort to discredit or defame it is new.  And while it is a work of the Holy Spirit to draw someone to the Truth of the Bible, Scripture is clear that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  Therefore, we must share so that people can hear and be saved.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

– Rom 10.17

If you believe the Bible, if you believe in Heaven and Hell, to love your friend and neighbor is to tell them about Jesus.  To tolerate them is to not talk about Jesus and to not love them, but to condemn them to Hell via inaction.  Once they have heard, there is a level of tolerance required, but true love would continue to be concerned about their eternities and souls, and to never leave the topic far from conversation.  Let us love people, and earnestly try to reason with them so that they may be saved.

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

– Charles Spurgeon

How Will You Die?

graveyard

Death is unavoidable.  We all know that in 100 or so years, everyone we know will be dead.  Death is the end of life, the eternal closure to our fleeting years on this planet.  The progress of medicine and cultural shift towards entertainment and self gratification have sheltered – or distracted – us from this reality, and we typically only contemplate death and eternity when a loved one dies but we all know death is our destiny.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

– Heb 9.27-28

Scripture is unashamed about that fact that all mankind will die, and that by appointment of God.  After death we will all be judged according to the life we lived while on the Earth.  It has been a popular evangelism tool to ask the question, “If you were to die today and God were to ask you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?”  This question reveals a person’s understanding of the Gospel:  that there is nothing we can do to earn or merit our entrance into Heaven because God’s standard is perfection and we have all sinned – but Jesus died in our place and paid our debt of punishment so that we can be forgiven.

This question, however, reveals much about our personal faith and worldview.  If we approach a stranger or loved one with this question the likelihood is that we are considering salvation our escape from Hell, and that alone.  Jesus is for our eternity, He is for after we finish our life here on Earth.  Yes, it addresses our greatest need – but only in a superficial way – essentially saying, “one day we are going to die, then what?”

Jesus did not come to the world to take care of what happens after death, only.  Jesus came to the world to take care of what happens before death.  We cannot get a passport to Heaven, lock it in the drawer and count on it to gain us entrance into Heaven when we die – all the while continuing in life just as we did before.  Jesus came to give us new life which begins at the New Birth, our Spiritual birth, and never ends.  Our physical birth ends in our physical death, but our Spiritual life never ends.  You can read more about that here.

The New Birth required for salvation is when we are born Spiritually:  given Spiritual life (John 3).  This is the life that will continue beyond our death and will enter into eternity with Christ.  This life is birthed by the gift of faith by grace and results in our deep and unfaltering love for God and Jesus Christ (Eph 2.8-9).  God is love.  Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  If we do not love God and one another, we do not know God (1 John 4.7-8).  Loving Jesus and God means “abiding” in Him – or remaining in Him (John 15.4-7).  This means that our love for Jesus draws us continually to prayer (talking with Him), reading Scripture (to learn from Him and understand what He expects from us) and drawing strength from Him (relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us throughout the day).

In short, salvation necessarily results in our love for God.  Everything that we do, therefore, should be in response to that love for God.  Thus we have commandments like:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

– Col 3.17

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Cor 10.31

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

– Col 3.23-24

Scripture is indeed full of commandments.  If defines and condemns sin, it outlines how we should love, respect and care for the Church and for the world, it even teaches us how to worship God.  And while we take great care and make every effort to obey those commandments, it is not out of duty but out of love for God because of the love He has for us and the salvation He has given us through our new life.

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– Luke 7.47

And conversely, he who is forgiven much loves much.  Therefore, those who love Jesus will talk about Jesus continually.  They will recount the story of how He saved them, how He changed them, how He has given them Spiritual life.  They will talk about how much the love Him and what He is doing in their lives.  Their evangelism will not be, “Are you prepared to meet Jesus when you die” but rather, “May I introduce you to Jesus now?”  If Jesus is not transforming our lives now, we should seriously step back and examine our so called salvation – and see if we truly have Spiritual life.

I personally am more concerned about meeting Jesus and giving an account for my obedience to His commands.  He clearly taught us to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation (Matt 28.18-20).  He clearly taught us to love our neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves (Matt 22.39).  He clearly taught us to bear much fruit – growing in Spiritual maturity and teaching others to do the same (John 15.8).  We are promised that we have everything that we need for life and godliness in the Scriptures alone (2 Peter 1.3).  Can you imagine meeting Jesus face to face and admitting that you barely read or knew the Scriptures – His story and instructions for us?  Can you imagine meeting Him face to face and explaining why you did not go?  Why you did not make disciples?  Why you never met your neighbors, never gave to the Church or met other people’s needs?  Why you wasted all of your money on a house, car, entertainment and retirement?

Everything in the Earth is God’s (Ps 24.1).  We have been granted use of the Earth, the gifts and the finances that He deems fit.  We are stewards of His possessions.  Thus Paul says,

“For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

– 1 Cor 4.7

Jesus came to give us new life, which starts while we are alive physically.  He commanded us to be a part of Him bringing new life to others by going into all the world.  He is not primarily concerned about what happens after we die – even though we all will die.  He is primarily concerned about our love for Him that drives us to obedience of Him.  In this same vein John Piper said,

“The question, brothers, is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit.”

How will you die?