Have you noticed that no matter how resolved we can be with our plans for the new year the unexpected can happen? So it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions as your answers will be an indicator of how your year will go.
· Will you base your decisions on fear or seek and trust God in faith?
“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverb 29:25, 2 Tim. 1:7).
· Will you walk in weakness (your own strength) or God’s Almighty power?
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).
· Will you look to your own limited and fallible thoughts or God’s infinite and righteous wisdom?
“The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile” (Ps. 94:11). “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones” (Prov. 3:7-8).
· Will you live according to the world’s Godless ways or God’s grace and Word of truth?
“…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17).
Have you observed that no matter how hard we human beings try, we can’t control the weather, eradicate sickness or disease, or fix the problems of the world? We’re even incapable of bettering our own selves enough to stand before a righteous God. True wisdom acknowledges that we are in an evil age (Eph. 5:16) with corruption in our nature and condemnation as our rightful end. Just like a computer drive that’s become infected with a virus, humankind’s original ‘drive’ has been corrupted with the SIN virus. All born into the world default to a self-drive setting that programs them to run with commands of ‘be your own god’ and ‘direct your own life’ (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:5, 23, 5:12, 14). No amount of man-made tech support will help to eradicate it (Rom. 7:7-25). If anyone could fulfill all the requirements spelled out in God’s laws and commandments they’d have all the reason to trust and glory in themselves—but that’s not the case (Ex. 20:1-17).
God established the law to be a tutor to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24-25). By the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). The apostle Paul said that he would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. He wouldn’t have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Yet still he wanted to covet.
The Creator already had a brand new program in mind providing access through Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10, John 14:6). There’s no cost involved—just a willingness to receive it. (Rom. 3:23-26, Eph. 2:4-9). A new identity is issued in this program with new instructions for living and God’s continual grace and support (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10, 2 Cor. 12:9, 1 Tim. 1:14, 2 Tim. 2:1).
A word of caution: the old corrupt program will still be in our ‘system’ so precautions need to be taken to continually keep it in ‘disabled’ mode. Signs that one has fallen back to the old default settings will be apparent when they switch into self-drive—becoming ’selfie’ focused, self-promoting (outwardly virtue signaling), as well as self-pitying (which is also self-centered). The Trojan Horse trying to access, enable, and execute the corrupt program is no stranger to fraudulent activity as he first introduced the SIN virus to mankind (Gen. 3, John 8:44). He’ll never be able to gain access to affect the believer’s eternal security, but he can thwart the execution of the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in while on earth (Eph. 1:13-14, 2:10, Phil. 2:13, 2 Tim. 1:9, 1 Pet. 5:8). Satan knows that diverting believers to self-driven mode is effective, especially when it’s under the guise of ‘good works’ that are not from God (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 14, Matt. 23:5, 28). These may look outwardly good to the world, but bring glory to the work in the believer rather than glorifying Christ and His finished work in them. The true work of the Holy Spirit produces Christ-consciousness, not self-consciousness and humility, not selfish ambition (Phil. 2:3-4).
All labor is profitless if it doesn’t yield treasure in heaven. (Matt 6:19-20) “For what is a man profited if he will gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26) The Christian passes through trials so that he/she may learn to lean harder and more completely upon the Lord. When God said, “Be still” in Psalm 46:10, He meant “Desist—cease your efforts”, adding “and know that I am God” (and you aren’t’). The beautiful picture in Matthew 11:28-30 shows us that when we look to Christ and come to Him, He provides us with rest. When we take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, there will be true rest for our souls for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When resurrection is realized as the goal of God and the entrance into true life, then one can patiently perform God’s good works and endure with all patience, suffering, and joy.
The believer can only run in ‘safe mode’ when they continue to turn to and have faith in God’s written Word. Satan owes so much to technology as it’s the perfect vehicle to distract and divert the believer’s mind, focus, and time (Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 10:3-5). So many use the excuse that they have no time to read or study God’s Word, yet they spend hours listening to others on podcasts, YouTube videos, TikTok, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, online shopping, online gambling, playing games where they reach levels and receive artificial prizes, as well as binge-watching TV shows (Matt. 13:22). What a waste of time and an empty return on investment.
Time spent reading, studying, and learning God’s Word is never in vain as it’s profitable not only in this life but in the life to come (2 Tim. 3:16, 2:15, 1 Tim. 4:8, 1 Cor. 15:58). Without the knowledge of God’s Word, one will not be able to discern God’s perfect will (1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Cor. 2:14, Phil. 1:9, Heb. 4:12, Acts 17:11). Sadly without truly knowing God’s Word many are being led astray. A helpful guideline for assimilating information that we hear from others (especially when it comes from God’s Word) is to search for ourselves to see if it lines up with what the Scriptures actually say—rightly divided, and in proper context (Acts 17:11, Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 2:15, Phil. 1:9-11).
God’s Word is clear that a time will come when the crooked will be made straight and every work will be brought into judgment. God has a purpose and a work that transcends all our thoughts so we need to trust and wait patiently for Him (Eccl. 3:14, 12:13-14, Ps. 37). Have faith and be encouraged that no matter the plans and devices that man has in mind, ultimately the Lord’s counsel will stand and His purposes will prevail (Prov. 19:21, Ps. 33:11).
May you be resolved to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy…” (Colossians 1:9-11).
“One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath” (Ecclesiastes 9:2).
There’s one event that happens to all living creatures that is inescapable.
That event is death.
There is one place where the dead go when they die. That place is the grave.
By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world and so death passed upon all mankind—for all have sinned (Rom. 5:12-19). The one event— death — that each must face, brings us back to the grave (ground/dust) where we originated from (Genesis 2:7, 3:19, Ps. 89:48, 1 Cor. 15:47-48). The Bible tells us that there is no consciousness or memory in the grave (Ps. 6:4-5, 88:11-12, 115:17, 146:4, Eccl. 9:5, 10). Death is likened to sleep (Deut. 31:16, 1 Kings 2:10, Job 14:12, Ps. 13:3, Dan. 12:2, 1 Cor. 15:6, 1 Thess. 4:13-14).
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
ONE RISEN SAVIOR
Thankfully we don’t have to be left in the dust. There is one hope of escaping the grave according to the Scriptures. It is through the One Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. This was witnessed and recorded by men— but the witness of God is greater (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 20-22, 47-49, Ps. 16:10, Isa. 53:5, 9-11, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:39-40, John 11:25-26, Rom. 6:23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Heb. 2:14-15, Acts 1:3, 1 John 5:9-10).
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When God sent His Son into the world the first time, it was not to condemn or judge the world, but on a rescue mission to save it (John 3:17, 36). The believer may suffer death but their lives are ‘covered’ (as they are hid with Christ in God) where no man can threaten their spiritual blessings or inheritance. It’s a ‘sealed’ deal the moment one believes. After that it’s just a waiting game until Christ appears—then they’ll appear with Him in glory (Eph. 1:12-14, Col. 3:3-4, Phil. 3:20-21).
The unsaved sinner will find an eternal dwelling in the depths of the grave forever. This is how God will eradicate wickedness; the evil man will be consumed within sheol (the grave) and forgotten (not perpetuated in an eternal hell as so many have been misled to believe) (Job 24:19-20, Ps. 92:7-9, 145:20, Prov. 13:13, 24:20, 2 Thess. 1:7-9). The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26). The word ‘destroyed’ means to put down and be brought to nothing. This is consistent with the Hebrew words abad and shamad used in the Old Testament (Ps. 37:18-20, 37-38, 145:20) that denote death and destruction (not an eternity of being punished and burned). When a man or woman doesn’t have a savior who can redeem them from this death, then the condition is made permanent and the wages of sin are paid out eternally. In the New Testament, as the Messiah enters there is a consistent continuation of the Old Testament teaching—contrasting life and death. Jesus Christ comes into the world and offers life in His name. Those who reject this offer will receive the opposite of eternal life—death (John 3:14-16, 36, 14:6). One of God’s great purposes throughout the Bible is the removal of sin from mankind in order to achieve perfection in the world to come (Rev. 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:25-28). The Bible’s doctrine of death and resurrection allows that God will thoroughly and effectively accomplish the removal of sin from His creation. The penalty has been paid completely and in full by the Lord Christ Jesus.
I grew up (like many others) believing that when someone dies, they go immediately into the presence of God. This idea (though it may be comforting) is not biblically true. In the Bible the words “immortal” and “soul” are never put together to describe mankind. The word ‘soul’ (nephesh in Hebrew and Psuche in Greek) are always associated as being mortal. Man does not possess a soul—he is a soul, a living ’being’ (one might say ’soulical’). God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:14-16). The apostle Paul explains the differences between ‘soulical’ or natural body and the spiritual one in 1 Corinthians 15,“The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being (soul).” The last Adam became a life-giving (quickening) spirit” (1 Cor. 15:42-49).
Some misinterpret what Jesus said to the thief who hung on the cross beside Him in Luke 23:43:” And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, today shall you be with me in paradise.” You will note that the comma is after ‘you’. The correct reading is to have the comma after the word ‘today’. The reason for the confusion is due to the Greek manuscripts not having punctuation of any kind until the 9th century (and then only a dot, in the middle of the line separating each word). The comma was placed incorrectly. By going back to the original Hebrew writings it is found that a common Hebrew idiom, “I say unto this day,” which was used in a consistent manner that indicated a very solemn emphasis (occurring 42 times in Deuteronomy alone). So the true meaning was ‘this day’ or ‘today’, the moment or time that Jesus told the thief (because of the great faith he expressed in Messiah’s coming Kingdom) that he would be with Him in the future paradise of Revelation 22.
“Absent from the body” from 2 Corinthians 5:8 is another Scripture verse that’s often misinterpreted because it’s taken out of context. The apostle Paul was not making an assertion, but expressing a choice between two alternatives, saying “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The ‘tent’ (or earthly house) in which we currently reside in will one day be dissolved or taken down. The wonderful alternative is not some ‘unclothed’ condition, but a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:5-8). Only in the resurrected body can a believer be at home with the Lord. No one can live eternally without his/her resurrection body. This happens, not when the believer dies, but when the corruptible puts on incorruption, and the mortal puts on immortality. So when this corruption has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then (and only then) “mortality might be swallowed up of this life” and “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-55, 1 Tim. 6:14-16, Phil. 3:20-21). The believer shall pass from death to life with no awareness of the intervening years—sleeping in Christ and then awakening in glory.
ONE LIVING GOD TO PRAISE FOREVER
What a beautiful thing that God has allowed us to partake of. For those who choose the eternal life found in Christ alone, they can anxiously await saying, “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?” They will be satisfied when they awake in His likeness (1 Cor. 15:53-55, Ps. 17:15, 1 John 3:2).
Alleluia! Praise God! Thanks be to Him for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Note: I’d encourage anyone who is interested in exploring these topics further (in more depth biblically), the book “Asleep in Christ” by Helaine Burch. The author not only includes an index of Hebrew and Greek words from the Bible on this subject, but she tackles problematic passages from Scripture that have been misinterpreted and improperly taken out of context. (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11)
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 4:23).
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
It’s in these times of uncertainty, where invisible viruses change our lives in tangible, physical ways, that one can become more susceptible to acknowledge one’s internal condition.
One may look at him or herself in the mirror and appear fine, but outer appearances can be deceptive. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time appeared ‘clean’ and righteous outwardly, but their insides were defiled (Matt. 23:25, 28). The prophet Isaiah said in 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Each member of the human race has been infected with the SIN virus. It’s been passed from generation to generation ever since the first man contracted it in the Garden of Eden. No one is immune from the devastation and lethalness of it on their own (Gen. 3, Rom. 5:12, 18, 3:23, 6:23).
God did not leave mankind helpless. He had a remedy. He sent His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to become the Suffering Servant and the Wounded Healer (Ex. 15:26, Isaiah 52:14, 53:5, Phil. 2:7, 3:10, Heb. 2:9, 9:14, 12:2). The panacea for the SIN virus comes in a serum of love. Jesus Christ’s precious blood was poured out on the cross to cleanse and save from sin all who believe and receive it (John 3:16, 10:9, 14:6, Rom. 5:8-9, Eph. 1:7, 2:4-5, Col. 1:14, 20, 2:14, 1 Tim. 2:3-5, Titus 3:4-7, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Once the transaction is complete, the believer’s eternal salvation is secure. Their citizenship is now in heaven, where their Savior is and their life is “hid in Christ with God”. When Christ, Who is their life, shall appear, then they will appear with Him in glory— in glorious bodies that are like His—sin-free” (Eph. 1: 13-14, Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:3). But in the meantime (in this fallen life), the SIN virus still lies dormant in the believer. In order to keep it inoperative and perform the good works that God wills the redeemed to fulfill, the sinful nature needs to be put to death (Col. 3:5, Rom. 13:12-14, Eph. 2:10, 2 Tim. 1:9-10, Titus 2:11-14, 3:8). Protective gear is a necessity and has been provided for the believer to wear in order to stand against all unseen attacks (Eph. 6:11-17). Experiences of pain and suffering in this world (as Jesus endured) will not be for nothing. The tribulations will work out patience and produce character that will lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-5) One can endure being hard-pressed on every side, without being crushed; perplexed, without falling into despair; persecuted, without being forsaken; struck down, without being destroyed– all for the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:7-10).
The prognosis is promising as one seeks the things above, where Christ is at the right hand of God, not on things on the earth. No need to get discouraged even though the outward body is perishing, because the inward self is being renewed day by day. For light afflictions, are but for a moment, and are working a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (Col. 3:1-3, 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Endurance in this life is possible when one looks (as Moses did) to Him Who is invisible (Heb. 11:27). Live life elevated in the risen hope He’s given us. Laura