BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JUNE 5, 2011
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25)
When disaster strikes, as it did in Joplin, MO, on May 22, it makes us want to grasp at life all the more vigorously. Listening to the accounts of survivors, one might conclude that mere chance made the difference between life and death. The randomness of the death and destruction wreaked by the tornado reminds me of Jesus’ warning to His disciples: “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.” (Matt. 24:40-41) In this case, being “left behind” was a good thing, unlike the books and movies by the same name. Though it doesn’t feel like it to the families left behind, those who went on to be with the Lord are in a far, far better place than they have ever been before. If they could come back and tell their loved ones how glorious is their heavenly home (spiritual abode), it would somewhat ease the sting and grief of their loss this side of the veil. We, who hope in Christ to be reunited with our loved ones in glory, are certainly more blessed than those who do not know Him, which is yet another reason to preach the gospel to every creature.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the “power brokers” of the Jewish tradition which He came to shake to its very foundations. He denounced their religious efforts done to be seen of men: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to COME to me to have LIFE.” (John 5:39-40) There is no life anywhere else.
Jesus smacked the Pharisees’ attempts to control Him with their criticism: “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” (Vs. 42) When times are tough; when disaster strikes, it is the love of God in people’s hearts which leads them to pitch in and help in the form of money, work, and emotional support. The generous outpouring of assistance to the survivors of the Joplin tornado has touched our hearts and been such a source of comfort and aid to those who lost everything in five seconds flat.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He shocked her by asking for a drink. You know the story, so we’ll fast forward to my point. He told her, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) He is the source of all Life on this side of Jordan as well as the other. Sometimes, we make the mistake of trying to parcel Him into little bits. Here some forgiveness, there some patience, over there, self control. He is NOT a convenience store stocked with goodies we’d like to have. Until we get the big picture, however, we often try to talk Him out of some particular trait we find ourselves lacking in. He IS LIFE; and He lives it IN us and THROUGH us, every DAY, every SEASON, every WHERE and every WHEN.
Resurrection Life flows from the Throne of God into Christ in fullness. He has the Spirit without measure. The New Testament bears witness that we are IN Christ, some 69 times. What does that mean exactly? To me, it means we need not live like paupers, doing without, when everything God has for us is IN Christ and we are IN Him. All of God’s promises are “Yes and amen in Christ” (II Cor. 1:20), and all the Christ like attributes which we aspire to have, but fall so woe-fully short of, are found IN Christ, where we live and move and have our being.
We can pray no better prayer than Paul’s found in Ephesians one, where he asks that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you (us) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you (us) may know Him better.” When God answers that prayer, we will taste the “riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Eph. 1:17-20)
When God opens our eyes to see what it means to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, we begin to experience the promise Paul mentioned several times: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you HOLY in his sight, without blemish and FREE from accusation.” Paul follows this declaration with an interesting observation: “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Col. 1:21-22; 23) The verb (has been proclaimed) in verse 23 is present perfect tense, denoting an action which was begun in the past, and continues to happen up to the present. For Paul to make a statement like that indicates to me that God has had a personal hand in spreading the Gospel.
John makes a similar statement: “Then I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” (Rev. 14:6) Whether you believe the angel was a heavenly being or a human messenger (perhaps flying in a helicopter), it’s thrilling news that God’s eternal gospel does not depend on us alone to get it proclaimed.
Christ’s Life brings forth life; it continuously swallows up death; it fuels all the works which we are led to do. Naysayers cannot stop it; doubters cannot dilute it, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. Life begets life. Instead of worrying about what we must do for Christ, let us focus instead on what Christ has done for us, is doing for us, and will continuously do for us!
Christ Himself did not take credit for His works, so why should we? He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19) Wouldn’t it really be easier to operate that way than the way we often do, trying to figure out good works to get ahead in the Kingdom?
Paul asserted about Christ, “The death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Rom. 6:10) And since He conquered death for all men, He brought all of us through resurrection into Life along with Him. This is why we are seated in heavenly places with Him who sits on the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20; 2:6). On the occasion of Lazarus’ death, He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) May God grant us faith to believe this!
The survivors of the Joplin tornado say with Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (II Cor. 4:8-10) They are well aware that it was not their will, nor their faith, nor their confessions which brought them through the storm still alive. It was the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead which quickened their mortal bodies. Some heard the last trumpet sound and were called home. The rest of us have been changed. Our eyes are open to see that “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:10) God is the Father of all men, Jew and Greek and all who seek Him will learn by the Spirit that “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 10:28)
To God be the glory, now and forever. Amen.