And two-thirds

Stella Rogers died at age 99…and…two-thirds. At 99, that “two-thirds” part is important, you know!
Physical death did not come easy for Stella. She often asked others why Jesus had not yet taken her home to heaven. The answer we are given in the Bible is that God has a purpose and a time for everything and each of us. His work in Stella and His work through her was not yet complete until June 12th. With Stella’s earthly life complete, eternal life with her Savior and Lord Jesus Christ began the same moment. Stella’s soul was set free from a physical body that began decaying 100 years ago. We don’t often think, or even like to think, of death beginning at our physical birth, but it does.

In the last weeks, Stella asked her granddaughter Sherry to bring her favorite Bible, which was an interesting request since Stella couldn’t see. Although, she could see enough to know that Sherry brought the wrong Bible. What was in that Book that was so important to Stella, that even though she couldn’t see the words to read it, she wanted it nearby?

That Book tells us about death—it is an ugly picture—repeated on nearly every page of the sacred text. The Bible also tells us about life which lasts forever beyond this earthly life. This eternal life is only available from Jesus Christ. What does this precious Book say that led Stella to hold these truths so dearly? Below is my growing collection of “end of earthly life truths necessary to believe before the end of life in order that eternal life with Jesus Christ begins.” I reviewed these truths at Stella’s memorial service for the encouragement of other believers and for examination by those who do not yet believe.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that at the moment of physical death her soul and spirit would immediately be welcomed into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, she would not be in His presence because of luck or because of the kind of woman she was in this life but simply because she believed what Jesus said is true. Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.”

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that “Salvation is all of God.” Stella believed the only thing of her very own which she contributed to her redemption is the sin from which she needed to be redeemed.

Stella believed,as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who trusts Jesus Christ and nothing else, no one else, not even one’s self to save from our sin will also be forgiven and redeemed.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who has been forgiven and redeemed by Jesus Christ will at their earthly death immediately begin to enjoy the same eternal life she is now experiencing.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who has not been forgiven and redeemed by Jesus Christ will at their earthly death immediately begin to endure eternal life apart from the presence God.

Stella believed and continues to believe, as the Bible teaches us, that one day Jesus Christ will resurrect a perfect and sinless and eternal body to reunite with her soul and spirit.

Stella believed these truths taught in the Bible. Do you believe them, and subsequently, believe Jesus Christ? What additional truths would you include?

Brevity…is not so easy

Have you heard of the social network called Twitter? I don’t use it myself but I know that each “tweet” (message) from your smart phone or computer is limited to 140 characters. Before I knew the name of those kinds of messages, I called them “twits.” Thankfully, I was corrected before I made an even bigger fool of myself.

This week, Pastor Tony Núñez and I were revising a folded card we have used here to give as an introduction to the church and the Gospel. It includes the standard information about the church—name, address, phone, website, service time, a map, and a brief message. When folded they are the size of a business card. Some of the information needed to be updated. We thought it might be time to make further changes. One change was to include whatever we were going to say in English and Spanish on the same folded card. Previously we made two separate cards. Our already brief message had to be made even briefer-er (is that a word?).

What can you say about what you believe in 140 words (not characters, like Twitter)? Can you say it with clarity and meaning? It is not that we didn’t want to say more. We were limited by the available space. After several hours of word-smithing, here is our conclusion. The English version has 133 words, the Spanish, 134.

“We believe God’s Word, the Bible, reveals the truth about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God and became fully human. He died in our place as our substitute. His resurrection confirms the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice as finished, complete, and sufficient for our salvation. This salvation is received only through Jesus Christ by faith apart from any work, deed, or merit we might think we can contribute. God is love and His grace is a free gift. The Holy Spirit is God. He guides us by God’s grace to follow Jesus Christ in the way He chooses to lead us. God is one, made known to us in the BIble as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We worship Him in spirit and in truth to please Him and exclusively for His glory.”

Is our statement complete? No, there isn’t enough room. Is our statement perfect? No, nothing we do can attain perfection—only Jesus is perfect. If there had been more space, we would have included Scripture references to each of the statements above as proof that we weren’t making outrageous claims. We realized those receiving our folded cards probably would not question the source of what is said. If they read the card, we believe God could use it to stir their thoughts to further seek the Truth about Jesus Christ.
What do you think? I would certainly be interested in your thoughts, constructive and critical.

Resurrection Quotables

Here are a few of my favorite quotes. I’ve used these in recent Bible studies. They directly and indirectly relate to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday is a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection.

What is Christianity?
“Christianity is Christ” —Dr. W.H. Griffith-Thomas

Is Jesus mostly man or mostly God?
“He became what He was not; He continued to be what He was.” —Athanasius of Alexandria, Roman Egypt (Early Church Father, c. 296—373)

Does it make any difference whether Jesus was fully God and fully man?
“If Jesus were not fully God, He could not be our Savior. But if He were God and yet did nothing on our behalf—that is, did not do something to bring us to God—He would not be our Savior. Being God qualified Jesus Christ to be Savior, but His atoning death for us made Him our Savior. Jesus not only could save men; He did.” —Paul Little (“Know What and Why You Believe”)

What had to happen to make it possible for Jesus to die?
“He ‘committed no sin’ (1 Peter 2:22). He had ‘no sin’ (1 John 3:5). He ‘knew no sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Before He could die, Jesus had to be ‘made sin on our behalf.’” —Porter Barrington

Did Jesus rise from the dead? How do we know?
“…to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” —Luke (Acts 1:3)

Does it matter whether Jesus rose from the dead?
“On Christ, and what he has done, my soul hangs for time and eternity. And if your soul also hangs there, it will be saved as surely as mine shall be. And if you are lost trusting in Christ, I will be lost with you and will go to hell with you. I must do so, for I have nothing else to rely upon but the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived, died, was buried, rose again, went to heaven, and still lives and pleads for sinners at the right hand of God.” —Charles Spurgeon

What proof is there today that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?
“Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.” —John R. W. Stott

Has anyone cheated death and proved it? Is it available to me?
“There are but two essential requirements: first: Has any one cheated death and proved it? Second: Is it available to me? Here is the complete record: Confucius’ tomb—occupied; Buddha’s tomb—occupied; Mohammed’s tomb—occupied; Jesus’ tomb—empty. Argue as you will. There is no point in following a loser.” —G. B. Hardy

Who started the Christian greeting “He is risen” that is replied with “He is risen, indeed”?
“He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” —An unnamed angel (Matthew 28:6)

The Giver gives

I used to ask a nonsensical question that had an absurd answer. The answer is “apple,” which did not logically connect with my silly question. The dumbfounded usually wanted an explanation and I willingly obliged. However the reasons were as strange as the question: “Because a vest has no sleeves” and “one leg is both the same.”

After reading James 1:17, I thought I was the one being duped with a dose of my own medicine. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

In this section of verses (1:13-18), James wrote to correct an erroneous doctrine among first century Christians. Somehow they came to believe that God is the source of temptation. In verse 17, James is very clear that God does not “lead us into temptation,” as he learned from Jesus. James says exactly the opposite, that God is the Giver of every good.

But his reasons seem to be as bizarre as those I gave to my silly question. James said that God is the Giver of only good because “the sun’s light varies” and because “the sun-dial’s shadows change.” Do you see what I mean? His explanation makes as much sense as “being up the creek without a ladder.” What does James mean?

When James says, “with whom there is no variation,” he is saying the sun’s light varies daily but God doesn’t. The sun shines daily. Clouds, seasons, and even the earth’s rotation contribute to the sun’s appearance. James helps us look at God’s character to see that God’s holiness (that He is good) makes it impossible for Him to be the tempter of man. Why is it important to know that God doesn’t change? Here is just one answer. Because God doesn’t change, the evil person can’t blame God, saying he was tempted by God to see if he would repent or go deeper into sin.

When James says, “or shadow due to change,” he is comparing shadows on a sun-dial that mark time with the timeless God. At night there is no shadow on the sun dial from the sun, but that doesn’t mean there is no sun. James wants us to know that God does not cease to give. By His nature, God has always given. He is giving now and will always give eternally. Why is it important to believe that God only gives good? Here is one more answer. Because God only gives good, the righteous person can be assured when the circumstances of life are less than pleasant that he is not being tempted by God to see if he will endure or give in and turn away from trusting and following Him.

Don’t let your doubts about God’s role in temptation persist. He has never tempted us to act in an evil way and He never will.

Why couldn’t Jesus die?

Almost two years ago I started a series of lessons of Seven Skills that (hopefully) will assist us in our Bible reading and study. I could not have imagined that we would begin the sixth skill this year. I don’t know what this study has been for the others. I think I am receiving the greatest benefits. The old saying that goes “you can cover any amount of material you want, as long as you are willing to cut out enough” seems to prove true every week.

This sixth skill is on the great subjects of the Bible, or teaching, or doctrines. My intent is to give an overview of one subject each week. That doesn’t always happen. A few weeks ago we were learning how Jesus Christ permeates every part of Scripture.

As I was preparing and reviewing for that lesson about Jesus, I came to His death. The Gospels tell how horribly Jesus was abused prior to His crucifixion. Those accounts are not there merely to stir our emotions. More criminals died from those torturous acts of evil than didn’t. Jesus didn’t die when they beat, whipped, spit, and ridiculed Him. After all that, He was prepared for execution on a torture rack that would extend several days and include additional public humiliation. But crucifixion wouldn’t kill Him either. All of those agonizing scenes remind us that no matter how hard man tried, he couldn’t kill Jesus.

Why couldn’t Jesus die? The verse is so simple and so well known among believers, we sometimes overlook the obvious. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Why did Adam die? Death was the promised consequence for his disobedience. “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).

Jesus couldn’t die because He was sinless. Porter Barrington summarizes, “He ‘committed no sin’ (1 Peter 2:22). He had ‘no sin’ (1 John 3:5). He ‘knew no sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Before He could die, Jesus had to be ‘made sin on our behalf.’”
Those who follow the liturgical church year began Lent recently. Soon, there will be Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. With a better understanding of why Jesus couldn’t die but did after He was made sin for us sinners, I hope this year won’t be just another Easter thingy.