So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the tag “resurrection”

An Easter Meditation-2016

 

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I hate death. I hate it because it’s just not supposed to be here. It flies in the face of God and His creation. How could the living God, the God Who is Life, create anything other than life and how is it that death remains to this day the destroyer of life?

Most Christians believe that deaths appearance in creation is the fault of our parents, Adam and Eve; it was not there ‘in the beginning’ when the Living God made everything ‘good’. Since we are all connected to the first Adam we all sin and every sin carries the death sentence. But, death is not confined to just human experience but robs the essence of all living things thereby reducing them to coldness, darkness and decay. We see this everywhere around us; dying forests, dying oceans, dying atmosphere, dying earth, dying animals and, it seems to me, all this is on the increase.

However, death extends far beyond mere natural things because it is a supernatural phenomenon, an eternal death (called the “second death” by Jesus in Rev 2:11) and every person confronted by the truth of the Gospel therefore makes a spiritual life and death decision. Christians choose the life demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrection, the final and complete overcoming of death. Paradoxically, Christians live to die, a dying to self, a narcissistic self driven by hubris and through this ‘death’ experience the resurrection life of Jesus now and for eternity.

The alternative view is that death is the final, inevitable, necessary result of blind evolutionary, materialistic and purely ‘natural’ processes. Buying into this ‘creation story’ generates a ‘nauseating nothingness’ (see Sartre’s Being and Nothingness) forcing an already dead person (it may take decades, but we are all born dead) to forge some kind of self-defined ‘meaning’ out of a terrifying meaninglessness. The nearly universal lawlessness, terror, societal disintegration, political mayhem and constant war shows the kind of ‘meaning’ humanity has come up with.

Dismissing the Gospel and the message of Easter as some kind of religious fairy-tale, wishful thinking, or an irrational denial of the “natural order of things” is to already have chosen death over life. Anyone so choosing remains the enemy of God and continues hating God (see Romans 5:10). All who reject Him will eventually discover that natural, physical death is not the end after all, that their soul, which they probably deny exists at all, is forever separated from the Living God, the Source of eternal Life, Joy, Peace and Happiness.

So, what’s the point of all this? Those of us who have chosen life over death through Jesus must bring the message of life to all who remain dead. It is a formidable task for the enemies of God and champions of death, both natural and supernatural, are arrayed against us. But, we know this war was already won the day the Son of God arose from the dead and makes our victory today assured. Armed with this knowledge and faith, the gates of hell cannot prevail against us and we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We can rejoice at these words of Paul this Easter Day:

Romans 8:31–39 (NKJV)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reincarnation: The Christian Version

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According to many of the world’s religions a human being will endure any number of births, deaths, and re-births on a journey towards enlightenment and a final release from the samsaric cycle. The ‘re-birth’ part is called reincarnation or being ‘rebodied’.

There is a Christian version of this called being ‘born-again’ which includes an eternal re-embodiment called ‘resurrection’ both given final definition by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus, the Christian who dies in Christ and whose body perishes, as do all natural things, will once again be re-bodied, only now with an eternally incorruptible body fit for the new environment it finds itself in, namely heaven and the presence of God. This will only happen once, no nearly endless reincarnations in hope of finally being released from samsara, because “it is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment.” Therefore, the Christian version of being ‘re-bodied’ is not an escape from, but a fulfillment of a grand design formed from eternity in the mind of God and executed in time, space and a material world.

Furthermore, Christianity rejects the idea that the true, ideal or ultimate existence is an amorphous one wherein all sense of self-consciousness is gone and the body is merely a vessel to be discarded when the samsaric reoccurrence is broken. Rather, being re-bodied is part of a perfection wherein the self becomes its true self, what it was meant to be from the beginning, fully conscious of its embodiment and of the God who created it in the first place.

It shouldn’t really be that surprising that similarities exist between the major world’s religions and Christianity. After all, Romans 1 makes it clear that the world stands guilty before God because it knows that He exists and what He is like by His creation. We must be careful, however, not to confuse similarity with sameness, as if they are both saying the same thing, only differently. Christianity brings together through two magnificent events, the Incarnation of Logos and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the final truth of what it means to be really, finally and ultimately alive that other religions can only hint at.

And this is one major theme of Easter: the triumph of life over death. Because He lives, we now live and shall continue so for eternity. We share in the life of God, the Source of all Life, Life itself, in fact for He is the God of the living and not of the dead.

 

 

What To Say to a Zombie If You Meet One

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I’ve heard death described as “just part of the natural order of things” like it’s all normal and therefore acceptable. Others act like death is a gross inconvenience, disrupting their grandiose schemes and must be met with elaborate attempts to squeeze just a few more days or years out of a life already wasted by consumption and unbridled hubris. Still others, as their last moments arrive, cower in fear, trembling before the great unknown that faces them, while some act arrogantly and defiantly thinking their bravado will ‘scare it away’.

I despise death in whatever form it takes because I know it isn’t supposed to be here. It is an aberration, an abnormality, a foreign invader, a much reviled interloper, but, most of all, an enemy. It came when sin entered His creation and indeed, thanatos reigns.

Unless you’re a Christian, that is. Believers know that death has no more sting for those born twice and that death, the last enemy, is swallowed up by life; not just any life, but eternal life, the very life of that God of the living whom we serve and worship. And because He is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also eternally alive now, this very moment, along with all who have faith in He Who Speaks, the I AM, the Word Incarnate, the Alpha and Omega, He who was, is and is to come. We who name the Name of Jesus say to death “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” because “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

We must come to understand that there exists all around us a real ‘walking dead’ very much like those depicted in numerous zombie movies. They must be given the antidote, the only antidote, to this scourge of death inflicted upon mankind which is His death and then His resurrection, that grand finale to God’s plan that all who share in His death share also in His resurrection. It is here that death is turned on its head, no longer an ending but a beginning.

The message to these ‘walking dead’ is this: “You are already dead so finish the job and die to the self that cruelly and inexorably drives you ever deeper into sin. Exchange your death with His redemptive death and victorious resurrection through faith and join the countless millions who can say with Job that “though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

Thoughts for a Christmas Morning

 

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The sum and substance of Christianity are the absolute truths that Jesus was miraculously born into this world, that He died an excruciatingly painful death, and that He rose again on the third day. Rejecting as mere mythology or doctrinally compromising any one of these is to reduce Christianity to a mere moral code not unlike other religions in the world. Unfortunately, both are happening and one example of such compromise within many ‘enlightened’ churches, denominations and their congregants this time of year concerns the Virgin Birth and that it is just too ‘over the top’ for the modern mind to accept. But what preceded His birth in Bethlehem is even more astounding, His kenosis or ‘self-emptying’ that made the Virgin Birth possible in the first place.

The account of His kenosis is found in Philippians 2:5-11, a passage many think is a hymn of the early church. Verses 5-8 describe His Incarnation and Sacrifice while verses 9-11 tell of His Resurrection. This short passage, then, contains the three central truths of Christianity mentioned earlier and, to say the least, is filled with profound theological implications.

The main focus of v6 is His Pre-Incarnate existence as God and that He voluntarily chose the kenosis. But this choice was not an afterthought, a knee-jerk reaction by God when creation went awry, for Jesus was foreordained before the foundations of the world to shed His blood for the sins of the world, impossible were He not a human being; His birth marked the beginning of that journey to the Cross.th

The words used by Paul throughout this passage, namely ‘form’, ‘appearance’ and ‘likeness’ might seem to imply that the Incarnate Jesus was somehow an inferior display of Deity, or not Deity at all, as with Arianism, for example. However, the language and grammar show otherwise by affirming that Jesus’ self-emptying did not exchange Deity for humanity but rather fully and perfectly manifested Deity with and through His humanity allowing Him to say that “he who sees me sees the Father” and “I and the Father are one.”

Remarkably what Jesus revealed Deity to be was a slave (v7-doulos) with no rights or privileges accorded freemen. Thus, the nature of God, what God is really like, put on display before the whole world was that of a slave doing the work of a servant marked by humility and sacrifice and voluntarily put at their disposal; “no man takes my life but I lay it down…”. Thinking of God this way was a radical departure from the many revelations of Yahweh the Jews were familiar with described in the Old Testament and no doubt contributed to Jesus’ rejection as the Messiah. But, thinking of God in this light is no less radical for New Testament Christians; God is a slave, a suffering servant, a dying God (v8) taking the place of those who only deserve His wrath; this is the nature of the One we call “Father”.

Paul tells the Philippians to have this very same attitude Jesus had when He underwent the kenosis, namely becoming as slaves and “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4 NASB) I can think of no better counsel that reflects what Christmas is all about.

The beginning of His exaltation (v9) was the physical resurrection we celebrate at Easter, impossible had He no body and no less remarkable than His birth. It was a glorified body that ascended to the right hand of the Father and a resurrection body we all will share at His appearing, eternal, perfect, sinless and forever removed from death, decay, or sickness. In truth, He was born into our world that we might be born again into His

A final thought to consider is that when Logos emptied Himself to become a human being, He did so permanently; in whatever way He pre-existed, it was forever laid aside by His becoming God-man. Thus, the degree of His full identification with human beings is breathtaking; He is forever God-man, our High Priest who lives to make intercession for us, at whose Name “every knew shall bow, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Truly, He was born into our world that we might be born into His and for that we are eternally grateful.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

© W.G. Ryzek 2012

 

 

 

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