Just Imagine!

The Corinthians were curious about this physical resurrection that Paul kept teaching about. It was quite different than what most Greeks traditionally believed about the after-life.

The Greek religion taught that after death, a person’s spirit would be delivered to the river Styx. There, if the person’s body had received a proper burial, he would be ferried across the river by the ferryman, Charon. Once across the river, the person would be faced with three potential fates.

The worst fate, reserved for those who sinned against the gods, was Tartarus, a dark place of eternal punishment. You might recall the story of Sisyphus, who had to keep pushing a large rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down the hill again and again. Or maybe you’ve heard about Tantalus who was made to eternally stand nearby a table laden with delicious food, but the table remains eternally out of reach.

The Fields of Asphodel were reserved for the vast majority. This was where you ended up if you were a regular joe, not too offensive to the gods, but not exactly a hero of the faith, either. The Fields of Asphodel were, as the name suggests, a vast plain containing grass and flowers upon which the dead lived and wandered aimlessly. Not exactly a glorious existence!

For the heroes and those who impressed the gods with their virtue and piety there was Elysium, a paradise where their spirits lived on in everlasting life.

None of these included a resurrected body. So it was a shocking thought to most Greeks that the afterlife would be a physical existence. They were curious, because this was like nothing they had ever heard before.

Paul’s response to their question was, “It’s going to be amazing! Your perishable body will become imperishable. Your not-so-glorious corpse will become glorious. The body that was placed in the ground motionless and powerless will be raised and be brought forth a powerful body. The body sown into the ground like a seed was a natural body. The body that will rise will be a supernatural body.

It’ll be the same body, Paul says. It will be your body. But what a difference between what you physically experience now, and what your physical existence will be then! It will be glorious. It will be amazing. The best way to put it is this: Your body today is modeled after Adam, the earthly man. But in heaven, your body will be modeled after Jesus’ glorified body.

Just imagine!

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” …So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 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… And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:35, 42-44, 49, NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for salvation. Thank you for heaven. Thank you that because of the cross and the empty tomb, I will enjoy an eternal — and physical — existence in your presence forever. I can barely imagine how amazing it will be!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, August 23, is 2 Chronicles 18:28 – 21:3, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 and Psalm 102:12-17.

Header image based on "Elysium" by Sundaram Ramaswamy, CC By 2.0

“Return on Investment?” or “Stop the Bleeding!”

Have you ever bought a car that had one mechanical issue after another? Do you recall what you called that car after a while?

Yes. A lemon.

But lemons come in more shapes and sizes than just cars. A house with one structural issue after another can be a lemon; so can an appliance that forces you to constantly call the repair person. An investment in what seemed like a sure bet can be a lemon, too. Ever own stock in Blockbuster, MySpace or Eastman Kodak?

Typically with a lemon, you stop talking about a return on investment and start talking about how to stop the bleeding.

Paul wanted the Romans to become aware of a huge spiritual “lemon.” But this is actually far worse than a lemon. He calls it an actual hazard — a tremendous hazard to life and limb, an eternal threat to body and soul.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

What is it? It’s buying in to the “pleasures of sin.” Paul says that those pleasures are very short-lived, and always lead to a very, very bad outcome.

“Buy in to what sin is selling,” he warns. “and ultimately, you’ll become a slave to sin — every last time.”

That sounds pretty “lemonish” to me. But then Paul says even more. Sin can only result in shame and far, far worse, it will lead to eternal death! This is one lemon that will never become lemonade!

Compare that with the return one gets — and all completely a gift! — when one follows Jesus by faith. The result of that, Paul states, is wonderful. It’s holiness, and ultimately, life eternal!

“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:21-23, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, July 21, is Hosea 3:1 – 5:15, Romans 6:15 – 7:6 and Psalm 88:1-9a.

Lord, send me your Spirit through your Word (through the words like these we read in today’s Bible reading) and empower me to “stop the bleeding.” Help me through a repentant heart to turn my back on the short-lived pleasures of sin that lead to death. Jesus, push sin aside in my heart, and take my heart over. Sin can only destroy me forever. I want the gifts you have for me, not the self-destruction and torment that sin always ultimately offers. Forgive me for my sins, and grant me your forgiveness and mercy. Grant me holiness and life.

Header image based on "Puzzle" by Erich Ferdinand, CC By 2.0

This Is Eternal Life

Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified. He is going to enter a period of the most intense suffering that anyone can imagine. And he knows its coming.

He’s already given his disciples their final instructions and reminders. So what does he do after that?

He prays.

This prayer is perhaps the second most well-known prayer of Jesus, following only The Lord’s Prayer. It’s known world-wide as “The High Priestly Prayer”. It’s a prayer in which Jesus makes intercession for the church of the future.

As Jesus begins this most intense and beautiful prayer of any prayer in the gospel records, he starts with purpose. He reminds God the Father of why he has come — that he might glorify the Father. He also asks the Father to glorify him through what is about to happen, but only so that might complete his task of glorifying the Father.

He points out that the Father granted him the amazing authority to confer eternal life on all those given to him by the Father.

And then Jesus comes with an explanation — in the clearest terms possible — of how eternal life is conferred on us.

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3, NIV).

Notice how Jesus here cements knowing God to knowing him. The two are inextricably linked. If you want to truly know God, to take hold of him and receive his grace, mercy and help, let no one convince you to look anywhere else than Jesus.

Know God, the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ. Know Jesus as your Lord, sent by the Father to be your Savior from sin.

And eternal life is yours.

This is the gospel in its purest form! This is the central message of the Christian faith.

Believe it!

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, May 26, is 1 Samuel 17:38 – 18:30, John 16:5 – 17:5 and Psalm 68:1-6.

Father, thank you for sending me your Son to be my Savior. Thank you for glorifying him through his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. In your Spirit’s power, I believe. Please receive me into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ!

Header image based on "Gospel Graffiti II" by Peat Bakke, CC By 2.0

When Life Truly Begins

Sometimes it feels like we’re in a holding pattern, just waiting for life to get started.

Life will begin when we finally get to high school. Or is it college?

Life will really get started when we graduate and get that first big job. Or maybe it’s when we — at last! — meet that woman (or man) of our dreams, our soul-mate, our life’s companion.

Or maybe life will truly commence once I’ve achieved financial freedom. Then again, it could be when my health issue is resolved. Or is it when I finally get to retire and travel the world? No, no, I mean move to that cabin in the woods.

Or is it a beach house?

Surely, that’s when life truly begins.

Jesus has a different take. He tells us that life — true, eternal life — begins the moment the Holy Spirit moves our heart to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And how does the Holy Spirit move our hearts? The Spirit moves when we listen to Jesus’ word!

That’s what the Creator of all life tells us. We give life a chance to commence when we put ourselves in position to listen to the Bible. And true life begins when faith in Jesus begins. At that moment, as Jesus says, we “cross over from death to life!”

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭24‬ NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, May 7, 2015 is Judges 6:1 – 7:8a, John 5:16-30 and Psalm 57:7-11.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me life. I no longer have to wait for it. You have already granted it to me, when you sent your Spirit to give me faith in you!