Saturday, February 4, 2012

Traditions, death and hope

Not a mash, not a Friday Reflection - more of a hodge-podge of thoughts...
  • Received a call today that one of our members’ mothers passed away last night with a massive heart attack. He had been out of town to a seminar, and had just had heart ablation surgery this past week himself. The family will be staying up all night with the body through the weekend. You thought people didn’t do that anymore? In eastern Kentucky, people still pull over for ambulances, paramedics, and they make a full stop for funeral lines – even on our major Route – 23. One of the finer traits of mountain people, in my estimation.
  • Speaking of such things, time is of the essence. I often tell people when they ask about the family, “So far, so good,” or, “Fine, best I can tell.” Who knows?
  • And to further the thought, I’ve also often said that there are things worse than dying; think I have a sermon about that somewhere. Death is final, certain, unchangeable. Its difficult to handle. But I suspect suspense is much worse.I know of a family at the present time, the father of which is now improving from a massive stroke caused by a blood clot. He is now breathing on his own after several weeks in intensive care. He may actually rehabilitate to some level of normalcy. But for many families this is not so. Sufferers lie comatose for weeks, months - and for a rare few - even years. There are also those whose lives emulate the experience portrayed in Phillip Young's, The Shack. The main character’s daughter is taken, and but for the grace of God, her poor body would never be recovered.

This is the reality for many people. No recovery. No answers. Only the silence. This, indeed, must be in some ways worse than the finality of death.

Joyful tones? I suppose not.
  • So let me add: realities such as this do not depress the Christian message, they enhance it. We favor neither ourselves, nor anyone else, by implying on a regular basis that becoming a Christian is an end of itself. It is not an end, it is a means to an end. The Christian life is the means to eternal life. The Niagra River has many beautiful landscapes, but all the water eventually crashes down at the falls. That's the truth about life - all life, even the Christian one. The Christian hope provides the only true contrast. 
  • Finally, speaking of death, one man has tried to convince me several times that no one really ever knows where he’s going after death until the moment he dies. I disagree. 
  • As with the prophets, I started with the bad news; now, here's the good news. 

The Scripture is full of encouragements that offer a trustworthy and confident view of our salvation. A few here: 
  1. The appearing of the Savior is called our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
  2. When a Christian dies, those who survive should not sorrow “as others, who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13).
  3. God “…gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” so as to “comfort [our] hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thes. 2:16, ESV).
  4. The Hebrews writer reminded that: “Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Heb. 3:6). 
  5. Christians should “show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end” (Heb. 6:11). 
  6. Because of God’s promise, we have “strong consolation…who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us,” which hope is a “sure and steadfast” anchor of the soul (Heb. 6:11,18,19).
  7. The blood of Jesus gives us access to God’s mercy, therefore we can come boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy and help in our times of need (Heb. 4:15); and our hearts, cleansed by that blood, our conscience, sprinkled from defilement, gives us the assurance to draw near in faith and be healed (cf. Heb. 10:22).
  8. Because of God’s promise, and our faithfulness to Him, we have boldness and access with confidence” (Eph. 3:12). And, as our love for God is perfected, we have “boldness in the day of judgment” because “perfect love casts our fear” (1 Jn. 4:17,16).

Paul wrote that nothing – not even death – has the power to arbitrarily separate us from God’s love (cf. Rom. 8:37-39). Boasting in ourselves is certainly excluded, but confidence in the Savior isn't.  
Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our obedient faith in Him secures our victory (cf. 1 John 5:4). And because He is our Advocate (cf. 1 John 2:1), even thought we sin, we can still find justification (cf. Rom. 5:1; 1 John 1:7-8). 

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