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Entries in Spirit (2)

Tuesday
Aug282018

Your Personal End Times

Multiple Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 26, 2018.

There is much talk from both the secular and the religious world about the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).  In such discussions we have come to use words and phrases like: Armageddon, Extinction Event, Antichrist, One-World Government, Seed Banks, and… the list goes on.  As we look forward and contemplate the idea that the world as we know it could come to an end (whether we cause it to happen or it comes upon us), we should keep in mind that the majority of mankind will not experience these events.

This is not an attempt to minimize those foreseen or unforeseen forces that could alter the systems of the world and mankind’s destiny.  It is instead to make us think about the reality that for most of mankind the end times have to do with the end of our life on this earth.  It is our own personal world coming to a close as we leave our bodies in death.

My life will one day come to an end.  If I use the numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, I could determine approximately how much life I have left, at least on average.  In 2017 it was listed in rounded numbers as 76 for men and 81 for women.  However, both of my grandfathers lived to be 86 and 97 respectively.  They were +10 and +21 above the average.  Though that may make me confident in what I have left, my father passed away at 61 years of age, -15.  I have a cousin who died in his 40’s a niece who died in her early teens.  Ultimately, none of us can really know how much time we have left, short of a doctor giving us the terminal news.  When you consider disease, tragic accidents, or purposeful attacks/wars, you recognize that our personal future is not as firm as we tend to think it is.  In fact, I cannot guarantee that I will have any advance warning.

Many, who either fear the future or are prudently prepping in various fashions for what may come, have given less time to prepare for the event that all of us will have to face, and that is death.  I am not talking about getting a will in place and having burial insurance.  Those things are to deal with the stuff that is left behind.  What about that part of you that is not physical, the soul or spirit?  I am not trying to make us afraid of the end of our life, but it is important to make sure that you are prepared for it.  Few of us are ready to die in the sense that we want it to happen right now.  But we can all be ready in the sense that if it were to happen today, I would be ready for what’s next.

I am going to physically die.

Let’s bring a couple of passages to mind.  Genesis 2:16-17 is the command that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If they did then, “you shall surely die.”  The phrase translated here does emphasize that the death will be sure.  However it also does so in a construction that allows for it to be a process- translated more literally it is “Dying you shall die.”  It is clear that at this time Adam was not a dying being.  But I will come back to that.

Of course we must think about Genesis 3:17-19.  After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God places a curse upon them.  As he speaks to Adam he mentions that “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”  Though humanity was originally formed from the dry ground, our original state or condition was not one of a dying species.  It isn’t exactly clear from the Scriptures whether this was an inherent immortality or if it was dependent upon something else like remaining sinless or eating from the tree of life.  Regardless, it is clear from Scripture that something happened at the beginning of humanity, and this event set in motion our current state of existence.  We are born, grow old, and then die.  The statistics so far are impressive.  100 out of 100 people do not survive life on earth.  They all physically die.  This was not God’s plan in making humans.  However, He did allow it to happen and has worked it into His overall plan.

Another verse to keep in mind, from the perspective of God’s Word, is that of Hebrews 9:27.  Here we are told that God has appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment.  Thus the idea that we keep coming back, reincarnate, until we “get it right,” is never supported by the Bible.

So when we die, we are told that the body decays, returns to the ground, but Scripture is clear that a part of us remains and is not destroyed.  We can call this the soul or the spirit depending on your theory of the metaphysical part of humans.  We are more than just brains, heart, and blood.  Otherwise we would have to recognize that all human “thinking” is a mere firing of synapses that none can take credit for.  They are just operating along the lines of physics much like a penny dropped on the ground can end up in any number of places, but physics will define them all.  No.  Humans are able to make true choice, though at times we surrender to the external stimuli around us.  There is more to us than just the physical processes that make us up.

Even if you are not a Christian who believes the Bible, you are facing the same issue.  Christians see a biblical answer to this predicament and prepare in a biblical way.  For others the answer is to use their wealth to create technology that will overcome the defects of our body and the limits of our life.  Whether mankind comes up with a technical solution to physical death or not, most of us will not be alive when it does.  So where are you putting your hope?  Brady Hartman reported in the Financial Times that Ray Kurzweil, the famous futurist who also works at Google, used to eat 250 pills a day, but now he is down to 100.  In an interview a few years back, Kurzweil told Caroline Daniel of the Financial Times that he spends a few thousand dollars per year on vitamins and supplements.  He also spends one day a week in a doctor’s office receiving intravenous longevity treatments in a bid to stay alive longer.  His hope is to be alive when the technology is perfected for downloading our brain to a new, designer, human body, whether cloned or not.  Of course even if one was to be able to transfer the data of the old brain and then successfully write it onto the new brain (a big if), the question would remain, would that really be me?  God’s Word makes it clear that there is a different way to prepare ourselves for our own death.  So let’s look at His plan.

As we have stated, God did not create humans initially to die.  However, Scripture tells us that He has a plan to bring mankind out of this dying state, or mortal state, which is our current status.  Let’s look at Daniel 12:2-3.  “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”  Though the Old Testament is somewhat cryptic about the fate of the souls of men, here we have a passage that gives an astounding prophecy detailing some of what it will be.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52 gives us a similar idea from the New Testament.  “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  Thus the Bible speaks of an incredible event, in which wise and foolish, righteous and wicked, will be made to come back to life in what is called resurrection.  It may sound unbelievable to hear that God’s plan involves a time in which He will resurrect those who have died.  It is easy to scoff at the idea, but we cannot escape the reality that this is God’s plan according to His own word.

In fact, God’s plan has one aspect that is far better than a human technological solution.  Even if we can get to a point where we can essentially keep ourselves alive forever through genetic therapies, etc., we will still have the problem of the sin nature.  God’s plan leaves behind the mortal flesh and the sin that goes along with it and takes on an incorruptible body.  No matter what man designs as an answer, it will be tainted by our own sin nature.  We cannot heal ourselves.  Only the untainted Creator can heal us.

There is a special case that is spoken of in Scripture and it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  Here it says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Paul makes it clear that the dead will rise first and then those who are still alive will be instantly changed.  1 Corinthians 15 says, “in the twinkling of an eye.”  Whether that is in a Planck second or not, it will be extremely fast.  So there will be a group of people who will still be alive when the resurrection of the righteous occurs.  However, that moment will catch them much like death catches us now.  They will need to have already made the necessary preparations for their body to be transformed (not unlike death as the mortal dissolves and immortal takes its place) and made immortal.

Thus for all the body of this world will come to an end at some time.  Then we will wait for the day of resurrection in a state in which we have no body.  For some that has been thousands of years.  For others it may only be 5.39 × 10 −44 s. 

Regardless, we are left with the question.  What will be my condition during that waiting period?  We can call it the intermediate state between physical death and immortal resurrection.  In the following weeks we will look at what the Bible says about this intermediate state.  However, today I ask you this.  Have you prepared for your physical death in the way that God’s Word tells us to do?  God is offering all mankind forgiveness of our sins and eternal life beyond this world.  How can I accept that offer?  We must simply confess that we are sinners and fallen in our nature.  We must then put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of our soul and the Lord of our life.  Lastly, we must publically stand with Him before the world.  If you have and are doing that, then you are prepared for your physical death.  But, if you have not, then I beg of you to rethink this question of what will happen when I die.  Don’t put it off.  Make the choice to trust the Creator today.

Personal End Time Audio

Tuesday
Dec022014

Faults of the Evil Generation II

Today we are looking at Luke 11:37-44.

We have been looking at the things Jesus pointed out about his generation which evidenced their wickedness.  Their unbelief always wanted more signs.  Also their ability to see spiritually had been lost.  Today we will see how sin had caused them to give greater attention to superficial things over the top of the deeper and more important issues of their hearts.  Such a superficial existence not only fails to do good things, but actually causes us to do evil.  In this passage our favorite bad guys (the Pharisees and the Lawyers) are on the whipping post.  However, we need to ask ourselves today this question.  How am I like this?  Or, at least, how have I been dealing with this reality in my life?

They Focus on Image over the Inside

Now in this passage there is a Pharisee that asks Jesus to come to his house and eat with him.  During this situation Jesus recognizes something that is going on inside of this man.  There is no indication that the man had said anything openly.  Yet, Jesus is not content to have image without an accompanying inner reality.  That which looks good on the outside but is poisonous on the inside is more dangerous than that which looks bad on the outside.  People will be tempted to accept something into their life that looks good on the outside but can hurt them, whereas something that looks bad is generally rejected outright. 

So why was Jesus invited to dinner?  We do not know the man’s motivation.  More than likely he hopes to find reasons to discount Jesus and thus move up in the ranks of his religious group.  Thus pretended favors always lead to real attacks.  Yet, maybe this man simply wants to have the attention of one who had Jesus at his house.  Jesus was widely popular and to be associated with him in anyway would reflect upon the Pharisee.  Or, perhaps the man is interested in Jesus and wants a closer look.  No matter which of these is the truth, remember this one thing.  When you invite Jesus into your house, he is not going to content himself with only looking good.  Jesus is going to point out those hidden issues of our heart that need to be dealt with.

Now something happens before dinner.  Jesus neglects the traditional washing that the religious did before eating.  Now this washing wasn’t about hygiene.  It was a symbolic washing that represented being spiritually clean from sin.  It seems impossible that Jesus simply forgot.  Even if he didn’t normally observe this washing, Jesus knew the teachings and practices of the Pharisees all too well.  Thus it seems that Jesus purposely neglected washing because he knew it would provide a situation in which he can speak to the heart of this Pharisee’s life.  Although we are talking about the faults of an evil generation, we need to recognize that Jesus is also pointing out precisely where they needed to change in order to be saved.  It is like a surgeon.  Yes, cutting a person is bad.  But if a surgeon cuts a person precisely where they need to be cut then it is actually a good thing.  When God points out our sin it is not in order to condemn us, but in order for us truly to be set free.

Now when the Pharisee sees that Jesus does not do the traditional washing, he “marveled.”  Instead of seeing the heart of Christ he was stuck on this outward act or lack thereof.  We must understand that focusing on the outward without working on the inside is utter foolishness.  Jesus uses the metaphor of a cup to illustrate this.  Have you ever opened the dishwasher to pull out a cup or bowl that looked clean but when you turned it up there was some crud still left in the bowl?  Someone didn’t rinse it well enough for the machine to clean.  Although it looks good on the outside, you are not going to eat from it.  This is how God saw the Pharisees.  On the outside they looked like good followers of God and He should be happy to have them and use them for His glory.  But the problem was that they were full of sinful things.  Jesus points out that God had made mankind both material and spirit, or with outer and inner parts of their being.  Would God be satisfied for his people to clean only the outward?  The Pharisees were right that God was concerned with man’s need to be cleansed of sin.  But they focused only on the outward things.  In fact in this case the washings were merely symbolic.

In Matthew 15:11 Jesus makes the case that we are not defiled by outer things.  Rather we are defiled by what flows out of our heart into our material life.  Thus a person can make their life look good, but if their heart is wicked, it is not only unacceptable, but is even a worse evil.  Are we not a generation that fights against the reality that our inner man is more important than our outer man?  Do we not focus far more on image and material things than on truth, reality, and inner things?  It is an evil thing to focus on the outward and ignore the inner.

In vs. 41 Jesus tells him to give alms of what he has and then he won’t have to worry about washing his hands before dinner.  That is he will truly be clean spiritually.  Notice that it is possible to use external actions to wash internal sins.  This man was guilty of greed and wickedness (vs.39).  He focused solely on the symbolic act of washing, but never actually did anything about the greed and wickedness in his heart.  Did he not know he was greedy?   That is unlikely.  By his actions he was testifying that he would rather live in shadows and hide from the Truth than walk in the light of God.  Not all who come to Christ and go to Church seek His light and life.  Many are merely looking for shadowy places in which to hide themselves.  But where Jesus is there will always be a confrontation which such wickedness.  We must wash our hearts by actions that crucify those inner sins.  Are you proud?  Then take a humble position and seek no credit for it.  Become a servant of others and in so doing crucify the pride in your heart.  Such a person will be seen as clean by God.

They Focus on Trivial Matters over Heavier Things

Similar to focusing on the external is this problem of focusing on trifles over the top of heavier issues.  In another place Jesus used the picture of straining out a gnat, but then swallowing a camel.  The inability to truly face and deal with the inner issues affects how one prioritizes outward actions.  This imagery has to do with light and heavy objects.  Do you remember in the old cartoons how the character would be weight lifting and the two round weights would have 1,000 painted on them?  Yet, later you would find out that they were just black balloons.  This helps us to see several issues.  So keep this metaphor in mind.

Now Jesus had counseled the man to give alms because he knew the man gave precious little that didn’t somehow benefit him.  The Pharisees had developed a meticulous system of rules about tithing (giving a tenth of your income).  Within this system of rules they were able to look like they were lifting a lot of weight spiritually, but in reality they were not lifting anything at all.  Here Jesus points out that they would make a big deal about tithing to the point that they would even give a tenth of the herbs in their herb gardens.  This scrutiny on a trivial area of “income,” became a mark of great piety; as if they had lifted such a great weight.  In another passage Jesus shines a light on some of the things that they were doing.  Under the Law an adult child was responsible to take care of their parents in their old age.   However, a tradition had developed that said if a person had already made a vow to give their extra money to the Temple then they could be excused from having to care from their parents.  Now which is the heavier weight that needed lifting; caring for elderly parents, or donating to the temple?  More importantly which was the greater responsibility for the shirker; caring for their parents or caring for the temple?  Clearly caring for the parents is the primary responsibility.  So why would they do such a thing?  They would do it because they would get more honor and prestige out of giving a great sum to the Temple than out of “merely” caring for their parents.  This is how upside down their priorities were.  God is more concerned that you care for your immediate family than he is to get 10% of your income.  He is concerned that we be clean on the inside, and money /wealth is one of the biggest defilers of man.  Now you may think I just made a case for why poor people don’t have to give.  You couldn’t be more incorrect.  Do poor people have the need to be cleaned from greed and materialism?  Of course they do.  Our greed will always tell us that we don’t make enough to give to God, whether at a Church or directly to others in need.  A person who gives in to such greed will not be condemned because they failed to give enough.  They will be condemned because they embraced greed and nurtured it with false logic.  The Pharisees had trivialized tithing.  It was intended to be a means that broke the back of greed in their life, taught them how to live within their means, and helped those that were hurting.  These are the big weights that God wanted them to lift.  But they turned it into a means of stroking their pride.

In vs. 42 Jesus gives us two “heavy things” God wanted them to work on: Justice towards their fellow man and Love towards God.  The whole time they were coming up with rules and loopholes in the area of tithing they did not lift a finger towards justice for their fellow man and truly loving the heart of God and His ways.  Micah pointed this out in his book (6:6-8), “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Today social justice has become a code word for big government programs.  This movement has co-opted the biblical language for its own political gain.  They two are defiled by the lust for power and greed for money.  We do need to care for one another in our society.  But God’s plan has always been for individuals to freely choose to either serve Him or not.  Only then can they truly cleanse their hearts.  But the modern system of turning all compassion over to the State is not only hurting the poor, but defiling all of our hearts.  Ask yourself, what is due my fellow man, and do I love God and His ways more than the things of this world?  You will be cleaned or defiled by how you deal with those questions.

In verse 43 Jesus points out the vain things that they loved.  They wanted the best seats in the Synagogue (those that had the most social prestige) rather than being content with the place God would give them.  They wanted the kudos of their fellow Pharisees rather than the kudos of God.  They wanted people to notice them when they walked through the marketplace rather than to be noticed by God.  Respect, position, and power are not necessarily bad things.  But the love of these things causes much sin and defiles many.  These things are empty if they are sought over the top of God and a clean heart.

Lastly, Jesus points out how our neglected sins defile us and others.  What is the big deal?  Inner sins don’t just stay inside.  They grow and their defilement infects us and spreads into society.  We will end up defiling others by our sinful actions.  Jesus uses the picture of an unmarked grave.  To touch a dead body or grave made a person defiled under the Law.  This is something the Pharisees would have meticulously focused on.  Yet, here Jesus says they are like a person who made a grave but didn’t mark it (through negligence or purposefully).  People who interacted with them thought they were clean, but in fact they were being defiled unknowingly by them.  O friend, are you pretending to be all righteous and clean when in fact you are defiling everyone around you?  Take this to heart.  Begin to clean the inside of your heart in the fear of the Lord for He is the one that you will stand before and give account one day.

Faults II audio