True life

We’re all looking for something or someone. Everyone wants to find purpose or meaning in life. And most people go through their entire lives searching but never finding because they’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

The Sunday after Jesus died by way of crucifixion, the women who had been following him went to the tomb to anoint his body properly for burial. One would assume that the best place to look for someone who had died would be the tomb where their body had been placed, but when they arrived, there was no body to anoint. Just a couple of angels with a message.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b (NIV)

In the entire account of the empty tomb, this one question stood out to me. In all of our searching for meaning and purpose in life, most often, we look for it among the dead. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If there is life to be found, there is only one place to find it, and it’s not in the world.

The world, as hard as it may try, cannot replace or replicate the life that is found in Christ. Anything that is found outside of Christ can only mimic true life.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)

Meaning and purpose cannot be found just anywhere. Paul wrote to Timothy to tell the people to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. That is where true life begins. It is not a selfish search for ourselves, but a selfless search for Christ.

And if there is any doubt at all:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35a (NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

You may be breathing. Your heart may be beating. But are you alive? Are you truly alive?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Life is too short to waste looking for it among the dead. Life, true life, can only be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Read: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 24:1-35

I Am

Who created God? When did God begin? How can anyone not have a start?

These are all the logical questions anyone might ask of a God who claims to have no beginning and no end. And they are all questions that, even if we have the answers right in front of us, we will never really be able to wrap our minds around.

We humans know we have a beginning. And an end, of sorts. And another beginning. And then eternity (which we can’t really wrap our minds around, either).

When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, He doesn’t say, “I was the God of your father…” God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) This implies that, not only was God the God of Moses’ ancestors, but He still is their God. And if He still is their God, they must still exist somewhere.

Jesus mentions this account when the Sadducees made an attempt, like the Pharisees often did, to stump him with the law. Don’t try to stump Jesus. You can’t. The Sadducees couldn’t, either. They gave a long hypothetical situation in which a woman ends up marrying seven brothers and eventually dies childless. In heaven, who is her husband?

After explaining that the finite things of life do not come with us into eternity, Jesus closes with this:

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38 (NIV)

Our short lives on this earth are amazing things on their own, but when you add eternity to that experience, it is a mere shadow in comparison. When we make Jesus our Lord, God our Father, He is our God for eternity. Again, a tough concept to grasp. But no matter how difficult it is to fully comprehend eternal life, it is ours nonetheless.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—is is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Even as I try to put into words the vastness of this truth, I am blown away by what God has offered us. Not only has He given us life on earth, but He has made a way for us to live forever with Him.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NIV)

God isn’t an I was, He isn’t an I will be. He is. And He has made us to be like Him.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)

When we are made alive with Christ, we become a part of The Great I Am. Who I was no longer matters. Forevermore, I am with I Am.

Read: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

Come alive

Read: Deuteronomy 5-7, Mark 12:1-27

Have you ever heard an unbeliever say, “Why should I believe in God? What has He ever done for me?” Well, first of all, if you’re questioning what He has or hasn’t done for you, the first question is moot because there must be a measure of belief in someone in order to question their motives. Second, aside from offering a plan of salvation that leads to eternal life, He hasn’t done anything for you. Why should He? He’s not your God.

Before you get all that’s heresy! on me, let me explain.

Mark 12-27.jpg

This was Jesus’ response to the Sadducees question regarding eternal life. It’s like someone who doesn’t believe in God asking why God hasn’t done anything for them. The Sadducees said there was no resurrection. No such thing as eternal life. Yet they put Jesus on the spot with a question about life after death.

So what then did Jesus mean when he said that His Father was the God of the living, not of the dead?

Then he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:6 (NIV)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this:

God implied that the patriarchs were still alive and that He had a continuing relationship with them as their covenant-keeping God, even though they had died long before… He is still the patriarchs’ God which would not be true had they ceased to exist at death, that is, if death ends it all. And His covenant faithfulness implicitly guarantees their bodily resurrection.

Jesus was not talking about physical death, but of spiritual death. No matter how good you think you may be, we are all born spiritually dead, and there is only one way to overcome that death—to be born again.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 3:5-6 (NIV)

I cannot make my point better than the character of P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman:

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up to the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

Come Alive, words and music by Justin Paul, Benj Pasek

The dead cannot have the same experience as those who are alive. It’s impossible. There are certain things that God has reserved solely for His children—those made alive in Christ through the rebirth. Anyone who has not accepted salvation through Jesus cannot experience those things—those who remain spiritually dead having either not yet received Christ or having rejected him altogether. Again, it’s impossible.

If you want God to do something for you, you must first do something for Him. Accept Him. Believe in Him. Trust that His Word is true and that all of His promises are guaranteed because of His covenant with His children.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)

 

The walking dead

There is far more to the Christian life than a simple confession. If you’ve been reading along, by now you know that. But not all those who call themselves Christians do. Churches around the world are filled with the walking dead—those who profess faith, but display no proof of it at all.

So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.

James 2:17 (NLT)

How do you know someone is alive? This seems like a pretty stupid question, but go along with me for a minute. You know someone is alive because something is happening. A heart is beating. Lungs are drawing in breath. The brain is active. There are indicators of life—all of which are measureable.

I recently spent a day in the emergency room with my younger sister. Her doctor’s office called her in a near panic because some measurements in her blood were alarmingly low. All day long, hospital staff were coming and going taking measurement after measurement of an assortment of different things. Temperature. Blood pressure. And, before we could leave, they had to draw blood (which seemed a little counterintuitive since we were there because she needed blood) so that more measurements could be taken. All of the things that prove whether a person is healthy or unfit, alive or dead can be measured.

How can your faith be measured?

[Abraham’s] faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions.

James 2:22b (NLT)

Because Abraham did what God told him to do, when He told him to do it, and how he was told, God declared Abraham to be righteous. He was even called a friend of God (verse 23).

Life, in any form is tangible. It can be measured in various ways—faith included.

Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone.

James 2:14 (NLT)

We can be the walking dead—saying we have faith, but doing nothing to prove it. Or we can have living faith—proving it by our actions and obedience.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 22-23, James 2

Carried away

As we humans grow from infancy to adulthood, there is little we can do to stop or alter the process. We get carried away on this journey called maturity. As we age, our bodies mature. All we have to do is ensure that we do what we can to sustain ourselves—proper food, activity, rest, and those things change as we age.

We cannot prevent our bodies from maturing, but why do we stop our spirits from going through the same process?

So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

Hebrews 6:1 (NLT)

The term go on here is not so much a call to action, but a call to let go.

…the thought [would not be] primarily of personal effort, but of personal surrender to an active influence. The power is working; we have only to yield ourselves to it.

The International Bible Commentary

No one wants to see a 40-year-old man still acting like the high school football jock. It’s embarrassing. So why is it okay when it comes to our Christianity? Why do we allow ourselves to remain in spiritual infancy when we’ve been called to maturity? By continually going over the basics of Christianity, we essentially anchor ourselves to spiritual infancy. We become malnourished because, while we should be growing, we’re only feeding ourselves the bare necessities required to keep us alive.

Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.

Hebrews 5:14 (NLT)

Like giving solid food to a baby for the first time, the experience may not be the easiest, but it must be done if that baby is going to grow into an adult. Little by little, new foods are introduced that help a child grow and mature. Our faith works exactly the same. We’re not expected to go from milk to steak, but we do need to go through the difficult process of introducing new truths from the Word of God if we ever expect ourselves to grow.

We don’t have to make ourselves grow and mature, we just need to be sure we’re doing what we can to properly sustain ourselves through the process.

So, go ahead, let yourself get carried away. Just don’t forget to back your lunch.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 51-52, Hebrews 6

Bonus post: Already passed

When you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, did you feel any different? Did you feel invincible? As though you could take on anything and triumph? Did you feel as though you’d live forever? If you felt any of that, how long did it last?

Ask anyone who’s been a Christian for more than ten years. Odds are that they do not feel invincible. I can guarantee they’ve aged since their conversion. And they’ve probably failed at more than a few things.

After being in the faith for a while, verses that claim we are more than conquerors can become challenging to truly believe. We may even begin to doubt what the Bible says about us, yet wait for the day when we can claim eternal life.

But did you know that, if you’ve accepted the incredible gift of salvation, you are already alive? As in alive forever? Never to die. I don’t mean physically. I’m not sure I’d even want to live forever. But that moment when your spirit cries out to the Holy Spirit a miracle takes place. That dry, dead spirit is brought to life.

I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

John 4:24 (NLT)

Already passed. As in it’s happened. Done. Not something we need to wait for. Our eternal life doesn’t begin when we die. It begins when we come alive in Christ. Hey Church, let’s stop acting like dead people who have no life! We have the Way, the Truth, and the Life living inside of us! Because Jesus is alive, we’re alive.

Ever living

sourdough-starterA Bible study I’m involved in recently brought about the discussion of sourdough bread. Yup. Bread—and how we can liken it to our faith.

I enjoy baking. I like a challenge and will rise up to meet nearly every one that is presented before me. Several years ago, I set out to master sourdough bread. Sourdough is unique in that it uses natural yeasts formed in a fermented starter. The more sour the starter, the more flavourful the bread. The bread isn’t the tricky part, the starter is.

Some people are fortunate enough to have inherited or otherwise obtained an old starter. Some have been going for a century or more. To someone who has no understanding of the process, this can be a horrifying idea. So let’s start at the beginning.

To start a sourdough starter you need flour and water. That’s it. The portions vary depending on who writes the recipe. I’m an equal parts kind of person. Mix up some flour and water and let it fester in a warm place for 12-24 hours. After a day, remove some of the starter and feed the remaining portion more flour and water. Repeat this process for a week. Yep, you let it fester for a week. After a week, it should be all bubbly and smell a bit like beer. Congratulations, you now have an active sourdough starter and can keep using it and feeding it and keeping it active for as long as you want.

But what if you don’t want to keep making bread several times a week? You can put your starter to sleep. Me, I have two containers in my fridge of starter I began several years ago. But here’s the kicker, I can’t just pull it out and use it. It’s dormant. The alcohol content has separated and formed a preservative layer on the top. In order to use it again, I have to stir it up, remove some and start the feeding process over again until I get that rich, bubbly starter back. It can take a week or more.

If you’ve been reading this through a spiritual filter, you may now be seeing parallels between a sourdough starter and your spiritual life. When you first come to Christ, it’s like someone gave you some active starter. It’s bubbly and active. As long as you keep feeding your spirit, it will stay active and useful. But as soon as you stop feeding it, things start to separate. Your spirit isn’t as active. If you haven’t let your relationship with God sit for too long, you can feed it and get it to work right away. But if you’ve left it sitting for too long, it might need more than a little help and some extra time. It will need to be stirred up. Some things might have to be removed and the active ingredients added back in. The process may need to be repeated several times before you’re good to go again.

If you’re active and ready to be used, that’s fantastic. If you’ve been sitting for a little while, take the time to feed your spirit and get yourself activated again. If you’ve been sitting for a long time and have that separate layer on the top, take the time to stir yourself up.

I see the fermentation as the Holy Spirit. In its dormant state, the layer of alcohol hovers over the mixture, protecting it from going bad. Yet it is also the component that adds flavour and leavening when it’s time to make the bread.

The end of Luke 20 speaks of how God never views us as dead. As soon as our spirits become alive in Him, we are ever alive. Whether we live our lives as active starter ready to be used at any moment or have allowed ourselves to become dormant, the Spirit is still there waiting to be stirred and fed and reactivated in our lives.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

Grace

What is grace? To some, it is the Get Our of Jail Free card because, after all, God will always forgive me, right? It would mean that we can do anything and, as long as we ask forgiveness, we’re good. But if you’re never truly repentant, can there ever be true forgiveness?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

The doctrine of grace is this: we are born into sin because of Adam’s sinfulness in the Garden. Because of that sin, we are ever separated from God and can never be reconciled with Him. Grace is what we have been offered through Jesus’ blood as a way to come to God. One of my Bible school teachers put it this way:

Faith is our grip on God.
Grace is God’s grip on us.

Grace is not an excuse to sin, but rather an excuse to stay away from sin. We can either be alive in Christ and dead to sin or alive in sin and dead to Christ. We cannot be both alive to sin and alive in Christ. If Christ, the light of the world, be in us, darkness cannot also dwell there.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77; Romans 6

Rejoice

I’ve had people look at me strangely when I’ve discovered something in the Bible I’d never seen or noticed before.

Do you ever have those moments? Where God’s Word truly comes alive and you feel as though God is pulling words of the page for you so that you can see and understand them in a different way?

Israel had this experience. Once they returned to Jerusalem from exile, they took the time to read the Book of the Law in the presence of everyone who was able to understand it. Not only did they read it, but they presented it clearly and with interpretation so that every would understand it. Men, women, and children stood for hours listening to scripture.

What’s your response when you’ve grasped a new revelation from scripture. Do you tell someone? Do you pause to think about it? Or do you do like the people in Jerusalem?

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Nehemiah 8:12 (ESV)

When you understand more than just the literal meaning of the Word, rejoice! When you’ve taken hold of a deeper meaning in scripture, see it for what it is – God personally revealing Himself to you.

These are God’s words. Living words. Active words. And He has given them freely to you.

For the word of God is living an active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3