RESURRECTION NOT REINCARNATION

Bible Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Today’s Bible reading is one of the longest chapters in the New Testament and it is all about Christ resurrection, and the promise of our being resurrected and of Christ’s victory over death. Read the whole chapter slowly and let its truth flood your soul.

Some years ago I visited an aunt who lived in California. My aunt had been very involved with Hollywood and its stars. She invited me for dinner but told me that there was another guest who would be joining us. It turned out that the other guest was a famous film star. The after dinner conversation turned to the after-life, and reincarnation became the main discussion point. I kept quiet but listened intently to the conversation. Then they turned to me and asked my opinion. They got very upset when I told them that I do not believe that we will be re-incarnated and that the issue is not reincarnation but resurrection! According to the Bible we will not come back to earth in some other form of life. The myth of reincarnation held by other religions and new age practitioners is exactly that – it is a myth!

Our hope is because of the resurrection of Jesus. An old song says, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.”

When we die our spirit and our soul live on and we will one day receive a new body. We don’t have to wait until we die to receive eternal life. Jesus said that those who believe on His Name already have eternal life. Our earthly body will return to dust and we will have a new body that will be like Jesus’ glorious body [Philippians 3:21]. It will be our spirit and soul, now made perfect and inhabiting a perfect and glorious body.

Question:

Have you been confused by people, opinions and books? People express different opinions but we should turn to the Bible to hear what God says.

THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE – 2

Bible Reading:  1 Peter 1:3-12

Many years ago in hospital a young man was desperately ill but he always seemed to be happy and smiling. The nurses wondered what his secret was. He wore a locket around his neck that seemed to be especially meaningful to him. They wondered if there was someone special or a sweetheart whose picture was in the locket. When the young man died the nurses looked inside the locket and read some words from 1 Peter 1:8 – “Him having not seen I love.” His secret was Jesus.

Our hope holds us firm in difficult times. Although we have a sure and certain hope we often go through trials. These purify our faith and help us to grow in character. In these difficult times we fix our eyes on the hope that we have in Jesus. Hebrews tells us that our hope is a sure and steadfast anchor that keeps the soul [see Hebrews 6:19].

Our hope is a matter of faith. Peter says, “Whom having not seen you love.”

We see our hope by faith and not by sight!  Our faith is in Christ, and Christ in us is the hope of glory.

Our hope is a motivation to purity. Writing about our hope, the apostle John says, “… we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure” [1 John 3:2-3].

Writing to the Thessalonians Paul said that our hope is a helmet of salvation [see 1 Thessalonians 5:8]. As we fix our eyes on our hope our mind is protected.

Questions:

What does the Bible say is the secret to standing firm when we go through difficult times?

The writer to the Hebrews says that our hope is an anchor of the soul and is steadfast and sure [Hebrews 6:19]. Can you remember a difficult time that you went through when your hope in Christ kept you firm? Take time to thank God for that hope and apply to any situation that you are facing today.

THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE [Part 1]

Bible Reading:  1 Peter 1:3-12

We have considered something of the awful result of making the choice not surrender to Jesus and to live in God’s will – future torment, darkness and helplessness. Now we turn to the exciting hope that the Christian has in Jesus.

Peter says that we have this hope because of the resurrection of Jesus [verse 3]. Because He lives we can face tomorrow. This is the hope of those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit [verse 3]. Their spirit has been made alive to God and they have come into a relationship with God that gives them a hope for the future.

This hope is called an inheritance [verse 4]. When Jesus died upon the cross He left us an inheritance that we will receive when we die. We can enjoy a part of that inheritance now whilst still on the earth. In Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul writes that we have received the guarantee of that full inheritance when we received and were sealed with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus died on the cross he fully paid for our redemption. That work is finished. When we die we will enter into the fullness of the inheritance that Jesus bought for us.

Peter goes on to say that this inheritance, our hope, cannot be destroyed, cannot become defiled, and will not disappear. Earthly things will fade and disappear but not this hope that is in Jesus. It is reserved for us in heaven [verse 4]. Sometimes I have to attend a large meeting and it it a relief to know that my seat is reserved and waiting for me! Our hope is in Jesus and He has reserved a place for us in heaven!

Questions:

Isn’t it so much more wonderful to focus on our hope in Christ than the awful darkness of hell. Is your hope fully in Jesus today?

 How would you explain your hope as a Christian to someone who is not yet a believer?

THE REALITY OF HELL

Bible Reading:  Luke 16:19-31

It is not politically correct, especially in the Western world, to speak about God’s judgment and the fact of hell, but this does not negate the reality of this truth. Sadly, some over-enthusiastic hell-fire preachers, through lack of wisdom have created a negative attitude towards such teaching. The Bible is very clear on this subject.

Paul said that hell is the banishment from the presence of God [2 Thess. 1:9]. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus spoke of two men who had died. One of them, a poor man named Lazarus, at death went to place of fellowship with other believer’s. The other man’s name was Dives. After his death he was in torment in Hades. Hades was not the final hell but the place of the departed wicked who were awaiting the resurrection. It was a place of torment and fire [verse 24]. The way that they had lived on earth determined where they were after death.

There are several things to note about Dives’ experience in Hades. Firstly, he was conscious of the blessing that Lazarus was experiencing [verse 23]. Secondly, he cried out for relief from the torment, but there was no relief for him [verses 24-25]. Thirdly, there was a great gap between Hades and the place of the believers who died in Christ, and it was impossible to cross from one to the other [verse 26]. Fourthly, in Hades there was a consciousness of those on earth who had not died [verses 27-28]. Fifthly, the prayer request for his five brothers was rejected [verses 28-31].

What an awful picture – consciousness of others… torment and no relief… too late to be saved… utter helplessness!

Some might ask why would a God of love allow this to happen.  Dives was not in this place because of God. It is God’s desire that all men should be saved [1 Timothy 2:3-4]. Dives was lost because of the choices he made whilst on earth.

Questions:

Why is it so important that we choose God’s way of salvation in Jesus and are not apathetic about our spiritual state?

Why is it so important that we make a decision to go God’s way now and not procrastinate and keep putting it off?

 

GOD’S CHANGE AGENT

Bible Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:1-21

Yesterday we saw how Jesus clearly taught that people are either on the road to heaven or hell and that there is no middle road. In 2 Corinthians chapter five Paul shares his passion and motivation for seeing people come out of the darkness and their eternal destination changed.

Paul says that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what we have done in our body [verse 10]. Knowing the fear of the Lord Paul persuades others [verse 11]. He is compelled by the love of Christ [verse 14]. God had so changed Paul and this had become his message to others – of being reconciled to God [v18-19]. Paul had become an ambassador for Christ, and God used him to appeal to others [verse 20].

Tommy was an uneducated dockworker who came to Christ in 1920. Barely able to read or write, Tommy wanted to serve Jesus. He asked the minister of the church he attended what he could do to serve Jesus. The pastor divided the first page of a notebook into three columns. At the top of the first column he wrote the date; in the second column, the word name; in the third column he wrote the words ‘date converted.’ He then wrote that day’s date on three lines of the first column and asked Tommy to write the names of three people he wanted to see come to Christ in the second column. The pastor then instructed Tommy to pray for these three people and to show Christ’s love to them. When one of them gave their life to Christ Tommy would then write the date of their conversion to Christ in the third column. He should then add a new date and name, so that Tommy always had three people he was praying for and seeking to win for Christ.

When Tommy died in 1967 he was living alone. His wife had died several years earlier and they had no children. I went with the minister of the church that Tommy was a part of to help clear his apartment. In a desk draw we discovered eleven notebooks, containing the date, and date converted of 2,400 people. We both knelt down in awe before God as we saw the impact this simple soul had made on the lives of so many others.

Questions:

Most people come to Christ because someone has done something intentional to win them for Christ. What are you doing to win others for Jesus?

If winning people for Christ has not been something that you have done, or have tried unsuccessfully to do, why not do what Tommy did. Write their names in a notebook, pray for them each day and love them to Jesus?

LIVE RIGHT – DIE RIGHT

Bible Reading: Matthew 7:13-29

The Bible speaks clearly of two eternal destinations – one place is called hell and the other is heaven. This is clearly taught by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 7:13-29]. Jesus uses three pictures to describe the people who go to these two destinations.

The first picture is of two roads [Matthew 7:13-14]. One road leads to destruction and the other road leads to life. The entrance to the broad road that leads to destruction is a wide gate. The majority of people choose to be on this road. The entrance to the way that leads to life is a narrow gate and few people find it. The entrance is by the way of the cross.

The second picture is of two trees [Matthew 7:15-23]. The good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree cannot bear good fruit. The fruit of the bad tree are the works of the flesh [Galatians 5:19-21] and the fruit of the good tree are the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23]. The tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. There may even be evidence of mighty works but this is not the criteria of judgment because these can come from sources other than God Himself.

The third picture is of two foundations [Matthew 7:24-27]. The two houses are built on different foundations. One is built on the rock – built on the words of Jesus. The other is built on sand, and not on the foundation of Jesus’ words. One will stand firm in the strongest storms, but the other will fall flat.

Here is the choice – come to the cross, allow the allow Holy Spirit to bear good fruitn your life, and obey God’s Word and be safe. Alternatively, reject the cross and the way that leads to life, live according to the flesh, and do not build your life on God’s Word and experience destruction, fire and disaster. Could the picture be any clearer than from the words of Jesus Himself?

Questions:

Have you made your decision to come to the cross, allow the Holy Spirit to fill and control your life and build your life on God’s Word and so be secure and sure of having a place in heaven?

If you have never made the decision to allow Jesus to be Lord of your life will you ask Him now? Pray this simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, forgive me and cleanse me from sin. Come into my life and fill me with the Holy Spirit. I surrender the whole of my life to you and ask you to be Lord of my life. I ask this In the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

DEATH IS NOT THE END OF LIFE

Bible Reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Luke 12:13-20

Death is described in the Bible in various ways. Paul calls death a putting off of our earthly house. In 2 Corinthians 5:1 Paul calls our body our earthly home and a tent. A tent is a temporary home. Our bodies are only a temporary residence for our soul and spirit. When my mother died there was a very real sense that the real person had left and that what was left was only a temporary house that had been vacated.

Another word used to describe death is sleep. In referring to Lazarus’ death Jesus said that he was asleep [John 11:11-14]. Writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul speaks about believers who are alive and those who have fallen asleep [1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; 5:10 see also 1 Corinthians 15:6,18, 20, 51]. Paul was addressing the specific concern of churches concerning the state of those who have died. The use of the metaphor of sleep is not intended to deny that the dead are in conscious fellowship with God.

Death is when the spirit and soul leave the body. In the King James Version of the Bible Jesus’ death is described with the phrase that He gave up His spirit [Luke 23:46]. The same wording is used of the death of Sapphira in Acts 5:10. Jesus spoke about a wealthy farmer who neglected his soul for the sake of increasing his business. Jesus called him a fool and told him, speaking of his death, that his soul would be required that night [Luke 12:20].

In Isaiah 57:1-3 we read of God showing mercy to the righteous men who are taken out of calamity and enter into peace as they rest in their beds. Death is seen as entering into rest and peace.

Jesus promised that who ever believed in Him, would enjoy everlasting life. The life he gives us is eternal and we have it now and death is simply the end  of one phase of eternal life and the entrance into the next phase of that life.

Questions:

It is clear that we cannot avoid death? What is the best way to prepare for that day when we face death?

Read the story Jesus told about the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. What does this story say personally to you and how will you respond to it?

 

THE REALITY OF DEATH

Bible Reading:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Ecclesiastes 3:2 says that there is a time to be born and a time to die! One of the greatest certainties in life is death. When reading Genesis chapter five you cannot help but read the phrase “and he died.” It occurs eight times in that chapter. The words “death” and “die” are found more than 700 times in the Bible.

Death became a reality when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. Their disobedience led to the fall of the human race. It led to spiritual death, because their sin separated them from God, but it also led to physical death. God said to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” [Genesis 3:19].

Death is a reality that none of us can avoid. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” [Hebrews 9:27].

If death is certain, life is short. The Psalmist reminds us of this when he writes, “Remember how short my time is” [Psalm 89:47]. Job tells us, “Man that is born of woman is of few days…he is like a flower that fades away…like a shadow” [Job 14:1-2]. James sees life as a vapour that quickly vanishes away [James 4:13-15].

The Bible clearly states that God determines our days and appoints the limits of our life [Job 14:5]. Job declares that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away [Job 2:21].

Does it seem somewhat meaningless that life is short and death is certain? What then is the purpose of life? It is to make the greatest decision of all – where we will spend eternity. The decisions we make and the life we live will determine that one great question – where will we spend eternity?

Questions:

Psalm 90:12 says, “… teach us to number our days.” What does this mean and why is it important?

 The Bible speaks about the fear of death [see Hebrews 2:14-15]. The fear of death is very real for many people. Why are people afraid of dying, and how can we overcome this fear?

 

HAVING A VISION OF ETERNITY

Bible Reading: Acts 26:1-32

Paul said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” [Acts 26:19]. What is your vision?

Wilma Rudolph was a remarkable woman. When she was six months old she was stricken with polio. She would never walk without metal calipers on her legs. Her older sister was a great basketball player who would go on to represent the USA. As the younger sister, Wilma attended her sister’s basketball meets. She herself longed to be a sportswoman. At the age of seven Wilma asked her sister’s coach to help her be a sportswoman. Each time she asked the coach he looked at Wilma’s legs and turned away in embarrassment. Finally she challenged him by saying that if he would give her fifteen minutes of his time every day, then she would give him her first Olympic gold medal. He was amazed at her tenacity and agreed to her request. It wasn’t long before fifteen minutes became a full time commitment. At the age of eleven Wilma took off the metal calipers from her legs and walked unaided but very unsteadily for the first time. At the age of fifteen she ran her first one hundred meters race. She came last, sixty meters behind the winner. In 1960, at the age of twenty-two, Wilma Rudolph was selected to run in the American Olympic trials. She was chosen to run in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. She won gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 meters relay, breaking the world record in each event.

Wilma delighted to show people an old black and white video. There she was on the podium receiving her 100 meters gold medal. At the end of the national anthem she ran across the stadium to her coach, took of her gold medal, and put it round her coach’s neck and said, “I promised you this fifteen years ago and today I have kept my promise!”

Asking Wilma what motivated her, she responded by saying, “I had a vision!”

Paul spoke of his journey in terms of a race. At the end of his life he wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy 4:7]. He wrote about running to obtain the prize and being self-controlled so that he might win the heavenly prize [1 Corinthians 9:24-27].

Questions:

What vision has God given to you, that has become your passion, and that will bring eternal rewards?

There is an old hymn that says, “Give to me a vision, reaching to Your throne; Let me see life’s problems in Your light alone.” How do the every day issues of your life relate to eternity?

OUR BLESSED HOPE

Bible Reading: Philippians 3:1-21

It has been a great joy for me to share this series on purity and holiness with you and today we come to a conclusion. What a journey God has brought us on so far. Firstly, when we turned from our sin and received Jesus we were born again of the Holy Spirit and the Holy One made His home in us. He gave us righteousness as a gift and He declared us to be holy in His sight. We became saints, who sometimes sin. We began a journey of holiness, to be filled with God’s love and to live a life of beauty. It has been a battle as we have struggled with the world, the flesh and devil. We have gone through discipline and refining fire and pruning, often painful, but the work of a loving God who has been changing us little by little so that we become like His Son, Jesus. This is the journey of a lifetime.

One day we shall Him face to face, and tell the story saved by grace. When we see Him we shall be like Him. No more sorrow, no more sin, no more tears, no more pain. It will be worth it all when we see Him.

Writing whilst under house arrest in Rome the apostle Paul reveals the passion in his heart that continued to burn like a fire. He says, that he has not yet attained to the goal or reached perfection but that he is pressing toward the day when he will finally be all that Jesus Christ saved him for and wants him to be. He leaves the past behind and strains forward towards the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, was calling him up to heaven. We join him and the saints who have gone before us on this journey of purity and holiness.

In the next weeks we will consider our eternal hope and the glory that awaits us as we begin a new series entitled, “From here to eternity.”

A Question:

There have been many issues raised as we have looked at the meaning of holiness. What has the Lord over these past weeks been specifically saying to you?

Something to Do:

Why not begin to journal? Begin to write each day what God says to you and what He teaches you. It may seem insignificant in the beginning, but one day you will read back in amazement and see how God has been leading you. All it needs is a notebook, a pencil and a few minutes each day.