Category: Heaven and Hell


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 35

October 4, 2012

Life in Death

From Pastor Bordwine

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

(1 Corinthians 15:55)

 We know only too well that life is full of challenges and disappointments. And on occasion, we learn that life includes painful tragedies. Regardless of our experiences, we have to admit that we will never be truly at ease until we leave this world. Only then will we no longer be subject to this world’s assaults.

It’s true that we enjoy a great amount of happiness in this life, but we never really escape the threats associated with an environment that has been thoroughly corrupted by sin. The most agonizing of our trials cause us to ponder a multitude of questions. Many of them are answered in God’s revelation and others seem to have no answer at the present time. This is certainly the case when the fiercest of incidents occur. I am referring, of course, to death. Sometimes death comes with a warning, such as a prolonged illness. At other times, death strikes unexpectedly. This latter kind of experience is the most shocking and upsetting.

A couple of days ago, my wife’s sister committed suicide. News of this act stunned us and our grief was immediate. This was one of those onslaughts from which we don’t recover—not in this life. For the believer, receiving news like this is heartbreaking, but it is not necessarily the end.

From the beginning of our history, mankind has been subject to death, which is the chief weapon of our adversary and by which he has tormented those made in the image of God. Therefore, when death strikes, it appears to be a victory for the devil.

While describing the nature of Christ’s earthly ministry, however, the writer of the book of Hebrews states that Jesus shared in our flesh and blood in order to serve as our Representative before God’s bar of justice. As the God-Man, Jesus received the penalty that was due to us. He died in our place. (cf. Heb. 2:14, 15)

The justice of God was satisfied when Jesus paid what we owed with His own life. But that wasn’t the end of His mission. To demonstrate that death no longer bound us, Jesus rose from the dead and this act declared that death was dead. In Christ, even death does not prevail against us.

In this same passage, the writer observes that Jesus became a Man so that “He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” The defeat of death was long anticipated by the people of God. We were promised that one day the Savior would come and free us from death’s dominion. And so it has come to pass. Death remains active, but we no longer fear it. Life awaits us on the other side of the grave.

As painful as it was for us to hear about our loved one’s death and as unsettling as the circumstances were, we have not been left without comfort, nor have we been deprived of hope. Because of our Savior’s sacrifice, death is now powerless. It can never gain the victory over us. Jesus gives us never-ending life in death, His death. Therefore, with glad hearts we look forward to that Great Day when the redeemed of God will be raised to everlasting glory. And then, Paul’s words, quoted above, will ring throughout creation: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 34

September 27, 2012

God’s Lovingkindness

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Psalm 23:6)

My goal in producing these weekly devotionals is to provide us with an uplifting thought or two after we are well into our week and have, once again, faced the adversities associated with living for God’s glory in a world thoroughly corrupted by sin. Typically, I concentrate on some aspect of our faith that will encourage us and remind us of the marvelous work God has done for us in His Son. This week, I want us to meditate on God’s lovingkindness.

This term “lovingkindness” (Hebrew: checed) has a particular significance in Old Testament revelation. In passage after passage, this word is applied solely to the redeemed. It is an expression that embraces all that we have received by the grace of God with a special emphasis on His mercy.

Because we face a multitude of obstacles as we seek to honor God, it is easy for us to forget one of the most essential factors of our salvation, which is God’s lovingkindness. We need to keep in mind that our struggle in this fallen environment is not for our survival. We are not responsible for maintaining our standing before God, nor are we charged with earning God’s blessings. We have been chosen and secured by God in Christ and that status can never change.

Regardless of how well or how poorly we conduct ourselves on any given day, we are never in danger of being cast off by God. There is no possibility that He might grow tired of our stumbling and half-hearted efforts at holiness. If we were responsible for maintaining our status before God and if we were required to earn God’s favor by our behavior and if we were in danger of being dismissed by God for straying from the path of righteousness, then the idea of lovingkindness would not exist.

Lovingkindness represents the opposite of self-reliance and personal responsibility for our redemption. Lovingkindness implies another source for our deliverance. Those who experience lovingkindness are those who are acted upon from without—that is, by God through Christ.

Consider Psalm 23, from which I quote above: “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This verse verifies the point I’m making. It is God’s lovingkindness that is responsible for our salvation and, as David says in this verse, for our perseverance through this life and into the next. The lovingkindness of God guarantees eternal life because, once shown, it cannot be withdrawn. Therefore, the state in which the lovingkindness of God puts us continues forever.

We did not call ourselves from darkness into light; we do not sustain ourselves in this condition. It is all of God and all through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. When the pressure of this world’s opposition bears down upon you or when you feel overpowered by your struggles to live according to the will of God, remember the “lovingkindness” of God. Refresh your heart with the knowledge of God’s all-encompassing grace. Take courage in the fact that God’s lovingkindness guarantees that you will persevere through all challenges so that your journey will end in His holy presence.

 

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 29

August 22, 2012

The LORD Laughs at Them

 

He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.

(Psalm 2:4)

When did human beings start mocking the concept of God and ridiculing His followers? This question is easy to answer: “From the beginning of history.” Man’s perception of God and all things associated with God was thoroughly corrupted when our first parents disobeyed Him in the Garden. Although we have been made by God and live in a universe that He created and now governs, due to our fallen natures, we do not recognize Him and we find the very idea of a Supreme Being to whom we are accountable irrational unless we are enlightened by God.

The serpent mocked God as he tempted Eve to disobey. And by their actions, Adam and Eve mocked God by casting aside His command and proceeding according to their own wisdom and desire. As Noah built the ark, he called his generation to repentance before God and for that, he was scorned and considered a fool as he warned about what was to come.

This kind of behavior continued throughout history and is certainly present in our own day. We hear of those who want to rid our culture of all references to God, all respectful signs of belief in Him, and all evidence of how belief in God has influenced this country’s development. In recent years, the activities of those who have identified themselves as atheists have expanded and become more entangled with our day-to-day experience. They have taken steps to organize themselves and present a professional front. Banding together, many atheists have begun using our court system to further the agenda I just described.

After the twin towers in New York City were reduced to rubble, workers discovered an unusual formation of metal. Two steel beams had been compressed together in the form of a cross. Officials are planning to locate this cross in the same vicinity as a way of honoring those who perished and comforting their loved ones. An atheist group, however, is vigorously opposing this memorial. They say that it will discriminate against those who reject the idea of the Christian God.

This is the kind of situation that often causes believers to become anxious and frustrated. It seems to them that our world is getting more and more hostile to God even while immorality spreads at an alarming rate. On such occasions, we should keep two things in mind. First, as noted above, enmity toward God and the things of God is nothing new. Although such opposition has existed throughout the history of the world, it has not succeeded in eliminating God’s work for and through His people.

Second, God has revealed a pointed reaction to those who would mock Him and seek to rid the world of His influence. His response is quoted above: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” It is absurd to think that the creature would represent a serious threat to the Creator. In this verse, God mocks those who want to cast off His authority. I do not mean to be irreverent, but they are little more than an amusement to God.

God has always controlled our existence and He always will. His power is unlimited and His will cannot be impeded. In the end, it is those who deny God who are the fools, not those who confess Him and seek to live for His honor. Therefore, whatever victories they appear to gain are hollow and ultimately meaningless.

If you find yourself unsettled by the kinds of things I have described or, in fact, by any attempt to silence the Church or remove believers from the debate, then you should memorize Psalm 2:4. If the atheists were a genuine threat to God and His plans, then we should be seriously alarmed. But, as noted, God laughs at the grand assertions of His enemies. Remember, too, that this God, who is by nature unstoppable, is just as involved in your life as He is overseeing His unfolding plan of redemption.

God is intimately aware of you and all of your struggles, all of your worries, and all of your hopes. Contrary to what God thinks of His enemies, He loves us and guards us while we are on our journey to heaven. Just as there is no power to oppose God successfully, so there is no real threat against us because we are His children. If the united powers of darkness must fail in their war against God, then so must they fail in their attempts to harm God’s people. Therefore, the atheists can rave and accuse and demand all they want, but they will never be the cause of distress for those who know God.

Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, 8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

The church in Colossae was established by Epaphras who worked under Paul’s direction several years before when the apostle spent an extended time in the city of Ephesus during his third missionary journey. Epaphras brought news of the Colossian church to Paul while the apostle was under arrest in Rome. Subsequently, Paul wrote this epistle. The Christians in Colossae were bothered by heretical teaching. This, more than anything else it seems, prompted Paul’s letter. Some in that region were advocating doctrines contrary to the gospel, doctrines that compromised the message of the full atonement made by Jesus Christ.

This letter opens, as you can see, in Paul’s typical style. He identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” thus emphasizing his authority (v. 1). Paul addresses the believers in this city as “saints and faithful brethren” and he extends grace and peace to them “from God our Father.” Paul heard of their faith, as he says here; he heard that they embraced the gospel and were being delivered from the burden of sin and ignorance. He prayed for them, as he did for so many others. He prayed in thanksgiving, as he mentions here, for the love they were manifesting for other believers (cf. vv. 3, 4), and then he mentions “hope,” which was a concept that would normally be missing from the lives of citizens in this city (v. 5). Indicating just what he means, Paul speaks of hope “laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel …”

When the gospel was presented to these people, they heard of something that transcended their present world and involved their eternal destinies. They heard about their sin and about God’s provision for their sin in Christ; and they heard about the final state of all who trusted this Savior sent from heaven. It was that truth that now resided in their hearts and was giving them a new perspective on their lives here on earth. They now looked forward to what was to come—not as simply an end to misery, but as the beginning of blissful communion with God.

It was in the gospel that such a wonderful message was found; and this gospel that came to them, Paul goes on to say, was accomplishing the same thing “in all the world.” (v. 6) Wherever it is preached, the apostle teaches, the gospel is bearing similar fruit and increasing. This had been the experience of the Colossian believers. The gospel came, they believed, and they had been growing in the faith ever since. In that gospel, Paul explains, they came to understand “the grace of God in truth …” And there we have a key element in the present condition of the Colossians. What they had come to understand was the marvelous doctrine of God’s grace. By grace they learned of their sin, by grace they learned of God’s mercy, by grace they were enabled to repent and trust in the Savior, and by grace they were persevering and growing. It was all of grace. It was all of God. And this gave birth to the hope Paul mentioned before. The Colossians knew that they were on a journey that would take them through this life and into the next life, one of perfection and unimaginable beauty and peace in the presence of God.

This sense of hope was fueled by what the Colossians witnessed in their lives. Paul says that the gospel was “constantly bearing fruit and increasing.” They knew that a change had occurred in their lives; and they knew that they were not the same people since the gospel arrived. They had irrefutable evidence that they were changed people and the changes they saw were desirable changes. This, in turn, fueled their sense of eagerness as they looked to the future. What would God do in them and for them? What more will we come to know and what greater joys will be ours?

We live in a culture where hope is not viewed as an unrealistic concept. But imagine what it would be like to live in a culture steeped in paganism, a culture in which it was commonly believed that the fate of human beings was in the hands of pernicious and temperamental gods. Days were filled with hard labor and life, in general, was unpleasant. You are born, you work and try to get by, and then you die. That’s about it, and that’s what it was like in the first century.

Because of the character of our lives, because of the relatively peaceful and prosperous period in which we live, we don’t realize the full significance of Paul’s recognition of hope in the hearts of these people. Hope was not something that normally characterized people of the first century. Hope is the expectation of future blessing, but in that time, there was very little such expectation because there were no messages being declared that generated hope—not until the gospel came to town, that is.

Epaphras, that co-laborer with Paul, had brought them the good news, Paul says in v. 7. He was a faithful man, Paul testifies. He was the one who, in turn, also brought to Paul this information regarding the transformation of lives in the city of Colossae (v. 8). A people formerly without hope, now were characterized by hope—and it all had to do with the gospel.