Grace to you! This week we will take a look at what’s known as the Great Commission. It is the final instructions Jesus gave to His church right before He ascended back to heaven. Hear what scripture says: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
In this famous passage, Jesus charges His followers to tell others the good news of the salvation He gives to sinners if they repent and believe in Him. People follow Christ because He died for their sin and they in turn are commanded to go into the world and tell this same good news of how sinners can be saved through Jesus Christ to others. The word ‘gospel’ simply means good news. And Christians should be excited about the gospel because it indeed is good news of how the holy God through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection can now have a relationship with sinners!
It’s interesting to see that everyone everywhere shares a gospel. People love to tell others what they believe is the good news others need to hear. Some share about their grandkids. “Oh, did you see what little Sammy did? He is so precious. I can’t help but tell you how great my grandkids are!” This is a gospel for this person. They are sharing about what they treasure or what is important to them. Some share the gospel of hunting, shopping, the latest sexual exploit, etc. Anything can and has been a gospel for people. However, the problem with these alternative gospels is that they are ultimately counterfeits people trust in. Grandkids are great, but if they are your heart’s hope above Jesus Christ, then they have become a false ‘gospel’ for you. Some even rejoice in their sinful lifestyle as their ‘good news gospel.’ In the end, it doesn’t matter what form an alternative gospel takes. All end in vanity.
God has given us one gospel: the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (See 1 Timothy 1:15) This is indeed is very good news for sinners like you and me! So let’s do a heart check. Do you really treasure God’s gospel in Jesus Christ? Do you share the gospel of Jesus with others? Or do you share a substitute gospel with others? Everyone hopes in something and that hope is what they share with others, whether it’s a good thing or bad thing. No matter which it is, if your heart doesn’t move you to share the gospel of Christ then scripture would tell us we do not belong to Him. Whose gospel are you excited about? Yours or Christ’s?
Grace to you! If you were asked to name a scary verse in the Bible, what would it be? Perhaps Revelation 19:15, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty?” Maybe Luke 12:5, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” These verses soberly remind us of God’s wrath. They shake us out of our slumber to think about eternal destinies. But there are verses we often see and see nothing dangerous about them.
Matthew 4:19, as the New Living Translation says, “Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Well this verse seems innocent enough on its surface reading. Jesus promises His disciples He will make them a new kind of fishermen. Jesus plays upon their vocation and says “Yes, you are men who gather fish for a living, but leave this vocation and I will make you men who ‘fish’ for souls.”
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells His disciples again, “Go, make disciples…” Again, Jesus commands them to ‘go fish for men.’ The word ‘disciple’ simply means ‘follower’. This is an interesting parallel with Matthew 4:19 where Jesus had issued the command to “Follow me…” We too are called to make disciples of the nations. And this is where Matthew 4:19 gets very, very scary.
Jesus has defined what a follower of Him is: it is one who fishes for other men. Notice the root and fruit issue in the verse. The root or cause is “Follow me.” What is the fruit or result? Note the words: “I WILL (emphasis added) make you fishers of men.” Now in light of modern discussions among so-called believers, many say they just don’t have the gift to witness to others. But this flies directly in the face of what Christ says. He says His disciples WILL BE(!) fishers of men. Some say, “I follow Jesus but I don’t fish for men.” But this doesn’t pass Jesus’ test of what He says is a disciple.
The opposite is also true: those who do not fish for men’s souls do NOT follow Him. And to follow Jesus is what a saving relationship with Him is about. Jesus is not saying we are saved by evangelizing. But He is saying if the fruit of evangelism is not in your life, then you can be certain that the root of your life has not been changed by Jesus Himself.
The fault is not in Jesus’ promise to “MAKE US” fishers of men, but in our self-deception thinking we are believers when we do not do what He says. Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Grace to you! The fear of death can be overwhelming. We’ve addressed many of the reasons we fear death, but one big fear remains. We inherently know what it is even if we don’t openly admit it.
What is that fear? It’s that we know when we die we will face God in judgment. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) We know this is true: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) Why? Because “God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) God’s holiness will not wink at our rebellion we have done. God will righteously judge all our sin: what we’ve done, what we’ve not done and should have done, and what we’ve thought about! What person can face death without fear knowing they will meet God with all the sin they’ve committed? None.
This is a legitimate reason to fear death! So what is one to do? We can’t run from death. It comes calling for all of us. And we can’t run from the presence and knowledge of God! “7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in the grave, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7-8) There is nowhere for us to hide from God. So what can we do? Shall we just despair until we face God in judgment? Praise God, there is a wonderful answer for us!
How can a sinner be accepted by God? How can a person who has done wrong be made right with God? This is the wonderful news of the gospel. God did for us in His Son Jesus Christ what we could not do for ourselves. First, Jesus took the penalty of our sin. “God made Christ who knew no sin to become sin…” (2 Corinthians 5:21a) Jesus was punished as if He committed my sins. Second, Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father where I disobeyed the Lord. Jesus “knew no sin” so that He could put His righteousness on my account as if I had obeyed perfectly. “…so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) So the good news is this: Jesus died in my place to pay for my sins and He also lived an obedient life to give me His righteousness. It’s a double trade! Jesus gets my sin and I get His righteousness! So how does this happen? I simply receive it as a free gift from God. I admit my sin and need for Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. I turn from my sin and living for myself to commit my life to Christ who died and rose again on my behalf! Now when I face death there is no fear of judgment from God because God’s love for me in Christ has satisfied God’s holy demands on my life. Jesus is my righteousness!
Grace to you! Death gives us many reasons to fear it, such as our lack of control over it. But scripture answers this fear!
We like to control things! God has designed us to exercise loving dominion over the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28) God has placed limits on us though. But we sinfully believe we have more control over things than we actually do. As a result, we live carelessly in regards to our diet, where we spend our time, what we give our affections to, etc. But this fantasy gets stripped away when the end of life approaches. Death reminds us that we are not ultimately in control. People begin to see that what they lived for or thought they had control over are in fact fading away. Death controls us and that’s why it is so fearful to face.
All of a sudden death arouses us to ask certain questions: “How will it control me? Will it be a peaceful death? Long? Painful? Easy?” Our fear of death is vamped up and we feel our hearts struggling with the fear of “I can’t stop it!” With such thoughts, there are only two ways we can respond to the fear of having no control over death. We can see what God says in His word about dealing with it or we can seek to find our own way to face it. One brings honor to the Lord, the other results in a sinful response. Let’s see what God’s word says.
First, although we can’t control death, Jesus not only controls it but has ultimately defeated by His own death and resurrection. (See John 16:33) How we die is even determined by God. (See John 21:19) Second, the fact is we are not in control of our lives right now. No one can make their heart beat any longer or make their lungs fill with air one more time. Not only is our death out of our control, but our very living right now is out of our control. It’s why when we learn to trust Jesus with our life, we can trust Him to be in control of our death in a way that honors Him! Besides, Jesus says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” The answer: no one! In fact, worrying actually shortens our lives!
So our answer to this fear for those who know Jesus Christ as their Redeemer is, “For all things belong to you, whether…life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) Christians remember this, “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” And with that we say, “Amen!” (Romans 14:8,9)
Grace to you! We’ve been looking at the reasons we fear death. This week we seek to understand the fear of suffering and pain in our death with the biblical hope we are given in scripture.
We all hope to leave this world as we go to sleep one night and never wake up. We’d prefer to not know death is coming or even feel its pains. We want to just slip out of this world into the next world very easily. But very people have this experience. Many times we know our death is coming. Our bodies and health have slowly deteriorated. Simple things like getting ourselves out of bed now become a major obstacle if not impossible. Pain creeps upon our bodies and overtakes us. How can we face such moments with hope? What does scripture say to us in times like this? As always, scripture gives us perspective about our death even in the midst of pain and suffering.
Pain can be intense when facing death. But no matter how great the pain, the joy that awaits the believer in Jesus Christ far outweighs the hurt we go through here. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 1:18) Further he says, “We groan inwardly awaiting the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22,23) As Christians, we await the salvation of our bodies at the resurrection. So current sufferings and our response to them are our heart cries desiring to be clothed with physical resurrection immortality! Our groaning in this world reminds we are not designed to suffer but to live in the fullness of life before God. So let our pain remind us of the greater glory and joy that awaits us!
Further our pain helps detach us from a love of this world. It is God taking our security away here so that we are ready to leave this world behind and be with our Redeemer. The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said it well, “Death is the last and best physician, which cures all diseases and sins – the aching head and the unbelieving heart. Sin was the midwife which brought death into the world; and death shall be the grave to bury sin! O the privilege of a believer!”
Finally, scripture advises us to take medicine to help dull the pains of our broken bodies. (See 1 Timothy 5:23) Thankfully, we have many medicines to help keep back the full assault and pains of death. Medicine is a gift from the Lord to alleviate some of the consequences of the bitter sting of death. But the greatest healing comes when Jesus says to His people “Live!” Then death, disease, and pain are no more when He returns! Do you know Jesus and the forgiveness of sins? Will you be raised to live with Him forever or die in your sins and be under God’s wrath forever? Turn to Jesus today!
Grace to you! This week we will continue to look at the reasons we fear death. The bible addresses each of these fears and gives us wonderful hope when facing them. Let’s look at another reason we fear death.
Sometimes we fear death because this life is all that we know. We were born here, have lived here, laughed and cried here, and made friends here. But death seeks to pull us away from all of this. It beckons us to another life in another sphere of existence. In short, this life and the way things are is all we know about. In our experience, none of us have ever went there and returned to tell about it. (Despite what any out-of-body experience book may claim to the contrary!) “It’s appointed to die once and then comes the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) We die once, and then we face judgment.
We fear letting go of what we are comfortable with. We are the overgrown child with its security blanket. When the parent begins to finally take it away, the child struggles against the parents’ decision, fearful of the change happening. When we think about the Lord calling us home, we often have the inner struggle of losing what’s familiar. So how do we combat the desire to hold onto this world that we know when we think of our death?
Scripture call us to meditate on several truths when letting go of this world we know. It encourages us to familiarize ourselves with heaven. It’s why God has told us about it. It is a far superior place. It is where God Himself is at and where there will be no more struggles with our sin, fear, or death. (See Revelation 21:4) The bad things of this life will be no more! A great Christian said, “He whose head is in heaven, need not fear to put his feet in the grave.” The beauty is that the more I familiarize myself with what my eternal dwelling place will be like and Who I will be with, the less I will fear leaving this world. Why? Because I will begin to familiarize myself with what awaits me.
Further, the more we spend in God’s presence, the more we will desire Him and want to be with Him fully. We will begin to experience a taste of heaven this side of the great beyond. If you are a Christian, you’ve had those times when your walk with the Lord was so sweet and so filled with His presence. It was during those times that God’s presence was your comfort, hope, and joy! The more we get to know the Lord here, the more we will not only be willing to let go of our life here, but looking with sweet anticipation in seeing our Lord Jesus!
Grace to you! Last week we began to look at the ominous topic of death. We’ve seen one of the main reasons we fear death is due to the unknowns surrounding it. But Jesus has died and rose again to tell us that He is with us always. It’s better to know Jesus who has conquered death than to know all the details surrounding death. This week we’ll look at another reason we fear death and how scripture speaks to it.
One of the great fears we have is everything we lose at death. We leave behind family, all that we worked for, future plans, and life as we know it. Socrates, the great philosopher, asked this question: “Must not all things at last be swallowed up in death?” He captured well our fear of losing everything in death. Sometimes we try to comfort ourselves by saying, “Well, I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to die now. I think it will be easier to die at 100 years old!” But that isn’t the case. Even older people see the loss of things as they age. So again, we all face the loss of everything when death approaches. So is there any hope? What is the biblical perspective about this fear of losing everything in death?
We must understand that we can never die early and lose everything too soon. First, no one deserves to be alive due to their sin. “The payment for sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) The fact we live anytime at all is due to God’s amazing grace and mercy to us. So we can’t die early especially when we deserve to die right now for our sins. Second, God has already appointed the number of our days. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, everyone of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” How can we die early when God not only has appointed the time, but also the way we die so we can glorify Him? (See John 21:19) The comfort is that death doesn’t have the say about my death – God does. He’s appointed it for me just like He has appointed life for me now. There is comfort in knowing that life and death don’t just happen to me, but my Redeemer is directing all phases of my life!
How do we combat the fear of losing everything? By investing in things that can’t be taken from us at death. Jesus said, “Do not lay up treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20, 21) What we do for Christ counts now and forever. And we will be rewarded for our labors for Him. But living for anything else will be taken away by death. Live wisely, not foolishly! Live and die for Jesus!