Russell and Duenes

Death Is A Real Enemy

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One of my co-workers recently passed away, far too young and with too much vigor left in him. It reminds me again that death is a real enemy. It finally and fully strips us of everything we hold dear in this life, and though we in American culture try to deny it, distance ourselves from it, or dress it up with sentimentality or euphemisms or outright lies about people apart from Christ being in “a better place,” the stark reality confronts us almost constantly. We will die, and this is not just some “normal part of life.” It is hideously abnormal, and we face it as the wages of our sin and rebellion against God. It is, as the Bible says, “the last enemy.”

But for those who have turned their lives over to Christ, it is also, paradoxically, an enemy that “will be abolished.” (1 Cor. 15:26). For Christ has abolished it by rising from the dead, an act which guarantees God’s promise to also raise those who belong to Christ. What’s more, God has said that death is something that “belongs to” us. In other words, death is an enemy that is now ours: defeated, and made to serve our interests in Christ. The enemy has been brought into our camp and transformed into that which ushers us into the presence and glory of Christ unhindered. For the Christian, death is swallowed up, thrown down, without the sting it had, and now made our possession through Christ’s victory over it. This is not triumphalism or “pie in the sky.” It is a real hope when facing our real enemy. And it is a good thing to ponder, for our lives are brief. “All things belong to you, whether . . . the world or 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 Cor. 3:21-23).

“It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Rom. 9:16). My going to heaven and being with Jesus is all of mercy and nothing else. If I am saved from sin and death and brought into God’s kingdom, it is solely because God chooses to be kind to me and save me. There is nothing in me that brings it about. We don’t seem to like this because it takes our salvation out of our control and makes heaven and hell purely a matter of God’s merciful choice. It makes salvation seem arbitrary.

But consider the alternatives. What if going to heaven were based on something other than God’s mercy. This would mean that the Christian goes to heaven and the non-Christian to hell because the Christian was perhaps smarter or wiser than the non-Christian, or had the right genes, or the right parents, or was born in the right country, or went to the right church, or had the right friends, or read the right books or got the right education. In other words, the difference between one person’s salvation and another’s damnation would be something superior within the saved person himself or those in his life or his circumstances, rather than the mercy and kindness of a just and holy God, who never does wrong.

Yes, we cannot will ourselves to salvation, and I admit that is scary sometimes. For I want to be in control. But we can beg God for His mercy, and trust that He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” We can be like the blind beggar and cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And we can come to the place of proper humility, knowing that there is no ground for boasting or pride in our salvation. There is only mercy and giving of thanks to God. Help us to see, Lord, and to thank you and respond to Your mercy with obedience and loyalty to Jesus.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

March 1, 2015 at 2:11 pm

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