Remember the sting of death

Hello Saints,

Into the truth-starved world we have been sent. Jesus, the embodiment of truth, having gone before us. His death and resurrection providing for us a bold witness to the truth that if God is for us, who can be against us? We now live and breathe and minister from the place of victory and peace. Though the world rages around us, our souls find solace in the storm. How sweet it is, victory in Jesus! Read the words of an old hymn about Christ’s victory and ours:

Victory In Jesus
“I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins;
And won the victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing power revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and brought
To me the victory.

Lyrics: Eugene M. Bartlett, 1939.

A more profound truth could not be known. It is this victory we have been called to proclaim. It is this truthwe proclaim as “The Good News”:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Have you felt the sting of death? Anyone who lives long enough will eventually experience what feels like the victory of death. I’m talking about the death of someone you loved. It hurts. There is an emptiness that follows, a void left where once there was a precious life. This “sting” is what Paul has in mind as he writes of the victory of Jesus over physical death: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (vs. 52)

The victory that Jesus won over physical death was powerful, but he has also won an even more profound victory, His victory over spiritual death. Here’s the question I want to draw your attention to today.

Remember the sting of spiritual death.

Do you remember the sting of spiritual death?

It’s the emptiness that was in your soul before you fell on your knees at Jesus’ feet. It’s the decay in your heart that was only getting worse before Jesus healed you and gave you a new heart. It’s the distance that existed between you and your Creator as a result of your sin. It’s the loneliness, hopelessness, and insatiable hunger for love and acceptance that define human existence apart from Jesus.

We don’t like to think about it. To be honest, we shouldn’t like to think about it. And to be clear, we shouldn’t think about it too much. To dwell on the past and who we were certainly shouldn’t become our obsession. The cross, after all, is empty. Jesus is not still suffering for our sin. As his children, we do not bear the ongoing guilt of our sin. Jesus doesn’t anymore and neither should we.

To remember the sting of spiritual death is to remember something that will motivate you to reach out and engage.

That being said,to remember what the sting of spiritual death feels like is to remember something that will motivate you to reach out and engage with someone else who still needs to be freed from spiritual death. There are so many things about life lived in death that are miserable. Let me mention just three.

1. Chaotic. Death is chaos. Outside of the life of God in Christ Jesus there is no order. If we can remember life before our new birth, we will remember a life that made absolutely no sense. It all seems so random and meaningless. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. This is what Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes. The chaos of life lived separated from God; lived only for this life, “under the sun.” Most of the questionspeoplewho are seeking answers have are to do with the chaos.

2. Scary. Death is the great unknown. Jesus had so much to say about the fear with which human beings deal. Before we put our faith in Jesus, we had nothing but fear to draw from. That’s the wellthe Samaritan woman was drawing from when Jesus came to her that day (John 4). Jesus came to offer her water from “the well that never runs dry.” It is this well that gives us the faith to conquer fear. I hope you aren’t still living in fear. As someone in the flock of the Good Shepherd, you shouldn’t be afraid. All things are known to God.  You are known and loved by Him. Yet, those who are still outside the fold have so much to fear. Do you remember this fear?

3. Lonely. Death is isolating. How clear it was to Mary and Martha that death was isolating. When their brother Lazarus died, they were separated. They missed him. Martha understoodshe would see her brother again at the resurrection, but she felt completely isolated from him; like he was a million miles away. This same feeling of isolation is what everyone lives in who hasn’t been given new life. It’s lonely. It’s empty.

The love of Christ compels me to give myself for their victory too.

As I consider the people who God has put on my heart to reach out to, I think about these three realities. I want to remember the truth about where they are. It is from the place of remembering that my compassion then wells up. I don’t want them to live in chaos, driven by fear, and isolated. The love of Christ compels me to give myself for their victory too. I have been freed to set others free; not by my own strength or wisdom or works, but Christ’s.

I left out the last verse of Victory in Jesus. This is what we have to look forward to. As if to say, “It would have been enough that you forgave my sins.” But no. Jesus has not only given us order out of chaos, faith to face our fears, and a family to call our own. He has promised us an everlasting future, even better than our eternal present.  

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Until the day we sing the song of victory in His presence in heaven, let us proclaim the truth of His victory as his presence in this world!

For His Glory,

Pastor Justin