More in Death than in Life

Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord,“Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Judges 16:26-30

Deliliah cut Samson’s hair thus nullifying his Nazarite vow. When this happened, the Spirit of the Lord left Samson and, with Him, all of Samson’s supernatural strength. The Philistines captured Samson, gouged out his eyes, and made a mockery of him among the Philistine elite.

Physical obedience impacts spiritual realities. So does disobedience. When Samson’s hair was cut (physical reality) it impacted what was happening in the spirit realm. The Spirit of the Lord no longer rested upon Samson in power.

Samson’s death was a foreshadow of the death of Christ. Samson destroyed many more of the enemy’s minions in his death than he did in his life. The same is true of Jesus. Jesus healed and cast demons out of thousands of people. He dominated the enemy in his life on earth. Yet, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave gave us access to His power and authority. More minions of the enemy have been destroyed because of Jesus’s death than were destroyed in His life. It happens through you and me.

Once again we see physical obedience impacting spiritual realities. Jesus’s ultimate physical obedience of going to the cross forever changed the spirit realm. In rising from the grave, conquering sin and death, Jesus now has all authority. And He chose to delegate His authority to those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

With every act of obedience on our part, the power and authority of the Kingdom of God is released in the spirit realm. With every act of disobedience, the lies and deception of the enemy gain ground. Living the Christian life has never been about vain attempts to “be a good Christian boy or girl.” Walking in step with the Holy Spirit out of obedience to the Lord has always been about the Kingdom of God coming to earth. It’s always been about the battle happening in the spirit realm. It’s about “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Your obedient actions matter more than you know!

Forfeit

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

Matthew 16:24-26

One of the primary characteristics of a follower of Jesus is that they have denied themselves. To surrender our life to Jesus means that we are willing to lose our life. And when we deny ourselves–giving up our “rights” and the way we think our life should go–when we lose our life, we’ll discover the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. We’ll discover that we have found more life than we could possibly imagine.

This message was not popular in Jesus’s day. This message is not popular today. Instead, the message of the American culture is “I get to live my truth” or “I get to express myself in whatever way seems right to me.” This is not the way of Jesus.

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.

Proverbs 14:12

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Proverbs 16:2

When we decided to surrender to Jesus, invited the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and chose to live the Christian life, we gave up our “No” to God. The process of discipleship–the process of sanctification and holiness–is that more and more the only answer we have left for Jesus is a “Yes.” We must be willing to totally and utterly give up on the “American dream” if we want to truly follow Jesus.

We’ve given up the right to demand that our material preferences, relational preferences, career preferences, sexual preferences, moral preferences, and social preferences be met. Our life is not our own. We were bought at a price and that price was Jesus’s death on the cross.

The Christian journey is a journey to the cross, not a journey to the palace. Only on the other side of “death of self” is there new life in Christ. We become a new self, a transformed self, a surrendered self, whose broken, sinful heart is made whole and clean. We are born anew and we experience that new birth daily.

Are you still saying “No” to God in some area of life? A “No” to God only brings death. But, a “Yes” to God brings a kind of death that leads to a resurrection of new life.

Give God your unconditional YES!

The Power of Words

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:33-37

Our language reveals our heart. If we continue to lie, there is deception in our hearts. If we continue to speak words that are harsh and condemning, there is anger (and maybe rage and hate) in our hearts. If we continue to push people away with our words, there is rejection in our hearts (because we always feel rejected regardless if that is the truth or not). We will have to give an account of every empty word that we’ve spoken. We will have no defense except the blood of Jesus.

There are many people whose words that they speak are ruining their life. Words have the power to bring life or death to the people around us. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit“(Proverbs 18:21). Matthew 12 mentions fruit as well. We will eat the fruit of our own words. If our words bring life, we will experienced life all around us. If our words criticize, cut people down, judge, mock, condemn, and punish then we will experience death all around us. That will be the fruit we eat!

Another way to understand this truth is that our critical and harsh words not only bring death to the people around us (and subsequently becomes the bad fruit that we eat) but there is also a boomerang effect to our words. The measure we use will be used against us.

If our measurement tool is full of forgiveness, grace and love, that is the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will have no place to attack us. But if our measurement tool is full of judgement, anger, resentment, criticism, and perfectionism then that is also the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will launch attack after attack on our life because we’ve given him a standard of measurement that leaves us completely open to attack. Our life could never hold up to the standard to which we hold others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

Your words were meant to bring life to the people around you. Your words were meant to bring life to you! “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt...”(Colossians 4:6). We need to examine our heart to see what is coming out of it in the form of words. If toxic words are coming out, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to clean out the deep places of our wounded heart. We need to take off the old self, put it to death, and put on the new self which is being renewed day by day to look more like Jesus.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Colossians 3:7-10

Take inventory of your words and it will reveal the condition and contents of your heart.

What kind of words have you been speaking lately? Have they brought life or death? Have you felt their boomerang effect?

Resurrection Life

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

Matthew 9:18-19

What kind of faith does it take to believe Jesus can raise the dead?

I am amazed by the faith of this synagogue leader. By asking for Jesus’s help, he put his position in the synagogue at risk. If the Pharisees get wind of his request for Jesus to come to his house, they could not only remove him from his position but prevent him from even participating in synagogue life.

Equally risky for the father and for Jesus is that they are dealing with a dead body. In Jewish law, touching a dead body made a person unclean for seven days and required ritual purification as a result (Numbers 19:11). Likewise, anyone in the room near the dead body would be unclean for seven days and required ritual purification (Numbers 19:14).

After healing the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years on their way to the synagogue ruler’s house, they arrive to a large funeral gathering.

When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.

Matthew 9:23-26

Jesus knew He would raise this girl back to life. He declared it before He even walked into the bedroom. Jesus is the resurrection and the life! But people laughed at the very idea of it. They had seen many dead bodies before this one. They knew the look of a dead body. They knew the cold, stiff feel of a dead body. They knew the smell of a dead body. Most people there had buried friends and family members. This girl was not just sleeping. She was gone.

Imagine if we actually believed Jesus can raise the dead. Imagine the laughing and mocking that would happen at our expense as we prayed for dead people. We’d not only get laughed at, like Jesus did, but we’d likely get kicked out of most hospitals.

I believe Jesus put the crowd outside because they had created an atmosphere filled with unbelief and doubt. The only people Jesus wanted in the room were those crazy enough to believe that Jesus can raise the dead. The Gospel of Mark records that only the girl’s father and mother as well as Peter, James and John–Jesus’s inner circle–were allowed in the room to witness the miracle.

At this point everyone in the room is ritually unclean because of their proximity to this dead body. Jesus compounds His “uncleanness” by then touching the hand of the dead girl. Except, instead of her uncleanness contaminating Him, His life contaminates her death. His cleanness contaminates her uncleanness.

Things flow in reverse in the Kingdom of God (light conquers darkness, clean conquers unclean, life defeats death, healing overwhelms sickness, wholeness overwhelms brokenness, grace covers sin). Life returns to the girl, and she gets up! Suddenly everyone in the room goes from unclean to clean, from death to life!

Incredible faith connects with an incredible miracle! Jesus is still doing these kinds of miracles all over the world today. He’s looking for a handful of people who are willing to believe enough to stay in the room with Him. He’s looking for people who are willing not to laugh but instead be laughed at.

What do you believe is possible with Jesus?

Not Like The Rest

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Saturday.

Jesus is why we don’t grieve like everyone else. The apostle Paul admits that we will grieve. We should grieve. Grieving is a healthy process of dealing with loss. Not to grieve would simple push the pain down and cause problems deep in our heart that would leak out in the future.

Jesus died. He experienced death. He’s been there. That Saturday after His crucifixion was the Sabbath. It was the Jewish day of rest. And for the disciples a day of deep grieving (Luke 24:17).

We have to grieve, but we don’t have to grieve like the rest of humanity. Our grief is infused with hope. It’s infused with life. Because Jesus died and rose again, death has transitioned from a dead end to a blinking yellow light. Death used to be a “The End” slide at the end of a movie, but now it’s simply the Netflix countdown between episodes as we move from this life into the next.

This hope we have is because of Jesus and only because of Jesus. Death doesn’t have the final word over us because death didn’t have the final word over Him. And if we find ourselves in Him, we live the same victory He lived.

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

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57