Our Priorities For The Next Life

In the early 1800s, it was not uncommon to see an ad in the newspaper for metal, vacuum-sealed coffins. Most Christian Americans believed that Jesus would need their physical body intact so that He might easier raise their bodies from the dead on the Day of Resurrection. Americans at the time felt a great urgency to preserve their bodies for Christ’s return. That is why they were buying and selling metal vacuum sealed coffins. However, according to Drew Gilpin Faust in her book This Republic of Suffering, the importance placed on preservation of mortal bodies drastically changed during the Civil War. Due to powerful artillery on the battlefield many families had to bury mutilated bodies of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. The bodies of some soldiers were so destroyed that no actual body was ever recovered. With these traumatic events taking place and no bodies to preserve, American Christians had to return to the scriptures and discover the truth about the Day of Resurrection and the return of Christ. 

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1 Cor. 15:35-38) 

Paul had to handle the same question with the Corinthians in the first century. People were concerned with exactly how the dead were going to be raised up and what type of body they would have. Paul intensely explains that the death and corruption of our mortal bodies would have no effect on our new spiritual body given to us on the day of resurrection. He makes the logical argument that for there to be a resurrection there first must be a death. God knows what happens to our bodies when they are buried, and He will have no trouble raising us from the dead even if our bodies are nothing but dust. Does the God of Heaven and Earth need our help to preserve our bodies? Does the Almighty need our help to fulfill His promises? The answer to both these questions is no. God does what He pleases, and He always keeps His promises. He has promised us that He will raise us from the dead (1 Cor. 15:50-52). 

When it comes to priorities for the resurrection, Jesus puts the urgency on our eternal home not our eternal body. 

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28) 

1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3) 

The Lord has the power to make our eternal home Heaven or Hell. However, He has made it possible for us to choose where we go. Let’s choose to believe in God. Let’s choose to follow Him every day, so that we get to spend an eternity with Him in His home. That is where our priorities should be. The urgency to choose a heavenly home with God is greater than any urgency to protect our worldly bodies. 

— Andrew Smith

Faith And Water

Noah’s faith saved him and his family. When the Lord told him that there was going to be a destructive flood, he believed. He believed enough to construct the ark, and he and his family were saved. Noah had a faith that could look forward and see the invisible. 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Heb. 11:1-3) 

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Rejoice In The Lord Alway, Again I Will Say Rejoice!

This is a popular verse in Philippians. When this passage is studied, someone usually says, “Paul commands Christians to rejoice always and he means it so much, he says it twice.” That is a good point, but it is missing one of, if not the most important part of the verse: “In the Lord.” Our continuous rejoicing is not in our career, property, hobby, or even our family. It is in the Lord. He is the only Being that can empower us into a state of constant rejoicing. 

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Encompassing Belief, Part 2

Last month we looked at the way Luke uses the word believe in the book of Acts. Passages like Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 16:31-34 use the word believe to describe conversion. The context of the passage defines what the word means. This month, let us look at how James uses the word believe in a different context, with a different meaning. James does not use the word believe as conversion but as a fruitless belief in God’s existence. 

James explains to his audience that faith without good works is dead. Faith has no meaning if the person of faith is not willing to act on it. He gives the example of someone seeing his brother or sister without daily food, and he says, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” What good did that do? Unless he acted on faith and gave food to his brother or sister, his command profited nothing. That person might claim to have faith, but his actions say otherwise. James then says that person’s belief in God is not all that special. 

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”  (James 2:19-20) 

Is James using the word believe the same way Luke does in Acts 2:44-47? Is James saying that the demons have an encompassing belief in God that produces repentance, baptism, and the free gift of salvation? Are the demons converted to God? No. James says that his audience, like the demons, believes that God is a real person with real power, but refuse to be moved to action. This is not an encompassing belief; this is a belief that is only a thought. This is a belief that resides in the mind but never moves to the heart or the hands. This is not an encompassing belief.It  is a fruitless belief. 

John 12 gives another example of fruitless belief. Jesus performs many signs and wonders and some of the rulers of synagogue believed in Him. However, notice their reaction. 

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43) 

These rulers believed in Jesus, but due to their fear of the Pharisees kicking them out of the synagogue, they did not confess Him. Their belief was only a thought. 

Is our belief in Jesus an encompassing belief or a fruitless belief? Is it a belief that leads to repentance, baptism, and salvation? Is it a belief that is no more than a thought that God is real, like the demon’s belief? 

Why do we not believe like we should? Like the rulers of the synagogue, it might have a lot to do with fear. John says, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They became afraid that if they pursued Jesus they would be rejected by men. Christians that act on their belief today are treated cruelly. In the South, perhaps, not many will ridicule a Christian for believing in God. But when that Christian tries to act on hisbelief, some might ridicule trying to justify his own non-action. Just like those in James 2 that deceived themselves by saying that a belief without action was enough to please God. 

— Andrew Smith 

Encompassing Belief, Part 1

What does the word believe mean? Well, it all depends on the context. Throughout the book of Acts, believe is an encompassing term that describes converts to Christ. However, James will use the word believe to mean a fruitless understanding that God is real, or God is all powerful. In this article we will cover two passages in which Luke uses the word to describe the action of being converted.

In Acts 2, Peter delivers a sermon on Pentecost proving that Jesus is the Lord and Christ, the Messiah. The people are cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do with their guilt. Peter responds: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v,38). Luke then says that many of the people obeyed: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (v.41). Luke goes on to describe these people as “all who believed.”

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The God Of All Comfort

We have and will suffer on this earth. God has never promised us anything different than that fact. From Elijah to Jeremiah, from Stephen to Paul, all of God’s people have suffered. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the state of his suffering. Something was happening to him in Asia. Paul said, “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves” (2nd Cor. 1:9). Have you ever felt that you were burdened beyond measure? Have you felt like the world has sentenced you to death? You probably have.

Thankfully, Paul shares his outlook on his suffering. Paul says that he might be sentenced to death, but he has put his trust “in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). God has the power to raise the dead. Even if our suffering leads to death, who better to put our trust in than He who has conquered death?

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The Power Of God

The Lord did many incredible things in the Bible. He caused the Red Sea to part for the Israelites, sets large hailstones from heaven on those that tried to harm His people, and He even stopped the sun’s movement from horizon to horizon. The Lord did big powerful things, like raising Jesus from the dead, to smaller things like causing an ax head to float on the water.

These miraculous powers were always used by God to endorse the prophets. By giving them miraculous power, God was endorsing their message. It was a clear and easy way for God’s people to know that these prophets were telling the truth.

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A Strong Finish

Several of us might have received and read these articles all year. I hope they have been encouraging to us all. There are some that probably started reading these at the beginning of the year, yet they quit reading some time ago. They may have purposely quit reading, or maybe they just forgot. That is often how our plans turn out. We will make big plans early to get reconnected with God or do something for God, and then we slowly forget about those plans till they are non-existent.

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Keeping It Simple

Many have a poor view of Christianity because they see it as complicated. Understandably so because in one small town, you have over 50 churches all having different beliefs, different practices, different paths to salvation; yet, all churches claim they are following the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Are their 50 different ways to enter Christ’s Kingdom? Jesus says no. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them’” (John 10:1,7-8). The Lord says that He is the only door that leads to salvation. There are other doors available, but they are like thieves and robbers. These doors deceive you into believing they lead to Jesus when they actually lead to something else.

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Thomas’ Doubt

Many give Thomas a hard time for wanting to see the resurrected Jesus before he believed. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas” to illustrate his skepticism. However, Thomas’ doubt is powerful evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains to the Corinthians that the whole gospel hangs on the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection did not happen, then Jesus was not the Son of God and His sacrifice was void.

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