Precious Passings

November 13th, 2018

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15 ESV)

This verse might strike us as peculiar, an oddity in the holy Scriptures. Why would the living God ever delight in anyone’s death? Death, after all, is called an enemy that God shall ultimately destroy (1 Cor. 15:26).  Death belongs to sickness and defeat and is the opposite of who Christ is: “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

But it has its place in the Bible, for death also has its place in our lives. This verse upholds the faithfulness of God to believers after death. Paul could write, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). For believers death is merely a door to a new and better life.

This speaks of a homecoming in heaven for believers. Anything precious in God’s sight is worthy of celebration and observance. God Himself rejoices in the salvation of sinners (Luke 15:7), and since there is no saint who was not also once lost in sin, surely the believer’s entrance into heaven will be celebrated by God.

What will it be like for us to enter heaven? We have a few glimpses of this from scripture. Overall, we can say that there will be a warm welcome. John in Revelation 4 describes the vision of heaven as one that instantly reveals clarity (a voice like a trumpet), authority (the throne), mercy (jasper and carnelian stones were on the high priest’s breastplate), and faithfulness (rainbow). The reaction of John to the first glimpse of heaven was one of praise and complete awe. He was in the midst of resounding praise of the Lamb of God.

Paul had a vision of heaven, and many scholars believe that this could have happened when he was stoned at Lystra and left for dead. And though he spoke about it in third person, it seems to be autobiographical. He said, “The things he heard were too sacred for words, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Cor. 12:4), and though we do not have the information this does tell of instant knowledge of truth that is withheld from us here. Elsewhere Paul said the knowledge in the afterlife is complete, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). He also spoke of intimacy with the Lord, of departing this life to be “with Christ” (Phil. 1:23).

When Christ was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, and they saw Him in His glory, Peter’s initial response must have foreshadowed the heart of every believer who enters into heaven, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” (Matt. 17:4). Peter was ready to settle down and remain there forever, and though it was not time yet for Christ to come to earth in His glory (it was just a foretaste), still the sentiment of Peter must be what we will all feel in heaven, the realization that we are home.

F.B. Meyer, the great preacher, author, and Bible teacher, in 1928 wrote a letter to George W. Truett, the long-serving pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and expressed the affection (with a sense of humor) which Christians should have toward one another with regards to sharing our heavenly home together.

My dear friend: What a lovely letter you have written, with your own hand. I am deeply touched by it. The only thing to do is for us to make an effort to meet, as soon as possible – if not before – on our arriving in Heaven, at the Middle Gate on the East Side of the New Jerusalem. Then we will go off together, for a ramble by the River of Water of Life, and will doubtless find a nook, where we can have a quiet talk and perhaps the Prince Himself will join us. There will be much to talk about…

For us heaven is our eternal home, and our transfer from this life to the next brings instant knowledge and intimacy with Christ, a deep realization that we are received by the merciful and faithful Savior. So, yes, the death of believers should be precious in the eyes of God and in our eyes as well.

Psalms

Praying, Not Plotting

November 8th, 2018

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. (Psalm 36:10-11 ESV)

The trait of faithful people is that they choose to pray for others and not plot against them. David, inspired of the Spirit, authored this psalm and in it he worked his way through the evil that is in the hearts of some men. He learned who not to entrust himself to, but he did not consider himself helpless so long as he could pray to God. Rather he brought these people and these circumstances to God in prayer.

Peace comes from God, not from tearing others down

David avoided the sin of blatant, inappropriate criticism and the judging of others. He recognized what was in their hearts, but he left it at that. One of the most common causes of a critical, judgmental attitude is low self-esteem. We criticize others in order to feel better about ourselves. David, however, knew that peace comes form God.

He knew God through his faith, through God’s Word, and through the movement of the Spirit in his life. His knowledge of God had changed his life from the inside out – the revelation of God’s love for David had transformed his worldview. Centuries later, Paul used similar words when he wrote:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:8-9)

The secret to a transformed life is not to try and feel better about yourself because you can criticize others on your bed in your own mind, but that you know God, and are drawn to Him. The love of God is enough, and nothing else really satisfies our hearts.

Faith, not fault-finding, and Prayer, not plotting

The recognition of who to trust and whose ways to emulate is a necessary part of gaining wisdom. We have people all around us who would lead us down the wrong path, whose ways we should not seek to copy. The recognition of these people is not judging, neither is choosing not to follow the wrong person plotting against them. They are God’s problem and not ours.

David prayed for two things: that the foot of arrogance not come against him and that the hand of the wicked not drive him away, or deter him from doing what he needed to do. The foot symbolized disrespect in that culture, the contempt that the arrogant would feel toward others. Feet are considered unclean and to push another person with one’s feet is to treat that person as though they were less than human. The hand was symbolic of intentional action against someone, to deter him from doing what was right.

We face both of these attitudes in our daily life – disrespect and opposition. David’s example was to bring these matters to God in prayer, asking for divine intervention, asking also for the courage and strength of righteous character to continue doing what is right. We can let the wrong people discourage us from doing what we ought to do.

Patient, steady, and gracious

The proper action for a believer who seeks to do right is to patiently, steadfastly, and graciously continue to do what is the right thing to do. There is humility in David’s words, for the admission that evil holds some attraction to our hearts is the confession of our own weakness. It is easy for us to react in the same evil spirit as others, it is easy for us to treat them with the contempt they treat us, it is easy for us to fall into the same problem of pride as others.

Patient steadfastness says, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The strength is not in us. Neither is the wisdom, righteousness, guidance in us either. It is all in Christ and the only credential that we may offer to others that would enjoin them to follow us, to support us, to respect us, is that we follow Christ. Avoid the ungracious, judgmental, and arrogant, but don’t become like them in spirit.

Pray, don’t plot.

Psalms