Choose life

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

 

What is it that we are all here to do? They were here, as Browning would tell them, to make a choice. Their life’s value would be judged by the choice they made. A moral choice and a moral judgment—that was what they must, at their peril, to their cost, have made before they died. ‘I have set before you this day good and evil, life and death; therefore choose life.’ That was the cardinal secret, the challenge that was to ring in their ears day and night in every variety of experience and circumstance and condition, in hope and in fear, in sorrow and in joy, in confidence and in doubt, in darkness and light, at whatever social level their lot was cast, under whatever limitations life and death were set before them, and they were to choose one or the other; and each such choice determined their bent, and each such determination built up their character, and by that character, so formed, they were judged. Character—that was the key-word needed. They were looking round anxiously in London for men of character. But character belonged to the man who had gained a steady bent towards the right, and who had made his choice, who had committed himself on the side of a sound life, who could be counted on to be straight and true and pure. There was something in the man on which they could rely. His will always made in one way, and nothing could turn it aside, and that was the way of justice, and righteousness, and conscience. – Canon Scott Holland

As we follow Jesus, we are not choosing a life that by-passes the law or negates the need for boundaries, but we are looking for trust and love and hope in all of our actions.  A lot depends on why we seek to live a good life, to be responsible and to have principles – essentially determining why we want to live.  If by fear, then we play safe.  If to exclude and condemn, then others are right and others are wrong – welcome to structure turning life into a prison.  If out of trust in God, then we love how He purposed our lives to be – a world of caring for one another and having hope for the future no matter what life throws at us – in other words, real life.  If our life is lived in any matter resembling that of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is making our life real and that discovery is what makes real life, the only life worth living.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

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On the third day He will be raised

Historical writings show that Christians met regularly on Sunday, the first day of the week, because it had been the day upon which Jesus had risen.

One in particular caught my attention recently —

107 AD “Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace… If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since they were his disciples in the spirit?… let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:62-63).

Those who choose to keep the law are not partakers of the grace and truth brought by Jesus Christ. They have no hope in the seventh day.

For our hope is that we too will raise from the dead and experience the power of the resurrection having our mortal bodies transformed into ones that are incorruptible.

 Resurrection and ascension ratified the efficacy of God’s covenant of salvation and displayed God’s immense sovereignty and ensures the hope of believers.

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death;  then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.” – Matthew 20:18-19

The certainty on death

I cannot tell you, good woman, what is to become of the little child who is pressed to your bosom this evening. God bless it and make it a comfort to you and an honor to His church! But it is all matter of hope as yet. Children are certain cares, they say, and uncertain blessings. I hardly like the phrase. They are blessings anyway—but there is certainly this about them—we cannot tell what will become of them when they grow up and come under the influence of evil. You look upon a youth as he grows up and you feel, “I cannot quite see what you will be. You may be led astray by temptation, or by divine grace you may cleanse your way. You may be useful and honorable, or you may be dissolute and degraded. ”Everything is uncertain about the child on his birthday, but everything is certain about the saint on his death day. Spurgeon
When we are born we begin life, but what will that life be? Friends say, “Welcome, little stranger.” Ah, but what kind of reception will the stranger get when he is no longer a new-comer? He who is newly born and is ordained to endure through a long life is like a warrior who puts on his harness for battle; and is not he in a better case who puts it off because he has won the victory? Ask any soldier which he likes best, the first shot in the battle or the sound which means “Cease firing, for the victory is won.” When we were born we set out on our journey; but when we die we end our weary march in the Father’s house above. Surely it is better to have come to the end of the tiresome pilgrimage than to have commenced it. Better is the day of death than our birthday, because about the birthday there hangs uncertainty. I heard this morning of a dear friend who had fallen asleep. When I wrote to his wife I said, “Concerning him we speak with certainty. You sorrow not as those that are without hope. A long life of walking with God proved that he was one of God’s people, and we know that for such there remains joy without temptation, without sorrow, without end, for ever and ever.” Oh, then, as much as certainty is better than uncertainty, the day of the saint’s death is better than the day of his birth. So, too, in things which are certain the saint’s death-day is preferable to the beginning of life, for we know that when the child is born he is born to sorrow. Trials must and will befall, and your little one who is born to-day is born to an inheritance of grief, like his father, like his mother, who prophesied it as it were by her own pangs. But look, now, at the saint when he dies. It is absolutely certain that he has done with sorrow, done with pain. Now, surely, the day in which we are certain that sorrow is over must be better than the day in which we are certain that sorrow is on the road. – Spurgeon
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death, than the day of birth – Ecclesiastes 7:1

Hope-filled future

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:25

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Patient endurance – the phrase has eluded me all these years as to the key to holding, growing and maturing in our relationship with God – and just saying it, sets me free.  It’s product is hope.
Together with faith and love, hope propels us towards a very sure future.  The horizon is still set with those things opposed, those illusory temptations of the world, and yet we are given daily doses of new momentum and strength.  Our decision each day is to refuse to be robbed of hope, or even to allow our hope to be dimmed by answers and solutions that will block us from moving forward.
For Pope Francis, time is greater than space because the pathway to authentic human progress is “process,” which is itself a function of time. Because time is fluid and in motion, it represents the key to avoiding getting “stuck” in space, so to speak. If we try to fill space with short-term solutions and stark and static answers to problems with no thought of how we can really move forward from that point, we short-circuit time itself and cut off ourselves from a more hope-filled future. – Jim Russell
Jesus Himself demonstrated the impact of patient endurance throughout His ministry but also in His death.  The product of His patience being obedience to His Father and His offering of mercy and forgiveness to those He walked with on earth.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7
Let’s face it – Jesus attitude toward suffering was unique.  It was like He encountered it and death with eyes wide open, almost as if He embraced them as if He had a conscious preparation for them. Let’s be sure to note that not once did He mention this route as one to be desired. But He does speak of suffering as a reality that we should not ignore, avoid or cover up.  His example is how we learn to give up our right to success, recognition, wealth, health and maybe even happiness, so what we are and what we hope to be and have, is determined by and found in God.  A crazy thought, but it is spoken of throughout the New Testament, we are extended an opportunity – to participate in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world.

“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.  Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture.  Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.  Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”  Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant.  He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.  The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.  As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.  But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. – Luke 8:5-15

Compton choir sings of a hope-filled future

“A Hope-filled Future”