Friday, February 3, 2012
Saving lives... and Postponing Death...
Don't get me wrong. I do not mean in any way to disparage those who protect us and care for us -- the medical community, rescue personnel, police, and even the men and women of our armed forces. They are gifts of God worthy of our respect and appreciation.
We are transfixed with the technological prowess of our medical community. We spare no cost nor effort to save lives and I suppose this is all well and good up to a point. But we deceive ourselves if we think that the next medical breakthrough will bring us closer to the manifest destiny of immortality. It will not. It is beyond us. We are given by God such skill and ability that we can rescue life for the moment but death can only be put off and not avoided.
We have also distorted religion by assigning to it the responsibility of saving our lives. Even Christians fall into the trap of thinking of salvation in Christ as saving our lives. As the Gospel reminds us, it is only by losing this life that we can save it for eternity. The very nature of baptism is that we are drowned and killed in its water so that the new and everlasting life that is ours in Christ may arise for today and for all eternity. The life reborn is not our old life minus the problems or weaknesses but the new life of the Christ who lives in me and me in Him. We are not who we were; we have been made brand new.
Half the churches and preachers today seem to think that the rescue of this present life is God's highest concern. They know how deeply and terribly we fear age and its fragility, death and its end, life and its lack of happiness or pleasure. So they have heard our fears and offer the promise of a new and better life now. This is not what we need and, I am convinced, it is not what we want either. Just as the family is not relieved that the physical body continues to live but the life of the loved one gone, neither are we are fully satisfied for a better life now. We want our lives saved for eternity.
The great tragedy is that we would rather live in the lie that the moment packed full of life and pleasure is worth any effort to obtain it and any financial cost. From the funeral directors hawking their "celebrations of life" instead of funerals to the wasted fortunes and hopes of those who want, who expect, medicine to make perfect what is in decay, we settle for lie after lie.
Jesus offers so much more than saved lives. He offers new life. Life that death cannot overcome. He took on our death in order that we might live in His life. Why would settle for postponing death when we could have so much more? Why would we settle for a half-baked gospel that makes this passing moment seem better while maksing our mortality? We need a Savior who is strong enough to bear our death just as we need one is strong enough to bear our sins.
A week or so ago we sang "Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal." It is a marvelous hymn that speaks to us honestly but not morbidly of the life lost that will not be regained and of the new life that is beyond imagination (as Paul puts it).
Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal,
Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End;
Godhead, humanity, union supernal,
O great Redeemer, You come as our friend!
Heaven and earth, now proclaim this great wonder:
Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal!
Jesus has come! Now see bonds rent asunder!
Fetters of death now dissolve, disappear.
See Him burst through with a voice as of thunder!
He sets us free from our guilt and our fear,
Lifts us from shame to the place of His honor.
Jesus has come! Hear the roll of God’s thunder!
Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer.
See now the threatening strong one disarmed!
Jesus breaks down all the walls of death’s fortress,
Brings forth the pris’ners triumphant, unharmed.
Satan, you wicked one, own now your master!
Jesus has come! He, the mighty Redeemer!
Jesus has come as the King of all glory!
Heaven and earth, O declare His great pow’r,
Capturing hearts with the heavenly story;
Welcome Him now in this fast-fleeting hour!
Ponder His love! Take the crown He has for you!
Jesus has come! He, the King of all glory!