|Photo by A-Giau 2004|
Saturday, August 26, 2017
I dreamed that I would be performing a dance solo in a large theatre. As part of the costume, I had designed a large, elaborate headdress created from solar panels arranged in an intricate pattern. My plan was that when the bright stage lighting hit the solar panels, it would generate enough power to propel me upward so that I would be airborne and I could dance in the air!
But on opening night, much to my dismay, the bright lights illuminated me and my headdress, but I remained earthbound. My dance was limited to what I could do in my own power, and I was unable to fly.
Despite my disappointment and embarrassment, I wasn’t ready to give up on my creation, so I went outdoors to a brilliant sunny day, taking time to absorb the golden rays into my headdress. But once again in the dream, my plan was foiled, for the weight of the headdress was so heavy that whatever energy was stored in the solar panels could not overcome the pull of gravity on my body.
As I awoke and considered the symbolism of the dream, I realized that the dance represented the opportunity each of us is given to perform on life’s stage, with that opportunity as fleeting as a solo in the spotlight (James 4:14; John 9:4; Job 14:1).
In our physical world, energy from the sun can be absorbed by photovoltaic cells in solar panels and stored in batteries for later use as light energy, kinetic energy, or other forms of power. But my plan to use the headdress to overcome gravity was flawed because I was attempting to channel energy from artificial light rather than from the sun.
In the spiritual as well as in the physical realm, there is only One Source of true light, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:9). He is the Creator Who brought light into existence with the words of His mouth (Genesis 1:3-5). His light has shined on those walking in darkness, to free us from death (Isaiah 9:2) and give sinful man the peace of being reconciled to Holy God (Luke 1:79).
Without Jesus Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). No efforts of our own can earn our way to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9) or pull us up out of the miry pit of sin (Psalm 40:2). No person, relationship, false god, human construct or natural wonder can provide saving grace (1 John 5:21; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). In fact, none of these can provide any meaningful power at all unless Jesus Christ Himself, the Source of all power, empowers them (Matthew 28:18).
In the dream, my plan to utilize the sun’s energy rather than depending on artificial light was a step in the right direction. However, I could not rise up from the earth because the headdress was too heavy. Even once we are saved by our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we may not soar to the heights He has planned for us if we become burdened by sins and weights (Hebrews 12:1).
Our earthly body groans to be freed from its weight and to soar into the heavens when Jesus Christ returns for His children, to meet with us in the air (Romans 8:16-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). Then we will have a glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:35-50), like His, free from the restraints of sin, death, and perhaps even gravity!
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5), and once we are saved, He asks us to be His light in the world (Matthew 5:14) by channeling His true light (John 12:46). Like living water and blessings, we absorb His light and allow it not only to empower us, but to flow through us and bless others (John 7:38).
Because God is light (1 John 1:5), we as His children are to walk in the light, sharing His glorious Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Every day the born-again Christian (John 3:3-8) fights a battle between the Holy Spirit living in our heart from the moment we are saved (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), and our old sin nature (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Romans 6:6; 8:3-14).
The new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) wants to yield to the Spirit and follow His light, sharing that light with others (Philippians 2:15; Ephesians 5:8-14). But our fleshly desires pull us in the opposite direction, toward darkness (John 3:19; Romans 13:12). Yet we are the children of light, and the children of the day, not of the night nor of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8).
The day when Christ appears in all His glory grows closer with each passing moment. We therefore must put on His armor of light, abandon the works of darkness, and spread His Word, for the day approaches when our work on earth will be over and it will be too late to help others (Romans 13:12; John 9:4).
May we leave behind the works of darkness, set aside the weights and sins that are hindering our Christian life, and channel the true light of Jesus Christ as our sole power source. Without Him, we remain earthbound and can do nothing, but with Him, we are elevated to heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), and all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26)
Saturday, August 19, 2017
As far as I know, all religions include some sort of belief system about what happens after our life on earth. Some Eastern religions believe in reincarnation of the spirit into a new physical body – an animal if evil deeds outweighed the good in the previous life, or a human being with more or less privilege and status, again dependent on deeds and “enlightenment” achieved before death.
Islam and other works-based religions promote eternity in paradise for those who did enough good during their physical existence to earn it. This creates a conundrum: how good is good enough? The concept of salvation based on works, and not on God’s grace as Christians believe (Ephesians 2:8-9), portrays a giant celestial scale, with a person’s evil deeds stacked up on one side, and, hopefully, outweighed by good deeds on the other.
The person trusting in one of these religious belief systems can never know for sure that they are going to heaven, particularly if the god they trust is capricious or fickle, changing his or her mind about whether the dying person deserves eternal reward or eternal punishment.
Catholicism describes three alternatives after life on earth: heaven, hell, or purgatory. This last state is not described anywhere in the Bible and is based only on man’s traditions and philosophies rather than on Scripture as the sole authority (Mark 7:13; Colossians 2:8). Catholic doctrine describes purgatory as an intermediate state between heaven and hell where souls go who are neither “good” enough to merit heaven nor “bad” enough to deserve hell.
In the Catholic Church, living souls are encouraged to pray for their dead loved ones to transition from purgatory to heaven, aided by “indulgences,” or cash payments to the church. But the Bible tells us that once we step out into eternity, it is too late to change our destiny. Everyone will go immediately and permanently to heaven or hell, based solely on whether or not they trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Mark 9:47; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; 1 John 5:12).
As he led the Protestant reformation, Martin Luther protested against the concept of purgatory and other traditions honored by the Catholic Church but absent from Scripture. His faith was in God alone (2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 37:16; Luke 5:21) as revealed by His eternal Word alone (Deuteronomy 4:2; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 56:4; Isaiah 40:8; Luke 4:4; John 1:1; 8:47; 1 Peter 1:23), and therefore Luther's concept of the afterlife was based on Scripture.
Bible-believing (Psalm 119:11-18), born-again (John 3:3-8) Christians trust in salvation by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) of His Son Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Although a recent poll of Americans revealed that two thirds acknowledged that they were sinners, the Bible says that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that there is not a single good person on earth (Romans 3:10, 12).
How then can any be saved? A holy, righteous God (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Samuel 2:2) cannot tolerate the presence of sin (Ezra 9:15), which is why no matter how hard we try to work our way to Heaven, we cannot ourselves remove the penalty our sins deserve (Psalm 7:11; Isaiah 5:16). God is just, and He therefore demands that the penalty be paid for our sins before He can allow any of us into His presence (Daniel 9:14,18; Romans 2:5; 3:5).
From before the beginning of time, God knew that Adam and Eve would disobey Him and bring the curse of sin upon the world (Genesis 3). He had therefore already devised the plan of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). His Son Jesus Christ, equally God (Philippians 2:6), would come to earth in human form (John 1:14) and live a perfect, sinless life (John 1:29). He would die an agonizing, humiliating death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:35) to pay for all our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21), so that whosoever trusts in Him as Lord and Savior would not die, but would live forever with Him (John 3:16; 1 John 5:12).
When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day (Matthew 28:6-7), He proved that He is God (Acts 1:3) and worthy to be our Savior. Whosoever trusts in Him is freed from the penalty of sin (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), which is everlasting death and torment in hell (Luke 16:19-31). When God looks at the sinner who has trusted His Son, He no longer sees our sin, but the perfect righteousness of His Son, in which He robes us at the moment of our salvation (Isaiah 61:10).
By a mysterious spiritual transaction, the penalty for our sins is debited against Christ’s suffering on the cross, and His perfect righteousness is credited to our account. Instantly we are transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) from His enemies to His children and heirs (Romans 5:10), and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), ready to enjoy our inheritance of eternal life with Him in Heaven (Ephesians 1:11-18; 1 Peter 1:4).
But if we reject His freely given gift of salvation by His grace, we remain His enemies and children of the devil (John 8:44), and our afterlife will be one of eternal torment in hell (Mark 9:43-48). Trusting in Christ is the only Way to eternity in Heaven (John 14:6). We have but one life on this earth, in which good works cannot outweigh or negate our sins or the consequences of those sins. Once we take our last breath, it is too late to change our destiny, and all the sincere prayers and contributions of our survivors cannot affect it.
May those who have not yet trusted Christ do so today, for today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), and we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14). May we who believe share His Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20) with those who are otherwise doomed to everlasting hell.
Praise God that we can know from God’s Word, beyond the shadow of a doubt, how to be sure our afterlife will be in Heaven! Praise the Lord that He paid our sin debt in full! Praise God that He is not capricious or fickle, but unchanging, and that we can depend on His constant, saving grace (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8).
What is a Christian’s afterlife like? After our life is done, what remains of us for those we leave behind? Stay tuned to subsequent posts as we explore these questions!