Saturday, May 28, 2022

After Life: Legacy of the Fallen


Photo by Robert Lawton 2006

On Memorial Day, the United States honors the ultimate sacrifice of our military who lost their lives defending our nation. After their life has passed, we remember their legacy, long after they have passed into eternity.
The concept of afterlife differs among various religions. To the born-again Christian (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), it is the promise of abundant, eternal life with Him and our loved ones in Him (John 3:16; 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We will forever enjoy His light and love in our glorified bodies that will never die, age, sin, or experience sickness, pain, or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
He is even now preparing a special mansion for each of us (John 14:1-3) in an unimaginably beautiful City with streets of gold and gates of pearl (Revelation 21:2, 10-27). His rule and reign will be marked by perfect justice, peace and love (Isaiah 9:6). Each of us who trusted Him will have a position of some responsibility based on works we did for Him on earth, if we did them with the right motive of gratitude and love for Him (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
But when our earthly life comes to an end, and Christ takes us home to be with Him, the words “after life” also take on a second meaning. The United States holiday of Veterans Day honors and thanks our military for their faithful service in protecting our nation and the freedoms it represents. On Memorial Day, we especially remember those military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom by laying down their lives for us. 
The after life of these veterans who died protecting us includes that legacy of the greatest love of all – sacrificing one’s own earthly life for the sake of others (John 15:13). Their love speaks to us even from the grave, just as the righteousness and obedience of Abel still speak to us millennia after his death (Hebrews 11:4), What will be our legacy for those we leave behind? What will remain of us here on earth, and what impact will it have? 
Many are concerned about their financial legacy, and certainly it is important to provide for those dependent on our income, to the extent we can. Even if our loved ones are grown and self-sufficient, we may take pleasure in leaving them an inheritance. They may use that gift not only as a reminder of our love, but perhaps to carry on a work we started, whether it be giving to the church, to missions, or to further God’s kingdom in other ways. 
Even more important than our financial legacy is the impact we had on others, for good or for bad, during this life. Did we lead people to the Lord through our witness, lifestyle, and love? Or did we give them an excuse to reject Him because of our hypocrisy, indifference, or hate? 
Did we encourage the brethren and those in church leadership (Romans 13:1-8; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18) by kind words and deeds, sharing Scripture verses relevant to their trials, and thanking and praising them for their service? Or did we discourage them by being the first to complain and the last to volunteer, give, or even show up? 
What kind of example were we to our children and to young people who followed after us? Did we nurture them in God’s Word, ways, and love, or take out our own frustrations and anger on them? (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Did we show them the importance of Bible reading, prayer, church, and obedience to God’s laws in our own lives (Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:105), or did we ask them to do as we say, not as we do? Did we just drop them off at church while we pursued interests that were more important to us, or did we even take them to church at all? 
What we do in this life determines the quality of the after life we leave behind – the footprint, for good or for evil, affecting our descendants. Timothy, the apostle Paul’s protégé, followed the sincere faith instilled in him by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). I was blessed to be raised in part by a Godly grandmother who was a great role model of faith, giving, love, and prayer, reminding me of the Proverbs 31 woman. 
We can gift our children and grandchildren with a spiritual inheritance of God’s mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18). If we obey God and trust in His Son, He will preserve our Godly legacy for our children’s benefit (Joshua 14:9). We cannot ensure that our descendants make a personal decision to follow Christ, but we are promised that if we train them in His ways, they will not turn from them in their old age (Proverbs 22:6). 
In the book of Acts, Luke tells us about Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, a sister in the faith who was beloved by all because of her good deeds and charitable giving. Her ministry consisted of using her God-given talents of sewing and clothing design to fashion coats and other garments for the widows. When she died, all those who loved her wept and sent for Peter, who prayed and raised her from the dead! (Acts 9:36-42). 
By virtue of her industry and charity during her life, Tabitha’s after life was one of thankful remembrance by all those she had helped, for she had been a faithful steward (1 Corinthians 4:2). But God answers prayers exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20) beyond what we could ever imagine or think! In this case, He answered Peter’s prayer by raising Tabitha from the dead, actually giving her a second life on earth after the life she had already lived! 
Even better, Tabitha’s legacy, or after life, continued, because many who heard of this miracle came to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! So Tabitha’s after life was not only her legacy of giving and caring, and not only her restoration to earthly life, but her eternal reward she enjoyed by playing a part in leading others to the Lord! 
The apostle Paul tells us that any Gospel seeds we sow in the lives of those who ultimately trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will not only change their eternal destiny, but will bless us with the eternal reward of the soulwinner’s crown, or crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Those who are saved will in turn sow seeds in the lives of others, which may be a part of our after life long after we no longer walk this earth. 
What will be our after life? May His light shine through us during our earthly life (Matthew 5:16), so that our after life blesses not only those who knew us, but all those who feel the ripples of love emanating from our spiritual legacy! 
© 2017 Laurie Collett

Edited and reposted from the archives



Saturday, May 21, 2022

Son of God: Overview of the Book of John


The Gospel of John encapsulates much of Christian doctrine and Christology, for it teaches and shows us Who Jesus Christ is and how to get saved. It is an excellent place for an unsaved person to start reading to learn about God and His plan of salvation through faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), and for a babe in Christ to start studying the Bible.

Yet John is full of deeply profound truth for even the most mature believer. An anonymous commentator has described the Book of John as being like “a pool of water, so shallow at the edges that a child could wade, and yet so deep at the center that an elephant could swim.” It is easy to understand at the surface, but with a depth that Bible scholars who have spent their entire lives studying it have not fully exhausted.

The specific purpose of the Gospel of John is that the reader might believe, be born again (John 3:3-8), and have saving faith giving eternal life (John 3:16), as we see when the resurrected Christ encounters doubting Thomas, one of His apostles:

John 20: 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The book of John was written by the apostle John, often referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). It is therefore a deeply personal, intimate portrayal of Jesus. John was part of Jesus’ inner circle, along with Peter and James, who were the only three to witness the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2) and various miracles Christ performed.

John was the only apostle who stayed by Christ’s side during the crucifixion; the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother Mary (John 19:26); and with Peter, one of the first men to witness the empty tomb (John 20:1-10). 

John and his brother James, also an apostle, were called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John wrote five books of the New Testament: the Gospel of John; letters I John, II John, and III John, and the book of Revelation. Historic writers say that John lived longest of all the twelve apostles and was the only one who died a natural death, whereas the others were martyred.

The Gospel of John is probably the last of the four Gospels to be written, likely between AD 85-90, before John’s exile to the Island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels, focusing on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and on what He taught and what He did, or concrete, physical, bodily things. In contrast, John highlights what Jesus said and did in Jerusalem, but more importantly, on Who He is, or spiritual doctrines.

Events in Jesus’ ministry included in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but omitted by John are Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation in the wilderness, confrontations with demons, teaching in parables, the Last Supper, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, and His Ascension into Heaven.

And yet, in keeping with John’s emphasis on theology, his Gospel gives the clearest presentations of the Trinity, not only among the Gospels but throughout the New Testament (John 14:9-20; 15:26; 16:10-28; 17). Jesus Christ the Son is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6), and He promised to send the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, to those who believed in Him (John 14:16).

The Book of John proves that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God (John  1:34, etc.) but God Himself. It contains seven “I AM” statements, referencing the Name of God as “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In other words, He is self-existent, not a created being, God Himself, ever present from the beginning (John 1:1).

The “I AM” declarations in John identify Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Light of the world (8:12), the Door of the sheep (10:7), the Good Shepherd (10:11), the Resurrection and the Life (11:12), the Way, Truth and Life (14:6), and the True Vine (15:1). He is also “One that bear witness of Myself” (8:18).

Each of the Gospels emphasizes a different origin of Jesus. Matthew, written primarily to Jews, portrays Him as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, and gives His lineage from Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1-17). This genealogy is necessary to prove Jesus’ origin from Abraham’s seed, in whom all nations are blessed (Genesis 17; Acts 3:25), and His legal entitlement to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 16:5).

Mark depicts Jesus as the humble Servant from Nazareth (Mark 1:9), and Luke reveals Him to be the Perfect Man and Son of Man (Luke 5:24, etc.), descended from the first man Adam (Luke 3:23-38).Yet John identifies Jesus Christ as God Himself, Son of God (John 1:34, etc.), and Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), from Heaven.

“Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon wrote: “John is the majestic evangelist. He is the high-soaring eagle with piercing eyes. His is the Gospel of the Son of God. We cannot describe the deity of Christ in clearer language than John uses. He was with God. He was God. He did the works of God, for He was the Creator.”

© 2022 Laurie Collett