Raising That Which Is Dead
Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (NIV)
James Allen, founder of the self help movement, once said: " A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life ." As Christians we have come to realize that as long as we are the master-gardener of our lives, we will never get rid of the weeds that choke growth. As long as we are the director of our own play the plot will often meander into areas we do not wish to venture into. No, self help is in fact a lie. The truth is that we cannot help ourselves, which is why we need a savior. But salvation is the beginning, not the end. We still have a life to live. We still have choices to make. So the question facing us is, w hat do we make our life about today?
The key verses clearly provide us with a choice. It is a choice between life and death. Between blessings and curses. So often in modern Christianity we tend to focus on blessings only because we do not want to face the reality that there is the other side. I understand that we can read verses like this and gloss over them thinking, "who would choose death?" We must realize that we are not talking about the choice of salvation in these verses but rather what we will do after we have been saved. It is easy to fall into the thinking that because we have chosen Christ as our Lord and Savior that we have already chosen life. This is certainly true on a macro level. But our day to day living will still determine a choice between life and death. This micro level is what will determine whether we will spend many years in the Promised Land or whether we will still struggle in our walk. And as always the issue comes down to sin:
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 19-23 (NIV)
The wages of sin is death, so when we choose to sin against God we are in fact choosing death over life. Now, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God so we cannot expect to live sin free but the degree to which we can choose life over death will determine the blessings and curses in our lives. It will have a direct effect on how much time we spend on the mountaintop and how much is walking through the valley of death. Because the nature of sin is that it is like an infection. It can be caught early and repented of, leading to minimal damage. If left unchecked it can grow and become more troublesome in our lives. If left alone for too long, it can be a stronghold in our lives furthering the distance between us and God. The good news however is that Jesus Christ can bring life back from the death we choose, regardless of the state of sin we find ourselves in. In the Gospels, there are three instances where Jesus resurrected someone from death. Each one represents a different stage of death.
The first example is Jairus, the leader of a local synagogue. He approaches Jesus because is 12 year old daughter is severely ill. As they are travelling to his daughter's bedside, the bad news came:
While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, "Your daughter is dead. There's no use troubling the Teacher now." Mark 5: 35 (NLT)
This represents the onset of sin. How it lies to us. There is no use in troubling God with it now. It's not a big deal. It was just one drink. It was just some harmless flirting. But sin is rarely satisfied with the small incursion into our lives. It is always seeking more territory to expand into. The response of Jesus to this news is the message to us today when dealing with the onset of sin in our lives:
But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid. Just have faith." Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn't let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. He went inside and asked, "Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn't dead; she's only asleep." Mark 5: 37-39 (NLT)
Just have faith beloved. Our faith in Christ and the power He has to conquer death. We do not have to be a slave to the sin we fall into. We do not need to fear the sins which we can fall into either. We do not need to make a commotion about them. We simply need to have faith in whom we have believed. We confess the sin and watch God turn what was dead into what was merely asleep. Jairus' daughter was of course raised from the dead.
The second example of Jesus resurrecting someone was when He came to the village of Nain:
Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow's only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. "Don't cry!" he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. "Young man," he said, "I tell you, get up." Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7: 11-15 (NLT)
The widow's son was obviously dead a lot longer than Jairus' daughter. He was already being brought out for burial. If unchecked, our sin will progress as well in our lives. It will set into us and the death will spread. In the Books that would follow Deuteronomy, the Israelites would constantly find themselves in a cycle of sin and repentance. Their sin would routinely be far deeper than an initial onset. They would turn from God and serve false idols. This may sound extreme but we can often find ourselves in the same situation. We can bow down at the altar of greed. We can worship at the altar of lust. We can become a follower of pride. And the longer it goes on, the more the death sets into our walk. We too can find ourselves being carried out in a funeral procession, hoping for the touch of Christ to raise us from the dead. But note from these verses that the Lord's heart will overflow with compassion for us. Just like the story of Jairus's daughter reminds us of the faith we need to have in God, the story of the widow's son reminds us of the great compassion God has for us. Even in our sinful state. Do not believe in the lies of the enemy which will say that you have done too much or gone too far. You are never beyond the compassion of God. Jesus once was brought a woman caught in the act of adultery. Caught in her sin. Her accusers sought to stone her. Jesus disarmed them with their own sin and at the end, this was what He said:
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, "Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" "No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." John 8: 9-11 (NLT)
The world will seek to condemn you. The enemy will seek to accuse you. God will seek to have compassion on you as long as you go and sin no more.