Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Sting of Death


O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:55-56)

In most churches you will hear this verse of scripture changed to the converse. That is to say they (and some study Bibles) will teach you that the "sting of sin is death."

What? Seriously? The "sting of sin is death?" But doesn't it say the opposite? Of course it does. Then why are they teaching you a lie?

Is God not able to make His point? Is He not able to properly inspire His word for transcription? Does He really need us to take His word, turn it on it's end and teach it like we think He meant to say it instead of the way He did say it? If you are one of those people who actually believe that you or someone else is God's gift to mankind and as such, have a special anointing to preach and enumerate His word as he actually meant it (instead of how He actually inspired it), then maybe you should just stop reading here, because it's only going to get worse.

It's about Life, Not About Being Good
Ask just about any person on the street this question: "what is the purpose of Christianity?" They may tell you it's about teaching one how to do good, or be good, or how to do the right thing. They may tell you it's about not doing the bad or wrong thing. What they're saying is this: Christianity is about being good and not being bad. If they're really thinking (or parroting) well, they'll tell you that the purpose of Christianity is to provide one a system of beliefs which attempts to enable the believer to do good works instead of the bad works they're accustomed to performing. And when you die, if your good works out weighs your bad works, then you get to go to heaven.

Well, I've got news for you. Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of Christianity is not to teach you how to be good. It's not about enumerating the bad things you shouldn't do, or the good things you should do. Someone once said "there are more do's in the in the Bible than there are don'ts. And if you spend all of your time doing the do's you won't have time to do the don'ts." Well, it's not about that either. So, lets take the tag of "Christianity" out of the discussion and simplify it like this: what is God's fundamental purpose for you? Before we can answer that question, we must have some rudimentary understanding of who God is.

Who is God?
Jesus said, "I and my Father are One" (John 10:30), and "I am the way, the truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:16). Jesus had apparently had a lot to say about 'life' in His ministry, for someone came to Him with this question: "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16). And who hasn't heard the saying, "the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14) or possibly, "everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29)

Fundamentally, God is Life. When God breathed Life in to the nostrils of man, He wasn't giving man blood and a heart beat, He was making man in His image, an image of spiritual Life, separate and distinct from all other living things. While all other creatures are "alive", it is only man that was given the breath, the spirit of Life. Sorry - all dogs don't go to heaven, any more than the trees some people love to hug.

God is also described as being Light: "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all", and "he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." (1 John 1:15, John 3:21) Light as we know it (as composed of photons) is an interesting way to describe God. Have you ever understood that you cannot have more darkness, but you can always have more light? Theoretically, it's always possible to add more photons, but you can't have any less than zero photons. Thus, darkness is not actually a thing, but a description of the absence of light. The same is true in death, it being defined as the absence of life. You can't have more death, but you can have more life. Even now your body is dying and being renewed: cells die and are replaced. What would happen if no cells died? You'd have more life, you would have perpetual or eternal life.

Therefore since God is Light, it' is impossible for there to be any darkness in Him. The same is true with Life: since He is Life, it's impossible for there to be death in God. Hence, seeing that Jesus and the Father are one, 'He is the way, the truth and the Life."

The Law of Sowing and Reaping
The Law of Sowing and Reaping is stated thusly: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7) Therefore, God
will render to each person according according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (Romans 2:6-8)
When Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. When they sinned, they sinned for everyone because in them, everyone existed. They literally passed the consequence of their sin to every subsequent human. Thus, all have been and will be born born spiritually dead.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ... nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)
So, since man is now spiritually dead, can he therefore co-exist spiritually with God? If that's a difficult leap to make, then bring the comparison into the natural instead of the spiritual. Can death abide with life? Do companies hire living people or dead people? Do you want to marry a living person or a dead person? Do you want to date a living person or a dead person? Spiritual death is the problem that God solved for man through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to give life:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Did you notice the reference to life in that scripture? Since God is Life, and that is what He provided man in the beginning, but man later lost, then God provided a mechanism for you to receive His Life (again) through His Son, Jesus Christ. See? It's all about life.

The Sting of Death is Sin
The sting of death is sin, because the un-regenerated (spiritually dead) reaps the harvest of eternal death in physical death. Since spiritual death is the result of sin, it is therefore sin that provides the sting after or or death. Thus in eternal spiritual death, you reap the sting of the sowing in sin, the rewards of sin. Just as a man reaps at the harvest the rewards of sowing wheat in a field, man reaps the rewards of  sowing the seeds of sin throughout his life.

Thus we see that physical death will reward you in one of two ways: for those who have found the Life and Light, they will reap the harvest of sowing life and light. For those who have rejected the Life and the Light, they will reap the harvest of sowing death and destruction. The scripture says, 
these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
Did you notice that part about "eternal destruction?" 

Exactly how would you like to be destroyed or killed when you die? By a car, a train or by being riddled with bullets? Exactly how many times can a person be destroyed during an eternity? What exactly do you believe eternal destruction is, or have you never considered it? If you were to rot until you died, then how would you like to rot for eternity? When you sow death and destruction, you reap death and destruction. When you sow life and love through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance from sin, you reap life and love.

Thus, when the scriptures state that the "sting of death is sin", they're saying this: that thing which stings you for eternity, that thing which discomforts you for eternity, that thing which destroys you for eternity, that thing is called sin. The scriptures are saying that death for the un-regenerate has a pain, and that pain is sin, because in that you have sown sin in your life, you will reap the rewards (or punishments) of sin in death - thus sin is the sting of death.

Contrary wise, for those who have sown Life and Light, scripture says "'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus, it is Jesus Christ that has removed the sting of death - He has obliterated the power of sin to sting you in death.

How to Sow Life and Light
In order to be given the Life of God, you must repent of your sins. Why? Because sin destroys. Life renews. Therefore, you must give up death and destruction and embrace Life. Turning away from sin is called repentance. Confessing your sin is agreeing with God that you have disobeyed His will, His desire for you. Through repentance and confession, you must place your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Why? Because you can not give yourself life. You didn't make your parents give you life and you didn't determine to come into this world on your own. When God breathed spiritual life into man, it was an act of Grace - God made man something he could not be or become on his own. Neither can you make yourself spiritually alive:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Thus we turn to God in faith:
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "do not say in your heart 'who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down), or 'who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in you heart" -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "whoever believes in Him will not be disapointed." (Romans 10:6-11)

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