With You

Illustration: To honor another deceased veteran this week, I was driving to Shelter 2 for the committal. On the way, I drove slowly around the loop at GA National Cemetery as is my custom, honoring those who preceded us. Then I saw a woman at her loved one’s gravestone. She had her head in her hands. I wanted to go to her to see if, perhaps, I could bring comfort. But I decided against it. The next funeral honors ceremony was to begin within a few minutes and I could not take a chance of being late, so I tried to summon the right words to pray as I saw her. She was obviously grieving.

Uniqueness of the Christian message: As I drove to Shelter 2, I looked at the gravestones yet again. Hundreds if not thousands of them have crosses on them. The implication, of course, is that the deceased Service Member was a Christian. I hope so. Why? Because the Christian message is unique in its view of physical death, of what comes immediately after we die physically, and of how grief is addressed.

Pagan views of man like Wicca teach that the human body replenishes the earth, the goddess’ wish. Some views in Wicca teach reincarnation; others teach a wonderful place they call “Summerland.” Scientology teaches that heaven is a “false dream” and that hell is a myth. Other New Age systems teach mystical reincarnation. One polytheistic worldview’s literature teaches that there are three separate “heavenly kingdoms” wherein some really good people achieve godhood, but apostates and murderers go to “outer darkness.” Islam teaches of a paradise with maidens designed by Allah for those who deserve them due to their good works.

Christianity remains distinct from all these views. Only those who are 100% righteous go to heaven. And no one is righteous except Christ and those he clothes. How are we sinners “clothed” with the righteousness of Christ? Is it by giving alms? No. Is it by our diets? No. Is it by ritual? No. Is it by special pilgrimages or jihads? No. Is it by having our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds? No. It is by believing the gospel. It means repenting of our sin and looking to Christ’s righteousness—and his alone—that we sinners are reckoned/counted as righteous.

Remember Abraham’s story? “And he [Abraham] believed the LORD, and he [the Lord] counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Christianity teaches that those who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ through repentance and faith go to be with the Lord. Their physical bodies die but their souls go immediately into God’s presence to await the final judgment (Eccl 12:7; Lk 23:43; Ac 7:59; 2 Cor 5:8). At Christ’s second coming, believers’ bodies will be raised imperishable and reunited with their souls (1 Cor 15:23, 51-52; 1 Thess 4:16-17). The souls of all those who have rejected the gospel are separated from God eternally and punished in accordance with their choice and rejection of the gospel (Lk 16: 24-26; Heb 9:27; 1 Pt 3:18; 4:6). They did not want God in this life, so why would they want God in eternity?

Just like Abraham in the Old Testament, the same pattern remains in the New Testament. When John was explaining the gospel in his day, near the beginning of the gospel bearing his name, he explains the gospel overtly:

He [Jesus Christ] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (Jn 1:11-13)

It’s God’s work in sinners’ lives. It’s God’s grace entering into history, and redeeming sinners like Abraham, like the apostle John, like fellows sinners–like those who respond in repentance and faith.

Encouragement: What does this have to do with the opening illustration of a woman weeping at her loved one’s gravestone? Everything. Because Christians do not fear death. Why? Because Christ has conquered death for all those he clothes. Because of 1 Corinthians 15:4-8,

that he [Jesus] was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me [Paul].

Christians die, yes, but not without hope, because they die “in the Lord.” I hope all those gravestones do represent Christians. But you see, if we are Christian, we have a duty to call others to this hope, to summon them to respond in repentance and faith before it’s too late, because our days are numbered. Hope has a timeline. We have an allotted period of time in which to say in grace and truth: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev 22:17).

We often weep, yes, but joy comes in the morning—for all those clothed with the righteous robes of Christ (Ps 30:5b). Christianity alone demonstrates the empirical, historical reality of God with you, God alongside you, God walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Why can the Christian endure and prevail? It is not because of our works, but because of God’s work in the gospel. It is the good news of redemption, of life, of conquering through the grave. It is the realized reality of hope.

3 thoughts on “With You

  1. “Clothed by Jesus”……talk about good news! The Bible enumerates this holy action by our Lord repeatedly, even in the Old Revelation. The prophet Zachariah was gifted with many visions, one of the great Israelite leader Joshua, who was “clothed” in rich garments by “ The Angel of the Lord” (many believe this to be the pre-incarnate Jesus, including me). He changed his filthy clothes (sin) for new garments, THE LORD’s RIGHTEOUSNESS! It is also interesting that Joshua is the same as JESHUA, which is translated JESUS in the Greek. Joshua’ was saved through FAITH in the future Savior.
    No man, now or in Old Testament times, is good enough to save himself….not even close! We must be dressed As Jesus is, in shining pure apparel, appropriate for the Wedding Banquet. What a wonder He is! Jim V V


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