I Want To Die.

I want to die.

That’s what Paul said in his letter to the church in Philippi, which he was writing from a prison cell in Rome. And mind you, death was a very plausible thing for Paul at that time. He was awaiting trial, and as far as he knew at the time, he could have been facing execution after the trial.

And yet, he said:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Philippians 1:21 (NLT)

Wow.

If I even think of myself in a life or death situation, I start quivering and hoping and praying that I’ll survive it. And I haven’t even ever been in a real life or death situation! I can only imagine what would have been going through my mind had I been in Paul’s position. I wouldn’t have been saying that I wanted to die, that’s for sure.

There seems to be a common mindset throughout our culture (including within the Church) today that emphasizes our life on earth. Life is sweet, and even if we think Jesus is even sweeter, we prefer to have him right here with us on earth, thank you very much.

I mean, there’s so much to do, so many pleasures to have, so many people to meet and things to achieve here on earth. You Only Live Once. So why would we want to die?

What did Paul know that we don’t, for him to make such a crazy statement? Surely it was just because he lived in age before technology. They didn’t have the ability to travel worldwide, or the insane opportunities we all have in America. I mean, if Paul only knew how much good stuff we have nowadays, he surely wouldn’t say the same thing, would he?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Oh, yes, he would.”

Paul wasn’t ready to die because he was bored with his life on earth. Actually, he said just the opposite. Continuing from the verse above, he says:

But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. but for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Philippians 1:22-24 (NLT)

He knows that if he does live, his life is worthwhile. He’s looking forward to doing more work for the Kingdom of God if he makes it out of prison alive.

And the key, the key to why Paul says that he is ready to die, is tucked right there, in the sentence I just wrote.

Paul’s heart is set on one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ. 

That is his reason for living: to do His work. Everywhere Paul goes, he spreads the Gospel. He even told some of his prison guards about Jesus!

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling beofre Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.

Acts 16:29-32 (NLT)

And the reason Paul is so set on doing God’s work, that he even tells his jailers about Jesus, is because he has experienced God’s insane, majestic, awe-inspiring love and the Holy Spirit has prompted him to follow through with the only logical response: complete and total devotion.

It is because of that realization of God’s complete awesomeness that Paul has dedicated his entire life to Jesus, and it’s also why Paul says that he wants to die.

When he dies, he gets to be with Jesus, forever, face to face, without any sin or any worldly corruption to stand in the way. Death is the only thing standing between him and eternal worship of his incredible God.

And man, is he ready for that eternity.

When I look at myself and my own hesitations about death, I realize that there are a few lies I’m believing that lead to this hesitation:

  1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.
  2. I have a flawed view of heaven.
  3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

Let’s address these one by one, shall we?

1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.

Sure, the world is full of fun, good things. There’s no doubt about that. But scripture tells us that all good things come from God, so think how much better heaven will be? If all good things on earth come from God, and God lives in heaven, which is his perfect, sinless domain, heaven must be a pretty awesome place.

2. I have a flawed view of heaven.

I kind of talked about this above. But heaven isn’t just some place we go to play harps and sing the same worship song over and over again, like a watered down church service. No, heaven is literally paradise. It’s our opportunity to finally be with our Creator, the perfect, eternal King of the universe. It’s bound to be anything but boring.

3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

God should be our number one. He should be at the forefront of our minds, above and beyond all worldly pursuits, and – get this – all other people. That’s right. God should be prioritized over our relationships with our friends, parents, siblings, and spouses. Yes, of course love them, but don’t put them before God. God is the reason we’re all even here in the first place, and He deserves total, primary devotion, over all people.

If we love God, love for others will surely follow. It says just that in 1 John 4. But the primary longing of our hearts should be for God. The love for others should come as a result of our love for God.

And then, if God is our number one, we can be ready to meet Him face to face when He’s finished with us on earth. Yes, we can love others and have good and wonderful relationships with them on earth, serving them and talking about Jesus with them, but when God has used us and is ready to call us home, we should be ready for that. We should be eager for it, in fact.

Just as Paul loved serving others here on earth, he realized that it was actually better for him to die and be with Christ. Could we say the same? Could say the same?

 

 

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What’s In A Name

Recently, I’ve been loving the worship songs that are all about the name of Jesus. Songs like “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy Of Your Name.” It’s probably because they’re so full of and focused on Jesus that they tend to be some of my go-to worship songs.

But listening to them has got me thinking. They each place an emphasis on Jesus’ name. Might seem a little odd, right? So, I figured it would be fun to dive into the names of Jesus and just how they proclaim his glory.

Savior

The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.

Luke 2:11 (NLT)

What a wonderful  name that is. Savior. The God who saves. Because of Jesus, and his death on the cross, we are redeemed. We are saved. We can’t save ourselves, but Jesus has already saved us. It’s a powerful name, and one which Jesus is fully worthy of.

Son of God

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:17 (NLT)

It is because of Jesus’ fully divine nature and place in the Trinity that he was even able to do all that he did. If he wasn’t fully God, how could he have conquered the grave?

It says here that Jesus, as the Son of God, “brings [God] great joy.” In the gospel of Luke, it is said that Jesus is “the Son of the Most High.” It’s a huge designation. He is powerful, and almighty.

Son of Man

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10 (NLT)

This is Jesus speaking. He calls himself “Son of Man.” Given the context, I think this particular designation has something to do with his relationship with us. He is fully God, the Son of God, but as the Son of God, his role in the Trinity is to come and save us. It is Jesus who provided the way for us to reach God once again, after sin separated us from him.

Alpha and the Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Revelation 22:13 (NLT)

In other words, Jesus is everything. He is eternal, ever-lasting, and he deserves all glory for all of time. He is everything. What a glorious name that is.

Bread of Life

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35 (NLT)

Jesus is the ultimate provider. He is the only one who can satisfy all of our needs, and he tells us right here that if we simply come to him and believe in him, he will satisfy all our needs.

Bridegroom

Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Matthew 9:15 (NLT)

Here, Jesus is referring to himself as the groom, in response to someone questioning why Jesus’ disciples fast. This is a metaphor that appears frequently throughout the Bible, with Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride. He is our groom, and we are going to live with him in his perfect love forever. How awesome is that?

Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11 (NLT)

We are sheep. We’re clueless and helpless on our own. But Jesus is our shepherd, and he watches over us night and day. Here, he even says that he is the good shepherd who sacrifices himself for the sheep. He did sacrifice himself for us. In our wanderings, we sinned, but he sacrificed himself on the cross to bring us back to God. Jesus is the good shepherd.

Messiah

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

John 1:41 (NLT)

“Messiah” means “anointed one.” Jesus, as the Messiah, is the anointed one of God. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed with an expensive concoction to symbolize the Holy Spirit in their lives. They were a representative of God. Now, Jesus has arrived, and he is The Anointed One, as in the ultimate anointed one, the anointed one above all others. The Messiah.

Lord

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

This collection of verses does a pretty good job at proclaiming the glory that is contained within the name “Lord.” He is Lord above all, to whom all should bow, seated in the place of highest honor. His name is the name above all names. Jesus Christ, the Lord.

See how each and every one of these names holds so much meaning within them? They truly do proclaim God’s glory, each in a unique way. Now, don’t mind me, I’m just going to go listen to “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy of Your Name” and revel in how awesome God’s names are.

Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross

I’ve been reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst recently (which is a great book on how to live life in God’s love without letting rejection and the whims of others steal your joy), and at one point she mentioned Abigail, Nabal’s wife in 1 Samuel 25. As I continued thinking about what she said about Abigail, I decided to take a dive into the passage myself.

For the sake of space, I’ll just summarize it here, but please do go read the full chapter if you have the time. Essentially, David finds himself near Nabal’s home at sheep-shearing time. Since he’s protected Nabal from harm before, he asks Nabal to share some of his provisions with him.

Nabal, however, lashes out and basically insults David, saying that he’s no good and absolutely refusing to give him anything.

Now, most of us know a bit about King David. He was the one who God chose as king, to reign after Saul. He’s the guy who killed Goliath, and the guy God described as, “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NLT).

But here’s Nabal saying that David is a nobody who is undeserving of his gifts.

When he hears this, David sets out intent on killing Nabal. How dare he insult David’s name like that? How dare he be so selfish and unkind?

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, however, hears this, and instantly she gathers gifts for David and goes out to meet him. And when she arrives, what she says is just flabbergasting.

She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say.”

1 Samuel 25:24 (NLT)

I accept all blame in this matter. 

Wait, what?! Abigail, girl, you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re completely innocent here. It’s your husband who did it. Why are you taking the blame?

I put myself in Abigail’s place. I imagine doing what she did. And I just get so filled with rage. Why would I take the blame for something I so clearly didn’t do? No, Nabal did it. He’s the one to blame. Not me.

But Abigail says, “I accept all blame.”

And I think that’s such a beautiful representation of what Jesus did on the cross. 

Growing up in the Bible belt and knowing all about Jesus and how he died for our sins and rose again, sometimes I miss out on the impact of exactly what Jesus did. It’s almost like background knowledge to say that Jesus was sent to earth, he lived a perfect life, he was crucified for our sins, and then he rose again on the third day. Just standard fact.

But it’s not just standard fact. It is jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, amazing grace. 

And looking at Abigail’s story, the impact hit me again.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, dealt with a bunch of nasty people who essentially called him a liar, lived with absolutely no sin, and still was crucified as a criminal. He went down into the grave to defeat death for us. He didn’t do anything that made him deserving of death, and yet he said, “I accept all blame.”

We are Nabal. We are the fools who messed up, who sinned, who are now on the receiving end of the perfectly just wrath of God.

But just like Abigail stepped in on Nabal’s behalf, Jesus stepped in on our behalf. He stepped between us and God and said, “I accept all blame.” Which means that, through him, we can have an eternal life with God that we don’t deserve.

It’s absolutely incredible, isn’t it?

So anytime I’m struggling to see the weight of Jesus dying on the cross, I’m going to put myself in Abigail’s place, think about what I would do. When I do that, I can’t help but realize just how game-changing and awesome it is that Jesus took all the blame for all of us, despite being completely blameless.

On him be the blame, not on us. That. That is amazing grace.