The first option is to just ignore the simple reality of death. Many people do this by refusing to think about their own death. But that doesn’t make it go away.
Imagine if you found out you have cancer. Would you just ignore it and hope that it goes away? Or would you talk to someone about it? Maybe a doctor? Or two? Or more?
That would be the sensible thing to do wouldn’t it?
Yet, when it comes to dealing with our own mortality, too many people refuse to prepare for it. But refusing to prepare for it is no different than someone with cancer who chooses to ignore it. Both responses are foolish. So why do so many people refuse to deal with it? Good question.
For many people, the thought of death is terrifying. So, like a little kid who hides from “the bogeyman” by hiding under a blanket, they “hide” from the reality by refusing to acknowledge it. Why? Probably because they’re afraid. Let’s face it, talking about death isn’t most people’s idea of a fun time. The unknown aspects of it is what can be frightening. But refusing to acknowledge it doesn’t make it better. It just makes it worse in the long run.
The second option we have is simply to prepare for it. We start that process by being honest and asking ourselves the most important question: am I ready?
That’s a simple question that you need to be able to answer with a resounding yes. And the only way to be able to do that is by making sure you know what’s going to happen at the moment your life in this world comes to an end.
There are only two possibilities in that regard. The first is that your body dies, and your consciousness ceases to exist. That’s what atheists and evolutionists choose to believe. You die and then you rot in the ground like all other animals. What a pleasant and hopeful thought. Not.
The second possibility is there’s an afterlife. Your body dies but your spirit continues to live in a new realm of existence. Now, there are a number of beliefs regarding the afterlife but the possibility can be boiled down into an afterlife that exists and is real.
That’s a much more pleasant and hopeful thought. Hope is good. When there is no hope, people give up. When we have hope, we push forward. The cancer victim who has hope for a cure doesn’t run away from the challenge, he runs toward it and deals with it. That’s what we have to do with death, as well.
So how do we go about doing that?
The Apostle John gives us some clear direction in this regard. And while you might think about John 3:16, which is a great verse, I think we should go to John chapter 1 and see what else John had to say about this.
10) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:
13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Let’s take a brief look at these verses before we focus in on verse 13.
In verses 10 and 11, John reminds us that “He” — Jesus — was in the world. Think about that for a moment. The Creator actually took on the person of a human being and visited the world which He spoke into being. This is what Paul refers to in Colossians 1:14-18.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people who were able to spend time with Him. Especially once they realized Who He was.
But, sadly, John1:10 doesn’t say that He was in the world and everyone was thrilled. In fact, it says just the opposite. He was in the world, He made the world, but the world didn’t know Who He was. This is sort of like the TV program where the head of a company disguises himself and visits various functions of his business. Only the disguised boss doesn’t end up being rejected and crucified.
Still, what a comforting thought to realize that our Creator knows from firsthand experience what it’s like to live in His world. He knows what it’s like to feel sorrow (John 11:33-36), to experience weariness (Matthew 8:24-25) and to agonize in prayer before the Father (Luke 22:44).
The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession.
15) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.
He knows firsthand what it’s like to experience temptation. And he also knows firsthand what it feels like to suffer rejection. Not just be His creation, but specifically by the very people He came to save from their sins.
“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11)
Imagine being away from your family for years and years before being able to return to them with a desire to have fellowship. But instead of joyfully receiving you, they openly reject you. They mock you. They talk bad about you. And they arrange to have you killed. What must that have felt like? Yet Jesus knew all that was going to happen, and He came to His own anyway. That’s love.
And it’s not the end of the story. John1:12 has some great news. Not everyone rejected Him. In fact, quite a few did receive Him. To receive Him means to take hold of Him and all that He represents. It’s not enough to simple acknowledge facts about Jesus. We have to receive Him as He is: the Son of God. The King of kings and LORD of lords. He is the second person of the Trinity; the Living Word. If you could package up God’s Word and turn it into a Person, you’d be looking at Jesus.
So to receive Him is to receive everything that He said about Himself, about His Father and about us. It means we have to act on what He reveals to us about Himself. And when we respond as He wants us to, He promises to give us the power to become the children of God. Part of that happens immediately, much like a baby being born into the world. But that little helpless child needs to be nurtured and to grow or the child may die. God promises to work with us as long as we want Him to, through us continuing to believe in Him, to grow into mature Spirit-filled children of God.
But how does that happen? That’s an excellent question. The first thing we have to understand is that it’s not about being religious or doing “good works” or anything else like that. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t fit the description of “receiving Him.” Receiving Him is completely different than attempting to earn His favor (which can’t be done anyway. At least not before we become His child).
So then what does it mean to receive Him? John 1:13 explains this so clearly that even a theologian can understand it!
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John lays out three ways that men claim as proof they’ve received Him, but they aren’t valid at all. He then finishes verse 13 with the only way it can work. Let’s look at these four items.
Notice he starts this explanation by talking about being “born.” Jesus Himself said that we must be “born again”
(John 3). So John starts by telling us about ways that it does NOT happen. This is important because the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians, base their “Christianity” on one of the three things that John tells us won’t work.
One of the most common misconceptions about Christianity is the idea that you can be a Christian from physical birth. Someone will say, “Yes, I’m a Christian. I was born into a Christian family.” But the Holy Spirit says through John that this isn’t possible. Being a Christian isn’t passed through our DNA. In fact, Jesus Himself said that the flesh doesn’t profit us at all (John 6:63).
Yes, you can grow up in a Christian home. But that doesn’t make you a Christian. It’s not something that “rubs off” on us. That’s what John means by “born, not of blood.” It isn’t passed to us from our parents. That leads right into the second item that John mentions.
“Nor of the will of the flesh.” It’s amazing how many people seem to think that if I call myself a Christian, that means I’m a Christian. “Who are you to judge?” someone will say. According to Jesus and the Apostle Paul, every true believer has a right and a responsibility to judge spiritual matters (John7:24; 1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
If I walk around saying I’m the Queen of England, does that make it so? And who are you to judge anyway?
See? We realize the fallacy of something like that but we often act as if we’re supposed to just accept that someone’s a Christian just because they say so. But John tells us that “the will of the flesh” doesn’t make it so. Jesus said that we can know a tree by its fruit. A good tree can’t bear bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t bear good fruit. So why would we accept someone saying something ridiculous just because we don’t want to hurt their precious feelings? We need to love people enough to tell them the truth.
The third thing John mentions that doesn’t work is “the will of man.” What does that mean?
Some translations will talk about a husband, but I think that’s missing the point. After all, can a man be born by the “will of a wife?” I think what John is really referring to is religion and religious leaders.
Jesus had a lot of seeming harsh — but true — things to say about the Pharisees. They were mis-teaching much of God’s Word and convincing people they were good to go as long as the people followed their misguided ways. But no one can just declare you to be a “Christian” and make you right with God.
One of the ways that many people are deceived is by thinking that if they “just say this prayer” they’re suddenly right with God. Someone will say, “Just say the sinner’s prayer and if you mean it, then you’re now a Christian.” But there’s a problem with that. Well, several problems.
The first problem is this: there is no such thing as “the sinner’s prayer” mentioned anywhere in the Bible. That’s a man-made invention that’s not offered maliciously. It’s just that people have heard it so many times they think it’s God’s way of salvation.
The second problem is that this man-made prayer may only serve to inoculate someone against the truth. For instance, consider the person who say a “sinner’s prayer” thinking there’s some kind of power — almost magical power — in the words. That person is now convinced he’s saved because that’s what he was told. But as I already mentioned, God’s Word doesn’t say anything about saying a prayer at all in regards to salvation. So then how does a person become right with God?
John tells us right there in verse 13:
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
I highlighted parts of the verse above to make it clear. To be right with God, we have to be born “of God.” What that means is that God’s grace has to be the means through which we’re saved. Yes, we can — and should — pray and ask God to have mercy on us, but there’s more to it than just that.
In Acts 20:21, Paul was telling the leaders of the Ephesian church about the message he preached. Here’s what he said:
“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Salvation requires repentance toward God. That means we need to go to God and acknowledge we’ve sinned against Him and then admit that we need to change the way we’ve been living. Now, some well-meaning Christians will say that we have to “change our minds” about sin. But it’s not enough to “change our minds” if we don’t also change the way we’ve been living.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Let’s say that I’m a thief who has been stealing things from people (breaking the eight commandment (Exodus 20:15)). I decide that I want God’s grace so I acknowledge that my stealing from other’s is wrong. I used to think it’s okay, but now I agree that it’s wrong. But tomorrow, I go out and steal some more stuff from people, knowing full well that it’s wrong. Have I repented? No, of course not.
It’s not enough to agree with God that stealing is wrong, I also have to change my behavior and stop stealing. If I don’t actually change my behavior, then I haven’t repented at all (Ephesians 4:24-29).
So I need to repent (change my mind AND my behavior) to God and ask for His mercy and grace. But then I also need to put my faith in Jesus Christ. So what does that mean?
In a nutshell, it means that I’m going to agree with God that there’s nothing I can do on my own to get right with Him. Instead, I have to trust that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to pay for all my sins. It also means that I need to start following Jesus by reading His words and obeying them. Obeying Him? Some will say, “that’s salvation by works.” Because I obey what Jesus tells me to do?
That’s not salvation by works, that’s called obedience. Salvation is by grace through my faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9). But once I’m saved from God’s wrath, I become a member of His family. And that means He expects me to be involved in the family business by being obedient to Him (Ephesians 2:10).
See, it’s not about the words I say but how I live my life that matters with God. I can’t save myself, but I must be obedient to what He tells me to do or I’m going to have a problem. Let’s look at a couple things that Jesus said about this very thing.
First, let’s look at an interesting parable Jesus told.
28) But what think ye? A [certain] man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29) He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30) And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I [go], sir: and went not.
31) Whether of them twain did the will of [his] father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32) For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen [it], repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
Here we have Jesus explaining what repentance and faith are all about. It’s really quite easy to understand what He’s talking about based on His question in verse 31. Being right with God is not about saying the right words, or professing belief in some creed. It’s about doing God’s will. That means we must be obedient to what He requires. When He asks us to do something, He expects us to do it. If we don’t do it, it’s called disobedience. That’s not acceptable.
This is what Jesus was referring to when He said the following staring at Luke 6:46:
46) And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
47) Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48) He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
49) But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
If we “hear” His words but don’t obey them, then we can look forward to big problems when we stand before Him some day. But those who hear Him and respond to Him by being obedient to Him are truly followers of Jesus and will have no problems when we stand before Him someday.
So getting right with God and being ready to stand before Him is something that each one of has to do. We need to go to Him and agree with Him that we’ve sinned against Him. Then we need to put our faith in Jesus by reading His words — especially the four Gospel accounts — and doing what they teach.
If you’re not certain that you’ve actually sinned against Him, then I would strongly encourage you to visit the following web site which will walk you through some simple steps: www.NeedGod.com
There’s nothing more important than making sure you’re ready to leave this life. That’s something we need to do now, while we’re still alive. While there’s still time.
Please don’t put this off as none of knows when our last day on this earth will come. Maybe even today.
Are you ready?