Sunday, April 21, 2013

A "Painful Paradox" and the Defeat of Death

I recently came across this quote from Ernest Becker's book, The Denial of Death:
A person spends years coming into his own, developing his talent, his unique gifts... becoming mature, seasoned— finally a unique creature in nature, standing with some dignity... it takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make such an individual, and then he is good only for dying. This painful paradox is not lost on the person himself— least of all himself." (268-269, The Denial of Death, 1973)
The quote is reminiscent of something that you might read in Ecclesiastes. Indeed, Solomon writes:
Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:15-17)
It's hard work to master a skill, and once you do, death is all the nearer. If you live life for the advancement of self— if you live life merely to develop your talents so that you can stand with dignity, then what's the point? What are your accomplishments worth when you're dead? For the unbeliever, little answer can be given. It is indeed a "painful paradox". And that's the way it should be. What else could be the outcome of a life lived for something or someone other than the eternal Creator?

Becker's "painful paradox" only exists in the lives of those who try to pretend that God doesn't exist. With such a worldview, there is no hope. Death is final. For a person with such a mindset, a long life of suffering that leads to some sort of dignity is pointless. What hope is there that can be found? All that can be hoped in is the defeat of death.

We should be eager to listen to what Solomon has to say, for though he sees this paradox, he does not leave us in hopelessness. Solomon writes, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

As Christians we put our hope in the eternal kingdom of God that is to come, in which death will be eliminated. The hope in the defeat of death is a good hope, but our secular culture today twists this hope; they put their hope in the defeat of death in this world. That is not the Christian hope. The Christian does not hope in a continuation of life in this sin-filled world. Instead, the Christian recognizes that this world is not home. There is a new Heaven and new Earth yet to come, and whatever "dignity" the Christian may accumulate in this life will be nothing compared to the joy of standing in the presence of Christ forever.

The Christian hope in the defeat of death is not founded upon medical advances or human ingenuity. Instead, it is a hope that we place in our Creator. We trust in the God who made all things, who "knows our frame" and "remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). We trust our mourning will one day turn to comfort (Matthew 5:4). We trust that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death". The day is coming when death will be "swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54). It is for this reason that you, if you are a Christian, will be able to look back at the end of your life and agree with Paul's conclusion that "in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quote of the Day #228 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon:
If I had the power to do it, how would I seek to refresh in your souls a sense of this fact that you are “bought with a price”? There in the midnight hour, amidst the olives of Gethsemane, kneels Immanuel, the Son of God! He groans! He pleads in prayer! He wrestles—see the beady drops stand on His brow! Drops of sweat, but not of such sweat as pours from men when they earn the bread of life, but the sweat of Him who is procuring life itself for us!

It is blood, it is crimson blood—great globs of it are falling to the ground. O Soul, your Savior speaks to you from Gethsemane at this hour, and He says—“Here I bought you with a price.” Come, stand and view Him in the agony of the olive garden, and understand at what a cost He procured your deliverance! Track Him in all His path of shame and sorrow till you see Him on the Pavement. Mark how they bind His hands and fasten Him to the whipping-post. Look, they bring the scourges and the cruel Roman whips. They tear His flesh. The plowers make deep furrows on His blessed body, and the blood gushes forth in streams—while rivulets from His temples, where the crown of thorns has pierced them—join to swell the purple stream.

From beneath the scourges He speaks to you with accents soft and low, and He says, “My child, it is here I bought you with a price.” But see Him on the Cross itself when the consummation of all has come—His hands and feet are fountains of blood—His soul is full of anguish even to heartbreak. And there, before the soldier pierces with a spear His side, bowing down He whispers to you and to me, “It was here I bought you with a price.” O by Gethsemane, by Gabbatha, by Golgotha—by every sacred name collected with the passion of our Lord! By sponge and vinegar, and nail and spear, and everything that helped the pang and increased the anguish of His death—I plead with you, my Brothers and Sisters—to remember that you were “bought with a price,” and “are not your own!”
~Charles Spurgeon (Bought With A Price 1004)

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Quote of the Day #227 - F. W. Krummacher

A quote from F. W. Krummacher:
Heaven must fall, the order of the divine government be annihilated, and Christianity be forever destroyed, if the Holy Scriptures compel us to regard the cup which Jesus drank, as essentially the same as that of which Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others partook. Jesus’ cup contained something far more dreadful.
~F. W. Krummacher (The Suffering Saviour, Chapter 13)

This quote was taken from Samuel Jackson's translation of F. W. Krummacher's book The Suffering Saviour: Meditations On The Last Days Of Christ.

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