Preparing for Death 6 (Scroll Down for Part 5)

We are thinking on the rewards that a believer in Christ will receive when Jesus comes and this evil age is at an end. The Lord said for us to not store up treasure on earth, but store up our treasure in heaven. What do you think are things that you can store up and take with you to heaven? I am sure this is not a comprehensive list, but there are three things that come to mind.

  1. Other people, as in the lives that we have helped along the way.
  2. The things we have learned, e.g. the Word of God that is imprinted in our hearts.
  3. The character of Christ that’s been molded by the Holy Spirit into your inner being.

Spiritual Investment

Now, back to thinking through what we are building with our time, energy, talents, and money. There is an interesting parable that Jesus teaches in Luke 19:11-27. It’s a story about a nobleman who goes on a far journey to receive for himself a kingdom. Before he goes, knowing that it will be sometime before he gets back, he gives his ten servants an amount of money each, a mina, which equaled about 3 months’ wages for a laborer. He tells them to each engage in business, to put the money to work, or invest spiritually, until the nobleman returns. The Greek word that is translated by the phrase “put this money to work” (NIV) or “occupy” (KJV) is pragmateuomai. It means to do business, to invest, or trade with a view to bringing a return on the investment. It is interesting that we get the word pragmatic from this Greek word. Pragmatic means to deal sensibly and realistically with something. We are to sit down and think through ways that we can pragmatically invest our resources in such a way as to get a maximum return for the kingdom of God.

Knowing the character of our Nobleman, King Jesus, we should labor and invest in the things that He has on His heart. That which He cares most about is people—we must have a heart for people if we are to build with gold, silver or precious stones. In the parable, the first steward invested and put the master’s money to work and brought a return of ten for his one mina. The response from the Nobleman was for the steward to not only keep the ten minas but also the reward was ten cities. A vast difference between what was invested and the reward for the labor.

Personally, I think the cities are metaphorical language to help us understand that for what we do for Christ in this sinful world, i.e. how we care for the people for whom He cares, there will be a vast difference between what we invest and the awesome reward that He will give on that Day. I don’t know what the reward will be, but I can wait to find out. Your duty and mine for our Noble Master is to put our character, our time, energy, and resources into His Kingdom. As Christians, we are strangers and pilgrims in this world.

Again, if you have truly believed and placed your trust in Christ, you will enter the eternal kingdom. Your entrance into the Kingdom of God does not depend on your works, but by receiving the gift of God—eternal life in Christ, but those who truly believe should invest their resources into people, while we still have time to invest.

Prayer: Father, cause us to be aware that every day is a preparation for eternity. Help us to be open to the ways that You want to teach us and prepare us for that day. Thank You for watching over us until that day comes. Amen.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

Who Will Pay Your Debt of Sin?

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul uses the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus? Keith Thomas

The Great Banquet Invitation

15When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22” ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet’ ” (Luke 14:15-24).

How lovely to us is the thought that eternity with Christ is pictured as a great banquet where all are invited. You are not left out! All are invited to the feast in the Kingdom of God. No matter what you have done, or where you have been, God offers a free pardon to you on account of the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross for you and as you. Of all the fun things that we get to do in this world, is there anything better than eating with friends, conversing, laughing and enjoying one another’s company? It certainly is my favorite thing to do, and no doubt yours too. In another place in the scriptures, Christ is pictured as standing at the door of your house, the house of your inner being, asking to come in and enjoy eating with you, suggesting deep intimacy with Him:

20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).

The above passages suggest eternal bliss and satisfaction. Parties and banquets are all about fun, laughter and joy. To be around Jesus, to gaze upon His loveliness and laugh with him, seeing His glory and grace, and enjoying heaven with others that also love Him, what joy that will be! How humbling to realize that the God of the Universe wants to enjoy our presence over a meal that He has prepared. Jesus had been teaching concerning humility and reaching out to the poor and disabled by inviting them to a banquet. A man responds to Him by saying, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Verse 15).

It seems that the words come from one of the Pharisees reclining at the table where Jesus had been invited and was eating. It is difficult to judge the man’s motivation for saying such a thing. Was it a request to find out what makes a person worthy of being invited to share in the Kingdom of God? It’s even possible that he was saying, “I can’t wait for us to recline at God’s table together.” The Pharisees considered themselves as righteous; after all, they were meticulous about keeping God’s commandments. They could not conceive that there would be Gentiles or even Jews that did not keep the law at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). Jesus shared a parable with them that shook their thinking on just who would be in attendance at the feast in the Kingdom of God. He said that God invites the poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled into His kingdom, but those who made excuses would be shut out. Christ makes it clear that there is a free invitation to this banquet. Nothing can be done to deserve a seat at all.

There were no fixed price tickets to the best seats. It was by free invitation only. If you are a Christian, you have come to Christ at His invitation. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). If you are not yet a Christian, today you have heard of the invite! You have been called and invited. The very fact that you are reading this study is proof that the Spirit of God has been drawing you to Christ. Some people are upset by the fact that the entrance to God’s Kingdom is by a free invitation only. They find it hard to receive grace or undeserved favor. Part of the reason is pride. They feel that they must accomplish something in order to earn their entrance fee, but no one gets into eternity by what they have done. It is only by God’s grace and mercy. Now that is something to receive and party about! Trust Him today, and if I don’t see you this side of heaven, I will see you inside the Eastern Gate when He comes (Ezekiel 44:1-3). Keith Thomas

No Other Plan to Reach the World

There is an old legend that takes us back in time and recounts the time when Jesus slips back into heaven after He had died on the cross and rose from the dead. According to the legend, the angel Gabriel met him. Gabriel frowned when he saw the marks of Jesus’ scars of His tortuous years on earth, especially the scars of His crucifixion. Gabriel said: “Master, you suffered terribly for those down on earth.” “Yes, I did,” was Jesus’ reply. Gabriel continued: “Do they all know now about your life and your forgiveness? Have they all heard about your death and resurrection?” “No, not yet.” Said Jesus. “Right now only a handful knows. Only a handful of people in Palestine know about my death and resurrection.

“Gabriel looked perplexed. “Then,” he asked, “Well… How will everyone find out about your wonderful life and your sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection?” “I have asked Peter, James, John and a handful of friends and followers to tell other people about it. And when other people hear and believe, they in turn will tell others. And Gabriel, by and by, the planet earth will hear the message.” Still frowning, the angel responded: “But, hmmm, you know how people are on earth. What if they… What if Peter, James and John get tired? What if they tell the story and then the next generation gets all involved in other pursuits? What if way down in the 18th or 21st century, people aren’t committed any longer to your commission? Have you made other plans?” The Lamb of God looked directly at the angel of God and said: “I have no other plan. I am counting on them.” (Author Unknown).

The Miraculous Catch of Fish

3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:3-5).

Try and imagine what it was like for Peter. He had been fishing all night (v. 5), and now after cleaning their nets of all weed, he was exhausted and wanted to go home. I suspect, also, that he was discouraged and disappointed with catching nothing, and that they were cleaning their nets because they were finished with them for that time.

When a fisherman comes back to port, it is such a disappointment to him to have caught no fish and admit to a failed fishing expedition, but this was exactly the situation with Peter. The very last thing he wanted to do was to go out into the boat again! He must have been tired after fishing all night, but since Jesus had healed his mother-in-law, he had no option but to respond graciously and obediently. He got into the boat with Jesus and pushed the boat out from the shore, threw down the anchor, and began to listen to Jesus’ talk. They were about to witness a miracle. While living in Israel for a year and a half, I got the opportunity to go out with the local Galilee fishermen from Tiberius, and I asked them why they fished during the night. They replied that it was impossible to catch anything during the day due to the clear water, the fish would see and avoid their nets. During the night the fish couldn’t see the net and could be caught easier.

God has a way of getting our attention. With Peter, it was a huge amount of fish just when he had begun to think that they had overfished the Sea of Galilee to such an extent that now nothing could be caught at the best time of the night. There was a progression of things that he had witnessed, e.g. the demon being cast out in the synagogue, his mother-in-law being healed in front of him, a full evening of amazing healings and deliverances of many people from sicknesses and demons, and now an amazing, impossible event that showed him the reality that Jesus really can do remarkable things when people will walk in obedience to Him. The Lord told Peter to go out into the deep water. The Sea of Galilee measures a depth of 200 feet. There’s no way, Peter probably thought, that his nets would go anywhere near down to those depths, and during the hot part of the day, that would be where the fish would be keeping cool. That would require a lot of net, which is very unlikely that he had, the impossibility of fishing out in the deep and during the day was befire Peter, but because Jesus had said so, he stepped out in obedience. Jesus was a builder/carpenter. What did He know about where the fish were and how to catch them? Peter was not expecting to catch one fish. After all, he was the expert when it came to fishing. What would this carpenter-come-rabbi, know about fishing? It was a good thing that Peter obeyed, despite his doubts.

6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 11Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him (Luke 5:6-11).

That day Jesus was after catching more than fish. He wanted to catch men. He caught them bit by bit. First, He asked if He could sit in their boat and talk to the people. Then, He asked Peter to put out a little from shore. Then, He asked them to row out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch (v. 4). He involved them in a miracle. Jesus didn’t have to catch fish. He had much bigger things on His mind. We need to be involved with Him in His enterprise to win the lost.

Keith Thomas