The Life of God Sown in Our Hearts

We are continuing our meditation about the resurrection of the body (scroll down for that meditation). When a person gives their life to Christ, something happens within. They are regenerated or born-again by the Spirit. Jesus said that without this experience of being born again, or born from above, no one can see the kingdom of God: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

The apostle Peter writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). A spiritual seed begins to grow in us from that point, slowly transforming us through the word of God, and our trials and life experiences, into the image of Christ:

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

The characteristic of this living seed is spiritual life but more full, abundant, eternal and imperishable. The Greek word that is translated “life” in the above passage of scripture is the word zōē. It means: “to live.” My Key Word Study Bible says of this word:

“It is a somewhat metaphysical term which denotes the very life force itself, the vital principle which animates living beings. Zōē is used most in connection with eternal life. This life is the very life of God of which believers are made partakers.”[1]

I don’t understand how words can be seeds but I do not doubt the power of words. God spoke His Word and the world was created. Throughout Genesis chapter one, the creation was brought about by God speaking His Word. For instance, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Take a look at how many times the words “And God said” are written. There is great power in the spoken word of God. In our passage in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that God is the One who determines what the seed will become when it grows up (Verse 38). He says that there are different kinds of physical bodies on planet earth, men, animals, birds and fish. All physical creatures that are born on earth come from seeds. I see Paul making two different analogies when he talks about a seed:

Our resurrection body will be able to be recognized in some way as us. He says, 37“When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else (v.37). Within the seed is the DNA of the physical body. Oranges do not grow from apple seeds. There is a continuity of life shared between the seed and the body it will become. Our heavenly resurrected bodies will be somewhat like the seed of our earthly fleshly body. We will recognize one another in our resurrection bodies, but it will be vastly different from the seed out of which the resurrected body has come. Our frail bodies will be renewed into a powerful transcendent body. That’s good news! Let’s carry on this thought tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1630.

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

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

Preparing for Death 5 (Scroll Down for Part 4)

In the last few days, we have been thinking through the rewards of the believer, and have come to the conclusion that character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the character of Christ is in us.

Dictionary.com defines the word character as: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” We are being transformed day by day in the area of our souls and spirit through every event that we experience. Everything in life is a test of our character, and a man’s character is accurately measured by his reactions to life’s inequities. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what men think you are; character is what God knows you are. If we respond in obedience to the Spirit of Christ in each situation we encounter, we are made more and more into the image or likeness of Christ. If you are a Christian, you are predestined by God to be made into the representation of Jesus Christ.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29, Emphasis mine).

God foreknew you and predestined you to be made in the image of His Son. We can easily go by this passage without thinking through the implications of what the Spirit wants to teach us. We cannot blame God for the bad things that have happened in the course of our lives. Sometimes, these things have happened because of our own choices. What God says is that He will use each situation to work good into our lives if we will be open to His teaching and leading us by His Spirit. The wonderful thing is that God has seen the end from the beginning. He had each of us on His heart before the world was made. He foreknew you and predestined you to be shaped and molded into a person like His Son. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). The Message Bible translates that verse in this way, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” The work of God in the world is to prepare you for eternity.

“Character on earth will prove an everlasting possession in the world to come” (J.C. Ryle). If you want to be great in the sight of God, how are you responding to the difficult circumstances that have come your way? Are you ready and prepared to meet your God? How much of His character will you reflect in that day?

What do you want the outcome of your life to be? What do you want for Jesus to say to you on that day? He will say to many, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and I hope that you are a believer and that He will say it to you, dear reader. If you want to be effective with your life and leave the world a bit better by being here, then it is wise to stop and ask yourself what kind of a difference are you making with your life? Is it a difference that only lasts for this life, or is it something that is eternal? Do you labor for temporary rewards for your skills, time, energy, and money that you spend, or for eternal rewards? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Please help us, Holy Spirit, to live for eternity.

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

Preparing for Death 4 (Scroll down for parts 1-3)

2 Corinthians 3:18.

We have been meditating on the fact that the Lord sees everything we have ever done for Him, and nothing escapes His attention. The day will come when, as Christians, we will gain our inheritance given to us in Christ before time began.

34Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 37“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” 40“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40).

I find it interesting that the believers had forgotten the acts of kindness that they had done, but God hadn’t. He recorded every act of kindness, and He will reward us openly at the Judgment Seat of Christ. To whom was He referring to in calling some the least of His brothers? I think it would be those around us who are little noticed. Perhaps, they are those who cannot help themselves, those sick, or in prison. He is ever close to those who are poor in things of this world, those that are strangers to us, those who are in bondage to a religion of works. He wants to use each of us to set them free, to visit them, to feed them—not only bread and water but also to give them the Bread of Life, too (John 6:35).

The Reward of Christlikeness

Preparation for eternity can only take place while we are here on Earth because we graduate to eternity with the character that we have at death. I believe that our “position” or “rank” in heaven depends on how much of the servant nature of Christ we have demonstrated while on Earth. To whatever degree the character of Christ has been imprinted on your life while on Earth, that will be your degree of reward in eternity. The word character was first used to describe the imprint on paper of the letters of a printing press. God has sought to divinely imprint the nature and the character of Christ deep into your soul for others to read.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

When we come to Christ, our spirit is renewed or made alive from its dead state of being apart from God (Ephesians 2:1, 5), but there is still work that needs to take place on our soul—our mind, will, conscience and emotions. God wants to renew and transform that inner part of us as we meditate on His Word and are obedient to His Spirit. King David said it well in the Shepherd’s Psalm: “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). Peter, in his first letter wrote: “For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Our mind, will, and emotions are to be brought under the leadership and guidance of the Spirit of God. Character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ is in us. Help us, Holy Spirit, to die to ourselves that we may put on Christlikeness.

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