By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sermon, 11th August, 2012)
The only Death worth Dying
The past three days have seen our country bathed in black and red mourning clothes. The icy hands of death have snatched away the nation’s leader when people least expected it. There has been an outpouring of grief and an atmosphere of unprecedented national unity. Some say good has come out of the death.
But actually life on earth is a blip in a measureless sweep of eternity. The Apostle Peter likens it to the transient beauty of a rose. Its glory quickly fades and is no more: "… all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Pet. 1:24).
The Word, and the Word alone, holds the key to a future of hope, an eternity of hope. And it involves a dying. But it is a death that leads to a higher life; a death which marks the end point of one life and the beginning point of another –one which is infinitely enriching and rewarding. Otherwise "hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it" (Isa. 5:14).
But what is this mystery death that leads to a higher life beyond all human understanding and experience? How does this death come about?
Curiously, you don’t have to die, at least not physically. You die spiritually by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and then rising to a new life with Christ. To continue to live this new life, however, you need to cultivate a set of ethos and attitudes. It centres on an obsession with heaven:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:1-2).
What "things" readily come to mind?
Fix your mind on God. He is holy, He is gracious; He is loving and all powerful. He’s your Maker and caring Father who wants the best for you to the point of sharing His eternity with you.
Fix your mind on Christ. He is the Saviour who out of His boundless love gave His life for you and is now seated at the right hand of the Father as your Healer, Intercessor, High Priest, and soon coming King. His utmost desire is to share His heavenly glory with you: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21).
Then think eternal life; think heaven itself. Think of a glorious future without pain, death, poverty and suffering. Envisage yourself as an eternal king-priest of God walking the golden streets of heaven and serving in God’s cabinet.
Heaven is the action place; it is where our treasure is as believers and thus naturally where our hearts should be (Matt. 6:20-21).
And all because we have died to the life on earth:
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:3-5).
The secret of the most glorious life is in dying to the flesh and rising to new life in Christ Jesus. Paul calls it the crucifixion of the flesh in exchange for the holy life of Christ:
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20).
"And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24).
The flesh has been impaled on the stake with its passions and desires, never to come to life again. Henceforth we are to live the rest of our lives around the values of heaven where our life is "hid with God in Christ" and "Christ is our life". This life is a complete makeover in the image of Christ, our model, described as "the new man" who "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
Sin no longer reigns in our mortal bodies. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:12-13).
Christ is now our essence, our new self. He has become the life we live. His life is the life of the Spirit as opposed to the life of the flesh which is death–eternal separation from God:
"… if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13).
You are a piece of heaven now. You represent its values, its glory and its power. Heaven governs your thoughts, guides your speech and directs your steps. You are out of step with a world which is passing away (1 John 2:15-17) and in step with the Kingdom of heaven which abides forever. You have made the wisest choice any human could ever make and be proud of it forever. You have chosen life over death, eternity over transience, and substance over frivolity.
You personify the will of God on earth as Yeshua taught in the Lord’s Prayer. So you don’t envy others, nor indulge in sexual immorality, nor cheat people, nor break God’s Sabbath, nor dishonor your elders. You walk in the fear of God. The Messiah lives in you, and He is your "hope of glory" (Col. 1:27); no one can ever take that away from you. The Lord pointed out to Martha when she complained that her sister Mary was wrapped up in the Word at the expense of the chores: "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 9:38-42).
The Glorious Hope will be Realized
The new life we live on earth in and through Christ anticipates glorification, the very glory of Christ! Hence "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." It will happen in a moment, "in the twinkling of an eye", the Apostle Paul says, "and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52).
Christ, our life, will clothe us with His glorious spiritual body and thereby release us from "the body of this death", this ”lowly body” subject to death and decay (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:20-21).
But not now—it’s when He appears! That’s when we shall be exactly like Him in all aspects, not just in character but also in appearance (Ps 17:15). Sadly the world is oblivious to this truth because they do not yet know the King of glory (1 John 3:1-2). But you know and reflect the excellent glory of His gospel because by His grace you have crucified the flesh and its evil passions and desires. You are on the path of glory, and you will reach full glory: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day"(Prov. 4:18 KJV). Halleluiah!