Why does it take us so long to ask for help?

In the biblical book of Judges, we get an accounting of the history of ancient Israel before the monarchy was established. During this period, there was no king, the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (often with disastrous moral consequences), and the nation as a whole descended along a downwardly-spiraling track of increasing despair and depravity.

In many ways, the history of Israel is similar to the personal history of an individual, struggling along life’s path, facing moral ups and downs, straying from the right path, making poor decisions, falling into addiction and reaping the consequences. How many of us can relate to those themes?

And yet in the book of Judges, another theme emerges, besides the theme of moral failure and degeneracy, and that is the theme of God’s rescue. In this book a pattern is established, wherein the people turn to idolatry and abandon God, God responds by allowing them to stray and “selling them” into the oppression of foreign nations, and then the people cry out (eventually) for help, at which time God raises up a deliverer to save them from their oppression and restore them to a right relationship with Himself.

What is incredible as we examine this cycle of apostasy-oppression-repentance-rescue, is how long it takes the people of Israel to cry out to God for help.

Look at Judges 4:1-3:

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud had died. So the Lord sold them to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera who lived in Harosheth of the Nations. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, because Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them twenty years.

Twenty years! That is apparently how long it took the Israelites to cry out to the Lord for rescue. In modern terms, 20 years is approximately one generation. And that is how long Jabin and Sisera oppressed the Israelites before they cried out to the Lord. They were so married to their idols, so rebellious in their hearts, that calling out to God was not merely the option of last resort, it did not apparently even occur to them as an option at all until they had endured two full decades of brutality.

Now the story continues, I would encourage you to read what happens next.  The Lord does indeed miraculously rescue His people, using, I might add, some very unexpected and even astonishing means to do so. But the stupendous nature of God’s rescue of Israel in Judges 4 only makes their long wait to call on Him all the more incredible. Why did it take them so long?

At this point, we may need to turn that same question around on ourselves. How many times, in the face of some trial or adversity–whether self-inflicted or outside of our control–do we view crying out to the Lord for help our option of last resort? Have we bought into the modern myth that “God helps those who help themselves?” To the extent that we have, we do ourselves a great disservice and we actually alienate ourselves from the God who calls Himself our helper and invites us to bring our burdens and labor to His Son, who will give us rest.

Israel’s sin had consequences and placed them under God’s wrath, but it also put them in a situation where they could call on God and experience His rescue. Our sin places us in very much the same situation.

Sin often leads to oppression and hardship in our lives (indeed whenever they do not lead to oppression and hardship, we should thank God for His incredible mercy!). God sent Jesus into the world to take on Himself the hardship–to the point of death–that our sin had earned us. He rose again and, having conquered our sin and God’s resulting wrath once and for all, He now offers real rest and true help to everyone who hears and believes.

We will not receive His help as long as we are relying on ourselves (or the “idols” in our lives which we trust instead of God–those go-to, functional saviors we turn to for comfort or help, or simply to numb the pain–which inevitably let us down). The Bible never says God helps those who help themselves, but rather that, “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Those verses fly in the face of our deeply-ingrained sense of self-sufficiency. It takes us so long to ask for help, because it is so hard to believe we can’t rescue ourselves. But believing that, and believing in the One who alone can rescue us, is the key to being rescued. It is just as true for you and me as it was for ancient Israel.

His rescue is a gift from Him alone, given to those who give up working to rescue themselves and trust Jesus; we cannot claim one scrap of glory for bringing it about. 

God’s deliverance will not mean you don’t have work to do; Israel did have a battle to fight as part of God’s rescue from Sisera. However, the good news is that God rescues everyone who calls on Jesus, and that rescue is unilateral. He defeats our sin and its consequences for us. Then the work that we do to root out sin in our lives is a result of the transformation He brings.

Are you going through hardship right now? It’s all around us, and indeed it is a pervasive part of life. If you aren’t going through it now, you can be sure that it will only be a matter of time until you are. It took Israel 20 years to ask for Help. How long will it take you?

When Good Religion Goes Bad (or: Why “Good” Folks Need the Gospel Too)

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Don’t throw away the cross, Supes! For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole (Daily) Planet and yet lose his life?

We Christians may tend to think that there are other “faith systems” out there, other than biblical Christianity, that, while they may miss out on the whole truth, they still contain a lot of good in them, and maybe God will sorta smile and wink at their adherents at the end of the day, because after all, they were just trying to live a good life, and honor God, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe you have friends who are, in general, upstanding and moral people. And maybe you might, sometimes, possibly be tempted with the idea that you don’t really need to tell them about the Gospel–Because after all, you think, They might not know the full truth about Jesus, but they’re such good people! I’m sure they’ll be fine. The Gospel is “good news” for really bad sinners, not good folks like these… right? 

Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, manmade religion (or “faith systems,” or lifestyles, or worldviews) that purport to show God great honor, while denying the necessity of the cross and resurrection of Jesus–those aren’t some kind of lesser piety. They’re not “Christianity Lite.”

According to Jesus, such systems amount to nothing less than cold, hard, condemnable satanism.
The Devil is fine with us ascribing all kinds of honor to the Lord, as long as we miss the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus–and our need for the Savior who did all that for us.
“Good” religion goes bad when it substitutes “goodness” for the Gospel. Even Christ-likeness is no substitute for the crucifixion.

The Gospel is the good news, that Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me–so that we could die to our old life (which was really death) and receive His life. Get the Gospel, and you get God’s life. Reject the Gospel, and whatever else you may have–however “good,” you’ll lose your life and miss out on God’s life.

This is serious business–which it would have to be, to make Jesus call one of His top three disciples “Satan.” So if Jesus takes it that seriously, maybe we ought to reconsider how we think about those other “faith systems” (really they should be called works systems, since they deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone). Trying to show God honor, while denying God’s plan (by which He was more incredibly honored than He could have ever been by any scheme moral man could have come up with!) is from Satan.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
That’s what’s going on in Mark 8:31-38. It’s what Jesus has saved former moralists like me from, and it’s what we have to remember when we’re communicating the Gospel to our religious, well-intentioned, and moral friends. In so doing, we’re giving them the best “good news” we could give them.

Serving with Hope in God’s Household (A Sermon Skeleton of Titus 2:9-15)

Titus 2:9-15 (Author’s Translation)

9 Slaves are to be subjugated to their own masters in all things, to be acceptable, not contradicting, 10 not embezzling, rather demonstrating all good faithfulness, in order that they may adorn the doctrine—that of our savior God—in all things. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, 12 educating us in order that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we may live in the present age, soberly and righteously and piously, 13 looking forward to the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself on behalf of us, in order that he may redeem us from all lawlessness and cleanse for himself a particular people—zealous for good works. 15 Speak these things and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Outline of major and minor points

  1. (9-10) Slaves are to be subjugated to their own masters in all things (This applies to all employees, servants, etc.)
    1. What submission looks like: Slaves are to be
      1. (be) Acceptable
      2. Not (be) contradicting
      3. Not (be) embezzling
      4. Rather (be) demonstrating all good faithfulness
        1. Why slaves choose to live this way: (Demonstrating) in order that they may adorn the doctrine—that of our Savior God—in all things
  2. (11-14) For the grace of God has appeared!
    1. God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation to all people
    2. God’s grace has appeared, educating us
      1. The goal of studying at “Grace Academy”: The grace of God educates us in order that… we may live in the present age
        1. (live) denying ungodliness and worldly lusts
        2. (live) soberly
        3. and (live) righteously
        4. and (live) godly
        5. (live) looking forward to the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
          1. He gave himself on behalf of us
            1. He gave himself in order that he may…
              1. He gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness
              2. And He gave Himself to cleanse for himself a particular people zealous for good works
  3. (15) Preach it!
    1. Speak these things
    2. And exhort and rebuke with all authority.
    3. Let no one disregard you.

Notes

Slaves, servants and employees are to live and work in an honest way. In doing this, they give the Gospel a good reputation—just look how their lives have been changed by it!

In fact, God’s grace has appeared not just to slaves but to all kinds of people. These are the people Jesus died to “purchase” for Himself. What incredible grace—he came particularly for you!

Focus on the grace you have received, and look forward to the glorious hope we have that Jesus Christ will appear again in glory. With your eyes set on that hope, live in a way that gives your God and Savior a good reputation.

Dealing with Greedy Legalists in God’s Household (Titus 1:10-16)

Translation:

(10) For there are also many insubordinate ones, empty-talkers and deceivers (especially out of “the Circumcision”), (11) whom it is necessary to silence, which persons undermine whole households, by teaching what they must not, on account of filthy gain.

(12) A certain one from them said—a prophet of their own, “Cretans are always liars, worthless beasts, lazy gluttons.” (13) This testimony is true. Rebuke them sharply because of this crime, in order that they may be healthy in the faith, (14) not paying attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men that pervert the truth.

(15) All things clean for the clean! But for they who are contaminated and unfaithful, nothing is clean. Rather they are defiled in both their understanding and conscience. (16) They confess to understand God, but their works contradict, being abominable and disobedient and unapproved for every good work.

Outline:

  1. (10-11) For there are also many insubordinate ones, empty talkers and deceivers, especially from “the Circumcision”
    1. (11) It is necessary to silence them.
    2. These persons undermine entire households
      1. They undermine by teaching
        1. They are teaching what they must not.
        2. They are teaching for the sake of filthy gain.
      2. (12-14) Rebuke false teachers to promote sound doctrine.
        1. A certain one from them—one of their own prophets—said,
          1. Cretans are always….
            1. Liars
            2. Worthless beasts
            3. Lazy gluttons
          2. (13) This testimony is true.
          3. Rebuke them sharply because of this crime.
            1. The purpose of rebuking them is that they may be healthy in the faith
              1. (14) Healthy in the faith, they may not be paying attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men
                1. Jewish fables and commandments of men pervert the truth
  • (15)
    1. All things are clean for the clean!
    2. But for the contaminated and unfaithful, nothing is clean
    3. Rather, they are contaminated in both their mind and conscience.
    4. To know God they profess, but in their works they deny.
      1. They are
        1. Abominable
        2. And disobedient
        3. And unapproved for every good work.

Notes: 

While some are fit to be overseers, some others are very unfit—especially those of the so-called Circumcision group. Their false teaching leads to the fall of whole families. Their true goal is self-promotion and profit—they don’t even really care about holiness!

 The job of Titus is to look out for these false teachers who promote “supergodliness” by making people adhere to the Old Covenant Law—supplemented heavily by manmade traditions and requirements. When he sees this false teaching at work, he is to rebuke them sharply. The goal is for them to come around to sound doctrine.

 These legalists are always trying to force people to adhere to their standards of purity—but in calling everything impure, they are actually revealing that they themselves are impure. If Christ has made you clean, then you are clean and nothing is impure for you. So stop worrying about ritual defilement. Go out into the world—cling to the truth, promote it, and rebuke false teachers.

These false teachers put loads of manmade requirements on erstwhile Christians, but this is all a sham for them to gain followers, and by that profit and fame. These selfish, worthless beasts must be rebuked—but even then the goal in rebuking them is not to destroy them but rather to return them to the true faith.

Overcoming Objections: Christianity Is False Because It Has No Priestly System

The Egyptians did it.

The Jews definitely did it.

Babylonians? Yep. They did it too.

Same goes for the Greeks and Romans.

Even the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans did it.

What do all these ancient civilizations have in common? They all had their own religious systems. And those religious systems all involved sacrifices. And those sacrifices were offered by priests. This fact led to one of the early objections to Christianity as a fledgling religious system.

Every religious system in history, from the dawn of civilization until the dawn of Christianity, has always had some kind of priestly sacrificial system. While these cultures’ religions differed on who the divine was and how to best appease it, they all agreed that the Divine did need to be appeased. And the way to appease the divine was universally understood to be by blood sacrifice, performed by a priestly class, carried out in temples. The priest acted as the mediator between God and man.

Enter Christianity: no priests,  no temples, no blood sacrifices. To ancient minds, this made no sense. It was well known that the Divine wrath over human wickedness needed to be propitiated (satisfied). Without priests offering blood sacrifice, it would have been argued, there was no way to propitiate divine wrath. Therefore, any religious worshipers lacking in the priest department must also have been lacking in the brains department. Christianity didn’t satisfy the universal human need for sacrifice. Christianity wasn’t true, because it had no mediator between God and humanity. Every religion worth its salt has a priestly system. Hey Christians, where are all your priests?

To overcome this ancient objection, let’s turn to the Bible, to the book of Hebrews. This book is a sort of sermon-letter hybrid, written to second-generation Christians of ethnic Jewish descent. At this time, Christianity was in the process of breaking away from Judaism, but it was still seen as a Jewish sect.

The above argument seems to have been lodged against the Hebrew Christians in an attempt to discredit their fledgling faith and convince them to return to the more “sensible” Jewish religion. After all, they were ethnically Jewish, and the religion their parents left had sacrifices ordained by God Himself. Come on, Christians, get your acts together. Get back to the true religion–the one with the priests!

In fact, one commentator points out that Jews and Gentiles alike found it difficult to believe the Christian message, because of the lack of a visible priestly system.

So the author of Hebrews writes to address this objection and reassure his Christian audience. 

He writes in Hebrews 4:14, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (ESV, emphasis added).

Their confession was their public declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, send by God as the prophet, priest and king over heaven and earth. The author says that the Hebrew Christians should hold fast to this belief, because not only do they have a high priest, but they have a better high priest than the Jewish religion they left.

Christians have a great high priest, but you won’t see Him ascending the steps of a stone temple to offer daily sacrifices.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to meet with Him. In fact, you don’t even have to go to your local cathedral.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to bring him sacrifices to offer, because He provided the sacrifice. And His Sacrifice was so sufficient, that one was all He needed.

What was the sacrifice offered by this high priest? He offered Himself.

Then, after Jesus died for sinners, He resurrected. Over the next forty days he appeared to over five hundred eyewitnesses, and then He ascended (the author says he “passed through the heavens” to God’s own throne room. Jesus did not go to a manmade temple, but to the place that all those temples were symbols of. There he sits at the Father’s right hand, where He always lives to mediate between God’s people and God Himself.

Jesus Christ is the perfect priest. Who better to mediate between humanity and divinity than the One who embodies both?

So the objection that Christianity has no mediator falls flat. We have a priest who satisfies God’s wrath over sin, because He paid it Himself. Now He is the “great high priest” whose work is finished.

Beware any religious teacher who tells you that you need a merely human priest to make you right with God. Think about that: if (merely) human priests could fully satisfy our debt, then why did they have to keep making all those sacrifices, year after year, for millennia?

All those priests who came before could not make an eternal effect; they were shadows of the real thing. Jesus is the real thing. He is the priest we need. You and I can trust Him to pay our debt of sin and reconcile us to God. His shed blood (grace alone) can wash away your sin, if you will turn your heart away from your sin (repent) and come to Him (by faith alone) as your priest.

How about you? Who are you trusting to make you right with God? Who is your priest? Don’t let it be anyone other than the one who “passed through the Heavens” for you.

God’s Household (Titus 1:1-4)

As a young pastor I appreciate the investment I’ve received from pastors with more experience and wisdom. Lately I’ve been working through the Apostle Paul’s pastoral letters, outlining them by hand from the Greek, an interlinear and a couple of good, literal translations. My goal has been to identify main and supporting points, adding brief commentary and preaching notes, all to get mentorship from the man himself.

I’ve found this process to be really helpful. It is really as if I’m being personally discipled by the Apostle Paul! I have been able to gain a greater understanding of what Paul was saying, and that has been hugely beneficial to my spiritual life. I think these outlines would be beneficial to others too, so I am sharing them here for your perusal.

These are not fully fleshed out sermons; they are what David Martyn Lloyd-Jones called “skeletons.” I hope you find them as helpful as I have. Without further ado, here’s Titus 1:1-4.

My translation: 

(1) Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of truth that accords with godliness, (2) according to the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before eternal times, (3) but manifested His word in proclamation, with which I was entrusted according to the authority of God our Savior.

(4) To Titus, a genuine child according to common faith.

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Skeleton: 

  1. (1-3) Section One
    1. I, Paul, am a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ
      1. I am a slave and apostle according to (two things)
        1. According to the faith of the elect of God (Paul’s apostleship agrees with what God’s chosen ones believe)
        2. And according to the truth
          1. The truth accords with godliness
        3. I am a slave and apostle in the hope of eternal life
          1. God promised eternal life before eternal time
            1. God cannot lie
            2. But God manifested His Word in his own times
              1. He manifested His Word in the proclamation
                1. I was entrusted with the proclamation
                  1. I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.
    2.  Notes on Section One
      1. Paul is a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.
      2. This fact agrees with the truth Christians believe and by which they may live godly lives.
      3. Paul serves in the hope of eternal life which God promised before time began.
      4. God cannot lie, (so how did he bring his promise to life?).
      5. He brought his word to life in preaching
      6. Paul was entrusted with that preaching by the commandment of God, who is our Savior.
      7. So Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel is the means God uses to bring His promise of eternal life to the world.
  2. (4a) Section Two
    1. Titus is my true child
      1. Titus is my true child according to our common faith.
    2. Notes on Section Two
      1. Paul is a father figure to Titus.
      2. Their bond is not genetic but spiritual
      3. Their bond is based upon their common faith.
      4. When two people have entrusted themselves to Jesus Christ, they become part of the family of God, which makes them family with each other (cf. Eph. 4:25 – we are members of one another)
  3. (4b) Section Three
    1. (4b) Grace and peace (be to you) from
      1. God the Father
      2. And Christ Jesus
        1. Christ Jesus is our Savior
    2.  Notes on Section Three
      1. He calls God “Father”
        1. This is what Jesus called God.
        2. Jesus is God’s Son.
        3. We are of the family of Christ, by our common faith in Him.
        4. Therefore we have the same Father that Jesus has.
      2. Earlier Paul called God (the Father) our Savior. Here he calls Jesus our Savior. God the Father and God the Son are both God. And they are both properly called our Savior. They are one in unity and Deity, distinct in Personhood (Doctrine of the Trinity)
  4.  Applications from this passage:
    1. We are united with fellow believers by faith, into a “true” family.
    2. Older believers bring up younger believers and bless them.
    3. Our promise-keeping Father manifests eternal life through the preaching of the Gospel.
    4. So unite with your faith family around the Gospel, and preach that Gospel to everyone!

Gospel vs. Nonsense

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (my translation): “O Timothy, guard the deposit, turning away from the profane nonsense and contradictions of the falsely-called ‘knowledge,’ by which some, in professing it, have deviated concerning the faith. Grace be with you all.”

Paul the Apostle warns his protege, Timothy to “Guard the deposit.” In guarding the deposit, which is “the faith”–that body of biblical truth encapsulated in the Gospel of Jesus Christ–the young paster is admonished to “turn away from… falsely called knowledge.”

There are myriad systems out there in opposition to the Gospel, claiming to be “knowledge.” Paul says about these would-be Gospel competitors, that they are characterized by “profane nonsense” and “contradictions.”

That’s exactly right! In my studies I have encountered many other worldviews than the biblical one, including Mormonism, Buddhism, Atheism, Cultural Christianity, Secular Humanism, Jehovah’s Witness-ism, and Roman Catholicism. Once you get past the flowery language and sophistry,(profane nonsense), each one is absolutely filled with fatal, self-contradicting truth claims (“contradictions”).

I don’t say this to condemn anybody who adheres to any of those above worldviews. Instead, I say this because I love people in those worldviews, and to encourage my fellow believers in Jesus Christ:

There is only one coherent, cogent, cohesive and (most importantly) universally true worldview, and that is the one put forth in the Bible. Deviating from Scripture must necessarily lead a person into systems which are rife with profane nonsense and contradictions. That is no way to live. Your human mind was created to find truth and to sort out contradictions.

I encourage you, Christian, to stand steadfast upon the Bible as the true word of God. And I encourage you, if you are not a believer, to come to the Bible and let it speak on its own terms. To echo the last words of Paul in this book, “Grace be with you all.”

Jesus is With Who?

In the God News According to Matthew, chapter 28, verses 18-20, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

Then He says, get this: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells them to keep it in mind that He will always be with them. Always. Until the end of the age, which is another way of saying, “until the end of the world.”

So here’s the question: since those disciples are now dead and gone, passed on to their eternal home, to whom does Jesus’ promise to be “with you always, to the end of the age” apply?

The answer is earlier in the passage. When Jesus says, “Go… and make disciples… baptizing them… and… teaching them,” He is instructing His apostles on how to establish and continue the global movement known as the Church.

So when He says, “I am with you always,” that’s not just a promise for the apostles, but for the Church He has just commanded them to start.

Are you a Christian, a member of Christ’s Church? Well then, Christian, Jesus Christ is with you TODAY, and always, even until the end of the world. “Remember” that today.

The Upside Down-ness of the Christian Life

In his First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes,

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be STEADFAST, IMMOVABLE, always EXCELLING in the work of the Lord, knowing that your TOIL is not empty in the Lord”  (AT).

The Christian lifestyle, fully realized, looks like this:

  • We are steadfast in our faith.
  • We are immovable in our hope.
  • We are always finding new ways to go above and beyond in loving God and other people (we do this at work, with our families, at church, with our friends, at school, in our personal lives–yes, even on social media).

No Christian that I’ve ever known (myself fully included) has ever perfectly lived this way. However, followers of Jesus who are growing in their faith make this their aim. They understand the upward call in Christ Jesus, and their eyes are fixed on the things that are above. It is the Christian’s heavenly perspective that colors his view of the world.

The Christian’s house is therefore upside down (by the world’s standards). The foundation of our building is above–in heaven. The rest of our house is built upon that foundation–our doctrines, our practices, with the rooms, where we live our lives, down here on earth. But the whole structure is firmly built not upon the shifting sands of culture, but upon the bedrock truth of God’s word, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone.

Sometimes, this “upside down-ness” of the Christian lifestyle puts us at odds with the society at large, whose house is very much built upon the changing values and norms of the reigning zeitgeist of the day. But we don’t hate unbelievers. Far from it! We love them–just as our King loved us while we were rebelling against Him; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Why do we live this way? Why toil and strive to further God’s kingdom–which is invisible–knowing that it may pit us against the very people we so urgently want to love and see reconciled to God?

We do this because we know that every bead of sweat spent serving King Jesus is never wasted. The Lord sees it all. He empowers us with the Holy Spirit. And He gives meaning and success to us when we labor for Him. God the Father is gathering a people for His Son, from every people group on earth. That includes our own people group. And so we labor and strive. We move forwardimmovable in our trust that God is real, God is good, and God is saving sinners like us.

Whom is God moving you toward today? Whom does He want you to serve? Who needs to hear the Gospel–the same Gospel that saved you? Move forward in God’s will today, and may our Lord make you immovable as you move.

#148

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (from the Letter to the Romans, chapter 8).

When God (through His servant Paul) calls His people “more than conquerors,” He isn’t talking about blessings and security in this life. No, the victory that belongs to followers of Christ is the same victory that Christ won for us when He rose from the grave: we are conquerors over sin, the evil one, and death. Because the Father has given us to the Son, because the Son has purchased us on the cross, by His precious blood, and because the Holy Spirit has united us to God by faith in Jesus Christ, we are secure in Him. Nothing can break the bond.

As the Apostle John writes in Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”

My friends, please pay attention! The tragic fate of the 148 Kenyan college students is, one way or another, the inevitable fate of each and every one of us. We are headed for physical death–one day you and I will draw our last breath. The only, only thing that will matter when your heart stops beating is the one thing that matters most now: who is Jesus Christ to you?

Has He saved you? Has He given you a new life, one that will last forever? To die in the Lord, Scripture says, is “blessed.” Every believer in Jesus, who was killed in Kenya, is right now before the throne of God Himself, “resting from their labors.” Do you know that rest? Do you know Jesus? Is He your only hope in life and in death?

We are all going to die. But to live and die without knowing Him–that would be the real tragedy.