Daily Archives: August 24, 2010

Avoiding Woody Allen’s Greatest Fear

Woody Allen once said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Unfortunately, we’ll all be “there” when we die because the last I checked, the mortality rate has remained steady at 100%. Every person eventually dies. While we can’t stop it, people generally do everything in their power to avoid it.

I do, too. Every day I take a multivitamin to fend off sickness and I do my best to stay in shape. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year developing drugs that will help us push back our appointment with death. Cars are equipped with seat belts that have prolonged untold lives.

What fuels our fear of death? The unknown. The possibility of a surprise after we die. Payback for past transgressions. Finality.

But if you knew more about death—and how to avoid it—would it make you feel better? Of course.

Confused? Then please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Job 12:1-15:35
1 Corinthians 15:29-58
Psalm 39:1-13
Proverbs 21:30-31

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Job 12:1-15:35. Job’s contempt for his friends becomes apparent after listening to their insensitive platitudes. Rather than enter his pain, they offered advice from a distance. Trying to fix people who are suffering never works. What they need is someone who will offer empathy and a listening ear.

In the middle of his pain, Job didn’t need to hear that his actions had brought suffering upon himself. Previously, he acknowledged that he wasn’t perfect—yet he wasn’t evil either.

Job’s life teaches us that suffering happens, often without any apparent reason behind it. And, it occurs under God’s watchful eye. The reason behind our suffering is a mystery.

1 Corinthians 15:29-58. Verse 29 has served as a subject of debate for centuries and actually serves as a central belief in the Mormon church. Paul writes in verse 29, “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?”

Scholars aren’t sure what Paul means here, especially since this is the only place in Scripture where it is mentioned. Additionally, no archeological evidence exists that people were baptized for the dead.

My favorite living New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, affirms that it refers to some form of vicarious baptism. But he adds that if a person could be saved through baptism after they die, then it defeats the idea of justification by faith—because it would become a work someone does to earn eternal life. He concludes this puzzling passage by writing:

Whatever they were doing and for whatever reason, Paul saw it as a clear contradiction to the present stance of the community at large that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” If so, Paul argues, then this other action by some of their number is the highest expression of the absurdity. From his point of view, Christ’s resurrection makes any other form of spiritual existence beyond the grave a non sequitur [a conclusion that does not follow from the premises].

Proverbs 21:30. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” This is a great Scripture passage to make the focus of your prayer and meditation when you begin to worry about things like your future or the degradation of society.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Despite the intimacy he shared with God, even David was concerned about the end of his life: “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (Psalm 39:4).

While none of us know how or when we will die, we can know what happens after we die.

When our natural bodies die, those who follow Jesus will be given spiritual bodies. This means that we aren’t regenerated as angels or reincarnated as humans in another life. Our new spiritual bodies will be truly spiritual—in other words we won’t feel the compulsion to sin. Hallelujah!!

The only way we can be transformed into truly spiritual people is through the death of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. And when Christ returns to earth, our transformation will be complete. Since sin was the cause of our physical death, Jesus’ defeat of the effects of sin on the cross enable us to live forever.

So what does this mean to us? When we place our trust in Jesus to cleanse us of our “first Adam” behaviors and compulsions (read: sin), Jesus clothes us with himself. For this reason, Paul can quote Hosea 13:14:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Physical death is no longer our end. We no longer need to fear death because we have nothing to fear. Death is not our end nor do we need to fear hell.

When you give your life to Jesus, you’ll live forever with him.

Last night, an former mentor of mine died. Dennis Whaley invited me to be a youth group leader when I was still in college. Ironically, I later served in his same position at the church three years later. But while his death is sad–especially for his family–the reflections of the people who knew and loved Dennis is overwhelmingly joyous. Death has been defeated and while Dennis is no longer present, he will live forever.

And if you follow Jesus, you may meet Dennis someday in heaven.

Rest in peace, Dennis.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What spoke to you in today’s reading?

Do you fear death? Why or why not?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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