When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." John 11:20-27 Read the whole chapter.
A couple of months ago before the renewal, when I started thinking about the five sermons, I ran across a story, a story that in the late 1800s and in the early 1900s, those southern cotton farmers, once the bull weevil hit invaded the cotton, that some of those farmers changed to peanuts, and I was like, peanuts, you gotta be kidding. It's like, email this friend of ours. You're from Alabama. Have you ever heard of that? You know, and she said, Well, vaguely I have, but you know what, I'll do some research for you. And she did, a couple of days later, I get this link from her, but I couldn't open it, and so I told her I couldn't open it. So a couple of days later, I did some digging myself, and I ran across an article from a town in Alabama called Enterprise Coffee County, Alabama, that talked about changing when the bull weevil hit and devastated their cotton crop, about changing from cotton peanuts in the South. So I sent her that article, she immediately texted back and said, That's the article I sent you.
Can you imagine being a cotton farmer all your life, grandpa's farm, your dad's farm, your grandpa's farm, your grandpas farm, and here all of a sudden the cotton is wiped out and you gotta plant peanuts? Many of them didn’t, they chose bankruptcy. That's true. But those that wanted to continue a way of life, and they found that in planting peanuts, it wiped out the bull weevil and they could eventually go back to planning cotton. And this town of enterprise in 1921, or I'm sorry, December 11th of 1919, they put up a historical marker, an enterprise that said this in profound appreciation of the bull weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity. This monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise In Coffee County Alabama, and next to it later, decades later, about 10 feet away from it, they put up a statue pedestal that had a statue of a woman with their arms raised, holding a platter and on top that platter was a huge bull weevil. What am I doing and talking about the bull weevil, but I wanna share with you this morning is difficult. As a cotton farmer had was switching to an insane crop of peanuts, I want to propose to you this morning for us to have a movement moving as they did in 180 degrees from seeing ourselves as human beings that have spiritual experiences to us being spiritual beings, having human experiences.
Let me see that again. This is a transformation for us to transform and thinking about ourselves as human beings, cotton farmers, human beings who have spiritual experience, like a good sermon, like a good devotion, like serving me and you having those human experience, those spiritual experiences, to seeing ourselves as spiritual beings, peanuts. Who have a human experience? In other words, we live our daily lives 90% as human beings and maybe 10% as spiritual beings are, and we need to make a shift, and that shift is for us to see ourselves primarily as spiritual beings who have human experiences.
This sermon today is 49 years in the making. And so many years of my ministry, I did a lot of study of the New Testament to classes, working on a Master of Theology. I could never come to grips to understand the early church, how that early church, those early Christians could allow themselves under Nero's reign to be dipped in a vat of oil planted around at night and then lit on fire to provide light. I could never understand how they could... The Romans would go into the theaters, set out the lions, and then have the Christians go out and be dismembered, and that was her entertainment, the joy and last here and good, that was their party time.
I could never understand how the Christians were so able to do that until I came across this thought because they saw themselves primarily as spiritual beings, what happened to this thing here was not near, near, near as important as what happened inside their hearts and their souls, and their spirits in their lives, in their relationship with God, persecution, martyrdom, many of them laughed with joy in giving their life for Christ, it didn't matter to them, go ahead Nero do what you wanna do. that kneeling the soldier to make a meal in the sword at the throat, is it Caesar or is it, Christ? And they would say It's Christ, and then whack. Off their heads would call, because they saw themselves primarily spiritual.
What about us today? You know what, I think we have a lot more forms of death and what we realize, when you come to think of it, every sorrow that you have, every loneliness that you feel, every anger that you feel is in a way of format that every loss, every anxiety every suffering, every pain is a form of death. Why? What is God? God is a God of what? Life, right? He is a God of life, and that life, Jesus says, I've come to give you that life and I've come to give it to you in all abundance, all of our complaining, all of our judgments, all of the worries, all of our fears, all of our hatred that as a form of dust because there is no God of life involved in those... We're all living walking death, and I wanna just propose something to you coming when you find yourself worried and afraid and upset and bothering and angry about something, I want you to grab this up here and ask it, is God dead... What's the matter with me?.
If God is a God of living, then we gotta wake ourselves up to live that living life... Right. Rather than wallow, self-pity, mucking around like, Oh, ba, ba, ba, ba. Blah, blah, blah, blah. shak that head, God's not dead. He's lying. Snap out of it. Now, hear me clearly, I am not a power of positive thinking preacher, and I'm gonna say that, because what happens, let's take it a step deeper, what happens with tragedies, what happens in the loss of a loved one, after 40, 50, 60, 70 years? It hurts. What about a person that's been married for 10, 15, 20 years, and all of a sudden to partner goes off on an illicit relationship and the marriage breaks down and divorce sets in, which I used to tell couples when they didn't get along very well. That divorce is worse than death because that in death, that person is dead now in divorce, that person is still alive, and it turns out every time you see them, it turns up those ugly, rotten, irritating feelings towards that person. You work in a company for 23 years and you go there one morning and the fences are locked, and there's a sign that says, Closed.
What do you do with your life?
Deep forms, Deep forms of death.
I was in a group once where several of the women and there had been terribly abused by their father as little girls, my heart just went out to the horrendous feelings that came out of that for the rest of their life. Now, what you do is you feel that folks, you feel that there's no power of positive thinking, quick answer, quick words, good words, that'll take that all away, I'm sorry. It doesn't happen that way. You grieve, you cry, you get angry, especially with something that seems unfair in death...
Right. I did a funeral once... For a murder victim, you could have heard a pin drop in that funeral, yearning for George to help us here, Help us with this tragedy. But you come to a point, don't you eventually, especially like in a divorce, where you say to yourself, I'm tired of this. I'm tired of feeling this anguish, I'm tired of this tape in my mind that just keeps playing and playing and playing, and seeing that former ex-husband of mine or ex-wife of mine, I'm tired of those rotten feelings, I wanna move on, and that's where this comes in that I'm talking about... This is the transformation, it's when we dwell and we get obsessive thoughts, and we keep thinking about it over and over and over, it's then that we need to find tools that we can shake ourselves to say, Holy Spirit, help me get rid of this. It's the desire than that God will honor the holy spirit to help us get past it, but you got a grieve first. Okay, they go hand in.
What is darkness? Does darkness have any substance? It sure feels like it. Doesn't it? There are times when darkness feels like... I remember the night, Mary and I got off the plane in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the airport. It was like 9-10 o'clock. I had never seen such darkness Oh my gosh. Sure, it looks like darkness has substance. The next morning we got in our car and drove back to go to Yellowstone Park, we drove by that airport and there are mountains on the side of it.
What happened to the substance of the darkness? The like obliterated it, didn't it? Darkness has no substance. So when we are spending our minds and running types of judgment of people, of groups of people or former friends of ours, or enemies of ours are difficult people that we have to live with it, it's an absence of acceptance, just like darkness is the absence of light, judgment is the absence of acceptance. When we find ourselves int despair, it's the absence of hope, when we found ourselves all bound up under rules and laws trying to live up to other people's expectations, it's an absence of freedom when we find ourselves miserable all the time and unhappy... It's an absence of God's joy and good in our lives, when's the last time you've had a good laugh, but I mean, a good, deep down gut belly laugh. It's so free, but we spend so much time so tight that we don't have that freedom, and discord, we haven't had... We haven't got any church fights in the last 12 weeks.
Okay, and I thank you for that. But sometimes when you have a church fight, that discord is what... The absence of what? harmony. It's the absence of harmony. And the reason I say that is because behind it all... Behind it all is light. Genesis Chapter 1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void. And darkness covered the face, surface of the waters, but the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, Let there be what? Light, and there was light. Okay, if you take this book from page one and go to the page, whatever it is, in the very last page in the book of Revelation, at the very end in the new Jerusalem, guess what? They don't need any light, because there is light behind everything, and it says that the Lamb is the Lamp, Jesus is living, death and living again in His resurrection is the lamp that shines so bright that they don't need any... light in the city, new Jerusalem, God has filled it with His light. And isn't it interesting? The 23rd Psalm that you know so well. Right. We overlook one word in that song. One word, The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside. To still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Though I walk through the valley of death. Why isn't it death? What does it take? The over-shadow. Light. Isn't that interesting? Even forgive, even for David, the valley of death was not death. Oh, guess where thy sting...
Even for David, he knew the test was just a shadow, it doesn't have the substance, because he knew he had a life with God, which was eternal life. And so we come to the question. We come to the question, so what happens to us when we die? What happens to us when we take that, when that moment happens, when we pass from life to what we call death, I'm sorry, but the opposite of death is not life, because life is always... Life is not a contrast to death, birth is a contrast to death, we're born and we die, that which is born in time will end in time, that which begins and time in and time. There is no opposite to life, God is life, period. And so what happens to us when we die? If you go home with nothing else, and you may wanna write this in your bulletin, 2 Corinthians chapter 5:5-8, Paul says, He has prepared for us, this thing is God who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee to watch, so we are always confident, even though we know that while we're at home in the body, that's you right now in the church, at home in the body, but what we are reading with me away from the Lord.
For we walk by faith and not by sight. because if we're at home here in the body and away from the Lord, and how am I gonna get to heaven... Paul says, You gotta walk by faith, not by sight. You're not gonna see it, but you gotta believe it. Okay, that's what that verse truly means, it has to do with the one previous to it, that we're at home in the body and away from the Lord. We walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence and we would rather be. So what happens when we die? Boom, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, this body dies off and we are immediately into the presence of God, immediately. So many churches spend so much time around the Second Coming of the Millennium and the tribulation, pre-tribulation and post-trib, they spend so much time and all that tribulation, the three and a half weeks a year in Daniel, I'll take Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, right now I'm at home in the body and away from the Lord, but someday when his body ceases, when the body runs out, I will be away from the body and at home in the Lord.
And what if, what if you discover it to be the most magnificent, glorious abundance of light that you can ever imagine, because Paul says in 1 Timothy 6, that God dwells in unapproachable light. The light is so booming and bright and blazing that it's unapproachable, and so when we die, we enter into that glorious, fabulous light that God has prepared for us. Now I want you to go back and think of one or two life experiences where you couldn't believe how good you felt, how pleasurable it was, how wonderful... Joyous, content, satisfied. Now, I want you to take that and multiply it by 100. Multiply that feeling by a thousand, that feeling by 100000, most applied by a million multiplied by a billion multiplied by infinity. That's what we're gonna experience. That's what's powerful. Those feelings.
Verse 5, which one who has prepared us for this very thing is God who has given us the what? As a guarantee. So we have those life experiences. Now, in order for God to guarantee, do you ever buy guarantees for things, it's a guarantee that it'll be taken care of, and Paul says The Spirit is a guarantee for us of this marvelous, glorious light that we're gonna someday be fully, fully a part of it. It's called taste of heaven.
I've always said that worship, worship happens when we get caught up in something greater than ourselves, worship happens when we get caught up in something greater than ourselves, and our music people provide those moments for us... Right. For me, the time between 4 and 5, in the morning, my quiet time with the Lord, that's my moment. And those are little taste, those are appetizers, but God's got a great full meal of light are prepared for us. So the living with the fear of death, change your... Take this thing here and move over to peanuts, a… Move away from cotton, move away from thinking of yourself as a physical being... Oh, what am I gonna wear today? Oh, this food isn't so good... Oh no, what about... Oh, I'm getting these things on my face, in comparison to what we got coming folks... Amen. When we all get to heaven, what a glorious day that will be when we all see Jesus, we will shout and sing the... The victory. Amen.