A frequent comment heard from people both inside and outside of the church feel is the perspective that the message of Christianity and the Bible is not relevant. They may see the focus of worship, instruction and even church activities to be indifferent to the questions and concerns prevalent in people’s lives. Our worship last Sunday attempted to address that with a “Question Sunday”. The whole focus of the sermon time was devoted to opportunities for individuals to bring up things they don’t understand or have trouble accepting and I addressed them to the best of my ability. Not only does this provide helpful perspective on troubling issues but it takes us to the very heart of our faith — which is about strengthening our relationship with the God who created us, went to the cross to save us and who currently walks with us in life to help and guide us. With that in mind I hope the following Q & A helps “Sheds some light on the Scriptures” for you.
1) Questions about “what happens to the soul when we die”, “when & how we go to heaven”. We turned to chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes to see one place where God provides wisdom about the moment of death. The whole chapter encourages us to remember our Creator as life moves toward its end — listing all kinds of examples of the ending of life or the finish of an item’s usefulness. It concludes with these words “then the dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” This along with other biblical passages make clear to us that there is a separation of body and soul at the time of death. The body is what dies, but the soul does not. (Note in the Apostles Creed we talk about “the resurrection of the body”. Think also of when we commit a body to its final resting place “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”) Elsewhere in the Bible, like 1 Corinthians 15, we read about how the body and soul are rejoined in eternity (but it is a new body). The soul however never dies but is transported to eternity immediately. Jesus himself indicates this with his promise to the repentant thief on the cross “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” There is some difference of opinion about “being with the Lord” but part of our challenge with this is to understand that once gone from this life there is no time or space. What seems a tremendous gap of years can quite possibly seem like the blink of an eye in eternity. And while all souls go back to God, they do so to be judged as either a soul that clung to the Lord in faith or rejected God’s offer of grace. Its not an automatic “Go to heaven” card.
2) Explain the words “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation. The reference is Revelation 21 where John writes about his vision “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”. But what many do not realize is that already with the prophet Isaiah in chapters 65 & 66 God makes the same promise as He talks about restoring His Old Testament people “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Basically the Lord is telling us that He will recreate everything new again at the end of the world. This means the earth, the universe and all that it entails. After all the coming of sin and evil into the world through Adam and Eve infected everything, both the spiritual and physical world. So everything needs to be made new. Rather than be fearful about what this promised “new creation” will be like, it is meant to inspire anticipation and awe in us for even though we recognize the bad in this world we find much about to be beautiful and inspiring. For the world to come to be even better (and minus all the troublesome aspects) is often hard to wrap your head around.
3) Related questions about “discovering God’s will” and “having a hard time being a witness for Christ”. In both cases we need to start with where God reveals Himself to us. It is in His Word. If you want to know about Abraham Lincoln you read his biographies and anything written about him or by him. Same with anyone else. So it is with God. You will find your best and most accurate information when you read everything written about Him and all the things He has said and done. Of course that’s the very reason the Bible came into existence. Past believers worked to bring together all that they could in one place to make it easier to understand God, follow Him and walk in His ways. Usually when we have difficulty understanding or following what is pretty clear, one of the following things has taken place.
- a) We don’t like what we hear or read so we ignore it or dismiss it. b) We don’t think there’s much value in reading or finding out what it says so we are poorly informed or totally unaware. c) We don’t believe what we read or hear and so we are fearful and unwilling to follow through. I happen to know from personal experience that the desire to be liked and accepted is so powerful in human beings that we will do almost anything not to disrupt it. Certainly being a witness for Jesus is something we understand is God’s desire for our lives, but we “back off” easily when even a hint of less than positive reaction occurs. The key is determining if we really believe what we say and if we think it matters to the well-being of others around us. We’d share the access to a cure for cancer if we had it — so why not the cure for sin? (which we do have)
4) What to say when someone says all religions are guilty of killing those who don’t agree with them?
5) Why is there evil in the world and why do such troubling things happen to good people?
6) All Christians have very similar education and teachings. How is it possible to say we are right & others wrong?
7) There is an OT curse that says children pay for the sins of their fathers for 7 generations. So even if I follow
Jesus am I paying for past generations? (These will be answered online when the website “goes live”.)