Who You Are Is Not Who You Were

The Bible clearly teaches that we will be judged by our actions. Revelation 20:12 tells of judgment where “…I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” The books (Old Testament and New Testament) reveal the standard of what we must do in order to please Him (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:3). Paul clearly links our actions to eternal punishment or reward (Romans 2:6-11 – note the variations of “do” and its direct relationship to the results). Jesus says that we will even be called into judgment for every careless word (Matthew 12:36). What we do and say impacts our eternal life.

But our actions also enrich our earthly life and the lives of others. I think the scripture makes it clear that God does not want us to live holy lives to prepare for a grand accounting, but in order to share in His holiness and to be like His righteous Son. Jesus lived the life of a servant and had a tremendous impact on the lives of those He touched. A life that serves God and others is the life revealed in God’s word.

The Bible teaches that we have all fallen short of the standard God has set (Romans 3:23). The question is, how will you react to your failure to be holy? You can beat yourself up and say that you’ll never be able to live up to God’s standard but, in truth, you are blaming God for your lack of effort. You can say that you have too many sins or you have messed your life up too much, but that is accusing God of having insufficient grace. However, God wants you to take two important steps.

First, be reconciled to Him through His Son. We must believe what the gospel says about Jesus and confess Him as God’s Son (Romans 10:9-15). We must also turn away from a life that is dedicated to honoring self instead of God and the sin that separates us from God (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19). We must also submit to baptism, immersion in water, which is a burial and resurrection with Christ, so that our sins may be cleansed (Romans 6:1-14). Note that it is not the actions themselves that save us but obeying the will of God that commands these things. When we sin after we are baptized, we can repent and pray to God to forgive us (1 John 2:1-5).

Second, as a child of God you have the duty and privilege to bring others to God to receive the forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy that you received. The reaction of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a great example of one who lived an unrighteous life but used the testimony of her past (“Come see a man who told me all things I ever did”) to bring others to Jesus. If you have overcome a type of sin or habit you are in a better position to help others overcome that sin or habit better than someone who has no experience with it. We should not indulge in sin so we can help others–we must strive for holiness–but when we do fall, we should use our failures to help others succeed. God can help us use our defeats to bring victory in our life and the lives of others.

Do not let yourself be defined by failures of your past. What has been done cannot be changed, only forgiven. But yesterday’s actions do not demand the same actions today. When we give up because of past sins, we allow history to steal the present and hinder the opportunity for a brighter future. When we give our sins to God, make the choice to reject sin, and strive for holiness we will become more like Jesus and less like what we were. Jesus can clean up a polluted life, fix what is damaged, and create a wonderful child who lives a satisfying life and makes a positive imact on the lives of others.

Why Attend A Funeral?

As a teenager, I’m sure the thought of going to a funeral is pretty low on your “want to do” list. In fact, you may be repulsed by the idea of seeing someone who has died or feel awkward. Inevitably, you will have to attend a funeral and, as you mature, you will resist the idea of attending a service less as you see more value in attending. Let’s investigate why you should attend a funeral and address your anxieties.

Why should you attend?

The most important thing to remember is that the funeral is as much about the living as the deceased person. The funeral service provides a way for family and friends to say farewell to a dear loved one. It is also the time when friends of the bereaved (those who lost the loved one) can show their support for them. Attending a funeral shows the bereaved that they and/or their loved one meant something to others.

From a spiritual perspective, attending a funeral has a way of refocusing our attention on what is really important in life. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” (ESV) We all like to have fun with our friends at a covered dish dinner or other party laughing, playing games, and talking. It lightens our heart but a heart that never considers the seriousness of life will become shallow and empty. Attending a funeral (the house of mourning) allows one to contemplate their own death and whether they are prepared to meet God (Romans 2:6-11; 14:10). Also, when we hear the testimony of a life well lived we can learn characteristics to apply to our own lives

What should I do? How should I act?

Many people are apprehensive about seeing the deceased person’s body. You do not have to do this if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you feel you should but are uncomfortable, go to the casket with someone and spend as much or little time as you wish. Remember that death is not an unusual occurance but is a natural part of life.

You may feel that you don’t know what to say to the bereaved. A simple handshake or a hug means a lot–your presence conveys your concern and sympathy. There are no magic words that will relieve the person’s grief so avoid phrases like “It’s God’s will (or God took him/her),” “It is better this way,” or similar phrases. Instead, if the person meant something special in your life, gave you a particular piece of good advice, or was kind to you, share that with the bereaved. They want to hear how their loved one touched the lives of others.

During the service make sure that your phone is off or silent and NO TEXTING. Do not joke with your friends as it will be considered disrespectful to the deceased and the other mourners. Remember the passage from Ecclesiastes: listen to what is said and meditate on your life.

It is acceptable to attend the service but not the graveside service. Also, if you cannot attend the funeral, there is often a viewing where you can visit with the bereaved the night before the funeral. This is another opportunity to demonstrate love, kindness, and sympathy if your schedule prevents you from attending the funeral.

What a blessing it is to show love and compassion to those who are going through a most difficult time.

God’s Comfort

A favorite song of mine has the verse, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds the future and I know who holds my hand.” There many things that seem frightening in this world: war, this sickness called Swine Flu that is going around, maybe your parents or others are worried more about money and paying the bills. There are many things that a person can worry about but we don’t need to be so sad. You see, God is still in control of everything. Sometimes we have to go through tough times in order to be stronger. Sometimes we need to go without things to realize how much God has blessed us. Sometimes bad things happen because of poor choices that others have made and we suffer some also.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 6, not to be anxious for our food, clothes, or place to live because God will take care of us. It may not be the richest but God will care for us. Daniel teaches us that God rules in the kingdoms of men and that the things that are happening are fulfilling His purpose. Paul teaches us that all things work together for good for those who love Him. Pray to God and tell him about your worries and ask for His help and to help you to understand His will. Then take comfort that God is taking care of you and will make things work together for good. If we are blessed with tomorrow, God will be still be there and still be in control. Hold His hand and you will not need to worry about what tomorrow will bring.

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