People will not care to meet even a great physician if they do not realize they are in need. That is what we learned yesterday. Keeping in that theme today, I want us to consider further the true condition of human beings that are not saved.
This excerpt from the book, The Screwtape Letters, captures a conversation between a demon in training (Wormwood) and his boss (Screwtape). Screwtape says,
"How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a pastor lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition."
Read: Hebrews 2:14-18, 1 Corinthians 15:50-55
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
1 Corinthians 15
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
I have spent many hours at the bedside of men and women crossing the "great divide" into eternity. Some are racked with fear, some are calm. I have not yet had any of them see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Not many of us get as much exposure to death as they did just 100 years ago. Back then, people died at home surrounded by family, horses with broken legs were shot, animals were slaughtered for food, people died younger, infant mortality was higher.
Today, people die in hospice care or in the hospital, we spend excessive amounts of money to keep animals alive, we buy our food at the store, people live longer and infants usually make it. We have almost all but removed death from our reality.
In the Lewis quote above, head-demon Screwtape seeks to remind Wormwood that keeping people deluded and unfocused on their true, dying condition is a good thing.
Hebrews says this is exactly Satan's plan. He seeks to keep people locked up by their fear of dying.
Jesus died to free human beings of this fear. He faced the worst hell and Satan could throw at Him and came through the other side. He faced our fear and took our death and then returned from the dead to show us the path. So, believers sing with Paul, "Death has been swallowed up in victory ... where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
How comforting would it be to be pursued by a bee that you knew had no stinger? Doesn't that stinger drive your behavior? Doesn't it make you run away from your root beer when the bee shows up? Why? Fear of pain. But what if the bee had no stinger? Doesn't that change things?
Jesus took the stinger out of death. Death is swallowed up in victory. We do not need to live in fear.
We need to tell our friends and family about their true condition and show them how to live in freedom today.
What is the true condition of our friends without Christ? Fearful. Moving toward an eternity separated from God. Dying without hope.
What is the true condition of our hospice care and hospitals? Comforting the dying. Making their end as peaceful as possible.
What is the desire of Screwtape and those of his tribe? To make sure the dying are comfortable and not thoughtful.
What do we do about this? Tell our living friends about their true condition. Speak to their fear of death. Show them Jesus the death killer. Just like the "king that has no clothes" we can tell of the bee that has no stinger.
Have you trusted Jesus with your life and death? Is your life marked by a extraordinary thankfulness for what Jesus accomplished for you?
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