Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Death Swallowed Up In Victory

“We had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, BUT IN GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD” (2 Corinthians 1:9 NASB).

“They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming IN JESUS THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD” (Acts 4:2 NIV).

It is not just “God,” BUT “God who raises the dead” that overcomes sentences of death.  “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered’” (Romans 8:36 NIV).  But this is only one half of a mighty reality.  Surrounding and giving contextual integrity to the idea of death by slaughter, are these words: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35 & 37 NIV).

Sandwiched in between the deadly litany of things that might separate us from the love of Christ, viz. “trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,” and the incredible and even miraculous concept of being “more than conquerors” merely because He loved us, is this realty of facing death daily and ultimately being slaughtered for Jesus’ sake.  BUT... BUT... “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 KJV).

Indeed, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11 NIV).  Herein is an immutable principle for any and all who dare to genuinely minister resurrection power.  Death in me/life in you.  Or as Paul put it:  “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). 

The narrow gate is Jesus Christ (which leaves no room for self or sin), and wide and everlasting power opens up only to those who go in and out thereby (experiencing death to self and life anew in Him).  Indeed, Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9 NIV).  Resurrection power is life from the dead and only realized through this portal or gate.  It is power plugged into eternity; it therefore never wanes or dies.  “For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death]” (1 Corinthians 15:53 AMP). 
I am reminded of what God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them’” (Ezekiel 37:11-12 NIV).  Are you dried up?  Is all your vigor gone?  Are you hopeless?  As the prophet Jeremiah once said, “My strength has perished and so has my hope and expectation from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:18 AMP).  We are meant to come to the end of ourselves and all of our schemes and natural strength.  But the devil isn’t doing it; God is!  Then, after some whining and perhaps a pity party, we are supposed to come to our senses just as Jeremiah did when a mere three verses later he goes on to say, “BUT this I call to mind, therefore I have hope.  It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great and beyond measure is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 AMP).

Death cannot consume us because God’s compassion fails not!  But the death process is the road to unstoppable power, and we’d do well to realize God’s ways.  Eventually, “This perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, ‘DEATH is SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY (vanquished forever)’” (1 Corinthians 15:54 AMP).  In the meantime, insofar as we allow the process its unimpeded way, we will walk in resurrection power here and now.  Death to self is resurrection power to others; all true ministry is birthed here.  The lack of power in the church today directly correlates to the lack of death to the selves commissioned to release this power.  Until the elders lay down their lives there remains no converting or resurrection power.  Christ only rises like a phoenix from the ashes of those dead to this world and all its charms.