The Gravestone
      In Christ, we are called to resurrection life,which is His life.  He calls it abundant life.  Simply put, it is the life He calls us to, that we were created for.  So, why is it that so few of us really know or possess it?  You think me wrong?  Why then do we have so many in the professing church who live in defeat, discouragement, and despair?  Why, when Jesus said that "He who is free in Me, is free indeed," do so many live a spiritual life that is decidedly NOT free?  I believe there are answers to this, but so many of us are not willing to ask the questions that will receive the right answers.
     John 11:38-44, addresses, I believe, a great deal of this.  It's a familiar passage to most who have been "in the church" for any length of time.  It's the story of Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead.  There is so much beautiful truth in this story, but there is one part of it in particular that I'd like to explore.  
     Jesus has come to the funeral a day late, as we count time.  Though He'd received word of the need, He chose instead to stay where He was and didn't come until the 4th day after Lazarus had died.  For the Jews, this meant that there was no hope at all of bringing Lazarus back to life. The 4th day of death marked the death as final.  Into this situation Jesus came, and into this situation Jesus spoke.  It is in the words He spoke as He stood before the tomb of Lazarus that hold the key, I believe, to the lack of abundant life, resurrection life, in His people and in His church.  It's a key that will open four locks.
     As He stands there, Jesus first tells them to "Remove the stone."  This would be the large stone that sealed the tomb and the body within.  The gravestone.  I think so many of us remain in our spiritual lives within the tomb, because we have never heeded His call to remove the gravestone before it.  This is not something the Lord will do for us, and that gravestone will consist of any and all things that keep us sealed in the grave of death.  Habits, attitudes, sinful patterns, disobedience, fear,insistence of a lifestyle of victimhood, the categories are endless.  What they have in common is that they are stones that keep us sealed in a life far beneath what He has called us to.  They can be stones of immense weight, but though He could with a word remove them Himself, He leaves that to us.  He will give us all the strength we need to do so, but in the end, we, not He, must remove that stone, willingly yielding it up to Him.  Our tomb, our grave, is now open.
    Next, we have to come face to face with the smell of death.  Lazarus' sisters did not want Him to have the tomb opened because the stench of death would be overwhelming.  For us, if we are to really enter into His life, we must come to grips, in total honesty and openness, with the smell of death in our lives.  A smell that is indeed a stench.  It is not a pleasant thing to have to face the truth about ourselves.  To have to face our own sins, failures, and destructive patterns.  The stone has served nicely to keep them covered.  Once it's gone, the stink of death is there, and the only solution is to give that stench to Him, in Whom lies healing and life.
    With all this done, Jesus now does the impossible.  He calls forth to life, a man that all present had considered past all life, all hope.  He does the same for you and I.  He is doing the same right now.  The gravestone, large as it may be, cannot stop Him.  The presence of death, no matter how strong its smell, doesn't deter Him, and the power of death, dissolves in the Presence of the One who by His words and life alone, has fully conquered it.  When He calls us forth, all the power of hell, death, and darkness cannot stand against Him.  All that can stand against Him is our own will, our own unwillingness to come forth.  He calls us forth.  Do we come?
   Last, as Lazarus, in his resurrection life, stands before them all, he is bound up in his graveclothes.  This is the spiritual state of so many.  We may have come forth to Him, but we remain bound up in the clothes of our graves.  The power of the grave has been conquered, but somehow we have been tricked into believing we must still wear our graveclothes, and so, we live in fear, despair, anxiety, and countless other "masters" that keep us in chains, in our graveclothes.  Christ simply says, "remove them."  This is an act of faith.  We must believe that His resurrection life is exactly what He says it is, that He has not only conquered death in some future way, but in the present as well.  The gravestone cannot hold us, the tomb itself cannot hold us, and the graveclothes the enemy has bound us in cannot hold us.  Will we believe this?  Will we, by His grace and power, remove our gravestone?  Will we by His grace and power, face the stench of death in our lives, no matter how painful that may be, and yield that to Him, and behold Him to make us a fragrance of His life?  Will we hear and obey His voice to come forth, and go forth in and with Him, with our graveclothes stripped away, by Him, captive only to Him, free?  Free to live as His.  Knowing now what it really is to be "free indeed."  We start at the gravestone.  Are you ready to start?

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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