Monday, April 16, 2012

Dead is dead

They had been travelling with Jesus for a while and it had been a pretty grim trip. News had reached them that Lazarus, a man beloved by the Master, had died. They had travelled for days and when they arrived Jesus was so distraught by the sadness He found that their Master wept. Jesus wept!

When they arrived at the place where Lazarus was buried, He stopped just short of tomb and said “Take away the stone” and the men rolled it away leaving the tomb entrance open. The crowd was buzzing. What is He going to do? The stories of the miracles that accompanied this man were legion. Now what is He going to do? This man is dead four days and here is this prophet saying all sorts of peculiar things and now he has opened up the tomb. The anticipation was at a fever pitch but Jesus stood still and silent.

After half an hour of silence had passed, the people were starting to get antsy. He was just standing there. “Uh Jesus? I don’t mean to speak out of turn here but what is going on?” asked Peter, who could always be counted on to ask the obvious question. The Lord turned to him and gave him “the look”, that mix of pity and annoyance that was reserved for Peter. “Peter, I am waiting for Lazarus to make a decision to come out of the tomb.”

Peter looked more confused than normal. “But Lord, he is dead”

Jesus replied, “I know he is dead and I can restore him to life but I need him to come to Me before I can do anything”

Well Peter wasn’t the sharpest sheep in the pasture but that didn’t make much sense to him. “Lord, he is dead, how is a dead guy going to come out of the tomb?” Now Jesus was getting perturbed. “Peter, free will is the most important gift I have given mankind. I can’t make Lazarus come to life, he has to decide on his own and if he does I will be right here waiting for him.” At this Jesus turned back to the tomb and resumed his vigil.

Peter wasn’t necessarily a smart man but he was no dummy so he sat down. It looked like this was going to be a long wait and there was no point in standing.

Of course this is not at all how this event played out. In reality Jesus called Lazarus, a man as dead as a proverbial doornail for days, out of the tomb and out he came at the voice of the Lord. Praise Him! He makes the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the dead rise. I don’t know of any follower of Christ that would deny these truths from the Bible. We read and believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead just as He Himself rose from the dead. Jesus is Lord and He is sovereign over all creation, both as Creator of all things and Sustainer of all things (Heb 1: 3). The resurrection of the dead man Lazarus was a miracle of sovereign grace. But what about those who are alive in the body but dead spiritually?

This raises an important question. What does the Bible say of those who are outside of Christ, those not yet born again? They are described as spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-2), as dead in spirit as Lazarus was in body. It simply makes no sense that someone who is spiritually dead can execrcise “free will” anymore than someone who is physically dead can simply sit up in a coffin or get up and walk from a tomb. There is only one example of a dead man rising again without external help and His name is Jesus and even He was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit...

It seems so odd to me that we pray and speak all the time about Jesus being Lord of all, from Aunt Mabel's bum knee to the outcome of a football game to more serious isues within the church but when it comes to the most important question, the one that makes all the difference in eternity and the one question where man is least able, in fact completely unable in his unregenerate state, to obey Christ is the one issue where we try to push God aside and tell Him "Back off, we got this". We figure that spiritually dead men just spring to life for some reason while other spiritualy dead men don't even when the Gospel they hear is the same. We don't pray for sick children to heal themselves but we somehow expect dead men to regenerate themselves.

Honestly I am daily more baffled by this notion of the free and unrestrained will of unregenerate spiritually dead men that is an unquestioned article of faith in so much of the church. I am eternally grateful that God did not leave my election up to my "free will". I make bad choices in what I eat and how I spend my free time, why in the world would I want to have free will when it comes to something like eternity?
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

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