In the above verses we find a significant spiritual truth involving salvation that is often overlooked or by-passed in our churches today. It involves the law of planting and sowing, and the law of death and resurrection. There are some natural events that prompted the giving of these verses that may not be directly related to the issue that I want to deal with here, but they do not detract from the truths I will set forth.
For example, in the first verse above from John 12, Jesus is dealing with His own physical death which is at hand. But the second verse shows that He is taking the opportunity to give a spiritual lesson to the disciples as a result of this. It deals with a man dying to himself in order to gain the life God has for him. In Romans, Paul uses the word 'mortify,' which means 'to put to death,' and he says that it produces life. In I Corinthians, Paul is dealing with planting, or burying, the physical body after a person dies, but it has a definite relationship to the natural man dying to self, being buried together with Christ, and resurrecting to a new life in Him. Yet there seems to be in the churches today an unwillingness to let a person die spiritually in order to get eternal life. They are preached to the brink of death, but then a misguided sense of concern and compassion towards them causes others to interfere and prevent them from dying. They are kept in a state which can only be described as neither dead nor alive. It is a kind of spiritual 'limbo.'
To make my point and allow the reader to see the truth of this, I will do like Jesus did, and give you a natural example that demonstrates the spiritual truth. It is not as when Jesus put forth a parable, but as when He said, "A certain man...," and proceeded to make application from it.
In this day and time we have reached a place in medicine, where doctors have at their disposal many different man-made mechanisms which aid a patient in breathing, circulating blood, maintaining a constant heart rate, and many other functions normally controlled by natural operation of the body. When a patient comes to these doctors and reaches a point where the body is no longer able to perform its required task, the doctors hook them up to one or more of the machines. Ibis is done, I am sure, for the most part out of a presumed sense of compassion for the patient. The doctors do not want the patient to die. It is also thought by the doctors that this is the patient's only hope. There is a confidence in the equipment. It has been supposedly proven by others to work and so it is accepted. It is what they are taught in medical school. The problem with this is, the patient is often no better than before, and is often-times actually worse. They are dependant upon those artificial means to keep them going. In the case of the most severe patients, they are often nothing more than vegetables, with no cognizant abilities. There is respiration, heart beat, normal body temperature, but little more, and even these are maintained for them. They cannot feed themselves, but must be force-fed through tubes. They cannot clean themselves, but must be constantly changed and washed by others. They are totally reliant on outside means to keep them going, and with no understanding that all of this is being done. Not only this, but it is a tremendous strain on their loved ones who cannot understand why all of this is taking place. Added to this is the extreme cost of the entire process. The situation has reached such proportions that questions are being raised about whether it is right or wrong to do this. Doctors can keep nearly any patient's body functioning, but does it really do the patient any good? Doctors today have lost touch with what life really is. It is more than mere bodily function. Real life is freedom; it is experiencing; it is growing; it is producing; it is contributing.
Let me be quick to say that I am not advocating terminating all those on life-support physically, nor am I making light of their condition. I am simply using a condition that exists, which I did not create nor can I control it. That is for those who operate in the medical field to deal with. I use it for analogy only. God offers life to all who will repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The physical realm is different than the spiritual. I am using this condition to show the spiritual because folk can grasp the physical easier. I said this in an earlier paragraph. Please don't think I have no care for those who are hooked to machines. Indeed, this is written out of a concern for those on life-support, but it is life-support of a different sort.
There is a spiritual parallel to this illustration which deals with salvation and modern practices of dealing with lost folks. When a person comes under conviction and turns to a preacher or other individual who is supposed to be able to help them, they are often placed on a spiritual life-support system. They are often given a plan, a program, a prayer, or a promise to claim that is meant to give them life. The lost person is seen as being in distress, and concern for them causes the individual trying to help them to do something for them. Many times the person is hooked up to one of these artificial means right away, because our institutions are teaching their students that this is the only way to do things. It is done without thinking; it is a natural reflex. Just as doctors have become more and more reliant on machines, so have Christian workers.
Just as in the case of a patient on life-support machines, the seeker who is given an artificial aid rather than true salvation will always be dependant upon that aid for assurance that they are alive. In the case of a patient who is hooked to a respirator, for example, one will look to the monitor to make sure that the air exchange is proper. You may see the chest rise and fill, but how do you know the flow is right? The body is no longer regulating the rate and flow, so the machine is the authority. In a so-called Christian who has been placed on a life-support mechanism, one may see the activity and involvement, but since it is not a natural response, they must always look to the means whereby they got life for their assurance.
In earlier times, Christian workers understood that the spiritual realm works differently than the natural, though as we have said, we can learn spiritual truths from the natural if we have discernment. A lost person's only hope for eternal life is to actually die spiritually. Then God can resurrect that individual. Doctors know that if a person is physically dead, they cannot be brought back to life. There may be a cessation of bodily function, but the brain must be alive for the doctors to do anything. Even CPR courses will teach one that if an individual's brain has ceased to function, they cannot be revived. But God works on brain-dead folk! Salvation is beyond reasoning in the natural sense. A person must quit trying to hold on to their human logic, cease from all self-effort, and become totally reliant on a miracle of God to revive them. Preachers and workers today have no confidence that God can do this, or else they don't believe that this is how a person gets saved. They say they do, but they operate so much in the physical and fleshly realms that it is obvious they don't really believe it. If they really believed it, they would not allow folks access to the fleshly machinery.
Another problem with the person who has been put on some means of spiritual life-support, is that they will have to be constantly cared for by others. They have no spiritual discernment, or awareness in these matters. They will be a drain on the pastor and the church members for as long as they are around. There can be no growth, rather there will be an actual deterioration of that which was there at the beginning. This is why many who make a profession, but who are not saved, have an apparent zeal at the beginning, yet fall away as time goes on. Just as in the case of a sick person who is put on life-support, the machine makes them feel better at first, but after a while the gain is surpassed by the deterioration of the patient's body; and the advance-ment of the ailment. You have likely seen a person who has been bed-ridden for a long time; they are wasted away. Just so, in the false convert there is a rush at first, but their strength to operate in the flesh wanes as their lost condition advances. They will either quit church entirely, or settle into a weak, feeble, sickly existence, anxiously looking to the life-support system for assurance that they are actually alive. Or, just like a patient on life-support, they will require more and more aids to be hooked up. The false convert will often try to plug into the aids of work and activity to sustain life, and turn it up higher and higher, but it will be of little or no help.
Then, too, if someone approaches the life-support machine, the patient in the hospital may become anxious. 'What are you doing?' 'Is there something wrong with the machine?' 'Are you going to turn it off?' 'Who do you think you are?' 'Keep your hands off that!' You can see why there is such resistance to those of us who preach the way we do. We tamper with the spiritual life-support machinery. For those who depend upon the aids for their supposed life, the machines become the central focus of their existence. The machines must be maintained, protected, and plugged in. They even go through periodic upgrades and updating! Modern methods are ever changing to provide for the convenience and comfort of the spiritual 'patient.' Old practices fall into obscurity, and if they are revived, they are seen as new ideas. Some will accuse me of confusing folk, but I say "Let's turn off the machines and see who can breathe on their own." There is only confusion as long as the machine is being used. We have all read of instances where the doctors resisted attempts of family members to have the machines hooked to their loved ones turned off. "They will not be able to function," they are told. But when the machines were unplugged, the patient was able to maintain on their own. The machine was actually what was causing the confusion. If we turn off the spiritual life-supports, a person who is not dependent on the machinery will not be harmed, and those who are dependent need to die anyhow, if they hope to get real salvation and make heaven. It is the spiritual doctors who have allowed folks to depend on something other than a divine operation of God for life that are the problem. My proposed cure is not anew cure, it is the old fashioned gospel; it is the balm of Gilead; it is the Great Physician.
Let's return to preaching that says a person must have a time and place in their life when the Holy Ghost of God brings conviction to their heart through the preaching of the Word of God. And that this conviction produces godly sorrow leading to repentance toward God, and results in faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's again tell folks that this is all the result of God working in a person both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and results in a new creature, that is a new creation, in Christ. This is Bible! This is salvation worth having! - J. M. G.
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