Thursday, June 09, 2016

Parish Magazine Item for July

It’s been excellent to see the installation of a number of publicly accessible defibrillators locally recently (in Bodle Street Green, Dallington, Rushlake Green, Cade Street and Broad Oak). Funds are currently being raised to place a cabinet in Warbleton. Although Rushlake Green and Punnetts Town might not seem very far away, I’m told that every moment counts towards the chances of someone who has had a cardiac arrest making a good recovery. Although training in how to use the machines is available, they talk you through what to do, so anyone should be able to operate them. They can also only be used if they detect that they are needed.  

In a way, we might say that the church’s primary mission has always been healthcare – but above all of a spiritual not a physical variety. Historically the church has often been at the forefront of caring for the literally sick and dying, for example, by founding hospitals or through nursing orders. But the Bible makes clear the priority of the soul over the body. Of course our physical existence matters greatly, but our spiritual life, which lasts for ever, is even more important.

Jesus implied that he is like a doctor who has come for the sick (Mark 2:17) – that is, for those who know their need of him and who are ready to admit that they are sinners. If we think we are spiritually healthy left to ourselves, Jesus will seem irrelevant to us, we will struggle to see the need of the cross. The incarnation was a rescue mission. Jesus would say that our situation is critical: we need emergency care and it is radical intervention, not a mere sticking plaster or a cosmetic treatment that he has in mind. All of us are spirit-sick sinners in need of the cure which Jesus offers. Without him, our prognosis is fatal because, the Bible says, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Christian diagnosis, then, is that we are not just spiritually a little off colour. According to the Scriptures, we all have a terminal heart condition. We are, to put it frankly, as the Apostle Paul does, spiritually dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). And it is no good telling a dead person to get a life! A dead person is, on their own, hopeless and helpless. We need someone to make them alive again. A resuscitation, or more accurately, a resurrection, is needed if we are to live.

This new spiritual life is exactly what Jesus offers. Sometimes people are dismissive of so-called “born again Christians” but the phrase comes directly from the teaching of Jesus. He told the eminent Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, that he “must be born again” if he was to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Bible teaches this new birth or regeneration elsewhere (1 Peter 1:3 & Titus 3:5). Even if we find the language unfamiliar, we must not miss the point that Jesus says that we each require radical inner transformation. The Spirit of God must breathe new life into our souls. All real Christians are born again Christians, though their conversion experience may not be a dramatic one.

According to the logic of the Scriptures, we can be confident that Jesus can give the new spiritual life which we need. In his earthly ministry, he literally raised the dead. He called himself “The Resurrection and The Life” (John 11:25) and his own rising from the dead showed his mastery over the grave. The risen Jesus would say, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades [that is, the place of the dead].” (Revelation 1:18). It is by faith in Jesus that he said we can pass over from death to life (John 5:24). This new eternal life is a spiritual reality in part now for those who trust in Jesus, but the eternal life which Jesus gives will also go on beyond death. This life is first spiritual, but it leads, at judgement day, to the resurrection and transformation of the body too.  

Perhaps when we see the defibrillators in our villages, we might think of the new life which Jesus offers.

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