April 17, 2005 ~ Winbourne Park Long Term Care Centre


(Placing a lily bulb on the podium I began) When we plant a lily we do not plant that which we hope to reap but something quite different. What is planted dies so that what will be harvested will grow. The lily bulb you see here is nothing like the plant that will grow from it. The bulb is unimpressive and appreciated only by one who is aware of its potential. (Placing a lily on the podium I continued) The lily, however, is completely different from the seed from which it grows and is a thing of beauty and pleasure. The bulb that was planted has died so that the lily could grow. The two bodies are completely different yet related. Each has its own splendour: Paul uses this same illustration to show the difference between the earthly bodies we now possess and the eternal bodies we will be given after death:


1 Corinthians 15:35-49 - But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. 50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.


This earthly body can no more enter heaven than can the heavenly body endure on earth. Each is meant for a different environment: Our perishable earthly body is made for this perishable creation and our imperishable heavenly body is made for the coming eternal kingdom. There is an infinite difference between what is and what will be and the only way to get from one to the other is through death. In his letter to Titus Paul explains that we have been saved so that death is no more than the exchange of one form of life for an other. He goes on to explain that this is not because of anything we have done. He establishes a contrast between our state prior to our salvation and our state following our salvation and makes his point very strongly that this is due entirely to the mercy of God. We were repulsive to Him, living as we were in malice and envy and hating each other. We were as alien from what God intended us to be as the lily is from its seed. In order to change from the bulb we were in our sin to the lily we are in our salvation God had to personally step in and save us.


Titus 3:1-7 - Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.


When we have been saved from our sins through faith in Jesus there is an other change that takes place: We have been changed from who we were in our sins and have become who we are in Jesus. Paul refers to those in Christ as a  "new creation," distinct from what we were although inhabiting the same body and world. We have been reconciled to God through Christ and are no longer strangers to Him but family. Like the lily bulb we have passed through death into life and are no more anything like what we once were but are a thing of beauty where once we were ugly and repulsive.


2 Corinthians 5:16-21 - Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


The beauty of the Gospel is that its power does not depend on who we are but on who God is. It does not matter what kind of life we have lived or are living, if we put our faith in Jesus Christ to save us that old life dies as surely as the lily bulb and a new life begins as surely as the lily grows. And we have from this an assurance that come the death of this body it will die as surely as the lily bulb and our new and glorious body will live in eternity as surely as the lily grows. The difference between who you were and who you are (or can be) is Jesus alone. Trust Him and be a new creation.