Sunday

Life and Death - From Desert to Green Pastures

What picture does the word desert evoke in your mind? I see a wide expanse of dryness and barrenness; and if I were lost in it without food and water, I would surely perish. But if I lived among green pastures, there would be plenty of food and water to sustain me.

Have you ever wondered how God sees this world? When I asked this question in Scripture classes, the children usually answered, ‘He sees good people and bad people.’ While the words good and bad might need some defining, it is true that God sees what people do. But more importantly, He sees what they are and who they belong to. God also sees two types of people, but what He sees may surprise you: God sees those who are born physically but are dead spiritually and reside in Satan’s domain, and those who are born again spiritually by the Spirit of God and are alive and in God’s kingdom forevermore.

Let’s imagine we are watching a world that is divided into these two kingdoms: Satan’s kingdom to the left – a huge expanse of desert – and God’s kingdom to the right – a land of life and green pastures. As we watch these two kingdoms, we notice that for some odd reason all infants are born into the desert kingdom. This kingdom is crowded, and people live on foods that sustain them only for a short time. They seem content with chasing one mirage after another and are totally unaware of their king who hates them, is deceitful and wicked, and seeks their ultimate destruction. Besides, they have a huge problem and don’t even know it: they are spiritually dead and separated from the wonderful Being that created them.

When we watch these two kingdoms, we see an insurmountable dividing wall between them, with only one door in this wall and only one way leading through it. Once in a while we notice a person moving through that door from Satan’s kingdom on the left to God’s kingdom on the right. We shift our gaze to God’s kingdom and notice that it has far fewer residents, and wonder why everyone rejoices over each new person that joins them. We think it strange that so few people enter this kingdom - after all, it offers abundant life, and the king is loving and just: he treats his people like his own children and gives them to eternal life in his presence.

As we keep watching, we also notice something shocking going on in the desert kingdom: when desert dwellers come to the end of their earthly existence, they are ordered to a dark and lonely place, full of never ending torment. Once there, they beg for someone to be allowed to go and warn their family and friends, to tell them to find the door to God’s kingdom - but it’s too late. They can only hope that their loved ones will listen to the message they themselves rejected.

Again, we shift our gaze to the green pastures of God’s kingdom, and here too people are leaving the earth. But these ones are triumphantly escorted to a place of great joy. They go to meet the person they have loved from the day they entered this kingdom. And as we move a little closer, we see that this person is the one that the Bible proclaims to be Lord and Saviour. This is Jesus Christ, who said of Himself: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

We are curious. Why do some people walk through that door and others don’t? As we investigate, we find that people who died in Satan’s domain went to a place of eternal doom because they had disregarded the good news of a Saviour found in the Bible. Yet there is no shortage of Bibles! We see them on dusty bookshelves, in drawers and underneath piles of old junk. In fact, there are Bibles everywhere, but no one takes any notice of them. We are told that they are old, boring books that are no longer relevant to modern society. And besides, who could possibly believe those strange, old tales?

Well, happily some people did and still do. They leave Satan’s kingdom and find eternal life in the neighbouring kingdom of God's grace. How do they do it? They believe the Bible, which teaches that Satan’s kingdom is full of sinners, and that sinners cannot enter the kingdom of God. They realise that there is no one who is righteous, not even one, and that all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10,23)– including themselves.

And so they follow Jesus, the Son of God, who said of Himself: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The Bible teaches that the reward for sin is death, but that the gift of God is eternal life. God demonstrated his love toward sinners in that His Son Jesus Christ died for them. They are purchased with His precious blood, so that anyone who believes in the Son has everlasting life. But those who don’t believe will not see life as God’s anger remains on them. (John 14:6; Romans 6:23; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 1:18,19; John 3:36)

We realise that those who crossed over had found the key! They had placed their faith in the Son of God, believing that His work on the cross was sufficient payment for their sins. They had realised that it was love that had compelled Him to die for them, because they could not save themselves. He had taken their punishment in order to set them free. He was able to offer this free gift of pardon, because He had paid for it with His own life.

As we ponder this marvellous love, we wonder why so few of the desert dwellers receive it. Wouldn’t it make sense to escape certain doom? It appears that these people are stubborn and proud, disregarding all warnings and thinking that they know better. Instead of being thankful that someone loved them enough to warn them, they dislike those who do. They even persecute them. Because they will not humble themselves before the almighty God, their pride and self-will leads to their own destruction. Our puzzle is solved. Now we know why and how some people found life in the pastures of the kingdom of God, and why others remained in the desert of death. Where do you find yourself?

(All Scripture from the NKJV)

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