What makes a person, a person? What is it that separates life from death?
The first and most important thing I can share with you is that Jesus defeated death. And he promised us that if we just believe in him, that He is the son of God, then we will also be defeaters of death. This is a most urgent message. What happens to you when you die? Have you ever seen someone who has passed away? It is immediately apparent! Everyone…even a family pet…knows right away when someone has died. The change in appearance is as immediate and unmistakable as plunging a well-lit room into darkness with a switch. We are made up of more than well-ordered cells and mitochondria, tissues and organs. Our bodies are like moving machines that carry our “essences” around. But they do not make up who we are individually. If the only thing of substance to us was physical, then an amputee would become a different person after the amputation. Of course that isn’t true; even atheists acknowledge that a person is made up of more than physical elements. The Bible tells us that this non-physical aspect to our personhood is our “spirit-man.”
Consider these verses:
8 But it is the spirit [b] in a man,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.
This is from the book of Job in the Old Testament and is thought to be the first Biblical book ever written. Here we learn that the spirit aspects of our human-ness is actually the breath of the Almighty! We see the breath of God again in Genesis chapter 2:
7 the LORD God formed the man [e] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
So according to these scriptures, it seems that the part about our bodies that makes us alive is the breath of God himself. There are many other references in the Bible to a man’s spirit. But the Creator doesn’t just breathe life into us and then ignore that life. Do you give birth to a child and then ignore him? Like a parent influences her child, God directly influences the spirits of men, even in those who are not believers:
From 1Chronicles 5:
26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria
God also knows what makes up the spirit of a man. He reads our thoughts.
From Psalm 32:
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
From Proverbs 20:
27 The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man [a] ;
it searches out his inmost being.
The Holy Spirit is given to those who believe that Christ is the Son of God. In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him. What was the word on the street concerning this man who healed lepers, gave the blind new sight, drove out evil spirits, turned water into wine, fed many thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish, and gave life back to a little girl who died of a fever and to a man three days dead? Who did the people think he was?
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am? 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ,[b] the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
Jesus speaks of a man’s spirit as being a soul that can be lost. The essential part of our humanness is lost when we die — unless — we are covered in a covenant with him.
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life[h] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
In John 11, Jesus tells a woman who he is:
25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
There it is, in black and white. “He who believes in me will live.” Will live!
My brother-in-law who has brain cancer recently had a very scary non-stop seizure. He is in ICU in a medically-induced coma. Our prayers are lifting up the family. I haven’t slept the last two nights; my thoughts and non-stop prayers keep turning 800 miles away. But there is encouraging news, and that is this: he believes! Christ is his savior.
And that means, whatever happens at this moment with flesh and blood and cells and mitochondria, he lives. Jesus promised:
26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I cling to this hope: the Christ who turns the impossible into the miraculous will work the glory of God into my brother-in-law’s life. I trust He who created him to bring him to perfection. Wholly healed. Holy.
“Oh God, all honor and praise and glory to you! Praise you for your promises! Praise you for salvation!”
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
And that is the word on my street.