Fred, second from our right, at a birthday party (1962).
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).”
Fred was 63 years old. Pancreatic cancer took a visible toll and took him fast. As sad as the last two weeks have been, today is also pretty exciting because Fred surrendered to Jesus Christ many years ago. Today, right now, Fred is with the “firstborn from the dead,” eyeball to eyeball with Jesus of Nazareth. Wow!
Fred and me (in the saddle) at our Detroit home in 1966
I’m very sad and miss him, but if the resurrection is true (and I’ve bet my life on it as a fact) then this is also a celebration! A weird rollercoaster of emotions, I know, but either Jesus did rise from the dead and we have a whole new world to enjoy with Him forever with our redeemed loved ones, or as Paul said, “we are of all men most to be pitied.”
When death comes, religious mumbo jumbo is the most worthless and empty thing imaginable, trying to be good with man-made traditions. That’s religion, but I’m talking about an empty tomb in Jerusalem. It’s about the man Who came back to life, God-in-the-flesh, rescuing us!
Watching the visible cancer slowly destroy Fred’s mortal tent reminded me of the invisible cancer we all share (sin). We are all dead spiritually because of sin, and in the process of dying physically too (Ephesians 2:1). A hereditary cancer passed down from Adam. Paul said in Romans, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
The Three Amigos (me, our older brother Joe, and Fred) in 2015
Thankfully, Jesus proved that His death satisfied God’s requirement to solve the sin and death problem when He rose from the dead and killed death. If you are “in Christ” then your grave can be just as empty. How can you be sure and excited about your death, absolutely, 100 percent sure death has no sting for you? The answer is above, in 2 Corinthians 5:5.
God offers a “down payment” to guarantee He will follow through on His commitment to save you from your spiritual cancer. His pledge––a thing that is given as security for the fulfillment of a contract or the payment of a debt––or “earnest money” as we say in a business transaction, is the Holy Spirit Himself.
His deal to you is this…give up. Stop trying to be good enough. A corpse can’t do anything, and spiritually you are a corpse. Let Him take charge of you, body and soul, and invite His Spirit into your body to be in command. It’s simple. Repent and believe.
Paul summed it up in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
You can be absolutely certain your death is dead too, if the Holy Spirit is inside of your body because you asked Him to come in on His terms…total surrender (“not your own”). You are not a Christian if He is not inside of you right now.
A week to live with Lilly, the latest addition to our family
Fred didn’t live a perfect life, but he had the Pledge inside of his earthly tent. God guarantees this transaction with a down payment of Himself. An empty grave in Jerusalem is darn good collateral that God will complete His deal with you. Without Him, you are spiritually naked and in grave danger.
Jesus, the Living Water, is our only hope to defeat death. As Jeremiah prophesied about Him, thousands of years before His death and resurrection, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord (Jeremiah 17:13).”