Focus 2 (of 4)-Disrespecting Death

Focus 2 | Disrespecting Death

Unpopular opinion (or, truth, rather): Death is a bit of a joke.
Consider this ice breaker as you gather for the Spotlight.
What is the strangest thing you keep in your purse/wallet?
See what this Spotlight—and series—is focused on.
Tap on the words "Focus 2" in the image below to read this Spotlight's summary.
Let’s talk about joking about death.
Watch this video clip when you’re ready to begin today’s Spotlight.
(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
Submit the name of your favorite character who overcame death.
Answer this question, and submit below: Who is your favorite character from a movie or book or show that resists or overcomes death?

(After clicking the button below and submitting your answer, come back to this Spotlight page so you can keep Spotlighting—and so you can see the aggregated results from everyone’s answers below.)


Why do you suppose we are attracted to the idea of protagonists defeating death? Do you think it’s more…

A) because we are afraid of death, or

B) because that character gets to keep going after some goal?

Generally speaking, the answer is…

A) We’re afraid of death; therefore, we’re tremendously motivated by a hero who beats it.

(And, at the same time, we’re also tremendously frightened by a bad guy who can beat it.)

View the results from everyone’s favorite death-overcoming character answers below…
Welcome Perspective
Inescapable fear belongs to death
when you respect it the most.
Let’s kick off worship thinking about death threats. Ready? 
The Secret Service reports that presidents receive at least one death threat each month and that sometimes they receive as many as one a week. What is the goal of those threats? What are the ones doing the threatening trying to get the threatened to do?

Isn’t that a lot like the way the devil uses the threat of death on you?
Engage with and discuss how Jesus neutralizes threats.
Use the interactive presentation below to explore several episodes in which Jesus faced up to a real threat—one most humans would be worried about—with confidence and clarity in disarming it.

For each episode, discuss what threat Jesus faced and how he managed it.

Listen and sing along to this song.
Jesus, being God, wants to change your perspective on those things that would get in the way of you living the life that a relationship with him means you could live. One way he does this is by emptying what threatens you of power, so that you can live without fear. This song celebrates that powerfully.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Hebrews 2:14–15
Worship Perspective
Death’s threat is empty so call it what it is
and live triumphant.
Read and see how—unimaginable as it may seem—a person can forget death.
(Imagine having the confidence to sing to death, “I see you driving ‘round town with a girl I knew, and I’m like… forget you.”)

In the first Focus of this series, we looked at a section of 1 Corinthians 15 that included these words:

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:55

When he wrote the letter to the Corinthians and chose to include a major section on death and resurrection, Paul made these words a cornerstone. They’re actually a quote from the Old Testament, in a section the prophet Hosea recorded. God said this:

I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Hosea 13:14

When Hosea said this, he wasn’t prophesying so much about death and resurrection. He was talking about the idea of punishment—and of avoiding a punishment you deserve. A few verses earlier, he said this:

You are destroyed, Israel,
because you are against me, against your helper.
Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’?
So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away.

Hosea 13:9–11

(Those words are bad news, but a few verses later, you get the good news of verse 14.)

In this context, God is speaking through Hosea a message of freedom from death to those who should have incurred death as a punishment for their guilt. This is true for you. Because Jesus took the punishment you deserved when he died on the cross, you, too, will not receive the punishment you deserve. Therefore, the confident, redeemed, delivered mentality described in chapter 13 of Hosea can and should be yours.

You can act as though that which should incur death does not incur death. Taylor Swift might call this “fearless”—and it is fearless, because Jesus has deconstructed the fear of death.

To see how Jesus did this, you may have to remember 1 Corinthians 15, where these words of Hosea were quoted:

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55–57

Notice how the bolded words describe death’s threat. If you fear death, it’s because you fear sin. Why don’t you have to fear sin anymore? Because Jesus has paid for your sin—he has taken it away and destroyed it.

Paul goes further, though, not stopping just at sin. If you fear sin, it’s because you fear the Law. What is the law? The law is the set of rules that you’re supposed to conform to in order to earn anything good. Jesus didn’t just remove sin. Jesus also removed the Law—and has replaced it with something that is the complete opposite of the Law: the Gospel. 

(This is what the Gospel does to the Law…)

If the Law is a story of “gloriously performing so well you can win everyone’s approval,” the Gospel is the story of “loving, unconditional acceptance regardless of your performance.” The Law is, initially, tempting. Who doesn't want that glory? But in the end, trying to follow the law just leads you to realize how many ways you fail. Those failures are sins, and you can see how death follows.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:4–6

Forgetting the Law and pursuing the Gospel is an entirely different plane of existence, and it gives you permission to essentially forget death. The Gospel says that everything that gave death power (the Law and sin) is meaningless, and that goodness, life, and meaning come from unconditional acceptance based on nothing but love for the one you’re accepting. The Gospel says that you are unconditionally loved and accepted by Jesus, and without pressure, you can pursue unconditional love toward him and toward everyone around you. The Gospel says there is no risk of underperforming—you’re free to pursue this love without worry.

Use this quiz to identify some people from history who forgot about death.
The great thing that happens is that when you pursue this kind of love—when you’re focused on it and trying to find more and more of it, you will run out of time to think about death. You’ll act like you’ve forgotten death—like it isn’t a factor.

It actually happens pretty frequently throughout the Bible…
Watch this video to remember: forget death but don’t forget mortality.
Just so everything is clear…

Learn Perspective
Your fear empowers death
and so without your fear, it has no power.
Figure out how to construct a sympathetic word.
You’ll never know the exact words to say when someone near you is being affected by the death of a loved one, but you can get better and better at it—and it’s worth it to try.

In Romans 12:15, God encourages you to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” How can you do that, carefully and well?
Try it out yourself by practicing with this example…

You’ve been tasked to create an infographic giving people advice on how to speak compassionately to those who have lost a loved one. Your goal is to create a resource that will help anyone who wants to say or write the “right thing”—or at least get as close to the right thing as they can.

Using the infographic structure below, what would you include?

  • What groundwork would you lay in the introduction?
  • What “dos” would you suggest?
  • What “don’ts” would you avoid?
  • What closing thoughts should be included?

Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.
Serve Perspective
Give the triumph you have found to hearts being bullied
when death draws near.
Read, follow along, and pray together.
As God’s promises and Jesus’ victory shed new light on death, life, and eternity, you’ll also see yourself and the people around you differently. The Apostle Paul was one of the first great teachers after Jesus had gone into heaven, and he felt this change. There’s a remarkable section in a letter he wrote where he says words that are passionate, considerate, and worthy goals for all of us.

Use these words and follow this prayer guide as we to close out this Spotlight:

Read each line, (if you’re in a group, rotate the reader of each line by birth date—that’s month/day, not year) and give approximately 10 seconds for silent, personal prayer in between.

At the end, if anyone wants to verbally add prayerful thoughts inspired by this section, please feel free to do so.

Then, when it seems like everyone is done, the group leader will say “Amen.”

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

[silence for personal prayer]

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

[silence for personal prayer]

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.

[silence for personal prayer]

Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!

[silence for personal prayer]

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

[silence for personal prayer]

but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

[silence for personal prayer]

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

[silence for personal prayer]

so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

[space for additional prayer]

Listen to this song as we close today.
The hymn, Abide with Me, does a near-perfect job of equating death and sleep. As you listen, notice the way the hymn starts as an “it’s the end of the day, time to go” message and seamlessly transitions into “it’s the end of my life, time to go” message—and does it all so well with peace through faith.
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
When “to live is Christ and to die is gain”
the fears can just disappear.
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