The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The reality of the gospel triumph most profoundly focusses at death. Here is John Piper praying through the gospel triumph in the context of a young family destined for missionary service.
Archive for the ‘Death’ Category
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death (Rom. 7:11).
Here when the commandment says “do not steal / do not commit adultery”, yet our sinful nature says: “No!. It will be good and pleasing” (deceived me). And so by committing the crime gets us into the state of disobedience which ends us in death.
These are notes from my wife, May Lin, on this verse which I thought were worth sharing.
I was contacted recently by an acquaintance whom I have had little contact over recent times. He contacted me because he had a friend who was old and dying. This lady, who was a catholic apparently wanted to be “born again”. He asked if I could help? I said I was happy to do what I could. Accordingly, I made myself available. A date was set to go and see her, but it did not work out. It was not me who changed the arrangements. Soberingly two days later I get a message saying that the lady had passed away. She was gone.
I am left sobered by the experience. My conscience is clear, before the Lord, in that I made myself available and did not cancel any arrangement. But to just consider that she is now gone. I do not know if anyone introduced her to Christ as Saviour. I don’t know if she embraced the Lord. But I do know she is now out in eternity, the gospel opportunity days are passed. Is she with the Lord? I do not know. Oh LORD have mercy. And Lord teach me to seize every opportunity to make Christ known.
Death is the great leveller. Servants and masters, rich and poor, black and white; all are set to die. The principle of Scripture is this: people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb. 9:27). According to the thinking of the world death is the end. There is no capacity in the world’s thinking to think rationally and reasonably about death and what is beyond. With no ability to see anything outside and beyond this life, life becomes a meaningless thing. Solomon expresses it like this: I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me (Eccl. 2:18).
However, faith views things completely differently. Jacob in Genesis 47:27-48:22 knew that he was about to die. This is stated in 47:29 and 48:21. And yet after his chequered spiritual career as recorded in Genesis with all its mixture of faith and unbelief; scheming and honesty, misery and delight, he is now full of faith. This is confirmed in the Hebrews 11 that chapter of the heroes of faith, it is this part of Jacob’s life, that is when he is dying, which calls attention to his faith (see Heb. 11:21).
There is now no misery with Jacob. He is not morbidly looking back over lost opportunities and wasted efforts. Rather he is a man looking forward. This is what faith does. Faith looks forward, faith is optimistic. Faith can act this way because God is in the future; He is alive and He is working for the glory of His Name and our benefit. Faith is the most reasonable and sensible response to any crisis in our lives. Let us look, then, at some of the reflections of faith in Jacob.
Faith wants to be connected with God’s place.
The land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham’s descendants by God (see Gen. 15:18). Jacob had hesitated to leave the land until God convinced him in a dream that this was right (see Gen. 46:1-4). But now Jacob was going to make sure that in death his connection was firmly re-established with Canaan and so he asked Joseph to bury him there with his fathers (see Gen. 47:29-30). By application we challenge ourselves as regards to where we desire to be. Do we long to know of our connection with the world or with the church? God’s place on earth today is found wherever His people meet together as “church”. This can be in a building, under a shelter or out in the open.
Jacob got the outcome he wanted. He wanted Joseph to take his remains to Canaan and that is what Joseph promised to do. The worldly way is to say that he was fortunate or lucky to get this commitment out of Joseph. However, faith sees things differently; it appreciates that God is working in this situation. Accordingly, Jacob responds by worshipping the God who is good. Heb. 11:21b records how at this time Jacob worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Faith appreciates God’s goodness.
The difference between the Christian and non-Christian is very often seen most demonstrably in old age. The non-Christian is inclined towards bitterness. They look back on a life soon gone. Moreover, reduced energy levels and accompanying weakness gives the sense of not being able to enjoy life.
However, the believer has the great privilege of looking back and seeing how good God has been. Accordingly we read of Jacob that he says to Joseph “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me ( Gen. 48:3). Further he says to him in verse 11 “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” And finally we read of the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day. Are you a believer? Is our faith demonstrated by our inclination to speak of God’s goodness towards us?
Faith looks to the next generation.
The believer appreciates that the ongoing mission of the Kingdom of God does not terminate upon their decease. Genesis 48:4 indicates how the LORD had said to Jacob back at Luz that ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ Now with Manasseh and Ephraim in front of him he can see how this will have fulfilment. And he asks God to bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth (Gen. 48:16b).
What of ourselves! Are we focused upon the ongoing mission of God in this world? Or are we just thinking about our personal lot. Regardless of our personal circumstances, let us be fixing our vision of God building His church
Jacob then died in faith. Let us pray that should we be called to pass through death that we would emulate Jacob in having strong faith. But, we need to be reminded that in all circumstances we need to be strong in faith. In doing so we can be numbered among those who through faith see God and therefore have optimism in our hearts.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of February 2010)
A dear brother in Christ at church was speaking to me recently about two good places to visit. The places are good because they enable us to get a right perspective on life. The places are “the dump” and “the graveyard.”
The dump is useful because it teaches us where all our stuff ends up. The graveyard is useful because it teaches us where we end up.
The question then arises what will we do with this information? For the unbeliever who is living for this world they are left in a terrible predicament. The people of this world who are living for that which is of time and sense cope with this with either living in denial or delusion.
Denial comes when they just reject the information presented to them and get on with living. Such living assumes that the more stuff I have the happier I will be and I will be here indefinitely to enjoy it.
Delusion comes when the person convinces themselves that for them, it will not turn out bad. Their doing well in this world will lead to them doing well beyond this world. They have no grounds for such a conclusion, but that is still the position they come to.
For the Believer in Christ. We are reminded:
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21.)
people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement (Heb. 9:27)
we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10)
Any stuff that we have should be used for the Lord’s glory. We are not in this world “for ever”.
So make a point of visiting the dump and the graveyard and do some pondering. It should change your life for good.
“They had a good innings” is sometimes said concerning someone who dies in old age. The meaning is that the person who has had a long life on this earth has had all they could expect. On the other hand we reason that if someone dies young then they have had life snatched away from them and it is a tragedy. But all death is a tragedy. In fact all death is an outrage amidst God’s proper order of life and righteousness.
Let us trace this matter through by looking at the beginning and the end. In the beginning God created everything full of life. So at the end of God’s creative act it could be declared that “God saw all that He had made and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). As we move into Genesis 2 we see that everything provided for mankind in the Garden of Eden was full of life. The garden was beautiful and full of food (see Gen. 2:9).
However into this idyllic environment an intruder soon appeared. Adam was given a command and a warning. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam rebelled against this command “and the rest is history”. Paul sums up the disaster “therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom 5:12). God’s desire for man is life. Yet since Eden, and the occurrence of man’s rebellion, death has reigned.
So that was the beginning, but what of the end? In Rev 21: 4, as the circumstances of the new heaven and new earth are being described, we read He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. In the everlasting new heaven and new earth there is no death because as Peter says it is a realm where righteousness dwells (see 2 Pet. 3:13).
When we start to see things in this perspective we begin to see how alien death is to God’s design for mankind. Adam and Eve were placed here to enjoy life and blessing in righteousness for evermore to the glory of God. But sin came in and death followed on to ruin it all. So every death, in a sense, is an outrage. The death of a one-hundred year old man is just as much a tragedy as that of someone in their twenties from an alcohol-induced car accident. This can be said because life eternal is what man was designed for. Death which flowed from sin wrecked this. This is an outrage and so we should hate all sin and all death.
The problem we have is the tendency to be earth-based and man-centered in our thinking. So we think that our lives start at birth and, as the psalmist says, Our days may come to seventy ears or eighty, if our strength endures (Psalm 90:10). If someone gets only 15 or 25 years we think they have been short-changed. But, if we remember God’s original intention, we should see that our outrage should not be at the death of “someone so young”, but at the death of anyone at all.
Which leads us on to ask “what of the unborn?” What about their death? Or some would ask is it death at all? Common thinking in society is that until birth a baby in the womb is only something resembling a meaningless group of cells. But, this is wrong! Life begins with conception. David spoke of the start of his existence being when he was conceived (see Psalm 51:5). When the seed of the man and the seed of the woman fertilise; there is human life. It is from that point that we have the existence of a child. So we should remember that abortion, mis-carriage and still-birth are all deaths. It is the taking/losing of life. This is crucial to us properly understanding issues in the “Abortion debate”. We have no right to take away any baby’s life whether that be pre-birth or post-birth. To take away the life of the unborn is to participate in an outrage against God.
Death therefore is a terrible impostor. It should not be around, but because of sin it is very much around. However, the great news is that through Jesus Christ the tyranny of death is brought to an end. Paul said to Timothy that Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10b). And that gospel is that Jesus died for our sins was buried and is risen (see 1 Cor 15:3-4). For those who believe this message and trust in the LORD Jesus, who is the heart of the message, there is life and immortality. That takes us back to where we started. God’s intention for mankind His special beings to live with Him forever.
We, therefore can assert that, for the Christian, death ultimately has been robbed of all its power. Christians can look at death and say with Paul; thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe. It became our possession at that moment in time when we were born again and had faith in Jesus as our Saviour and LORD. In the light of this, if the Christian falls asleep (the beautiful biblical term for the Christian who dies) at 15 or 95 the difference is of no consequence. This can be said because of the great fact that we will be forever with the LORD. What is eighty years in comparison to forever!
So to conclude, death is a villain which has trespassed on God’s beautiful creation. But death has been defeated in Christ and in Christ alone. Let us all make sure we are Christians so that we can know the triumph over death and life forevermore.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of April 2008)
Jerry Haglund was a deacon at Feltham Evangelical Church. he died eight years ago today. This is what he wanted read at his funeral and indeed was read at his funeral.
Some funerals are less sad than others! You may think that this is a strange statement to make, so let me explain what I mean.
Christians believe the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (as God incarnate) when He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Again, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:15 and “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
I believe that in June 1952, when I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, I received the gift of eternal life. Further, I believe that at the moment that I died I went into the presence of God. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, when he was writing to the Christians at Philippi said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Therefore my funeral is less sad for those present here today who are Christians, for they know that I am in the presence of the Lord. Many who conduct funeral services will, I believe, have a lot of explaining to do to God for deceiving people. To sum up their messages to their congregations is; ‘rest assured that your loved one is now at peace and in the presence of the Lord.’ even though they may not have committed their lives to God, or prayed, or read the Bible, or worshipped God, that somehow it will all be forgotten of God.
It is a fact of human nature that we are willing to accept the pleasant facts of life, but ignore the unpleasant ones. To sum up, there is a hell to be shunned, and a heaven to be gained; and heaven is not gained by good works, but by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s own personal Saviour, believing that the when he died on the cross it was to pay the penalty for our sin. I do hope that all present here today may, by faith, be able to say with assurance that they know their eternal destiny will be in heaven in the presence of God.
2007 has seen the passing of two Christians who faithfully served the LORD at Feltham Evangelical Church. Margaret Breen and Jerry Haglund both died in Christ. But we might wonder what is their experience now? How is it with them? Where are they? What are they doing?
With the LORD
Miss Breen and Jerry are away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8b). To be in the presence of the LORD expresses the very heart of the believer’s eternal experience. Accordingly, Paul can say to the Thessalonians and so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thes. 4:17b). When we arrive at our eternal heavenly home our fixation is not with the furnishings, but with the host. Our primary interest will not be with one another, but with our Lord and Master. But what else would we expect? We owe everything to this LORD; he died on the cross to give us life. Therefore, as those who owe Him so much surely it is reasonable that He is the focus of our heavenly experience. As Samuel Rutherford puts it:
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom’s face,
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace –
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.
Await a new body
God has destined new bodies for us. Resurrection bodies which will be like his (our Lord’s) glorious body (Phil. 3:21b). However, these bodies will not be received until the great day of resurrection. Paul refers to this in 1 Thes. 4:16-17. Specifically Paul gives the order of events there and says the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes 4:16b-17a). Great will be that day when we are clothed upon with immortality. Our full humanity will be restored; body and soul together we will be new forevermore.
There is no grief.
The throne-sitter in Revelation 21:4 says of God: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. It is beautiful not just to think of tears drying up, but of them being wiped away by our God. Crying and pain are finished. It would seem clear then that the believer who is now with Christ does not have any appreciation of what is happening here below on earth. If the believer in heaven did know of the affairs of this world then there would be grief. This must be the case because even the best things in this world are contaminated by sin. And a true knowledge of sin always brings grief. We cannot say then that our loved ones are looking on at us now from heaven. It is only God and the angels who are observing us.
Built within each human heart is a longing for fulfilment. We as, Christians have been able to find rest in our Saviour. We have found Him as the One who brings fulfilment. Such experiences are foretastes of heaven. One of the elders in Rev 7:16-17a describes the experience as follows: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. Here is contentment; here is fulfilment. However, we must also remember what happened at the beginning. In Gen.2:15 we read that The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Fulfilment entails activity initiated by God centered upon Him. So we also read in Revelation 7 that they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple (Rev 7:15a). In line then, with our creatorial destiny fulfilment involves active service for the Master.
If there is one thing that sums up our eternal and enduring experience; it is the unending and unfading worship of God and His Son. This leads us into Revelation 4 and 5. Notice in these passages we see the twenty four elders; a term which represents the redeemed people of God throughout all ages. In chapter 4 they worship the great Creator God, in chapter 5 they worship “the Lamb”; our LORD Jesus and say “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation”(Rev 5:9b). How wonderful it is that Miss Breen and Jerry are part of that chorus at this very moment as they focus on the worship of our God and His Son with an ever new song. There are no dull church services there!
So we conclude and are surely led to think about the glorious inheritance that the saints of God will enjoy “by-and-by”. However, we must also ponder upon what this means for us here now. We are, now, a people of heaven. Accordingly, in our lives we should be finding these heavenly themes expressed in our experience.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter, December 2007)
It is good for Christians to visit graveyards. They are good to visit because they are sobering places. They remind us of the reality of death and therefore of the finitude of life. As you wander around a graveyard you can ponder upon long lives and short lives. Whatever the length though, following on from the principle outworked in Genesis 5 death came to each individual and to each generation.
We live in a generation which camouflages death. The latent desire is to avoid death and to put it away into never-never land. But a graveyard tells us that is a deception. Death is real. This life which we are living now is not on a permanent loan, but it is a temporary lease. As we read in Hebrews 9:27-28 death and judgement are appointed to all.
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Then study the gravestones. Consider that the person buried there is not a figment of the imagination, but a real person. A person of history with real relationships passed away. Read what it says of them. Perhaps there are times when you alight on a gravestone and think yes they must have had real faith. Such is the way of the Lord and his grace.
Moreover a graveyard reminds us of what really matters in life. All the “toys” we acquire will soon be gone as Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 6:7: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
And in the context of our perspective on the needs of others we are reminded through a graveyard that real people around us are all heading into a real eternity. They need to know Christ. Oh how people need to know Christ
I now am of an age where a substantial number of those who have had a big part of my life are no longer around. I was looking through my Mum’s old photos recently and seeing how so many had passed away and were thereby no longer a part of my life. As I considered these photos I became somewhat angry. Should I be angry? Here are people taken away out of life when they were in the midst of life. Is it reasonable to be angry about that?
It is reasonable to be angry at death because death is an unwelcome intruder upon God’s creation. In the beginning there was no death. Having completed creation with all its life and beauty God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen. 1:31a). There was no death. So where did death come from? Death came as a response to the sin of man. In Romans 6:12 we note Paul’s analysis of what caused death to enter. Paul says Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
Death is an unwelcome alien which has entered because God punishes sin with death. So to see life taken away should stir some anger within us. We should be angry because sin has led to this alien ugly vile thing, which is death, entering our experience.
But thanks be to God that there is life through Jesus Christ our Lord who died our death. So on account of Jesus we triumphantly can cry:
‘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 Cor. 15:55-57)