Edited February 25, 2009
The Challenge of Death Rich Nathan February 21-22, 2009 Finding God Series Ecclesiastes Of all the people who have ever lived, it seems to me that 21st century people who live in the Western world are the least prepared to cope with what is the inevitable fate of all of us – namely, death. People outside the Western world and people who lived prior to the 21st century thought about death a lot. So, for example, mankind’s first book, at least the first book that we have, is about death. It is titled The Egyptian Book of the Dead and it dates back to the birth of Egyptian civilization somewhere between 6000-7000 years ago. The book was written to prepare people for death. If you ever walk around a museum one of the things that will immediately strike you is how many of the objects in the museum were created to deal with some aspect of death. So you will see Egyptian sarcophagi and mummies, and burial urns. Much of ancient people’s art and literature was devoted to getting folks ready for death. The great Pyramids in Egypt are staggeringly huge. One of them is nearly 500 feet tall. It contains 2.5 million blocks of stone. Each block weighs 2 tons. Building it was an extraordinary expense. It emptied Egypt of their engineers, and their money; it required the labor of tens of thousands of slaves. Why were the Pyramids built? For one reason: To deal with death. The shape of the Pyramids was to serve as a ladder or better, a staircase that enabled the dead kings to make their way up to heaven. Christians used to pray the words of the Book of Common Prayer: Lord, help us to be spared a sudden and unprovided-for death. People in the past feared not thinking about death more than death itself. Today we fear thinking about death. As Peter Kreeft, the Boston College professor of philosophy said in his book titled Love Is Stronger Than Death Today people hope for sudden and unprovided-for death so that they might not have time to think about it. I’ve been doing a series titled “Finding God.” I’ve been talking about the challenge that in the 21st century that keep people from placing their faith in Christ and walking faithfully with Christ. There are a few things that are more difficult for 21st century people, whether Christian or non-Christian, to deal with
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than death. Today I want to talk about a Christian understanding of the fate that awaits all of us. I’m calling my message, “The Challenge of Death.” Let’s pray. What do the scriptures say to us about death? First of all, the Bible presents death as a teacher. Death is a teacher Here is what we read in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. 3 Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. Death is the great reality of Ecclesiastes. It wears many masks, in the words of Peter Kreeft. But one of the masks that death wears is that of teacher. Why is it better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting? What does going to a funeral home, or hospice room, or a cemetery teach us? Death teaches us how fleeting life is We read in Psalm 90:3-6, and verses 10-12: Psalm 90:3-6 You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” 4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: 6 In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. Psalm 90:10-12 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. 12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. The Bible frequently uses the image of cut flowers or cut grass to describe the brevity of our lives here on earth. So, for example, we read in Isaiah 40: Isaiah 40:6-8
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A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all human faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” We are like mowed grass or cut flowers. Or in the words of Elton John, our lives are like “A candle in the wind.” The whole Bible teaches us that our relationship with the world and all that’s in it, our relationship to other people, our relationship to our possessions, our relationship to our bodies, our relationship to our degrees and achievements, our relationship to all that exists in this world will one day end. The process of dying begins the moment we are born. There is no way to stop our own aging. Aging is the process of dying. We try to hold back aging as much as possible by exercise, skin cream, plastic surgery, diets and miracle drugs. But Ecclesiastes tells us that aging and death awaits all of us. Here is what we read in Ecclesiastes 9:1-3: Ecclesiastes 9:1-3 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. 3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a woman is in her youth, or how strong a man is. Beauty and strength fade. We see that in the Bible. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was apparently one of the most beautiful women in the ancient world. Men desired to take her as a wife. In Genesis 23 we read that Abraham went to mourn for her – Sarah the beautiful, Sarah the lovely. But she got old. Her body wore out. Genesis 23 tells us that she was buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah. Her beauty was gone. Like cut flowers or mowed grass, her beauty passed away. And as I said, the same thing is true of strength. Look around this church. We have a number of really strong men. There are football players in this church; weightlifters. But man’s strength will last forever. The Bible tells us about a man who was really strong. His name was David. When he was still a boy he killed bears. He killed lions by grabbing them by their beards and killing them with his bare hands. He was an unbelievably attractive man. He had lots of wives and concubines. Women would come out of their houses and sing songs about David. He slayed the giant Goliath. He conquered kingdoms. And yet, his youth
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and his strength faded. When he was old he laid in a bed shivering like a helpless baby and could not warm himself. Ecclesiastes 12 gives us a picture of aging. We read in verses 1 these words: Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” Of course, lots of old people say that they’ve lost all pleasure in this world. Food doesn’t taste the same. TV isn’t as funny. People drive too fast. Their bodies ache. This text is full of images. Verse 2 communicates a time of winter: Ecclesiastes 12:2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark and the clouds return after the rain Old age is the winter of life. The clouds are gathered. Not only are our physical powers diminished – beauty, strength, clear-thinking, but lots of other lights go out. One by one old friends are taken. Technology changes. Hope has to be abandoned. If you are young, you can always recover from setbacks. But when you are older there is no time left. And then we read in verses 3-4a another image: Ecclesiastes 12:3-4 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; 4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; The writer of Ecclesiastes is talking about the changes that take place in our bodies as we age. Strong men are stooped over. The sound of grinders fade; that is, our teeth fall out. Our eyes grow dim. We read in verse 4b: Ecclesiastes 12:4 4…when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint Older people get up really early. You don’t sleep as late. All the sounds grow faint. People’s hearing grows dim. Ecclesiastes 12:5 when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire
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no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. The almond tree blossoming, of course, is a picture of the tree growing white, so our hair turns white. The unnaturalness of a slow, stiff walk is brought out by the grasshopper that has slowed down to a crawl. After then there is one of the most memorable pictures of aging. We read in verses 6-7: Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Human beings are the masterpiece of creation. We are silver cords and golden bowls. But the silver cord is cut. The golden bowl is broken and we return to the earth as dust. Death teaches us how fleeting life is. And: Death teaches us what is really valuable You know, often we only really value something when we temporarily lose it, or we are afraid of losing it. We take so many good things in our lives for granted until those things are gone. I have traveled all over the world to various places that have no hot showers. You don’t realize how much you appreciate something as small as hot water until there is no hot water. Or how much you appreciate regular trash collection until you walk through a slum in Haiti or in Africa or India and there are piles and piles of rotting garbage as high as buildings. Very often we only appreciate something when we lose it. We appreciate electricity when the power goes out temporarily. We appreciate our health when for a period of time we are in pain. Have you ever had a child who was really sick and you had to go to the hospital? Or there was an accident and you rushed to the hospital. The nurse comes out and says that your child is going to make it. Every parent runs in and hugs their child. “We thought we lost you.” Death teaches us what is really valuable. Let me ask you a question, friend. How do you think you would live if you knew you only had ten minutes to live? What would you do if you knew that this was the last ten minutes of your life? Who would you talk to? How would you relate to loved ones? Peggy Noonan, who was the speech writer for Ronald Reagan, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal on the 5th anniversary of September 11th. She said that
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what stays in her mind most of all about 9/11 are the phone calls and the messages left on answering machines from people who knew they were about to die. Here is what Peggy Noonan wrote: Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, “I never liked you,” or “You hurt my feelings.” No one rehearsed past grievances or said, “Vote for Smith.” Amazingly there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists, or saying, “I hate them.” No one said anything unneeded, extraneous, or small. Crisis is a great editor. When you read the transcripts that have been released over the years, it is all so clear. So for example, flight attendant Ceecee Lyles, who was 33 years old, left an answering machine message to her husband and she said: Please tell my children that I love them very much. I’m sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again. Captain Walter Hynes was on his way down to the World Trade Center. He called his wife as he rushed down to the Center. He said: Honey, it is really bad. I don’t know if we’ll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and that I love the kids. His widow said that she has played that message hundreds of times since her husband died and she’s made copies for her kids. She said, “He was thinking about us in those final moments.” Tom Burnett had a conversation by phone with his wife, Deanna. Tom was on Flight 93. His wife Deanna told him that two planes had hit the World Trade Center and another plane hit the Pentagon. Tom knew the hijackers on his plane were planning to similarly crash the plane into some target. So here is the transcript of their last conversation: Tom: [A long quiet pause] We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the airplane. Deanna: No! Sit down, be still, be quiet, don’t draw attention to yourself! Tom: Deanna, if they are going to crash this plane into the ground, we’re going to have to do something. Deanna: What about the authorities?
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Tom: We can’t wait for the authorities. I don’t know what they could do anyway. It is up to us. I think we can do it. Deanna: What do you want me to do? Tom: Pray, Deanna, just pray for me. Deanna: [After a long pause] I love you, Tom. One of the most helpful things you could possibly do this week and in future weeks is to just take five or ten minutes and in a quiet place, contemplate your own death. What really matters to you? Who really matters to you? What do you need to say? Who do you need to get right with? What is your relationship like with God? Take some time, ten minutes, and in a quiet place with your eyes closed contemplate your own death. And third: Death teaches us what we should invest in now One good thing that is happening as the result of the recession is that the recession is teaching us in America and all across the world how utterly insecure our investments are. This recession is not just confined to the poor, to the marginally employed. The emails that I’m getting are testimonies mainly from middle class folks, many who are saying, “Rich, I never thought I would be in this situation. I’ve been working for 25 years. I’ve always paid my bills. We’re at a place now where we might lose our house. I’ve only got a month of savings left.” This recession is so broad. It is affecting so many people. Anyone who has any retirement savings has lost 20, 30, 40, 50% of their savings. Housing values have plummeted all over the country. This is shocking for a lot of us who entered the work force over the last 20 years because economists talked about endless growth. We somehow had figured out the secret of bringing the economic plane down with a soft landing. Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve were somehow going to be able to wave their magic wand and everything was always going to be okay. Over the last 20 years it seemed to many Americans that Jesus was wrong when he said in Matthew 6:19-20 these words: Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
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Jesus, you are just being a pessimist. You are raining on our parade. The American financial system is rock solid. It can’t be brought down. It will not rust or decay and no one will steal our money (other than some investment bankers and Bernie Madoff and the heads of America’s largest banks). Jesus says, “I’m not being a pessimist. I’m being a realist. I’m trying to get you to build your life and secure your future on what is ultimately safe and secure.” Wouldn’t you say, brothers and sisters, those of you who know your Bibles that we Americans have been like the rich fool that Jesus talks about in Luke 12. The rich fool, who thinks his life is secure because he had huge barns and he was able to store up and horde all of his excess grain; the fool who made no preparation for his inevitable death by investing in his relationship with God. Death is a teacher. And: Death is an enemy In 1 Corinthians 15.24-26 we read these words: 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Paul calls death the last enemy. Of all these enemies of God, all these opponents, and powers that stand in opposition to God, Paul says the last enemy, the final enemy is death. That is every living being’s final enemy. Death is the last enemy that always wins. Jesus treated death as an enemy when we visited the grave of his friend, Lazarus. He said in John 11:33: John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. And again in verse 38: John 11:38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. The Greek word for deeply moved is literally “outraged.” He was raging in his spirit, literally. He wasn’t just quietly sobbing in the face of death. He hated death. He saw death as a horrific enemy and he raged against it.
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But we 21st century Americans deny what Jesus and all of the ancient wisdom communicates about death – that death is an enemy. That’s why we are so unprepared for death. Even when we try to teach people to accept death or to avoid death. We accept it All you need to do is to listen to call-in radio and there will be some therapist whose practice is designed to assist people to accept death as natural. There is a new field of study, thanatology, which was popularized by Elizabeth KublerRoss. They say death is the most natural thing in the world. You must go through a tunnel and come to the light. There are magazine pieces and books telling you how to communicate about death to your child. Peter Kreeft, in his book, Love Is Stronger Than Death, tells the story of a relative of his neighbor who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 3. His neighbor’s son, who was then about 7, asked his mother, “Where is my cousin now?” She didn’t believe in any kind of life after death and she wanted to be honest and authentic with her son. She couldn’t bring herself to say that this little boy was in heaven. She had just read one of these books about how to talk with your kids about death. Its wisdom made sense to her. She answered her son and said, “Your cousin has gone back to the earth where we all came from. All of nature is a cycle. Death is a natural part of that cycle. When you see the earth putting forth new flowers next spring, you can know that your cousin’s life is fertilizing those flowers.” This woman was so naïve that she was shocked when her son ran screaming out of the room, “I don’t want my cousin to be fertilizer.” Accept death as a natural part of life, forget it! This child was echoing Dylan Thomas’ poem when he wrote back in the 1950’s: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of light. Death is not a created part of this world. It is an intruder. It is a trespasser. It is an invader. It came through sin. If we don’t teach people to accept as just part of the miracle of life, then we avoid it all together. We avoid it We do not talk about death. A husband tries to bring up death with his wife to talk about insurance; a child tries to talk with her parents and they say, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” So we avoid the topic of death. We lie to people who are in nursing homes and in hospitals. We lie about their prognosis. We whisper out of the patient’s hearing about what is going on.
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We have a whole industry designed to dress up death. The whole funeral industry in America is designed to dress up death. Undertakers are called “Funeral Directors.” Coffins are called “caskets.” The word “funeral” is too somber a word for 21st century Americans. Everyone now has a “Celebration of Life” service. We don’t want to think about death. Look at these coffins: iPhone Coffin Here is a coffin for someone who apparently liked the slot machines: Slot Machine Coffin Here is a bowler’s coffin: Bowler’s Coffin I’ve heard that people in Central Ohio are often buried in coffins that are scarlet and gray. We avoid death by dressing it up, by dulling our senses of death through watching violence as entertainment, or the insane use of medical technology and resources to prolong life at all costs. Why is death an enemy? Why did Paul call it an enemy? Why does Jesus treat death as an enemy? Why does the Bible consider death to be an enemy? It is because: Death is an enemy to those who are left I’ve talked with lots of people who are followers of Christ over the years and they struggle with guilt over their feelings of grief. They say, “I know my mom or dad, or my child, my spouse, my sibling, my friend – I know they knew Christ and are with God. But I just can’t stop crying. Something is wrong with me. Why am I so sad? I should be happy for them. They’re home with God.” But you know, when someone you love dies, you just don’t lose them, you lose a piece of yourself. John Donne wrote a poem called “No Man is an Island, No Man Stands Alone.” The last line of the poem goes this way: Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, Because it tolls for thee. John Donne is saying don’t ask why or for whom the funeral bell is ringing because the funeral bell is ringing for you. A piece of you dies in the death of another person. A piece of you is buried when your loved one is buried. You are never going to be a child anymore having a conversation with your mother or
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grandmother. You are never going to hold your husband or wife any more. A piece of us is lost when someone we love dies. Death is an enemy to the dying The book of Ecclesiastes was written from the perspective of a secular person who is trying to figure life out without the vantage point of God. And so we read in Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 these words: Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on the human race! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. The author of Ecclesiastes is looking at life under the sun, under the heavens without an open door to the revelation or wisdom of God. And what does he see concerning death? He sees that death is an enemy to the dying. Look at this with me in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6: Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 For the living know that they will die, But the dead know nothing; They have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; Never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun. The writer is saying that death, at least under the sun, (looked at from a secular perspective), levels everything. It erases everything. We spend our lives like children on a beach building these elaborate sand castles and then at night the waves come and wash it all away. Death seems to make everything futile. Death makes everything meaningless. What’s the point? One day I’m going to die and all my accomplishments are going to die with me. And the memory of me will fade as well But of course, the Bible doesn’t simply offer this pessimistic view – we live, we die and then we’re forgotten. We don’t just live “under the sun.” We live with God’s revelation. According to scripture: Death is an enemy that has been defeated We read this in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he
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must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. This is the message of the Bible from beginning to end. The prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 25, speaks about a day in which death will be no more. Isaiah 25:6-8 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. The mountain on which God destroyed death we know from the New Testament is called Calvary, the hill that Jesus died on. Jesus’ death began the process of eliminating death from this universe. The process is one day going to end with the total destruction of death. Here is what we read in Revelation 20:11-14: Revelation 20:11-14 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and everyone was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Death is going to be thrown into the Lake of Fire. The reason that the Gospel is good news is that it is the response to the bad news of sin and death. The reason why today in the 21st century so few of us as Americans are really thrilled when we hear the gospel is because the gospel in the 21st century is not a response to anything. We find ourselves pushing against air. There is nothing solid that we are fighting. We’ve gotten rid of sin. We simply call sin addiction, brokenness, or woundedness, or disease. We avoid talking about death, so when the gospel comes to the 21st century hearer, it comes a little bit of an add-on to an otherwise OK life. It is a way to enhance the spiritual part of you life. You get the physical part together through your membership in the gym; the financial part together through your investments; and, the relational part together through Facebook and your online dating service; and so now you need to enhance your spiritual life through your relationship with Jesus.
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To feel like shouting the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection that should be shouted from the mountain tops, it must be news that responds to the bad news of sin and death. I read a study by psychologists who analyzed how people got past their fear of death. The psychologists said that the fear of death was fundamentally a fear of our own annihilation. We contemplate the extinction of ourselves, the extinction of our minds, and souls, and bodies. These researchers went into nursing homes and did this study to find out what really helps people regarding the fear of death. They looked at demographic factors – ethnicity, gender, education, income. They considered self-esteem. They considered whether the person had a support network. They considered the person’s health and their sense of control. These researchers discovered that only one thing consistently overcame the fear of death and that was religion. If the person had a deep faith in God and a regular prayer life, that person generally had a low fear of death. In other words, if you deeply embrace the good news of the gospel, and believe that you do not have to stand before God in your sin; if you believe your guilt and regrets over what you’ve done in life can be separated from you through the blood of Christ shed on the cross, and that your death has been defeated, you will not ultimately die, but you will live forever and ever; if you embrace that and believe that, you are a person who won’t face death with fear. You can face your death or the death of a loved one without falling apart. You can choose to believe God’s promise. This leads to the final thought. According to scripture, death is not just a teacher; it is not merely an enemy; the Bible says: Death is gain The apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21 says this: Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What do we gain? We gain substance In a world in which everything is passing away, when a Christian dies we don’t just fade into oblivion. We are not just sand castles washed away on the beach. When a Christian dies, the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5, it is like we are folding up the camping tent of this body and we’re moving into the permanent
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home of our resurrected bodies. What an image of death for the apostle Paul (who was a tentmaker) to communicate to us. Life right now is like camping. When my kids were young, our family used to go camping several times a year, sometimes for several weeks. We loved camping. But it was always so nice to come back home, to pack the tent away, to get a hot shower and to sleep in our own beds instead of on the hard ground on top of a rock. It was always so nice that when it rained you knew that the rain was not going to come into the house and get us wet as it did in the tent. C.S. Lewis, in one of my favorite Lewis’ books titled The Great Divorce, confronts this idea that at death we lose our substance that we are like mists or ghosts floating through the air. That is not the Jewish mindset that wrote either the Old or New Testaments. In eternity you don’t lose substance, you gain substance. The New Creation is more permanent, more substantial than anything we experience on earth. Your life in the future will be like a solid house compared to the nylon tent you now live in. And so in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, he talks about people walking around in heaven on the grass and the grass actually hurts their feet because it is so substantial. It goes through people’s feet and they have to get used to how solid everything is. When a Christian dies our spirits separate from our bodies and we immediately go into the presence of the Lord. In Christ’s second coming, he is going to give every one of his followers’ resurrected bodies. We are not going to be spirit beings forever. We are going to have solid permanent bodies. You not only gain substance, but: We gain love and acceptance One of the difficult things to contemplate when we think about our own deaths is the number of regrets we have concerning the way we have lived, what we could have done, or should have done, missed opportunities, times where we’ve hurt a loved one. The reason that your death doesn’t have to be experienced with terror or fear is that if you have trusted in Christ as your Savior and you are following him as your Lord, when you die you are going to be instantly transported into the presence of God whose love and acceptance of you is unimaginably wonderful. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39: Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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Our minds cannot conceive of what it will be like to be in the presence of an Infinite Being who knows us completely and yet loves and accepts us thoroughly. The love and acceptance of God penetrating every particle of your being is why the apostle Paul can say to the Christian, “love is stronger than death!” Nothing – not even death can separate you from God’s love! If you believe the good news which is a response to the bad news of death, to die as a Christian is gain. Let’s pray.
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The Challenge of Death Rich Nathan February 21-22, 2009 Finding God Series Ecclesiastes I.
Death is a teacher (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4) A. Death teaches us how fleeting life is (Psalm 90; Isaiah 40:6-8; Ecclesiastes 12:1-7) B. Death teaches us what’s really valuable C. Death teaches us what we should invest in (Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:13-21)
Death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) A. Two things we do with death 1. We accept it 2. We avoid it B. Death is an enemy to those who are left C. Death is an enemy to the dying (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6) D. Death is an enemy that has been defeated (Isaiah 25:7-8; Revelation 20:11-14)
Death is gain (Philippians 1:21) A. We gain substance (2 Corinthians 5:1-10) B. We gain love and acceptance (Romans 8:38-39)
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