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The Subject Seldom Spoken

20/01/2020

The Subject Seldom Spoken.

Psalm 39:4 “Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapour.  Selah  6 Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them. 7 “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions; Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.

We all know about death  but do we know just how frequent it is?  A person dies every single second, somewhere in the world.  A preacher I heard at a meeting in Ballymena a while ago stood  in the pulpit with a watch in his hand.  he looked at the watch and he said, (over and over again) ‘There’s another one…  There’s another one…’  Every second someone somewhere goes out of this life, never to return, and into eternity.  Where will that eternal dwelling be?   Of course, some people will dismiss any concern about the frequency of death, claiming that death is something that is perfectly natural, and we should simply accept it.  That’s not a Christian belief.  Death is NOT natural.

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Genesis 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” 

So death is related to sin, to Adam’s fall, and consequently, to Christ’s death, for he is the ‘second Adam’ – the One who took our sin and died our death.  Let’s see:-

 

1 Common Attitudes to Death.

The prevailing culture is one that sanitises death; leaves it to the professionals, unlike earlier times, when a death would occur in a community, and neighbours and friends would rally round to help with the preparations for the funeral.  The washing and dressing of the deceased, the laying out of the body would all have been done at home.  Death was close, and ever present, and even small children were aware of the precarious nature of human life.  Now we make a phone call, and professionals take over, at a cost of course.  We see the body of the deceased, well dressed in a coffin, washed and embalmed and improved with cosmetics, so that the reality of death, with its smells and its rottenness and decay is hidden from us.  And we call it dignity.

DISCUSS.  WHAT DO YOUR SECULAR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS THINK ABOUT DEATH?  DO THEY EVER TALK ABOUT IT, AND IF SO, IN WHAT TERMS?

What are some of the common ways that people deal with death…

  • Disbelief.  When death strikes a home, one of the questions that I frequently encounter, is,, ‘why?’  Why did this happen, why to us, and why now?  He or she had so much to live for.  Perhaps they had just been recently married, or had a young family, or a responsible occupation or an impressive list of qualifications; all of this has now ended, and it’s all been futile, all for nothing.  The book of Ecclesiastes perfectly sums up for us the futility of life, in the face of death, for death, says the Preacher, renders everything that ungodly people do and achieve in this world (‘under the sun’) utterly pointless. Our education, years of it, perhaps rising from kindergarten to a higher degree, a postgraduate education, – all pointless, all vanity.   Our work lives, promotions and professional accolades, – all pointless, all vanity.  Our personal successes, – all our sporting and leisure achievements, all pointless – all vanity.  Our family lives, – the relationships we forge in this world, those closest of relationships, broken and irreversibly severed on the advent of death – all pointless, all vanity.
  • Militant Atheism.  The person who rages against God, and blames him for the death, and yet declares that they don’t believe in Him anyway!
  • Sentimentalism.  This is extremely common nowadays.  “He’s grown his wings and become an angel, he’s up there watching over us, he’s together with his late mother/father/wife, and they’re all having a pint together in heaven’s bar…” People will use this kind of sentimentality to take off the hard edges of painful separation.  It’s foolishness.
  • New Age Influences.  “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sun on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush, Of quiet birds in circled flight.  I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry,  I am not there; I did not die.”  Apart from the blatant denial of reality, the New Age beliefs in this common poem are totally ungodly and anti Christian. Yet it seems that this is actually what people want to think, and the reason why they want to believe such nonsense is because they do not believe in Christ, and the reality is that they have no hope whatsoever that their loved one has gone into eternal conscious bliss, with the Lord, forever.
  • Seeking Martyrdom.  There is one other attitude to death that we have all become too aware of recently, the religious fanatic who ties a suicide vest around his waist, and walks into a crowded street or concert venue or shopping mall, and detonates the explosives, shouting some religious slogan, and brutally murders innocent bystanders killing him or herself in the process.  He seeks martyrdom in the hope that when he arrives in paradise there will be 72 virgins awaiting him as a reward for his faithfulness to his false god.  There won’t.

The Bible refers to these practices as being in a ‘covenant with death’ – making an agreement with the grave, in a fruitless attempt to remove its sting.   Isaiah 28:15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”   Isaiah 28:18. Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.

The refuge of lies is no refuge at all, it’s just fooling yourself. 

 

2 Christian Attitudes to Death.

Heidelberg Catechism 42 Q.Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die? A. Our death is not a payment for our sins, but it puts an end to sin and is an entrance into eternal life.

John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 

  • A Christian does not seek death.  I remember being shocked by a comment made by a friend of mine, when we were both in our teens. He said to me that he really wanted to die, and to go to be with the Lord, which would be better than anything here.  He’s right on the second part of course.  ON the point that being in the presence of Jesus is much better than anything this world gives us, St. Paul would have agreed with him.  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…”. But Paul wasn’t suggesting that he wanted his death to happen now, just expressing confidence that when it happened, all would be well.  Christians depend and trust in the sovereign purpose and providence of God – that His timing is right for us, and that we will not leave this earth one minute before our appointed time.  We do not seek death – we patiently wait upon the Lord, and prepare for it.  Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

DISCUSS. IF SOMEONE IS SUFFERING IN PAIN, SHOULD WE AS SOCIETY ALLOW A DOCTOR TO BRING THEIR LIFE TO AN END?  IF NOT, WHY NOT?  GIVE REASONS. 

  • A Christian understands death.
    • That it is a separation.  We are separated from our friends and our families by death, separated from our wealth and our possessions and our earthly ambitions. Psalm 49:10  For he sees wise men die; Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, And leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names. 12 Nevertheless man, though in honour, does not remain; He is like the beasts that perish. 
    • That there will be reunification.  1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
  • A Christian Trusts and Hopes in Christ.  Even the most ungodly person can remember the good times and mutual fellowship with loved ones.  The Christian response to death is to thank God for for that life, but to remember:
    • The Cross.
    • The Resurrection of Christ!
    • The forgiveness that we have in Christ.
    • Our personal salvation.
    • Our heavenly position!  That the loved one is now in glory, where all of our tears are wiped away,
    • That the war of the flesh has ended!
    • That the Sinner, saved by grace has seen the face of the Saviour!
    • That on the very last day, that Loved One will rise and be clothed in a new body,
  • A Christian finds comfort in God’s Word. Consider some of these texts:-

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.

Luke 16:22  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.

John 14  Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.

Philippians 1:2123 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labour; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

2 Corinthians 5:8   We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

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