Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pondering the Death of Christians...

For about the last six months our church has been going through a season filled with many tears.  Over the last six months we have had to say 'goodbye for now' to dear and beloved people from amongst our membership.

All of this has of course placed the topic of death and final moments freshly on my mind. 
With each death I have sought to provide some comfort from Scripture for the grieving family and church family members.

All of that has led me to a few glimmers of hope extended to those mourning the death of a Christian.
Death for a believer is NECESSARY

That seems a bit obvious to say since we know that every living person one day experiences a physical death.  However death must come for a believer so that they may begin to enjoy that which has been promised to them. 

It is written in 1 Peter chapter 1 - [3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

As hard as this is to hear in a moment like this, we ought to seek to rejoice through our tears when a believer passes because they have now begun truly living.  The departed Christian now experiences true life.  Eternal life!  That which they had become truly persuaded of; that their sins had been forgiven by Christ.

Having entrusted their soul to a Savior who had caused them to be born again not to a vain or dead thing, but a Living Hope! 

We can rejoice in the face of the loss of a loved one who knew Christ because we know that they now experience a life that is unlike anything we can possibly know while in this body of flesh.

Believers live with an expectancy and trust that they will see Christ.  Christ so conquered death that He not only rescues those who trust Him from their sins but He also guarantees them life in Him.

Job 19:25-27 - [25] For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. [26] And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, [27] whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Death, for a believer, is also TIMELY

While we cannot prepare for it no matter how much we are aware that it is coming, no one dies before the time that God has appointed for them to.

Hebrews 9:27 - [27a] And just as it is appointed for man to die once,

The time of all our deaths has been set by God Himself.  We can take comfort in knowing that God brings His children home to Him at the proper time.

Although we would seek to keep our loved ones near us for our whole lives, we rest in knowing that no one dies too soon or by accident.

Further, the believer never dies too late.  Rather they depart this world for their home in Heaven has been prepared and is ready for them to dwell in.

John 14:1-3 - [14:1] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. [2] In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Death for a believer brings time in the house of mourning

 Now you may be wondering how this could possibly be a good thing? 

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 -  [2] It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. [3] Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. [4] The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

I have learned far more from seasons of great sorrow than many seasons of mirth put together.  It is in the times of sorrow that we most learn to grow in grace.   Death brings a sharpness of mind that presses believer's to think about their own coming departure.  

It forces us to ask the hard questions like, 'Am I loving my family well and do they know how much I love them?', 'Am I leaving a legacy of Christlike faith for my loved ones to remember me by?', 'Am I making the most of every moment of this life God has given me?'

Those are not questions that we tend to ask in times of joy because we assume, in those times, that all of those answers are 'yes'.  But when we are walking through the death of a loved one, through the tears, our minds sober up and think on those things which actually matter.

Believers can find it better to  be in the house of mourning because of what it reminds us of:

Lastly, the death of a believer is a SOUND REMINDER for us all.

For Christians:

For those of you who are believers, you have every reason to rejoice that you too will one day not only be reunited with your loved one but even more amazing that that, you will also one day see Christ face to face!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - [13] But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. [14] For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. [15] For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We are to encourage one another.  Be assured that as we hurt through the deaths of believers we can also be reminded that God’s promise to bring us home to eternity is coming to pass!  

The death of a Christian is another reminder that God is faithful.  He has said that those who are in Christ will one day leave this world and go to be with Him and as Believers die, we can see that this is true!

We do not hope in vain, rather we have become persuaded from the heart that God is true and that Christ has paid our sin debt so that we can be fully pardoned and reconciled to God!

For Unbelievers:

If you have never come to Christ having turned from your sin having sought His forgiveness. 

May I say to you that are in great peril!  You have every reason to fear your appointed death for just as it has been appointed that you too will die, you will face God’s judgment.  Judgment for your manifold transgressions.

Hebrews 9:27 - [27] And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

The Bible says that we have all fallen short of God’s glory.  All of us have broken God’s law and become like one who is unclean.  Your sins are not just your mistakes nor are they merely mistakes. 

They are all your lies, lusts, envies, jealousies, blasphemes, hatred and they are all acts of treason against a Holy and Just God.  All of them justly condemning you before a Him. 

But God in His mercy has extended to you His grace that if you will confess your sins and turn to the goodness of Jesus Christ, who has died to pay your sin debt, God will forgive you because of Christ’s merits and grant you forgiveness, eternal life, and the peace which passes all understanding.