Monday, December 30, 2013

Life, Death, and the Gospel

A friend of mine, Lisa Veney, was murdered last night by her husband Dell Veney at
an Applebee’s restaurant here in Jacksonville, FL. You can find the story here. They were separated. I don’t know all of the facts that led up to the incident, but it is a tragic, senseless, and
unnecessary situation nonetheless. Their two children, who I once had the pleasure
of mentoring, now have no parents because one is dead and the other one is going to
end up in prison for life. My prayers go out to the family and friends who are being impacted by this.

It seems like a dream, however I know that it is reality. But as I began to ponder the
event in specifics, my mind couldn’t help but to go to a broader scope and look at the
big picture of how this tragedy fits in with all of the other tragedies and calamities
that are taking place all over God’s creation. So I would like to share a few thoughts
that I had as I wrestled with the loss of a good friend.

1. Death is inevitable.

Unless you will be here when Christ returns soon, death is an unavoidable part of
life. It will happen whether you want it to or not. There is no medicine, no pill, nor
any surgery that can prevent death from coming to your doorstep. You may be able
to prolong it, but the date on the calendar has been set. Why do I say that? I say that
because God is sovereign over life and death.

Paul explains this in Acts 17 when he addressed the Areopagus. He said:

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the
earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling
…for in Him we live and move and have our being. ” – Acts 17:26, 28

There is no fate. There is no chance. There is no coincidence. God is in control of all
things and nothing escapes His watchful eye. God is in control of all things and
nothing escapes His powerful arm. God is in control of all things and nothing
escapes his presence. His will cannot be thwarted, nor altered. So the date that He
has fixed for all of us will come. As the writer of Hebrews says:

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” –
Hebrews 9:27

Here’s the kicker: if the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, had to set His face toward
Jerusalem for an inevitable and unavoidable death, then what would cause any of us
to think otherwise?

2. Death is unexpected.

Although the Lord has fixed a time for people to die, no one knows exactly when that
day will come. Only God knows. Now, some may have an idea, an inkling, a range of
time that they can prepare for; such as those who have been informed by doctors
that they have been given “x” amount of days to live. But no one can take a red pen
and circle the date. For most of us, it comes suddenly. It catches us off guard. There
aren’t always warning signals. No one really knows what will happen at any given
time of the day. We may think that we do, but we really don’t. And none of us can
predict the future, as much as we may like to. Death comes on us quickly, abruptly,
and in all manner of ways, so the odds of trying to figure anything out concerning
that day are astronomical. However, because death is unexpected does not mean
that we should not know with certainty that it will happen at some point. It happens
every day. All one has to do is turn on the TV, or the radio, or click your favorite
news link on the Internet, and you will see the evidence of this fact. It should give us
pause. James makes it clear why we should do so:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town
and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what
tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time
and then vanishes.” – James 4:13-14

A former pastor of mine said that on the timeline of eternity, one life measures
about eighteen inches. Now take a minute and really think about that length on the
timeline of eternity. Sobering. Sobering indeed.

3. Death is painful.

It is painful not only to the one who dies, but also to those who were close to that
person. Death affects everyone. Its tragedy washes over us in waves that crash deep
into our physical, mental, and even spiritual domains. Some can get over it in a short
amount of time, while others are impacted by it years down the road. Some never

But why is it painful? It is painful because death is a result of sin. Rewind back to
Genesis – the garden – and see there the beginnings of the throes of death, both
physical and spiritual. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden and ate fruit from
the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This set in motion decay in every domain
mentioned above. We see the first murder in chapter 4 as Cain kills Abel. We see the
depravity of mankind in chapter 6 – “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually” – and God’s flood judgment. On and on, throughout the Bible,
the effects of sin are clear. Many die in the Bible from various causes. Even creation
groans from the effects of sin waiting for restoration (Romans 8:18-25) as flora and
fauna feel the effects of death at present. Ultimately, it was sin that drove the Son of
God to death on the cross to atone for sin, which brings me to my final point.

4. Death is dead.

Because Christ died, death (and the grave) no longer has its sting:

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality,
then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Death is now a vehicle into the eternal. But here is the caution: this passage is not
applicable to everyone in the world. Not everyone will be able to experience the
beauty of this passage. Only those who have repented of their sin, and have believed
on Jesus Christ, the Son of God – in His life, death, burial, and resurrection – will
experience this glorious passage.

As Steven Lawson states, “If you are only born once, you will die twice. But if you are
born twice, you will only die once.”

Do you get the meaning there? If you are only born physically, you will die not just in
the physical, but you will also die in the spiritual as well:

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the
lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire.” – Revelation 20:14-15

However, if you are born both physically and spiritually (i.e. born again), you will only experience death in the physical and you will dwell with the Lord for eternity:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is
with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be
with them as their God.” – Revelation 21:3

To my brothers and sisters in Christ, rest in Him, and live with the hope that one day
we will see Him as He is. This is not our final resting place; we are simply pilgrims
and sojourners here on this decaying earth waiting for the return of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ. Do not fear death, nor the grave; instead pray for the Lord to
come quickly so that we may experience the resurrection of our bodies from
corruptible to incorruptible, casting our crowns at the Lord’s feet, to dwell with Him

My unsaved brothers and sisters, today is the day of redemption. Take heed to what
I have said. You are a sinner who cannot by any means save yourself. No deed is
good enough. No part of you is good enough. Nothing you can say will sway the
Lord’s judgment upon you. Your righteousness is unacceptable to God. But God, who
is rich in mercy, abundant in grace, and abounding in love, sent His Son to die for
your sins. He took on your debt, a debt you are unable to pay as He bore the full
penalty of God’s wrath for you. He died for you. Not only did He die for you, but He is
risen! He is the resurrection and the life! Anyone who believes in Him will not
perish but will experience eternal life! Repent of your sins and believe the gospel.
There is no one too far from His reach, not even Dell Veney whom I mentioned
above. The time is now for your salvation.

Death is around the corner. Will you believe on Christ?

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