Dealing with Death- Part 3
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program. I'm Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines. This week, we are talking about death. As I've mentioned in the previous days, I've been thinking a lot about this subject, having gone thru the death of my grandmother late last year and the death of my 11 year old son, David, on Memorial Day. The death of my grandmother came after over 2 years of nursing homes and hospitals, during which we saw her slowly decline to the point where she often didn't recognize family members. David's death, on the other hand, was pretty much unexpected. He'd struggled with an undiagnosed and severe blood disease all of his life, but we never had any indication that it was this life-threatening, at least not this suddenly life-threatening. His death, therefore, was much more of a shock. Both of these deaths, though, were heavy on our family's hearts and we had to come to grips with them. I'm hoping that my wrestling with this will help someone else in a similar situation. After all, I'm pastor of a church; I get up an preach nearly every Sunday, I'm here on KLMX every several weeks, and so forth. I'm expected to have faith and yet I still had some serious struggles, esp with David's death. What about those who might have a less developed faith? I'll pray that God will bless this message and that it will show His glory thru the truth, light, and hope that is Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday and Tues, I covered quite a few Scripture verses. Today, I'd like to cover a more philosophical approach to death. Thursday and Friday, I'll cover some specific things that I learned from David's passing. When I'm not actually quoting Scripture and examining it word by word, what I'm doing is applying it's teaching. I'm testing the world against what Scripture says. Be sure you keep that in mind- I'm not giving philosophy the last word, but I'm using it to show the truth of Scripture. In other words, I'm applying this passage:
UKJV: II Corinthians Chapter 10  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
This passage gives me the license to examine philosophical ideas, or imagination as well as any and everything that exalts itself against God. I have permission to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Let's take a look at death from two extreme perspectives. One perspective is that of an atheist, one who does not believe in God, a God, at all. An atheist thinks that God is simply a creation of man's imagination. God is something that unenlightened man has created to help explain mysterious things. Since there is no God, there cannot be any intelligent purpose either. There is no guiding force in the universe. Everything that exists does so because of random chance. This is an extreme atheist, but it is also a logical atheist position and I ought to know because I used to be one.
To a person holding this view, what is the purpose of life? If everything exist because of chance and the eventual end of everything will be destruction, then what purpose is there to anything? You might say that a person's job on earth is to leave it in a better place for the next generation, but if our eventual end is annihilation, then what's the use of our efforts? And, furthermore, who determines what better is? If we're here because of random chance and there is no supreme authority or guiding force, whether it's Jehovah, Allah, or Zeus, then upon what are our moral standard based? I'm not making this stuff up, either, this is basic Philosophy 101 and anyone who's put any thought into their existence has probably wrestled with this. To an atheist, death is simply ceasing to exist. Let me quote from Richard Dawkins, a well-known and prolific atheist. In an article in Scientific American, 1995, Dawkins wrote:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
At the end of this article, Dawkins concludes with:
DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
So, there you have it from the atheist perspective: Nature is not cruel...things might be neither good nor evil... lacking all purpose. My life, then, has no purpose. It doesn't even have the purpose of recreating DNA... no, it is lacking all purpose.
On the other side of the argument, let's look at a die-hard Bible believer. According to the Bible, man has a definite purpose and that purpose is to glorify God, who created man in God's own image. I quoted Dawkins, so I guess I should quote Isaiah.
UKJV: Isaiah Chapter 43  Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
There you have both parts: man is created, and created for God's glory. Let's pick up a few more passages:
UKJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 12  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
UKJV: Deuteronomy Chapter 10  And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul
Alright, so according to our God-fearing Bible thumper, God has a purpose for every man. But that's not all! Not only does every man have a purpose, but God's plan is all-encompassing. Nothing happens accidentally. Let's take a look at:
UKJV: Romans Chapter 8  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
UKJV: Matthew Chapter 10  Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear all of you not therefore, all of you are of more value than many sparrows.
Well, we are talking about death so let's zero in now and focus on that topic. According to atheists, after death, there is simply nothing. The human mind and personality simply ceases to exist. There's nothing left by memories in the minds of the living and, since they are going to die, too, eventually all traces of my son David will be lost. His short life was futile. In fact, a atheist could logically claim that since his blood was diseased and unstable, then what we saw was simply survival of the fittest in action. David was not fit. Never mind that he was a smart kid, a joy to be around, and touched nearly everyone he met. Evolutionary speaking, he was not fit enough to pass on his DNA and, upon death, he simply ceased to exist.
I find that view to be absolutely horrid and the only way to clean it out of my mind is with Scripture. Let's try some of these passages:
UKJV: Psalms Chapter 116  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
UKJV: John Chapter 5  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
UKJV: Revelation of John Chapter 21  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
So, there we have two bookends. On one end, we have the atheist view in which there is no good or evil, just indifference, and in which there is no purpose for anything. Death is the cessation of life and that's the end of the story. On the other end, we have the Bible-believer view in which there is a purpose to everything and a purpose for everything, all for God's glory. Death is the passing from this sinful life to a judgment, leading to eternal punishment for some and eternal life for others. In between these two bookends there are, of course, many, many intermediate stops. There are people who believe that God created the earth but then wound it up and left it alone like an abandoned science project. There are those who believe that the earth is god and when we die, we simply return to the earth. There are those who think that all souls are freed upon death and that all go to heaven, such as it may be. Others believe that our souls are re-incarnated and come back in another bodily form, not necessarily human, either. There are all kinds of intermediate stops.
Let me now ask two questions:
1)Where do you get your information? Whether you're a bookend or an intermediate stop, you base your choices on something. Maybe you study religious texts, or someone tells you something, or you base your beliefs on your own conclusions, but you base your beliefs on some kind of information. I want to know where you get your information. I base my beliefs on a book in which the statements are made Thus says the Lord, I am God Almighty, and I am the way, the truth, and the life. Many atheists base their stance upon the writings and teaching of men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others who came before them. People who believe that the earth is their god get their information from somewhere, too. My next question is this:
2)What if you're wrong? Suppose you're an atheist. You die and before you know it, there are angels escorting you to heaven. Oops... it turns out that the Bible-believers were right! Or, let's suppose you're a Bible-believer and you die and there's simply nothing. In the former example, the consequences for being wrong are eternal. But if a believer dies, he's wrong, and there really is nothing after death, then there are no consequences. The believer just missed out on a lot of partying, eating, and fornicating, but since there is nothing after death, then none of those things were worth anything anyway.
So, it seems to me that faith is by far the superior way. My son David is dead. If I'm correct and Jesus loves the little children and not a sparrow falls from the sky except by the will of God, then David is perfectly healed and with God Almighty in heaven. I'm sad because I miss his presence and the things he brought into my life, but I have hope that not only will I see him again, but I'll get to see God Almighty myself. David and I spent 5 days touring the Smithsonian museums and we shared discoveries together. How joyful will it be sharing discoveries about God Almighty together? If I'm wrong and the atheists are correct, there is nothing after death, then what does it matter? There's no use even mourning because there's nothing to mourn for and no reason for it.
I hope I've given you some food for thought today. Of course, no one turns to God because they've logically thought this out and decided to hedge their bets. To the contrary, faith is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. A person comes to Jesus Christ because God places them there. But if your faith is weak and you waver back and forth, letting the waves of doubt push you around, perhaps my arguments will help you come boldly unto the throne of grace, that [you] may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16. Perhaps you'll see that it's so much better on the Jesus side of the cross than on the other side.
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