Dealing with Death- Part 4
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program. We're on Day 4 of my study on Dealing With Death in which I'm discussing Biblical and philosophical aspects of death. Again, I'm almost forced into this study by the recent deaths of my grandmother and my 11-year old son, David. My grandmother died last October and David died on Memorial Day, just a few weeks ago. Both of these deaths hit very close to home and many people would consider the death of one's child to be about the worst thing that can happen. While tragic and heart-breaking, I'm not sure I fully agree. After all, everyone dies- it's just a matter of when and how. I think a worse thing is for a person to die w/out knowing Jesus Christ and maybe even worse yet to have known about Jesus but reject him. In the case of both my grandmother and David, I have confidence that they knew of and accepted the atoning sacrifice of Christ on their behalf and that gives me great hope.
Don't get me wrong, though- I had many questions and went thru many struggles in dealing with these two personal deaths, and, for that matter, the deaths of loved ones of close friends, and even with deaths reported in the press. What I'm trying to do in this study is show you how I personally deal with this issue in the hopes that my struggles will impart to you the same hope that I have- hope in eternal life in Jesus Christ. Amen!
Yesterday, I laid out two bookends in the philosophy of life: that of an evolutionary atheist and that of a Bible-believer. I pointed out that in the world of the evolutionary atheist, there is no good or evil, no purpose, and no goal- there is just random indifference. I demonstrated this with a quote from Richard Dawkins, a well-known and highly published atheist. By contrast, a Bible-believer believes that there is absolute good and evil, there is a purpose to everything, and there is a definite goal in life. There are, of course, many intermediate stops between these two extremes. What I asked you to do is to consider the source of your information. In other words, you believe something; how do you know that? Secondly, I asked you to consider the consequences of being wrong. If the atheist is wrong and there is eternity for the soul, then he/she may be in trouble. But if the Bible-believer is wrong, and there is nothing after death- no eternity, no after-life, but just nothingness- then he/she hasn't lost anything except a lot of opportunities to party. The apostle Paul addressed this issue in 1 Corinthians 15 in which he declares that if Christ has not risen, then our faith is in vain and we are the most pitiable of all men. If Christ is not risen, then we should just eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. So, take your beliefs, lay them out on the table and ask yourself two questions: 1) how do I know this, and 2) what if I'm wrong?
Today, I want to push a little farther into this territory by examining the secular world versus the theological world. It's common for atheists and people of the secular world to criticize Christians and other people of faith, calling them narrow-minded, bigoted, and ostriches with their heads in the sand. Here's an interesting point that I learned from the Christian apologist William Lane Craig. The root of the word secular is the Latin saeculum which means age, span of time, generation. The world-view scope of a secular person is, by definition, limited to this time, this age, the things of the here and now. A secular person, by definition, cannot deal with eternity since eternity is not limited by an age. A secular person, by definition, deals with the things on this page and nothing before or after that.
The root of the word theology is the Greek theo which means of God. The suffix -ology is the study of. Thus, biology is the study of life, sociology is the study of society, hippology is the study of horses, and so forth. Theology is the study of God. According to the Bible, God is eternal, everlasting, omniscient, Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, and without beginning or end. Theologians, by definition, are concerned with the eternal and infinite. Theologians, by definition, as well as looking at the page, also look off the page to see what came before and what is coming after.
So, I ask you, which of these is limited? The secularist who, by definition, only deals with the things of this age, or the theologian who, by definition, deals with the infinite and eternal as well as the things of this age? An evolutionary biologist may be able to explain- in terms that satisfy them- how life evolved, but when it comes to the bigger question of how life began or the bigger question of why life at all?, they are going to get stuck. In other words, life can't come from nothing. Nothing means just that- nothing, absolute nothing. It doesn't mean nearly nothing. So, if we chase the cosmos all the way back the Big Bang, great. The question is what comes before that? As a theologian, I'm prepared to wrestle with that question and I think the answer is God, more specifically, an eternal, infinite God who exists outside of and independently from time. This God, furthermore, is capable of creating time. As a theologian, I can deal with this. A true secularist cannot.
Let's get back to the subject of death now. Without a creator God who has a purpose in creating, life itself has no purpose. Since I believe that there is a creator God and that there is a purpose in creating, what then is that purpose? Let's turn to my collection of books on God, the thing we call the Bible.
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.
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.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
UKJV: Micah Chapter 6  He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
UKJV: Matthew Chapter 22  Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The purpose of life, then is to glorify God, which we do by fearing Him, keeping His commandments, walking humbly with Him, loving justice and mercy, and loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Everyone will come to the end of their life. For some, the end will be sudden and unexpected, but for many more, there will be some time for reflection. What will you think at the end of your life? David and I did a lot of things together. I suspected and felt that his time could be short- I knew that God could miraculously heal him, but I had no promise of this. Instead, I had a sense of urgency- use the most of your time. David and I traveled to Washington DC via Amtrak, we went to archery shoots, shot guns, launched rockets, went to church, watched movies, talked, laughed, and did many, many other things together. But what value were these things? If they were just things that we did for us, then they were of no eternal value. Secular families do these things, too. What is of eternal value are the things I just quoted- fear God, keep his commandments, love justice and mercy, walk humbly with God, and love Him with everything we've got. Did my time with David meet these standards? That's one of the questions I had when David's life on earth ended.
Only God can judge, but my thinking is that we gave thanks to God for everything. We went to church in Washington DC and we were glad to be there- it was, in fact, at David's insistence that we went to church. We gave thanks to God for letting us do things and for providing the means. We were thankful to God for every tender mercy that He provided. Look at this passage from Romans- speaking of ungodly people, Paul says:
UKJV: Romans Chapter 1  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened
These people were not thankful. We were thankful.
Doing things with David meant sacrifice for us. He was weak and frail and we had to center our activities around him. The question was always Can David do this? But, it was a joyful sacrifice because it gave us joy to see him happy. I think this is Christ-like, as we see it in Hebrews:
UKJV: Hebrews Chapter 12  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Because of the joy of salvation that was visible to him, Jesus endured the cross. Likewise, because of the joy we were able to give David, it was not a burden to sacrifice our own needs for his.
But the main thing that I saw with David was love. We willingly sacrificed our needs for his simply because we loved him. This is definitely of eternal value. After all, it was because of love that God sent Jesus:
UKJV: John Chapter 3  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And Paul certainly puts love in perspective:
UKJV: I Corinthians Chapter 13  And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Not only did David allow us to express love, but he showed us love himself. Due to his frailty, David couldn't do many things as well as he should've been able to. He could barely write and his control of a pencil was weak. In spite of this, though, he was well-known for giving people drawings. When we had antelope hunters, David would draw pictures of them and give them to the hunters when they left. Most Sundays when I left the pulpit, David would hand me a drawing he'd done for me. It would be labeled From David to Dad. These drawings were crude stick figures with little perspective. Yet, what they reminded me of, every time, were our efforts to God. I mean, what do you think the world's greatest landscape painting looks like to the Creator who created that landscape in the first place? We use colors to paint. God created those colors. Our best and finest works are little more than a child's stick figures to God Almighty. And yet David's drawings are some of my most valued possessions. He gave them to me. And that's what God wants from us. God wants us to give ourselves to Him. We can see this clearly in the passages I quoted earlier. He doesn't want our works or our sacrifices. He wants our hearts.
So, when you come to the end of your life, how will you look back? Will it be with regret and a million I wish I would have...? Will you cling to this corrupted world and the things in it? Or will you get to the end of your life and have a clear conscience toward God, that you feared Him, followed his commandments as best as you could, you loved justice and mercy, you loved God, and most importantly that you sought refuge for your failings in Jesus Christ? I pray that it will be the latter. May God shine the light and truth that is Jesus Christ into your heart. Amen.
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