Archive for the ‘Death and Life and Eternity’ Category

Death and Life and Eternity 2

February 12, 2016

That the agency of God is concerned in every instance of bereavement. As it belongs to God to give and to preserve live, so it equally belongs to Him to take it away. He constantly carries the life and death of every individual in His sovereign hand. Though men are surrounded with a multiplicity of natural causes which have a tendency to destroy life, these cannot destroy it without the agency of God. For He can preserve the life of whom He pleases, in the midst of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. And though men are surrounded with a multiplicity of natural causes which have a tendency to preserve life, yet these cannot preserve it without the agency of God. For behold, He taketh away, and who can hinder Him? Whether death comes by disease, or by accident, or by old age, it always comes through the agency of Him in whose hand our breath is. Hence everyone who is bereaved of a friend or relative has reason to believe and say, The Lord hath done it. (Nathanael Emmons, Instructions to the Afflicted, International Outreach)

The sovereignty of God is not just the subject in dry and dusty books written by the Puritans or stuffy theologians, it is the deepest truth of all life. While many think that death is the sole work of the devil or just the result of natural causes, it is not. God is sovereign over every instance of every single thing in all of life. Acts 17 is quite clear that it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being. How hard it is to come face to face with the true sovereign hand of God and know that each person can only be sick or die when He brings it to pass. Another way of looking at it would be that He has no obligation to keep us alive and our lives are in His hand each moment of each day. We only live each moment because in His sovereignty He decides to keep us alive.

It is exceedingly hard to come to grips with this basic truth. God is not just sovereign in the creeds and books on theology, but He is sovereign in truth and in all reality. What is hard to do, however, is not just accept this as a truth, but for the heart to submit to this each moment. This is part and parcel of what it means to bow in humble submission to the sovereign Lord. God is sovereign over all things that happen to us whether large or small or even what we may think of as tiny. It belongs to Him to give life as He pleases and to preserve life as He pleases. The life of every person, animal, and even plant is in His hands to dispose of as He pleases. As such death comes and can only come when God is pleased to bring that upon a person. The testimonies of men and women in history are replete with those who bowed in sweet submission to the sovereign hand of God and kissed the rod as they died.

This great and glorious truth is at the foundation of reality and of Christian humility. We are the Lord’s in all ways and all things and all times. He can do with us as He pleases and when He pleases. The true Christian is the only one that can and should bow to this and see this as a sweet and pleasing truth. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet we look to the One in whom our life is held into being at His mere pleasure. Nothing can take us out of this world until He is ready for us to leave it. All that we think of as natural causes could combine against us and yet until the Lord is willing we will live. No bullet can strike us and no disease can hinder us and nothing or no one can take us out of this world until the Lord is willing that it would happen. As said centuries ago, we are immortal in this life until God is finished with us.

On the other hand, while it is a dark and grim truth to many, there is the truth that when God is finished with us in this life then we will die in terms of this world. Not only is it true that we cannot die until He is ready, but we cannot live if He is ready for us to die. How is it that some men can go through horrific car crashes and walk away unscathed while others can have just a minor car crash and they die? Both are because of the purposes and eternal plans of God. Some live through terrible landslides with huge boulders crashing around them while others are taken from this life by a rather small and single falling rock. All of these things are in the hands of the living God.

Each death and each illness as well as all life is from the hand of God. Regardless of the assigned reasons of death, it is ultimately from the Lord and in His sovereign hand. If the breath of each human being is in His hand, then nothing can take that breath until His hand is willing to give it up. The person who is sick and dying can know that is true. The friends and relatives of those people can know that it is true. The Lord reigns in all things and all ways and it is no less true when people are sick and when they die. For the believer, this should be an unspeakable comfort. For others, this should be an unspeakable horror. My life is not in my hands to do with as I please, but instead it is the Lord’s. For the believer, whether we live or die we are His. This means we are to live for Him and die for Him. All we do is to be for His glory.

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Death and Life and Eternity 1

February 10, 2016

When death comes, it will destroy all earthly possessions and enjoyments. As men bring nothing into the world with them, so they can carry nothing out. When they are called to quit the body, they must leave their treasures, their relations, their connections, and all their outward distinctions behind them. When the master shall die, he shall cease to be a master; when the parent shall die, he will cease to be a parent; when the minister shall die, he will cease to be a minister; when the ruler shall die, he will cease to be a ruler; and when the rich man shall die, he shall cease to be rich. Persons of all orders and ages must meet together in the grave, stripped of all their outward distinctions, and deprived of all their earthly enjoyments. And when all these idols are taken away, what will they have left, to satisfy the desires of a selfish and sinful heart? (Nathanael Emmons, Instructions to the Afflicted, International Outreach)

Death is a great instructor if we will but listen and learn. Will what I am doing really matter when I die? Will what I am doing be something that I wish I would not have done when I die? Is this present enjoyment something I would do in the presence of Christ? Is this present possession something that should consume my present time in light of the fact how I spend my time influences eternal things? Thomas Shepard (American Puritan, founder of Harvard University) said that when we die, our friends will scramble for our possessions, the worms for our bodies, and the devils for our souls. What will matter at that point? Will it matter how much I had while on earth? Will it matter how much we spent on our bodies and how we dressed them and decorated them? Will it matter how religious we were? Will it matter how much people honored us and thought highly of us? Oh no, it will only matter if we have Christ and Him alone.

When a person goes on a hike, only what is absolutely needed is taken. If the person takes too much stuff, it gets in the way and hinders progress and tires the person out. The path of life may be the same way as well. We can easily get bogged down with too many possessions and too many entertainments for our sojourn in this life. We are so busy with things that are not outwardly evil (at least we think so) that our time is consumed along with our mental and physical energy. We stay busy doing things, perhaps not even outwardly bad things, but our lives are not spent in things that matter for eternity. Our minds and our hearts are consumed with things that do not matter for eternity. We are told that we are to glorify God in all we do, yet it seems that this is interpreted as doing things that are not all that bad. We are to love God and truly desire and seek His glory in this world.

We enter life with nothing and we leave with nothing. We do have things that we need in order to make it through life, but what are those things? Even if we accept the idea that it is not necessarily sinful to have things above the absolute minimum, yet we should ask ourselves how necessary those things really are as we trudge on the path of life that leads into eternity. We might hold on to them with a lesser grip. Perhaps we desire things because of covetous hearts, but we may also desire things as a way to put us above others or a way of distinction. But in the grace or on judgment day, those will be seen as wicked reasons. We desire and do things for what may seem good at the moment or in light of our worldly good, but we must begin to look at things in light of eternity.

Why do men and women take up the occupations they give themselves to? While noble reasons may be said by mouth, the heart is the real issue. What are the reasons of the heart that men and women take up their occupations? Is it really for the glory of God? Could it be that people want to distinguish themselves or want to be better than their siblings, cousins, schoolmates, or anyone else? In eternity, no one will care what a person’s occupation was. In eternity there will be no distinctions like that at all. In eternity no one will care how successful a person was in this life as all the cares will be focused and centered upon Christ.

The last two sentences of the statement by Emmons are very thought provoking. Regardless of who a person is, that person will be stripped or all outward distinctions and have no earthly enjoyments. What will be left to satisfy the desires of the heart? For those in hell, their selfish and sinful hearts will have nothing to fill their hearts. Instead, they will spend eternity with their covetous hearts craving all their worldly enjoyments and yet they will not have any of them to enjoy. They will have no joy at all but spend eternity in torment and also being tormented by their own raging and unfulfilled desires. Those that God has delivered from those selfish and sinful hearts and gave them a new heart by which He filled them with love for Himself, they will have their hearts desires and their desires will be filled far greater than they ever could in this present life. We must live for eternity and not the world. Our true desires show the true state of our hearts.