Monday, January 30, 2017

The Final Enemy

Three years ago, exactly one week after my birthday, came the death day of my 28-year-old daughter Jessica. I still experience occasional waves of grief. Death is the final enemy we all must face. Some flirt with death. Others make light of death by their obsession with skulls and skeletons. But when that unwelcome intruder finally comes it is a very serious matter.

Have you ever wondered why people die? Death is a result of sin. 
Sin came into the world through Adam our forefather. 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12

We are natural born sinners in a world that remains under a curse because of that first sin. So, death is the price we must pay for because we all descend from Adam. 

“…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Some people have difficulty sleeping at night because they are afraid of death. Ancient explorers used to search for the Fountain of Youth. Today we do all sorts of things to prolong death and extend our lives, but no matter how long you live, death will ultimately come.

“…it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27

That is one appointment you will not break. Every man, woman, boy and girl will die and then we all will stand before the God who fashioned us within our mother’s womb.

I’ve only been a pastor since October 2011, and since then I have witnessed my fair share of death. I have performed 15 funerals in the past five years, including the death of my daughter. Funerals are difficult for me. You get to know someone personally, you do life together with them, and then you watch them face the final enemy. Those who reject God resist the scourge of death because they fear the unknown. Those who have surrendered their life to Jesus Christ welcome death with dignity and with the certainty of knowing where they are going.

We are confident and prefer to live away from this body and to live with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

Years ago, I was a reporter in New York and became desensitized to the tragic news that I reported each day. These days I observe funeral directors to see how they handle the constant exposure to death and grief. Many of them have become desensitized to death. Maybe it’s the only way they can deal with the continual interaction with mortality. However, as a pastor, I empathize with the sorrow and grief of the family, in order to offer comfort to them.

I just performed a funeral a few days ago, and will experience another one next week. Although I am clothed in the armor of God, every funeral I perform leaves a chink in my armor. Death can take its toll on you, but then I remember pastors who have to preach multiple funerals after natural disasters and that puts things into perspective for me.

The one joy that I find in funerals is in sharing the gospel. When confronted with our own mortality, that’s the best time to preach eternal life through Jesus Christ. Salvation comes through receiving Jesus as Lord, and accepting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for your sins. We are all God’s creation but Jesus gives us the right to become God’s children.

“… to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

Unfortunately, too many believe the myth that you can earn your salvation through good works, but God’s word dispels this lie.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Others believe that there are many ways to God, but Jesus was very clear when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord have hope beyond the grave. Although we grieve, our grief is mingled with hope. Our sorrow is blended with joy. We don’t fear because we know what is on the other side. For believers, death is simply a transition from this life to the next.

So we are always confident. We know that as long as we are living in these bodies, we are living away from the Lord. Indeed, our lives are guided by faith, not by sight. We are confident and prefer to live away from this body and to live with the Lord. Whether we live in the body or move out of it, our goal is to be pleasing to him. 2 Corinthians 5:6-9


ALisa Johnson said...

Only God completely understands the path that we each are on. He must have a special place in His heart for you, you have been through so much.
You are truly gifted in comforting those who need it most.

Ken R. Abell said...

Good word, Jay. Glad I caught the link on Facebook. Sorrow is part and parcel of life. I have often wondered how one functions in the face of death without the hope and truth of eternity through Christ. Then, I look around and see addiction and/or people chasing after every pop-culture icon yearning to be touched or blessed or something . . .

Anyway, thanks for sharing. Keep writing.

Joe Hill said...

A good word. Thank you for being honest.