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Death

(13 posts)

“It is a great thing to die”

Tuesday··2007·08·21 · 4 Comments
John Newton died on December 21, 1807, at the age of eighty- two. A month previously he wrote: It is a great thing to die; and, when flesh and a heart fail, to have God for the strength of our hearts, and our portion forever. I know whom I have believed, and he is able to keep that which I have committed against that great day. Hence forth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the lord, the righteous judge, shall give me that day. —quoted in John Piper, The Roots of Endurance (Crossway, 2002), 52. I don’t intend to have a marked grave, but if I did, this would be an excellent epitaph.

The Best News

Monday··2013·05·06
It is assurance of salvation that enables the saints to suffer persecution and even die for their faith. Assurance should allow any of God’s own to die happily and without fear. ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul,’ said Bishop Hugh Latimer, ‘then I am as bold as a lion.’ John Bradford, another martyr could say, ‘If Queen Mary gives me my life, I will thank her; if she burns me, I will thank her.’ Nor is it only in days of persecution that Christians have been able to speak in this way. Many believers, when dying, have been as ready as Richard Baxter to affirm that they were ‘almost well’. William White, a country pastor in Virginia, on hearing from his doctor that he had only a few days to live, could declare, ‘That’s the best news I have heard in twenty years.’ A bedridden Methodist woman in Cornwall, and eager for ‘home’, told her attentive daughter that she was too weak to take a drink. ‘Do not say so,’ the daughter urged, ‘you will be down among us again yet.’ To which the response was, ‘You are always a-foreboding!’ —Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 171.

Two Conditions in which to Die

Thursday··2016·03·17
For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. —1 Peter 4:6 I care how I die. You probably do, as well. I would rather die quietly in my sleep than in a violent accident. I would rather die suddenly in an accident than be mauled by a bear. I would rather be fatally mauled by a bear than suffer a prolonged death of a terminal illness. I don’t think there is anything unusual about those preferences (except, possibly, the fact that I’ve obviously thought a bit about it). But in the end, the mode of my death is entirely trivial in comparison to what really matters, that is, the condition in which I die. [Peter] is not talking about Jesus’ preaching to dead spirits; rather, he is indicating the reason that Christ came. Jesus preached the gospel, and many of those who had heard Him and believed had died, so their battle was over and their victory won. When we get unexpected news of the death of someone we know, we wonder immediately how he or she died. Was she killed in an automobile accident? Did he have a heart attack? When the Bible speaks of people’s dying, it is somewhat reductionistic. From a biblical standpoint, there are only two conditions in which someone dies: in the faith or out of the faith. We die in faith, or we die in sin. Peter understood the urgency of the gospel, so he called people to think about that time of accountability when they would stand before Christ, not in their sins but in faith. Every day we are judged by people, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly, sometimes graciously and sometimes without grace. Yet any judgment made about us in this world—good or bad—ultimately does not count, because it is a judgment made in the flesh. The only judgment that counts is the judgment of God, so we are to live not according to the judgment of people but according to God in the Spirit. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 144–145. If that doesn’t motivate you to share the gospel, you may not have received it yet yourself.

Lord’s Day 14, 2016

Sunday··2016·03·27
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. —Romans 5:8–9 Hymn LXXIV. The Tolling Bell. John Newton (1726–1807) Oft as the bell, with solemn toll, Speaks the departure of a soul; Let each one ask himself; “Am I Prepared, should I be called to die?” Only this frail and fleeting breath Preserves me from the jaws of death; Soon as it fails, at once I’m gone, And plung’d into a world unknown. Then, leaving all I lov’d below, To God’s tribunal I must go; Must hear the Judge pronounce my fate, And fix my everlasting state. But could I bear to hear him say, “Depart, accursed, far away! With Satan, in the lowest hell, Thou art for ever doom’d to dwell.” Lord Jesus! help me now to flee, And seek my hope alone in thee. Apply thy blood, thy Spirit give, Subdue my sin, and in me live. Then, when the solemn bell I hear, If sav’d from guilt, I need not fear; Nor would the thought distressing be, Perhaps it next may toll for me. Rather, my spirit would rejoice, And long, and wish, to hear thy voice; Glad when it bids me earth resign, Secure of heav’n, if thou art mine. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 4, 2017

Sunday··2017·01·22
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. —1 Corinthians 5:1–4 Hymn LXXV. Hope beyond the grave. John Newton (1726–1807) My soul, this curious house of clay, Thy present frail abode; Must quickly fall to worms a prey, And thou return to God. Canst thou, by faith, survey with joy The change, before it come? And say, “Let death this house destroy, I have a heav’nly home!” The Saviour, whom I then shall see With new admiring eyes, Already has prepar’d for me, A mansion in the skies. I feel this mud-walled cottage shake, And long to see it fall; That I my willing flight may take To him who is my all. Burden’d and groaning, then no more, My rescu’d soul shall sing, As up the shining path I soar, “Death, thou hast lost thy sting.” Dear Saviour, help us now to seek, And know thy grace’s power; That we may all this language speak, Before the dying hour. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");
I am dying. I don’t know exactly when it started, but at some point, I stopped growing, my body began breaking down, and sometime within the next twenty to forty years—maybe a little more—I’ll be gone. This may come as hard news, but the same thing is happening to you. We’re all dying. That’s why I’ve begun planning my funeral. I’ve been thinking about it off and on for several years, but it’s a job that is probably better done sooner than later, so I’ve decided to put my wishes on the record before it’s too late. I have some very particular ideas about what a Christian funeral should be, and I want to be sure mine will fit that description. There will be no “he was a good man” or “celebration of life” nonsense. I am not a good man, and celebration of life funerals are for those who have no hope in eternity and wish to drown out that noise with the best alternative they have. Christians ought not celebrate at the closing of life. We grieve, because life is precious, and death is an enemy, but we do not grieve “as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff). Don’t celebrate the life that is past; celebrate the life to come. I know I will be. The Obituary/Eulogy will go something like this: His accomplishments were few and unremarkable. He possessed more faults than virtues, and no merit by which he may claim his salvation. But, while he was a great sinner, he has an infinitely greater Savior. I suppose someone will want to include more details, but the less said, the better. There will be hymns—no sentimental slop, just pure gospel. A full orchestra and choir would be nice, but a single piano and quartet will be sufficient. My short list so far: Edward Mote, The Solid Rock (Melita) Horatius Bonar, I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (Kingsfold) Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages (Toplady) Isaac Watts, O God, Our Help in Ages Past (St. Anne) William Cowper, There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood (Cleansing Fountain, sans refrain) There will be no congregational singing—I will not ask unbelievers to sing what they do not believe. The sermon will be an exposition of the gospel that presents heaven and hell as real places to which everyone must finally go, leaves believers with comfort and hope in Christ, and leaves unbelievers knowing both that they are not saved, and how they can be saved. I would like a closing solo of I Know that My Redeemer Liveth by G. F. Handel. If no good soprano can be found who can sing it, then let the sermon be the last word. I’ll be quite busy listening to better music, anyway. In short, I want my funeral to be worshipful and evangelistic (no Finneyish altar call, thank you), as all funerals should be. I consider it my last chance to preach the gospel to friends and family, and I don’t want to waste it. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling; Naked come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace: Foul I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Saviour, or I die. —Augustus Toplady

Lord’s Day 13, 2017

Sunday··2017·03·26
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. —Genesis 5:24 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. —Hebrews 11:5 I. Enoch’s Piety and Translation. Genesis v. 24. Hebrews xi. 5. Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) Eternal God, our wond’ring Souls Admire thy matchless Grace; That Thou wilt walk, that Thou wilt dwell, With Adam’s worthless Race. O lead me to that happy Path, Where I my God may meet; Tho’ Hosts of Foes begird it round, Tho’ Briars wound my Feet. Chear’d with thy Converse, I can trace The Desart with Delight: Thro’ all the Gloom one Smile of thine Can dissipate the Night. Nor shall I thro’ eternal Days A restless Pilgrim roam; Thy Hand, that now directs my Course, Shall soon convey me home. I ask not Enoch’s rapt’rous Flight To Realms of heav’nly Day; Nor seek Elijah’s fiery Steeds, To bear this Flesh away. Joyful my Spirit will consent To drop its mortal Load, And hail the sharpest Pangs of Death, That break its Way to God. —Philip Doddridge, Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Holy Scriptures (Salop, 1755). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 17, 2017

Sunday··2017·04·23
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. —James 1:12 The Blessing of Hope in Death Samuel Davies (1723–1761) Yes; I must bow my head and die; What then can bear my spirit up? In nature’s last extremity, Who can afford one ray of hope? Then all created comforts fail, And earth speaks nothing but despair; And you, my friends, must bid farewell, And leave your fellow-traveller. Yet, Savior, Thine almighty power Even then can sure support afford, Even then that hope shall smile secure, That's now supported by Thy Word. Searcher of hearts, oh, try me now, Nor let me build upon the sand; Oh, teach me now myself to know, That I may then the trial stand. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Death Is No Death

Monday··2017·05·15
The following lines are attributed to John Hooper. Tradition says they were written in coal on the wall of the cell in which he was held before his execution. Content thyself with patience With Christ to bear the cup of pain: Who can and will thee recompense A thousand-fold, with joys again. Let nothing cause thy heart to fail: Launch out thy boat, hoist up the sail, Put from the shore; And be thou sure thou shalt attain Unto the port, that shall remain For evermore. Fear not death, pass not for bands, Only in God put thy whole trust; For He will require thy blood at their hands, And thou dost know that once die thou must, Only for that, thy life if thou give, Death is no death, but ever for to live. Do not despair: Of no worldly tyrant be thou in dread; Thy compass, which is God’s Word, shall thee lead, And the wind is fair. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 83.
The words of Puritan Richard Baxter (1615–1691) to friends who visited him on his deathbed: You come hither to learn to die. I am not the only person that must go this way. Have a care of this vain, deceitful world, and the lust of the flesh. Be sure you choose God for your portion, heaven for your home, God’s glory for your end, God’s Word for your rule, and then you need never fear but we shall meet again with comfort. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 292.

Lord’s Day 23, 2017

Sunday··2017·06·04
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:51–57 The Song of Triumph over Death and the Grave Ralph Erskine (1685–1752) Faith sings although the body dies, The promise is enjoyed: This mortal shall immortal rise, And death shall be destroyed. Where is thy killing sting, O death, Addicted to devour? Through grace we now despise thy wrath, And we defy thy power. O grave, where is thy victory? The bolted prison, where? Our king victorious conquered thee, And we the conquest share. The sting of death is sin indeed, The strength of sin the law; But thence our law-fulfilling Head Did sting and strength withdraw. Thanks to the God of victory, Who makes us thus, by faith, In Christ, our living Head on high, Triumphant over death. Then steadfast may our hearts remain, And in his work abound; Through whom our labors not in vain, With such an issue crowned. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

With Christ Is Best

Monday··2017·07·31
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. —Philippians 1:21–24 The Apostle Paul had no fear of death. On the contrary, as expressed in the text above, he anticipated it with great joy. How did he—or, more to the point, how can we—“attain this sanctified sweet desire that Paul had, to die, and be with Christ?” Richard Sibbes answers as follows: Let us carry ourselves as Paul did, and then we shall have the same desires. St Paul, before death, in his lifetime, ‘had his conversation in heaven,’ Phil. iii. 1. His mind was there, and his soul followed after. There is no man’s soul comes into heaven, but his mind is there first. It was an easy matter for him to desire to be with Christ, having his conversation in heaven already. Paul in meditation was, where he was not, and he was not where he was. He was in heaven when his body was on earth. Again, St Paul had loosed his affections from all earthly things; therefore it was an easy matter for him to desire to be with Christ. ‘I am crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to me,’ &c., Gal. vi. 14. If once a Christian comes to this pass, death will be welcome to him. Those whose hearts are fastened to the world, cannot easily desire Christ. Again, holy St Paul laboured to keep a good conscience in all things. ‘Herein I exercise myself, to have a good conscience towards God and men,’ &c., Acts xxiv. 16. It is easy for him to desire to be dissolved, that hath his conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ, Heb. x. 22, free from a purpose of living in any sin. . . . A guilty conscience trembles at the mention of death. . . . Oh, beloved, the exercising of the heart to keep a clear conscience, can only breed this desire in us to depart, and to be with Christ. . . . Oh, therefore let us walk holily with our God, and maintain inward peace all we can, if we desire to depart hence with comfort. Again, Paul had got assurance that he was in Christ, by his union with him. ‘I live not,’ saith he, ‘but Christ lives in me,’ Gal. ii. 19. Therefore labour for assurance of salvation, that you may feel the Spirit of Christ in you, sanctifying and altering your carnal dispositions to be like his. ‘I know whom I have trusted,’ 2 Tim. i. 12, saith he. He was as sure of his salvation, as if he had had it already.* . . . Therefore, if we would come to Paul’s desire, labour to come to the frame of the holy apostle’s spirit. He knew whom he had believed; he was assured that nothing could separate him from the love of God, neither life, nor death, nor anything whatsoever that could befall him, Rom. viii. 38, 39. Paul had an art of sweetening the thoughts of death. He considered it only as a departure from earth to heaven. When death was presented unto him as a passage to Christ, it was an easy matter to desire the same; therefore it should be the art of Christians to present death as a passage to a better life, to labour to bring our souls into such a condition, as to think death not to be a death to us, but the death of itself. Death dies when I die, and I begin to live when I die. It is a sweet passage to life. We never live till we die. This was Paul’s art. He had a care to look beyond death, to heaven; and when he looked upon death, he looked on it but as a passage to Christ: so let it be our art and skill. Would we cherish a desire to die, let us look on death as a passage to Christ, and look beyond it to heaven. All of us must go through this dark passage to Christ, which when we consider as Paul did, it will be an easy matter to die. —Richard Sibbes, Christ Is Best; Or, St Paul’s Strait., Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:341–343 * Sibbes does not mean to say that Paul’s salvation was not entirely secure. We have the promise from Christ himself that all who are his will be kept to the end: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37–40). He means that Paul was as sure of his salvation as if he had already been raised on that last day.

When Pilgrims Go Home

Monday··2017·10·02
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. —Hebrews 11:13 Be not too fearful of death. It is a sleep now; Christ’s death did change the property of it; and will a pilgrim, a weary traveller, be afraid of sleep? When you are come to the gates of death, there is but one step then betwixt you and home, and that is death. Methinks we should pass this cheerfully, the next step your foot will be in heaven. How does it cheer the weary traveller, to think this is the last day’s journey; to-morrow, to-morrow I shall be at my own home, with all my dear relations. There I shall have ease and rest, and many welcomes. Suppose this last be the worst, the most stormy day of all my journey, to-morrow will make full amends for it. Now such a day is the day of death, the last day of a wearisome pilgrimage, and that which brings the stranger to his long home, into the bosom of God, into the embraces of Christ, unto all those joys and engagements that his own country afford, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, &c. This is partly the way to live as strangers, to live so as ye may die in the faith; and those that die in the faith die in the Lord, and those are blessed. —David Clarkson, Of Living as Strangers, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:246.

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