Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dying a Glorifying Death

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones," (Psalm 116:15).

"For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's," (Romans 14:7,8).

"For, to me to live is Christ and to die is gain," (Philippians 1:21)

"We may glorify God in death by being ready for it when it comes... by patiently enduring its pains... by testifying to others of the comfort and support which we find in the grace of Christ" (Bishop Ryle)

For one who has been authentically changed by the Lord Jesus, genuinely regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, living for Christ for the rest of his days is an ongoing determination.  And to consistently live as light and salt for the time on this earth that the Lord shall ordain, is to walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  

Still, there is not only living well... there is also dying well.  Taking God seriously involves not only yearning for a life well-lived, but a death in which He is glorified, too.  J.C. Ryle's points are well taken:

(a) "being ready for it when it comes..." 

Peter admonished believers, " all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you..." (II Peter 1:10).  Readiness for death is strongly connected with assurance of salvation.  A settled conviction of one's eternal security, evidenced by the Holy Spirit's witness (Romans 8:16), the accepting & appraising the things of the Spirit (I Corinthians 2:14), manifesting His fruit (Galatians 5:22, 23), [particularly self-control (v. 24)], as well as ongoing vitality from the Word (Luke 8:15), are crucial for dealing with death's dread.  

Also foundational is unshakable submission to God's supreme sovereignty. The longer we linger in meditating upon our Father as omnipotent Monarch of the universe, deepening our submission to His reign and will, the less death will cause dismay.  Recently, a Dad whose family is well-taught in the doctrine of God's sovereignty, told me that when his son's truck hit a slick spot earlier that same day, causing it to overturn 2 1/2 times, his son said to him later, "I just thought, 'This is it.  This is it.'," with a calm that came from having already submitted to whatever the Lord would bring into his life...even death. His life was give testimony to the Lord's sustaining grace.  

(b) "patiently enduring its pains"  

The world is given to complaining, stemming from pride.  "How could this happen to me?" "What'd I do to deserve this?"  The assumption is: I'm too good a person for this to happen! 
For the Christian, however, submission to the Lord Jesus' sovereignty produces needed humility for not only accepting adversity, but actually thanking Him for allowing it in his/her life.  Pained by a messenger of Satan to torment him, the apostle Paul implored the Lord three times for its removal. Protracted pain is an especially difficult burden to bear. Instead, he was told, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness," (II Corinthians 12:9). Upon receiving this refusal, Paul said, "...I am well content.." (v.10). Contentment characterizes a heart at rest with the Lord's providential provision.  For such a one it matters not what He gives or withholds... He is enough.  
Such patient enduring of pain prior to death shows forth from a life previously lived in like manner.  May we practice the commands of I Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks..." in preparation for daily strengthening as well as for death's approaching hour.

(c) "testifying to others of the comfort and support which we find in the grace of Christ" 

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so," (Psalm 107:1,2a).  

The goodness of God is a constant source of consternation for this world of cynicism and unbelief.  It is seen as naive nonsense to refuse to question, (and complain against) the character of God, if He even exists.  Thus, the dread of death is the ultimate fear, causing lost folk to hope against hope that all will be well on the other side of the grave.  To die distinctively, then, is to not only endure well, but to verbally attribute the comfort and support we experience to our gracious Savior and Lord.  In that monumentally-important hour, may we be like "the good man, (who) out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good," (Luke 6:45)...breathing out our last in tribute to the One who breathed out His last for us.  

"Oh Father, be pleased to prepare our hearts now for that time when we come into Your eternal presence forever.  Counter the spirit of fear that permeates this world with contemplations of the next.  Cause us to dwell often in our hearts upon the Lord Jesus' precious promise: "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  To Your glory, Father, to Your glory may our deaths be, as well as our lives.  In the Lord Jesus' Name, Amen."


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