It was the summer leading up to my junior year of college. It had been a normal day – went to the rec center in the morning, laid out in the sun with friends, and was just getting ready to go check my work schedule for the upcoming week at the restaurant where I waitressed. It was late in the evening when I received a phone call that rocked me to the core. It was a friend from high school. Her voice was usually giddy, happy, and full of energy. But not this time. Her tone was serious and she got straight to the point. “Have you heard yet….about Jon?”
heard. But from her abnormally calm and
quiet voice I knew what had happened.
The plague of deaths that had picked off our group of friends seemingly
one-by-one during our high school years had hit again. But this time it was different. Jon, better known to us as “Jonny T” was my
closest friend for a season of my life in high school, as he was to many
others. Our friendship had grown apart
since I went to college, mainly because of the sheer logistics of
distance. But Jon was one of my most
favorite friends. Everybody loved being
around him with his witty sarcasm and loyal heart.
evening my friend had called to tell me that Jon had died. He’d had a diabetic attack during his
sleep….and never woke up. And so began
my journey with the reality of death.
I’d experienced death before with other classmates and older family
members. But this time, it was a little
too close for comfort.
would never admit their deep down fear of death. The fear of not knowing when we will die or
how. The fear of the unknown of what you
will experience in those moments of death, and what about after? The vulnerability and loss of control that
surrounds death is easier to push away or cover up then to have to deal with
the thoughts and search out answers. Because
we’re scared of what the answers might be.
It is my experience that some plan out their grave stone, plot of land
where they’ll be buried, and their funeral more than they make plans for the
most important part - where they will spend eternity once they’ve left their
And might I
interject, with it being October and all, that in this mix somewhere is where I
believe Halloween comes in. No, I don’t
know the history of the holiday – how it all started and why. But it is my opinion that Halloween is an
attempt by our American society/culture to make light of death. To give a little humor, a little
light-heartedness, to a subject that if we were honest with ourselves really,
really scares us – to death.
When I received
that phone call that summer I was not yet a Christian. I went to Jon’s funeral
devastated and I mourned deeply with his family who had just a few years
earlier experienced the suicide of Jon’s older brother. I left Jon’s funeral angry at the pastor who
shared truth, but truth that my hardened heart wasn’t ready to hear yet. Truth that I passed off as unfair
judgment. Most of all I came away with a
devastatingly uneasy feeling that life is short and uncertain. Yes, I believed there was a God. Yes, I told myself that Jon was in a happier
place. But saying that didn’t give me
any peace. On the outside I acted like
it did. When I looked into the eyes of
Jon’s grieving parents I felt like it was the proper thing to say. But I was really saying it because it made
me feel better, and I wanted them to feel better too. The truth was, I really didn’t know.
Today I want to
tell you that you can really know.
You can know what will happen to you after you die. The fear and unknown that surrounds death can
be replaced with hope, confidence, and yes – even excitement and a longing for
it. Yes, I really said that. Let’s start here…
God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son (Jesus) also
became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by
dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who
have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14-15
when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this
Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death,
and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (NLT)
Now, perhaps if
this is the first time you’ve ever read those verses then you might not fully
be able to wrap your mind around what it is saying. But I bet you caught these phrases that I
also bolded in the verses: SET FREE (from) THE FEAR OF DYING and VICTORY OVER
lose its sting, IF you are trusting in the Only One who has power over it. We humans can do a lot of things. But one thing we can’t do is resurrect
ourselves. Jesus promises us a
resurrection. This is His work, and it
told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who
lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this,
Martha?” John 11:25-26 (NLT)
You could take
out Martha’s name and insert yours. This
is a question you need to ask yourself, if you are ready to look into death. In this verse Jesus is giving us His word
that this life is not the end. Elsewhere
in the Bible He reminds us not to get too attached to this world – to the
things of it, the people of it, the good or the bad of it. Rather, we should rejoice that this world is
not our home. We’re aliens here. Passing through. A vapor of a life that when ‘gone’ will step
That’s part 1 of
what I’ve learned about death. Jesus
says, yes - INDEED there is another life after this one. Now, part 2….
The Bible also warns
that this stepping into eternity is not an event we want to face without Jesus
speaking on our behalf. Because…
person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27
Bible says once we die, we are going to be judged. But who is doing the judging?
we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
It is written: “As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will
bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.” So then, each of us will give an account of
ourselves to God. Romans 14:10-12 (NIV)
pretty much answers it. We are going to
be judged by God. And when you are
standing in front of an Almighty, Righteous, and Holy God, I can guarantee that
you are not going to be applauding yourself.
In fact, every time someone in the Bible was brought into the presence
of God, they were shaking in their sandals, and what flooded their minds was
not the good they had done in their life, but the wrong and the bad. That’s what happens when you are in the
presence of Holiness….you realize that you are so….not….holy. When I look back on it now, I know this is
what I had feared all along regarding death.
Not necessarily the actual dying.
But the looming of God’s judgment that would come shortly after.
Now, here’s the
good news. Jesus is going to be there at
there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1
Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
And this is the
point in which He will speak on our behalf.
But it’s not all streets of gold and pearly gates yet. Because, this is where Jesus will say that He
either knew you, or He didn’t (read Matthew 7:21-23). And that’s the deciding factor of where you will spend eternity.
and being known by Him implies a relationship.
This will be a judgment of faith – of our acceptance of Jesus as
Savior. This life, RIGHT NOW, is our
opportunity to do just that. We won’t
get another chance once we are standing face to face with Him in our death. We won’t be able to change our minds (repent)
then. This is it. Now, in this life, is our chance…
message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart. And that message is the very message about
faith that we preach: If you confess
with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God,
and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts
in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 10:8-11 (NLT)
Might I add that
the evidence of this faith is obedience.
So this isn’t just some prayer that you pray to sound religious - to
check off your ‘God list’ and then go live how you want. This is a
decision of the heart that will overflow in the way you think and the way you
live. You can say you are a Christian
until you are blue in the face. But Jesus
will know whether this faith took root in your heart or not. In addition, once this does take root in your
heart, God sends the Holy Spirit to live inside of your physical body. This is another ‘evidence’ of faith. Trust me, I know what it is like to live
without the Holy Spirit. You will know
once the Holy Spirit is living inside of you.
The Bible says
that we are able to know whether or not we have a relationship with
Jesus before we die. Therefore, as you
sit and read this right now you will know.
You will either have peace as you think about death and the judgment that
will come after, or you won’t. Peace comes when you have trusted not in
what you have (or haven’t done) in your life, but in what Jesus has done on
your behalf. He lived the perfect, blameless, sinless life that we ourselves could not and can not. Then He died, taking your sins and my sins upon Himself. By His death we get to trade in our sins for His righteousness. We get Jesus' clean record in exchange for our dirty one. This is what will allow us to stand blameless before the Father God. Which brings us to confidence. Confidence comes when you know
that when God judges you, He won’t see your sin. He’ll only see Jesus’ blood covering you in
full payment and imparting to you the clean record, the holiness that you need
to even step one foot in heaven. Because
nothing sinful can enter. Excitement comes because YOU ARE GOING
TO HEAVEN! Longing for heaven comes, I believe in many ways. When you experience pain and sadness in this
life. When you cry out for things in
this world to be made right, fair and void of suffering. When you hope that there is something more
than just this life, something better – much better….and you find out that
there is. You can’t wait to get
there. That’s longing. When the fear of death is replaced with all
these things - peace, confidence, excitement, and longing - that’s when you
know you’ve been pulled from the grave.
Freed from slavery over the fear of death. It can be yours, through Jesus. He died to take all your sins upon Himself so
that you could have eternal LIFE. In
this, the offer stands for Him to speak for you to God the Father when your day
of judgment comes. Jesus has got you
covered, if you accept His offer now, in this life.
he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He
lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25 (NLT)