Sunday, February 12, 2006

Telling the Truth About Death

The preaching which Krista and I are sitting under while here in Louisville has been a blessing to our souls. This morning at Immanuel Baptist Church pastor Ryan Fullerton preached from John 8:51 and challenged us all to think about the promises of Jesus contained within that verse. I have posted here my sermon notes from this message in hopes that it will go forth and bless others.

Feb. 12, 2006 Ryan Fullerton
John 8:51

Someday we will all die. How does this truth affect how we live today? This is really a rare question in the modern culture. Usually people ask how one's past has shaped them (we see this especially in modern psychology which asks questions about one's childhood and parents). But knowing that we will all one day die shouldn't we be asking about how this future event shapes us today?

- How does death shape us?
Across the pages of scripture we have clear teaching on how death shapes man. (1) Through fear of death man is in slavery to sin. Hebrews 2:14-15 reads, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." Through fear of death man is subject to a life long slavery, a spiritual bondage to sin. So what is the motivation to sin? Fear of death. (2) People are afraid of death because of its sting. 1 Cor. 15:56 reads, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." Death has a sting, like a killer bee, and that sting is sin. The power of sin is the law, meaning that there is a punishment for sin.

These two facts are the reasons why we see people clinging to the good things in life as if they are all that they have. Children, wives, jobs, cars, security is their whole world because after death they have only punishment. This fear to death enslaves others to the destructive things of this life. The desperate pursuit of pleasure through drugs and alcohol are an attempt to avoid thinking about the reality of death. Others are enslaved to self-righteousness because admitting they are wrong is a testimony to a higher standard, which points equally to their deserved punishment for not meeting that standard. So we find men everywhere enslaved to sin because of fear of death. There can be no change in man, then, until this fear is removed. If you wish to transform pastoral counseling, transform church congregations, transform people and nations enslaved to fear then you must point them to the promise of John 8:51, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."

-The promise of this text:
(1) Who can never see death? Anyone, if they keep Jesus' word. If this seems hard and indeed impossible do not fear. John 17:6 testifies that those who keep Jesus' word are not flawless and pefect. Peter, John, and James (among others) are those whom Jesus prays for in this passage and their sins were many and some are even recorded in the Bible. Yet Jesus says they are those who kept His word. So we stumble in keeping Jesus' word, but the King is gracious to His faultering saints.

(2) Whose word must be obeyed? God's word. Jesus is God. The amazing thing to note here is that it was God who said we would die (Gen. 3, Psalm 90), yet here it is God who says we will never see death (John 8:58). We must not only believe God's words of condemnation, but also the words of God's Christ. He says "truly, truly" because He wants us to believe it!

(3) What's the promise? That we will never see death. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Yes our lungs will one day cease to fill with oxygen, our hearts will stop beating, but our eyes will never close in darkness. God, in Christ Jesus, has tasted death for us and we will never taste it (Luke 23:43).

- How does this truth affect our lives today?
(1) It makes a difference when we are suddenly hit with calamity, for it means that this calamity does not have to be ruled by anxiety.
(2) This fear of death no longer drives us to cling to the good things of this world.
(3) This fear of death no longer drives us to cling to the destructive things of this world. For with God you can face up to your own sinfulness, because of Christ.
(4) You don't have to be enslaved to timid missionary efforts. We can proclaim the gospel with boldness, no matter where we are, because we do not cling to this life.

"Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, for the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still"- Martin Luther (A Mighty Fortress)


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