May 3, 2009

The Necessity of Death - May 3, 2009

Grace and peace be yours, from God our Father, and from our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Because of human uncertainty adults often find it awkward to talk about death with children. Because people are uncomfortable talking about death, they avoid directly addressing the issue if possible.

But sometimes a child asks a question that cannot be sidestepped. A question like, “How come uncle Ron had to die.”

Some people would answer: “Well, uncle Ron had to die, because everyone has to die. Death makes us sad, but it’s a natural part of life.”

But God did not put death here as a part of His creation. He never intended His creatures to breakdown, suffer and die.

As you know, it was the actions of Adam and Eve that brought death into God’s creation. Their sin brought death into the world because Death is sin’s shadow. Where sin is, death always follows.

Death is not natural, but in this sinful world it is inevitable.

In our sermon reading for today Jesus talks about the necessity of His own death, of the Christian’s death and of death’s death. We pray…

Prayer: Holy Spirit sanctify us by your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen.

John 12:20-26 (NASB)

20Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.
23And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

“The Necessity of Death”
1. Jesus’ Death
2. The Christian’s Death
3. Death’s Death

“The Necessity of Jesus’ Death”

Jesus had to die in order to save sinners from an eternity in Hell. But His death was not the end. Jesus eluded to His approaching death and resurrection when He spoke to the Greeks who sought Him during that last Passover week.

If one had no knowledge of planting, a farmer putting seeds in the ground might look like a burial. Committing the dead to the ground.

But the farmer knows these seeds have “died” so that they can rise up green and full of life. Each solitary seed, entombed in the dark earth, will rise up, a new plant and will produce a head full of seeds for eating and planting.

Sometimes life follows death.

Hopefully the Greeks who heard Jesus remembered this in the days to come. Jesus spoke these things on the Tuesday of Holy Week. On Friday He died and was buried. But like a kernel of golden wheat, Jesus rose up in new life on the third day. He burst out of the ground on the first Easter Sunday – alive though He had been dead.

Jesus’ death was necessary, but life followed. Life for Him and life for all who look to Him in faith. He has suffered the punishment for our sin. He has died our death. Our sins stand forgiven and our approaching death has been robbed of it’s terror.

Before physical death there is another death that sinners must experience. In fact, it is the only kind of death that we want to go through.

When a person comes to faith a mortal wound is dealt and their inner, sinful flesh begins to die.

“24And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25 NKJV).

By faith in Jesus we have become the living children of God. As His children we have the power to crucify our old sinful self. And we must. For that old sinful self will not leave us in life, and every day seeks to steer us back into our former sinless attitudes and ways of doing things.

For this reason, our death is necessary – the on-going death of our old sinful self. Jesus talks about the Christian’s death to sin in verse 25…

“The Christian’s Death”

“25He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25 NASB).

A rich young man once approached Jesus. He asked Jesus what he had to do to get into heaven. When Jesus mentioned following God’s commandments, the young man claimed to have done so. Ever since he was a mere boy, he said, “I have kept them”.

Jesus responded by saying, “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21 NIV).

At this the man’s eyes faltered, and he left, deeply saddened. He was a rich man, and Jesus had shown him quite clearly that he had not kept the commandments at all. He had broken the very first one, for his possessions were his god.

Part of crucifying our old sinful self is putting God above our possessions. But God also calls us to put Him above the people we love.

Listen to Jesus’ strong words about faith and family:

“25Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—29lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:25-33 NKJV).

Christians understand that Jesus teaches us to be compassion to others, kind, humble, gentle and patience. The Holy Spirit teaches us to bear with each other and forgive one another as Christ forgave us.

Jesus uses the word “hate” to emphasize that there is no grey here. There’s only room for one on the throne of your heart.

We get the point, don’t we. Not even family is to be loved more than God.

More than that, Jesus teaches us to love God even more than we love ourselves.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NKJV).

To love this life and who we are in it, is to love something that is sinful. Sure we enjoy parts of our life and who we are, but always with heaven in mind. Always knowing that this is not our home. This is not our pure self. This is only a wasteland and a temporary body that will fall away when Christ returns. On that great day, death will die.

“Death’s Death”

Verse 26:

“ 26"If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NASB).

If we would serve Jesus, we must follow Him.

He has already brought us to His cross. He has shown us the debt our sins had amassed. He has shown us that He was blasted in our place. Ravaged and torn. Abandoned and killed – instead of us. For our release.

Before we ever thought to serve Jesus, He served us. And He has led us to His cross to see and receive our salvation.

If we would serve Jesus, we must follow Him.

Moving on from the cross we follow the Master through life. We walk in His ways.

You know, sometimes I think we Christians look at the cross too much. Let me explain.

If you can imagine this. Christ leads us as unbelieving sinners to His cross and to faith and forgiveness through His blood. Then He begins to march on, setting the path for us, leading the way He has picked out for us. He guides us with the Word and always leads us.

But some Christians begin to walk off the path that Jesus is leading them on. And down into the ditches of sin on either side.

Christ calls out to them, “Hey, you’re off the path! Get back up here! You’re gonna get hurt, or worse!”

But they simply look back at His cross and keep walking backward, their back to Jesus, and their back to the ditch that they’re walking down into.

“Don’t worry, I still know you’re my Savior”, they call from the ditch below, as they continue down into the rocky thorns below.

In His last talks with His disciples, Jesus said,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NKJV).

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him“ (John 14:21 NIV).

“He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:24 NIV).

If we would serve Jesus, we must follow Him.

This is not to say that Jesus won’t come down into the ditch of sin and pull us out of the thorns and cutting rocks that we’re entangled ourselves in. He loves us stupid sheep and will do just that. But not all return after leaving Christ.

Better never to leave Him. Better to keep hearing His voice and seeing Him on the path ahead. Better to serve at His side.

“…where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 12:26b NASB).

In that last evening of fellowship before Jesus’ death He also told His disciples this:

“1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3 NIV).

Where I am, the My servant will be also.

When at last we enter God’s Mansion, death will not be with us. Death will be resigned to hell with the evil angels and the faithless.

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14 NIV).

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV).

Not only will we be free from death, we will be honored by the Father for our service to His Son. Despite our pathetic, backsliding, sin-tainted service to Christ Jesus – we will stand before the Almighty as an honored servant of the Prince of Heaven.

As Jesus said,

“…if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NASB).

Jesus once told a parable to illustrate this. It’ll take your breath away.

“37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” (Luke 12:37 NIV).

It is thoughts like these that have made it possible for Christian martyrs to face their deaths with courage and fearless expressions of faith in Christ. What grace the Father has given us.

Life after death through Jesus our Crucified and Risen Savior.

Life amid the dead sinful nature that remains with us in this world.

Life through eternity when death is finally cast away from us forever and we are swallowed up in light and glory as we worship Father, Son and Spirit - in purity, forever.

When a child asks you about death, don’t hedge away from the question. Don’t say what you don’t know of course, just say what you do.

“Well, uncle Ron had to die because all sinners die. And we’re all sinners. I’m not sure where all people go when they die, but I know this: all who trust in Jesus are forgiven their sins and go where death can’t follow. They go to be with Jesus in heaven.”

Without Christ, nothing comforts in the face of death. Without Christ, all we can do is cover up and avoid our fear of death, we can never really erase it.

With Christ, death is stripped of all it’s power. Sinners may fear death, but death fears Christ.

Death is a necessity, but only for a little while longer.


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