Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Matters of Life & Death, 12 November 2017

Matters of Life & Death
Psalm 90:9-12

Big Idea: You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die…spiritually and otherwise.

Introduction

Death and taxes. It has been said they are the only sure things in this life. We’re not going to talk about taxes this morning. Given this is the Sunday after an election we’ve all heard enough about taxes and government and politicians! But we are talking about death. What a cheery subject! But here’s the truth:

You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready?

The odds are very good that someday you’re going to die. Yes, there will be a generation of followers of Jesus who will be alive when Christ returns, but billions of people have been waiting thousands of years for that day and have all…died! People ask me all the time if I think such and such event is a sign that Jesus will return in our lifetime and my answer is always the same: we’re one day closer than we were yesterday.

If we set aside the statistically unlikely possibility we will be living when Christ returns, we must face the reality we will someday die. Perhaps the most difficult thing is we don’t know when. We all have an unknown expiration date!

The media reminds us constantly how our death could come suddenly. We might die of old age like my dear friend Harold whose life we celebrated yesterday, but we could die this morning unexpectedly as dozens did last Sunday morning in Texas. Jesus told a fantastic parable in Luke 12:

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ (Luke 12:16-17)

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ (Luke 12:18-19)

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20)

Today is the first day of the rest of your life…but it could also be the last day of your life!

We’re talking today about matters of life and death. I promise there is some encouragement at the end, but it’s so important we are prepared to die. Most of you are aware of the large number of funerals we’ve already done this year, some very unexpected. Some were ready, others not so much.

Here’s a rather poignant photo taken not long ago with two of our sisters who are now in the presence of Almighty God.

All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:9-12)

You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

I know many of you are thinking, “I’m ready. I can’t wait to die and meet Jesus!” But what about those who are left behind? What will your loved ones experience as they grieve your loss? A blessed inheritance? Wishes for your funeral? Keepsake letters of wisdom? Or a mess?

Financial Preparation

When people think of preparing for their death, the first thing they usually think about is their…will. Do you have one? Or do you have a Revocable Living Trust, which has additional benefits? Are beneficiaries named on your assets? What about passwords? Is there a place people can access your login information for bank accounts, bills, and other websites? Is there a list of your assets, including insurance policies, properties, and investments? Proverbs says

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22)

My dad died several years ago of Alzheimer’s. We had years to prepare…and mom did. His transition to the next life was smooth and easy.

My mother-in-law also died several years ago…unexpectedly. When we took her to the hospital, we never imagined she would never come home. She had assets without beneficiaries, an under-water apartment, boxes of papers, and we spent needless time and money in probate court. It was a stressful mess.

If you died today, will your loved ones be grateful or grumbling about your estate? I’m not merely saying leave millions of dollars behind for your kids. Even if your assets are modest, are they organized? Are your plans written in a legal document? Will your possessions easily transfer? I might add have you considered charities in your directives as well as individuals? Do you have a “cheat sheet” with passwords for those left behind to settle your affairs? Are your financial wishes clear?

Medical Preparation

Preparation for death does not always involve death itself. Do you have a living will? A health care power of attorney? Who will make medical decisions if you are unable to do so?

Recently a member of our church family was knocking at death’s door. When his medical records were examined, he listed First Alliance Church as next of kin! Needless to say, the phone call to the church office was quite challenging. Fortunately, he survived and signed papers designating a person to make decisions should he again be incapacitated.

It is imperative that you communicate with loved ones your wishes regarding medical care, especially in regard to prolonging your life. Don’t burden others with decisions you can make today.

Are your medical wishes clear?

Funeral Preparation

Financial and medical preparation are vitally important. Communicating your desires need not be complicated, but must be done…before it’s too late

What about your body? Do you want to be buried? Cremated? A funeral or memorial service? Who do you want to officiate your ceremony? Do you have special songs you want sung, a favorite Bible passage read? Some of us will have months to consider such decisions, but there may be no better time than the present to sketch out some ideas of how you want to be remembered. Are your funeral wishes clear?

Legacy

Obviously, none of us has complete control over how we will be remembered. Even if we plan the most memorable funeral, we will have no say in how others remember us once we’re gone.

The most important thing you can pass down to your loved ones is not money or even a well-planned memorial service but your legacy, your story, your wisdom, your life. I’ve attended countless funerals and the legacy of the deceased is always apparent.

What do you want on your tombstone? He worked hard and made a lot of money? She was devoted to her hobbies and loved to shop? They generously invested their lives in the next generation, mentoring and tutoring? Their life resembled Jesus and they helped others to know Christ, too?

This is where things get personal in a hurry. Your legacy will not be established during your final breaths. It is established now, today, on an ordinary day, over the course of ordinary days, months, years, decades.

While you’re at it, write notes to your loved ones. Videotape stories of your childhood. Preserve your memories for future generations.

What will people say at your funeral?

Are You Ready?

We’ve talked about ensuring your loved ones are ready for your death, but what about you? You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? I know many of you are, but many of you are not. You hope you’ll make it to heaven when you die, but are you sure? How can you know for sure?

First, contrary to popular belief, we don’t get to heaven by being good…because God’s standard is perfection. If you’re not perfect, you’re out of luck! Going to church and giving money to the poor, and volunteering at Cherry Street Mission will not erase the sins you’ve committed…those sins we’ve all committed. The book of Romans is quite clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

You, me, Billy Graham, we’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, His perfection. On our own, we deserve eternal punishment for our sins, our mistakes, our rebellion against the Almighty. But this is where Jesus comes in. People often take Romans 3:23 out of context, ignoring the fact it completes a sentence…and ends with a comma! Here’s the complete sentence.

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

What this means, simply, is Jesus came, lived, and died to pay for our sins. The next verses say

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

Some translations use this word “propitiation,” a word meaning appeasement or satisfaction. Throughout history, people have tried to appease God by offering gifts, sacrifices, and doing certain practices. The problem is God requires perfection, and Jesus lived a perfect life so his death on the cross was able to satisfy, appease, and wash away our sins.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10, NIV)

Another translation uses that word “propitiation.”

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10, ESV)

The difference between Christianity and other religions is how they are spelled. Religion is spelled D-O…what we do to appease God. Our faith can be spelled D-O-N-E…it’s about what Jesus has done on the cross. You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You can only accept it as a gift of grace…unmerited favor.

You may wonder what you have to do. Simple: surrender.

We often look at Ephesians 2:8-9 because it’s such a powerful text:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Grace is a gift…the greatest gift.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready?

It my hope and prayer that you surrender your life to Jesus today if you haven’t already. He died for you. He gave everything he had to show God’s love. He wants to be your Savior—forgiving you of all of your sins—and LORD—becoming the leader of your life. It’s not that he wants to manipulate you, God simply loves you and wants what’s best for you. The Bible shows us how to live the most exciting, satisfying life imaginable…while preparing us for the next life.

Death is morbid to many, yet for followers of Jesus it can be an anticipated reunion with our Creator.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalms 116:15)

Paul wrote to a church…

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

So What?

Get your finances in order: will, passwords

Get your medical directives in order: living will, power of attorney

Get your funeral wishes in order

Get your spiritual life in order: do you know Jesus or just about him?

A message like this can be a downer, but it need not be depressing. Actually, planning for your death can be a tremendous blessing to your loved ones and even to you. As followers of Jesus, we have hope that we truly are going to a better place. Jesus said

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And 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)

Heaven is where Jesus is, and those who know Jesus as LORD will be with him…forever!
"We're afraid to die because we've actually been afraid to live." - Erwin McManus
"The only proof of life after death is life before death." - Erwin McManus
Now go live like you’re dying…because you are!

Resources:

Financial Planning
 
www.chamberlain-law.net
www.elderlawanswers.com/

Medical Planning

Advanced Directives Packet (Ohio)
http://medicaid.ohio.gov/
www.medicare.gov/
https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/sanctity-of-life

Funeral Planning

www.walkerfuneralhomes.com/plan-ahead/overview
www.homesteaderslife.com/funeral-planning
www.talkofalifetime.org/
www.nfda.org/for-the-public
www.cremationassociation.org/?page=Consumers
www.efuneral.com/

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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