Live (4/9/17)

Even though you’re here at church this morning, do you really know Jesus as your Savior? If you do know him as your Savior, how close is your relationship with him?

To help figure this out, we could do a series of Bible studies followed up by a questionnaire. Obviously, we don’t have time to do this right now so let’s simplify things. Please take a moment and honestly answer one question: The emotions I feel when I think about my own death are:

The way we answer this question reveals a lot about how much we really trust Jesus and how close to him we really are. The truth is that even though we’ve been taught Christians shouldn’t fear death, sometimes our attitude about it is the same as Woody Allen’s – I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Every human who’s walked the earth from Adam and Eve until now has had to deal with aging and death. People do some strange things to stay young. According to marieclaire.com, the Greeks and Romans mixed mud and crocodile dung together to put on their skin. In the 15th century, a Hungarian countess killed hundreds of young women and bathed in their blood. Today some Hollywood stars put live leaches on their bodies to remove toxins in the hope it helps them retain their youthful appearances. Our overseas mission team is thinking about incorporating the crocodile dung and leeches into our next spa day fund-raiser if anyone here is interested in trying this.

One reason people do things like this is because they want to continue looking young even though their bodies are aging. Another reason is because we humans can have a real fear of death. So how should we, as Christians, view death?

The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who were being persecuted. It appears the persecution was so severe they faced death if they didn’t recant their faith. Hebrews 2:10-18 tells us, 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;     

in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

The author tells the suffering Christians to remain steadfast in their faith, even if it means dying for their beliefs. They don’t have to fear death. We don’t have to fear death either. But, as we all know, this is easier said than done. How do we overcome the fear of death? There are several things we can do.

The first one is we must have faith in salvation through Jesus Christ. It has to start with him. Hebrews doesn’t tell us we overcome the fear of death simply because we think Jesus rose from the grave. It says we let go of the fear of death because Jesus did rise from the grave. This actually happened. Our salvation isn’t based on feelings. It’s based on actual events. We’ll always live in fear if we don’t come to terms with this.

The second thing we must do is accept the fact we’re going to die. Reality tells us that no matter how much manure or how many leeches we put on our bodies, we will still die. We simply can’t stop it from happening.

Psalm 39:4-5 says,  “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” We can’t extend the amount of time God has allotted for us to live.

The last thing we must do to overcome the fear of death is: Don’t live like you’re already dead. In John 10, Jesus teaches he is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. In verse 10, he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Living in fear isn’t living a full life.

Far too many Christians are so afraid of their own death that they won’t step out in faith and follow God because “something might happen to me.” Obviously, we need to use some common sense but as author E.E. Cummings said, “Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

Today is Palm Sunday. We’re remembering the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and people waved palm branches in the air to celebrate his arrival. The crowds thought he was coming to be their king. He was actually arriving to die on the cross. The good news is that after he died on the cross and was placed in the tomb, he overcame death and came back to life. He offers us the same thing. Yes, our bodies will die, but our souls will live forever.

We need to remember the death of our physical bodies isn’t the end. It’s actually the beginning. It’s the birth of spending eternity with Jesus.

The more we trust Jesus, the less we fear death. Sisters and brothers, live life while you still have it. Don’t be a slave to fear.

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