Posts tagged death
What do you think of that statement? There is only one life. In some ways it sounds wrong. Is this all there is? Is our present life on this earth the only life we get?
Many naturalists and secularists would agree. Our natural, physical life here and now is all we know. You are born, you live and you die. Hopefully you can give your life some meaning and purpose by what you do, but don’t look for anything more. This is all you get. There is only one life.
What’s the matter? Have I lost my faith? No, not at all. But I still say, there really is only one life. You may be thinking that I am referring to a distinction between physical life and spiritual life. Yes, but not entirely.
You see, there is only one life, and that is the life God gives. When you were conceived in your mother, your life was worked by God (Psalm 139:14f). Every breath you take is a breath God gives you. You are alive because of God.
Yet we still die – life ends. “Sin pays off in death,” the Scripture says (Romans 6:23). Death contradicts God’s work of life. It even seems to have the last word, for we all die. No one is excepted.
In the face of this reality, the Scripture says of Jesus Christ:
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5).
There is one life death could not destroy. Oh, death thought it had Him (if we can speak of death thinking) when Christ was dead and buried. But death could not hold the one who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26). God’s gift of life cannot be extinguished, for Jesus lives, and lives forever.
Now Jesus promises,
“This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).
There is only one life – this life, the life of Jesus Christ. Knowing Him you have His life. Anyone who does not have Jesus has no life (1 John 5:12).
“The thief,” Jesus says, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
So, you see, there is only one life, the life God gives, the life that is ours in Jesus. It begins now but continues forever.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).
Eternal life is a present possession for the believer in Christ. And when Christ returns, this eternal life will be revealed in the resurrection of the body.
One more thing. You probably already know that Jesus gives this life wherever people come together to hear His Word and to receive His body and blood. But do you know anyone else who does not know or trust in Jesus? Who is not close to Him? Without Jesus, they have no life.
You have this life. Did you know you can give it away? Tell them about it. Tell them what you have. Bring them into the worship of the Triune God where life is given. For there is only one life. His name is Jesus.
Did you know that your congregation is a mission outpost? A place where Jesus gives His life for you and for others? You also are sent by God to bring life, to invite people you know to receive life in Jesus. As Jesus promised,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).
So it’s true. There is only one life – eternal life in Jesus.
+Herbert C. Mueller
First Vice President
“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” (Hebrews 2:14f).
I have two brothers who are pastors, and was talking with one of them the other day about the pastor’s struggle with death. This pastor is now in his 24th year in his first congregation. He’s had a number of calls, but the Lord has seen fit to keep him in his first parish in a very fruitful ministry. But after 20 years in a long ministry, the pastor is burying people who have become almost life-long friends.
It becomes a struggle. People you have known more than half of your life and have seen virtually every Sunday for more than 20 years are now the ones for whom you are conducting funerals. The pastor more and more must deal with his own grief even as he comforts the grieving family. Only the knowledge that Christ Himself “partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death…” can sustain both pastor and people.
This struggle with death takes many forms. Recently I visited the cemetery of the congregation my father was serving as pastor when my parents married. There was a gravestone for a two-week old baby my father buried 8 days before I was born. What was going through his mind two weeks later when I was baptized at his hand?
When a parishioner was recently taken to a hospital with a life-threatening illness, my son, also a pastor, calling me on his way to visit him, exclaimed that he would not have been able to sleep, had he not gone to see him. Those are often golden moments in the hospital, when people are surrounded with the law (in the form of all the medical procedures and other reminders of death) and are often desperate to hear the good news of Jesus, the One whose death and resurrection gives us life. You have the privilege of bringing hope and peace in Christ.
In a way, all true pastoral work is a life and death struggle. Preparing sermons we want to bring the law to expose sin for the deadly poison it is, while also bringing the “living and abiding Word of God” in such a way that our people truly hear it and believe it. For only the Word can speak life, and bring to life those who are spiritually dead. Only the Word of Jesus can sustain us in the life of faith, for in the end it will be the Word of Jesus that will call us forth from the grave to rise to eternal life.
When a pastor hears a confession of sin, he is bound by the command of our Lord to speak forgiveness in Christ’s name. When a pastor listens to the cares and concerns of his people, he will point out the signs of death but will even more clearly speak of life in Christ, the One who has conquered death and the devil. When a pastor plans worship and preaching, his greatest desire is to bring life, the real life in Christ, to his hearers. Teaching, visiting, counseling, working with people, the pastor brings life into situations where death has ruled. And death often does not want to give up what he considers his territory!
So the pastor will also be conscious of his own mortality and his own need for Christ. He is a dying sinner just like all the rest. He lives by the same good news in Jesus he brings to others. In fact, knowing this about himself is the Spirit’s way of giving him empathy for people, both within and without the Church.
That’s why, dear pastor, wherever you go, you bring life into the midst of death. Your pastoral work is a matter of life and death. We sinners need the law to show us our sin and death. But even more we need Jesus, the One who conquers death, the One who forgives sin, who brings life by His resurrection. This is what pastoral work is all about. Never forget this is what matters for eternity.
Yes, pastoral work is often a struggle with death, but “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
+Herbert C. Mueller