Death rocked my world this week. A lifelong friend - his family and mine were neighbours - of over fifty years died this week. He called me at minutes to 6 early that morning. We spoke briefly, with neither of us having an inkling that eternal things were taking place. By ten that morning he was dead. For those of us who still enjoy life on this side of eternity, this kind of event ought to give greater urgency to the need to persevere with those who resist the gospel which alone leads to eternal life. For as men and women plot and scheme, make it their ultimate ambition, and are even prepared to sell their souls in the process, to achieve power, wealth, pleasure and fame, eternal things are taking place, and they have no idea what is taking place.
This week, I was moved to send out a text message to those I felt had a need to contemplate such matters, two days before the, untimely, death of my friend.
" Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him and to our Godfor he will freely pardon."Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV
The reality is that as the Bible warns us, " be very careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil". And therefore all kinds of things are taking place in peoples lives, unknown to anyone except close family and friends. So the Spirit of God is constantly warning as " He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.". 2 Peter 3:9 " But the day of the Lord will come like a thief".
A priest who was once very senior and influential in the business world, Rev. " Jim" Parkes, preached a sermon today at my church on Harvest. And he placed a particular focus on a passage of Scripture where Jesus saw a crowd of people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd and had compassion on them. And then told his disciples to pray to the God, the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the field. One of the challenges in today's hip and bling bling culture, is that those who are successful in this kind of environment hardly see themselves as " harassed and helpless" and as sheep without a Shepherd. In fact they would be the first to pity you the child of God, who is not having as much fun as they are, and not making as much money, or having as much influence on politicians and bankers and businessmen and advertisers as they are. But we, who have hopefully learned to humble ourselves before God, and are filled with his Spirit of discerning and insight, need to begin to have " compassion" on this so -called successful people. As without Christ, their life of bling and power and fame, is already coming to an end, and they have no idea or inkling that even now eternal things are taking place.
This week again, and it is amazing what lessons the Lord teaches in the midst of trials, I was led to read a passage which speaks about the final end of those who persist in resisting the gospel.
" Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, " Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them, they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.He who was seated on the throne said , " I am making everything new. Then he said write this down, for these words are trustworthy and rue..He said to me, " It is done. I am the alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. he who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death". Rev. 21:1-8 NIV
Again the reality of life is that what we experience here on earth is only but a small aspect of reality. There is so much more. And there is also so much much more joy to be revealed, as there is pain. That's why we need to have compassion of those who are ignorant of this reality, even when they resist the gospel of truth.
Finally children of God are also under a warning about death, as I was led to read and contemplate the following this week.
" So I find this law at work; When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of of the law of sin at work within the members of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord.......
You however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live........Romans7:21-25 and 8:9-13
The point here is that baptism and salvation or being saved does not guarantee eternal life. We have to work at it in order to live by the Spirit, and not by the sinful nature which is always lurking in the background - warring with our soul. There is thus a constant need to " put to death" the misdeeds of the body". That's why one's prayer life is so critical to life and to eternal life. As this is where, if we live by the Spirit - allowing the Word of God to shape our actions and thoughts - the Lord in response to heartfelt prayer ;" Have mercy on me O Lord, according to your unfailing love", ( Ps 51:1) will gently and compassionately and at times with discipline lead us to repentance and then to holiness and righteousness. And the even more profound point is that, in order for us to have compassion on those who are in great need, even though they do not realize it, we must first " die to our old way of life".
No wonder the saint of old, a songwriter could pen these immortal words:
I delivered thee when bound,And when wounded healed thy wound.Sought thee wandering, set thee rightTurned thy darkness into light
I pray God that we will seek after someone who is wandering in spiritual darkness, who is bound and wounded, even though apparently well and healthy. I pray God that some will respond to the gospel and see the light of God in Christ Jesus and His Atonement on the Cross of Calvary.That this may take place in our homes, at the workplace, with clients and patients, with colleagues and associates and with neighbours, as eternal things are taking place and we have no idea or inkling.My friend who died? Is he gone to glory and now in the arms of Christ? He was a Baptist, a Minister of Religion and a child of God.