How many here have had a nightmare?
[ Wait for people to respond…and assuming nobody says no… ]
I kind of figured, short of a newborn baby, everyone present for this sermon would confirm they have had bad dreams.
What are they about?
Being attacked by some evil power?
A bad day at work?
Someone being especially mean to you?
Maybe the worst kind I had growing up was dreaming all night that I was at school, only to wake up and find it was time to…that's right…get ready and go to school. 🙂
Although I think, in some ways, my worse type of dream that has reoccurred over my life is being out and about and suddenly being naked. I know that may sound humorous to you, but if you've ever had that dream and aren't build like a model, it can be quite disconcerting. 🙂
I Dreamt I Died Last Night
Last week, however, was the first time I recall ever saying, first to myself and then to my wife, "I dreamt I died last night." Of course, what I meant (more exactly) was, "Last night, I dreamt I died."
Michelle seemed to find that extra freaky…I was just lucky to ever remember that I had the dream…let alone a couple specifics about it.
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Have You Ever Been Sure You Were Going to Die?
How about this question? Has anyone here been convinced they were about to die? Some incident where they figured it was over?
How did you feel? Really scared? At peace with your fate?
I can't say I have ever felt I was minutes or seconds away from breathing my last…although I've previously mentioned a couple incidents as a kid where I lost my balance on the edge of a large drop and was sure that I was at least going to get really hurt…only to suddenly be upright again.
But during that nightmare I knew it was over…that no matter how much I fought, this time there was no escape…and my number was up.
And once it was clear that there was no way for me maintain my life, acceptance set in. I'm not sure I'd say I was 100% at peace…it's not until we actually die that we find out just how right (or wrong) about the afterlife we've been…and as I approached "the light" (which was a good sign) my logical mind knew that no matter what my preconceived ideas were, I would soon find out what my eternal fate was.
Although, Michelle, don't worry…I wasn't hoping for 71 virgins. 🙂
I also thought about how it would be really hard on Augie. Not that I don't care about the effect it would have on Michelle, April, Jenn, and Mikey…but Augie probably came to mind because we worry about the most vulnerable, don't we? And although losing your dad (or husband) at any age isn't a positive occurrence, by the time you reach Mikey's age you better understand the realities of this thing we all call life.
But, as I mentioned, I had a sense of acceptance.
There was nothing I could say or do that would change what was about to happen to Augie…
I was almost dead.
Then, I was dead.
And That is Where the Dream Ended
Sorry…that's where the dream ended. No 90 seconds in heaven or 23 minutes in hell for me to write a book about.
And as you can see by me standing here, it was just a dream.
But, it also was a great inspiration for a sermon…
What Would You Do…?
What would you do if you knew, for sure, that you were going to die tomorrow night?
See…I've been kind…I've made sure you have at least a full 24 hours.
About one day and 12 hours from right now your number is going to be up.
How do you spend your last 36 hours?
Do you go wild? Party like it's 1999?
Do you do a modern day of sackcloth and ashes, hoping that God will relent like He did with Hezekiah and give you some more time? Or get Him to confirm that you are really saved?
Do you try to say goodbye to everyone you love?
Do you try to import some wisdom to the children you are going to leave behind?
Do you try to mend some personal fences? Ask for some forgiveness…or give some forgiveness…so that a relationship isn't, due to your death, permanently frozen in angry discord?
Do you lament that you haven't checked everything off your bucket list or, perhaps, that you haven't even created your bucket list.
Do you know where you are going to go? Which Father/father you are going to spend eternity with?
Do you spend 36 hours in abject terror…not ready for what lies ahead in 35 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds from now?
Time is Short
Even though chance is are that in two weeks, after I've returned from India, everyone sitting here today will still be alive (whether you individually will be in church or not)…in some ways I wish we all just had 36 hours to live.
That's because that "what would you do" question is so important. Our long-departed brother James reminds of that in James 4:13-17:
13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Short version? Get your act together, you may not live until tomorrow.
Or how about the writer of Hebrews? Sure, he wasn't trying to make the same point as James, but how do you feel when, in Hebrews 9:27 he says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…"?
Is it sobering? Do you look forward to the judgment?
Perhaps you find it comforting to think to yourself that that's just James and the harsh writer of Hebrews…when you die, Jesus is going to be the one waiting for everyone.
But I would remind you that this parable came straight from the mouth of "gentle Jesus":
16 And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." ' 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
"Fool! This night your soul is required of you!"
Think about those words. You may believe that they are for just rich people, but the verse just before it shows you would be mistaken:
And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).
How about now? Have you eradicated all covetousness? Do you put too much stock in your possessions?
Do you deserve the words, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you?"
And if Jesus' words similar to James' aren't unsettling enough, He also gives the "you die and then are judged" thoughts of Hebrews a run for their money in Matthew 16:24-27:
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Jesus says He…not His Father…not the Devil…but He "will repay" you according to what you have done.
Or how about another parable our Lord taught…known as "The Rich Man and Lazarus"? Coming in part-way after the rich man has received his "reward"…:
24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead'" (Luke 16:24-31).
- Once you die your eternal fate is set…no second chances…"a great chasm has been fixed."
- If the Word isn't enough to convince you, having a dead relative come back and warn you isn't going to do any good either. You are damned…
Are you uncomfortable yet? I sure hope so because as of 12:08 yesterday, as my dear wife was driving my Nissan Frontier (after we spent the holiday with her hospitable father)…
- 51,048,357 people died this year.
- 78,414 had died that day.1
I used my watch and Worldmeter.info's death counter and it was over a person a second was dying.
And we all know from personal experience the truth of the proverb, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for [we] do not know what a day may bring" (Proverbs 27:1).
The day may not arrive at all for us!
Yes, I am hoping you are uncomfortable, unsettled, unnerved, disturbed, troubled, worried, alarmed, ruffled, agitated, dismayed, shaken…enough to cry out like the psalmist, Ethan the Ezrahite:
What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? (Psalm 89:48)
I want you uncomfortable because as the group Hurt so wisely said in the "secret" track after "That (Such a Thing)"…a track I guess is called "Flowers":
cause we're all gonna die
cute little puppies, and bunnies, and birds
people who sing when they don't know the words
you will die
cause we're all gonna die
it's just part of life
all men, women, children
animals, aliens, and certainly you
you will die
cause we're all gonna die
cause everyone dies
and all that was ever and all that will be
single celled creatures anything green
you will die
cause we're all gonna die
start saying goodbye!
from the moment you start up the miserable life
you should know that it's only a matter of time
'til you die2
And we know from Jesus that we could hear the words, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you!"
I want us to all cry out, "Who can deliver [my] soul from Sheol?"
Death Has No Dominion
Because if you…if I…if we cry that out, that same Jesus has the answer.
That same Jesus…
The one who "death no longer has dominion over" (Romans 6:9)…
The one "it was not possible for him to be held by [death]" (Acts 2:24)…
Not only has the answer…He is the answer!
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
In fact Christ has been raised from the dead…and in Him…we His flock…shall be made alive.
The last enemy He will destroy is death…our death…
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, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15).
He came so that "he might destroy the one who has the power of death" and deliver us who "through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."
Jesus not only has destroyed death…not only will He deliver us from Sheol…He has removed the reason for us to fear.
To fear death…or to fear God for that matter.
He has replaced death with life…fear with trust.
How About You?
How about you? Has your fear of death gone away?
Can you, like Paul, say?:
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:21-22).
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
How is your confidence? If you die tomorrow night, will you echo Paul's words as you approach the time the bell tolls for you?
Or do Paul's words two verses later in 2 Corinthians make you tremble?:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).
If You Are Not Saved…
If you are not saved you should tremble, because you will go before the judgement seat of Christ, and without His robe of righteousness death will still have power over you…and you will spend eternity with the father of lies instead of God the Father.
You have no excuse. Romans 1 makes that clear:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).
Fool! Your soul may be demanded of you tonight…
If you are saved…let's you and me all covenant right here, right now to get our acts together. Not in a year, nor a month, nor a week…nor 36 hours. Right here, right now. And let's ask for forgiveness for not doing so sooner!
If you are not saved…if you have not believed in…developed faith in…trusted…Jesus…
Why live in fear? Even though I'd rather have you be scared out of your wits instead of comfortable in your sin, there is absolutely no reason to wait to believe and be baptized. And I know that this sermon has given a harsh picture of even Jesus…but I can assure you if you keep listening in the future you'll see He deserves your trust…that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
I dreamt I died last night.
You just might tonight.
1Worldometers – real time world statistics. (n.d.).Worldmeters. Retrieved November 26, 2011, from http://www.worldometers.info/
2HURT – FLOWERS LYRICS. (n.d.).MetroLyrics. Retrieved November 26, 2011, from http://www.metrolyrics.com/flowers-lyrics-hurt.html (Please note, some of the lyrics may be objectionable.)