Yesterday, Larry Pareigis, a music promoter I follow on Twitter, tweeted that it was Jeff Beck’s 73rd birthday.1 Anyone know who Jeff Beck is?
Yes, he is a tremendously talented guitarist…famous for his own work…but also (in part) for what he did with singer Rod Stewart. When I read Larry’s tweet, the song that immediately came to mind is a remake Jeff Beck did with Rod Stewart of “People Get Ready” – my favorite song from both…even if the track I most remember from my teenage years by Rod Stewart is “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” back from 1978. 🙂
“People Get Ready” is a much better tune, both musically and morally, and it starts off like this:
People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord2
And, sitting at Carl’s Jr. with Augie, it hit me that that song had a direct connection to the sermon about death Augie asked me to preach. Although my natural way of thinking about that song is its about Jesus’ return, the reality is that even if Jesus were to return today, the vast majority of humans will have died before the second coming. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the total number of people that have ever lived are 107.6 Billion…and that in the middle of 2011, 6,987,000,000 were alive…that just 6.5% of all mankind are presently alive.3
[ 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. ]
Or…to reverse it…before today 93.5% of humans have already met their Maker through death. That is when they climbed on board that train.
Explaining Death to Children
The reason Augie wanted to have me preach about death was that recently his lost his great-grandmother, Memere, to that fate. He didn’t know her well…but he knows one day she was here, the next day gone.
How do you explain death to a child?
Well, I would begin with my three rules about preaching to children. 🙂 Kids, do you remember them?
- Use simple words.
- Keep it short.
- See #1 and #2.
When you explain death to a child…use simple words…and keep it short. I would add one other thing that you wouldn’t generally do during a sermon.
Oh, and this should be true whether you are a preacher in a pulpit…or a friend…or a relative…
Care…and show it! In the midst of the pain there are often no words that will greatly reduce the grief…but visible caring is almost an effective salve.
And I just broke rule #1. What is a “salve” kids?
A healing ointment. Visible, true, care can help heal almost anything…even if the recovery is slow and painful.
Now onto the meat of today’s talk, “Augie’s Sermon on Death.” Keeping it short, we’ll just look at three things:
- Why people die.
- That everyone dies.
- How we should react to the fact everyone dies.
Why We Die
Why we die is pretty simple, and we have discussed it here enough I almost feel guilty bringing it up again. We can review in Genesis 3:1-7:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Kids, what happened in those verses?
Adam and Eve both distrusted God and sinned by doing what they were specifically told not to do. They unwisely listened to the Devil…and because of it death became the fate of all mankind.
Now, it may seem unfair to you that because someone else did something wrong you must grow old and die too…but, let’s be serious…who here hasn’t sinned themselves? Not one…”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 in part).
We die because Adam and Eve sinned…and because we sin. Simple as that. Not as punishment. Sin separates us from God. We cannot live without God. Sin kills.
But that was not God’s desire for humans, and it is why He will destroy death in the end. There will come a time when people who remain will remain forever. Not sinning. Not dying. Living for eternity with God.
Okay, now we know why we die…contrary to what Satan claimed…
But, does everyone have to die? Is there anyway to avoid it, short of Jesus coming back before our time comes?
Let’s look to David first for our answer. David has lived a long life, but even a man after God’s own heart was facing death. Let’s turn to 1 Kings 2:1-4:
2 When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
I’ve reached an age that I know any day I might visit the doctor for a problem and be told that I have the “C” word: Cancer. Luckily, that has not yet been the case…but I’ve thought about what I’d want to tell those I love if that happens. For instance, what I would tell each of my kids if I knew I had little time left.
And that is what David was doing in what we just read. Now, I’ll admit I would take a slightly different tact than what David does starting with the next verse…and I don’t think I’d ask them to get even with those who wronged me :-), but…beyond wanting to comfort them…I would want to encourage my children to either find the Lord or remain faithful to Him so that we can meet again in eternity.
Because, as David notes in verse 1 Kings 2:2…
We all die. Everyone. He said, “I am about to go the way of all the earth.”
Not part of the earth…or most of the earth.
All of the earth.
Or, as Hebrews 9:27 succinctly states:
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
It is appointed for all of us to die. Not some of us. Not most of us. All of us.
There is one known exception…that…of all things…is noted for us in Scripture by the writer of Hebrews. We first get an inkling of it in Genesis 5:24:
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:21-24).
Wait…kids…do you know what “inkling” means? It is a simple word…but my guess it’s not something youngsters say often. “Inkling” is a hint…not clearly knowing…but some kind of first idea it is true.
And I said, “Inkling” because although it said “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him”…”took him” could mean God had him die. Hebrews 11:5 clears that up:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
Now, you have to admit that is cool, isn’t it? Enoch appears to have gotten so close to our Lord that God spared him from the fate of all mankind. Wouldn’t that be great for you and me?!
But Enoch is the only clear case of that, although the prophet Elijah may have gone straight to heaven without dying too…check out 2 Kings 2 after church to see God take him away in a chariot of fire…but…
Unlike with Enoch we have no proof Elijah didn’t die…and…
That would still be only two cases out of over 100 billion people.
And if your parents bought two lottery tickets that had a two in 100 billion chance of winning, would you tell them to quit their jobs, thinking they are going to win?
Not if you like eating. 🙂
Everyone dies…unless Jesus comes back while they are still alive.
You will die. I will die. We will die.
It is the way of the earth.
What to Do?
“Thanks Alan for yet another depressing sermon.”
You are welcome. 🙂
And it’s going to get a little bit worse before it improves!
Do you remember the second part of Hebrews 9:27? The first part told us we all are going to die, but the second half told us something worse…that “after that comes judgment.”
Dying is bad enough…but to be hauled into court and judged afterward?!
But…just because something seems lousy doesn’t mean it’s not true…and…
We all will die.
We all will be judged.
Even “People Get Ready” recognizes this when it says:
There ain’t no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just
To save his own
Have pity on those
Whose chances are thinner
Cause there’s no hiding place
From the Kingdom’s Throne
There is no hiding place from Kingdom’s Throne…the throne where the Righteous King will judge each and every one of us.
Ugh. Super ugh.
So, kids, how should we react to the fact that we will all die…and then will be judged?
Bite off all our fingernails?
Spend all our time worried about what is going to happen to us after we die?
Try to convince God to be nice to us by doing all kinds of good things?
I already pretty much answered what you should do when I talked about what I would, in part, say to those I love if I got news I was going to die soon.
If you are saved, stay right with God.
If you are not saved, get right with God.
Again, very simple.
And, you know what? In my opinion kids, most important spiritual things are simple…we adults just overcomplicate them. Sometimes ’cause we are just dopey, sometimes because we are misguided, sometimes so we can control people.
If you are saved, stay right with God.
If you are not saved, get right with God.
I’m not going to spend much time on how to stay right with God. If you are saved…you actually should know how to do that…and personally I believe that if you “fall away” you probably were never saved to begin with. Having said that, you stay right with God by being true in word and action to the one you called Lord at your baptism…and, more importantly, by confessing your sins to Him and asking for forgiveness.
Basically, you have the same choice Adam and Eve did in the garden. You can trust God and do what is right…or you can trust something else and sin. It’s when you don’t care you are sinning that you should really, really worry.
How about if you are not saved? How do you get right with God?
Again, it is very simple. You just do what a very frightened jailer was told to do in Acts 16:25-33:
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
What must you do to be saved?
Five simple words.
Don’t let adults overcomplicate it.
Five simple words:
Believe in the Lord Jesus.
What does it mean to believe? It means to have faith in the Lord Jesus. It means to trust the Lord Jesus.
It means to do with Jesus, God the Son, what Adam and Eve failed to do in the Garden. Trust.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that “Believe in the Lord Jesus” is so clear it requires no discussion…otherwise Michelle wouldn’t be studying baptism with the children.
You truly have to believe in…
You truly have to have faith in…
You truly have to trust in…
The Lord Jesus.
And, on that note, I want to make something else clear.
You cannot force yourself to trust Jesus…although, you can prevent it.
Let me explain.
There was a time that Michelle just was this cute girl who worked a couple stores down from where I worked. The first time I remember her she was buying something for a Halloween costume.
I did not love her…although I did like looking at her. 🙂
Then we dated…and at some point in our dating…albeit not very long…I did love her.
Did I force myself to love her?
No,I just suddenly did.
Ditto with belief with God. You either do or don’t believe in Him. You either do or don’t have faith in Him. You either do or don’t trust Him.
One moment you don’t, the next you do.
Good news is that the Holy Spirit is working on your heart…and all you have to do is let it. As I said, you can prevent yourself from believing…but you cannot force yourself to believe.
And, as I was composing this I had more to say about that…a couple more biblical references to share…looked at how long the sermon notes already were…and that I was breaking rule number 2…to keep it short! 🙂
So, I am going to wrap up here.
- We die because we sin.
- We all will die.
- If you are saved, remain right with God. If you are unsaved, become right with God.
Then you won’t have to worry about death.
Then you won’t have to worry about judgment.
Augie, does that make sense to you?
Kids, how about you?
If we all get right or stay right with God, we’ll be able to spend eternity together…but more importantly…we’ll get to spend eternity with the One all 107.6 billion humans through history should have trusted or should trust…
3Haub, C. (n.d.). How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth? Retrieved June 24, 2017, from http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx