We often hear the expression, “It is a matter of life and death.” By that we mean something of vital importance. Christianity is like that. But it would be true to say that it is “A matter of death and life” rather than the other way round. Let me explain.
YOU ARE UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH! Everyone who has ever been born has been under sentence of death. We all try to put it out of our minds, don’t we? We always think of death as something that happens to the next chap, not ourselves. And we succeed most of the time, especially when we are young and are looking forward to a lifetime of interest and activity. But then something happens to upset our thinking. A relative is suddenly killed in a car crash, or a friend dies of cancer. At the funeral we are forced to stop and realise that life is sometimes cut off most unexpectedly. We are faced with the awful reality of death. We begin to see death as a monster whose jaws eventually close upon us all.
Now I want you to be brave and face this fact for a few minutes whilst I tell you something of vital importance. It does us good to face facts rather than pretend they don’t exist. It clears the mind and gives us courage to go on. Let me ask you this question. Do you know when you are going to die? Obviously you don’t. Very few of us do. But suppose your doctor told you that, as a result of his examination, you have but a few weeks to live. That would throw you into a whirl, wouldn’t it? It would be a terribly scary message, one you would find hard to face. Most of us are scared of death, and try to put off thinking about it until the bitter end.
Please don’t label me as morbid, in asking you to think about death. Again I ask you to be brave and not run away from the idea, because I have some vitally important news for you. You see, it is only by knowing the truth about death that we can learn to face it in the proper way. Although death is perhaps the most awesome and final of all the facts of life, it is not the end.
Let me tell you a very interesting true story that happened some years ago, and is authenticated by missionaries who were present at the time. There was a Moslem priest in Indonesia who was very ill. He was dying in hospital inDjakarta. His tuberculosis was far advanced, and he was very weak. A Chinese Christian came to his bedside to speak about Jesus. He had no strength to tell him to go away. In that part of the world Moslems hate the Chinese, and they also hate Christians, but he was too ill to fend off his unwanted visitor. The Chinese man continued to speak of Jesus and in particular His resurrection, and urged the Moslem to believe. Obtaining no response, he concluded by praying for the dying man, and then went his way.
Very shortly after this the priest died. But that is not the end of the story. Two days later, when he was being carried forth on a bier, he suddenly sat up, and as he did so he raised his hands in the air and loudly praised the name of Jesus Christ, to the great astonishment and fear of those present. Naturally he became the focus of attention to many people in Djakarta, and at a crowded meeting he spoke of his experience. He told his amazed listeners that after he died he found himself in the next world, and because of his beliefs he began looking for Mohammed but could not find him anywhere. Suddenly he was confronted by the same Jesus Christ the Chinese man had been speaking about. Jesus showed him the marks of crucifixion in His hands, and spoke kindly to him. In that moment of sudden realisation and agonising re-adjustment, he did a U turn in his thinking, and bowed before Jesus as his God and also as his Saviour. A tape recording was made available of his testimony, and he himself travelled throughout Indonesiaspeaking of his experience, and many others turned to Christ as a result.
I think you will agree that this is a most remarkable story. It is something that doesn’t very often happen. But God sent this man back to life, completely healed, with the mandate to share his experience far and wide. God in His mercy had allowed the doors of death to be opened, and a brief glimpse of the next world obtained. Although the former priest was sent primarily to the Indonesian people, his story is valuable to us all. Will you now stop and consider this story, and ponder what it means?
It is now time to take stock and ask a few important questions. Why are all men and women sentenced to death? Why are we allowed but a few short years to enjoy this world before it is all over, and the grim reaper arrives? Try searching in the annals of this world’s religions, and you will find that there is only one that can give you a clear answer – the Bible. But the Bible goes far beyond explaining the meaning of death. It also brings us the good news of the remedy!
The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” We learn that God is the Judge of all mankind, and that it was through His initial decree that death came into the world. How did this happen? By one man sin entered the world,” and that man was Adam, the progenitor of all mankind. Furthermore, “death passed through to all mankind.” Death is therefore the greatest proof of all that we were created by God, and did not arrive on this planet by some chance of evolution. Death is the greatest blow to Darwin’s theories. It is something he was never able to explain. I understand that he was troubled on his deathbed, and can readily believe that to be so.
When God created man He didn’t intend him to die but rather to live a full and purposeful life. But Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator, and therefore received the sentence of death. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glorious standard of God.” Death is the proof of sin. The fact of death is the proof that we are all living in sin. No man can sustain perfect righteousness, no matter how good a life he has led. Every one of us dies sooner or later, even the best of men.
When the Moslem priest died he straightway began to search for the one he revered as his great prophet and teacher, Mohammed. But he could not find him. Instead the Lord God of all creation met him and showed him the true answer to all things, and he accepted Him. Why God should have chosen to do this we cannot say. Throughout history God has seldom entered the arena of human affairs in such miraculous ways. The Bible has recorded some of them. It is God’s choice to do this, and no one can question Him. But in the case of the Moslem priest, we can only express our thanks to God for giving us a glimpse behind the curtain of death.
All religion has gone astray. None has the right answer save the Bible alone. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” This was no boastful assertion. He alone had the right to say it, and as a result it has been the salvation of countless men and women through history. You see, the Moslem not only learned that death was not the end, he learned that death had been defeated by Jesus. It was because of Jesus’ death and resurrection that he was able to believe, and to have a living hope for the future. Death is not the end! Jesus’ resurrection is the sure guarantee of the resurrection of mankind. Even if we still die, we have this hope, this sure expectation of LIFE, if we believe in Jesus, the Son of God. The Moslem priest found this to be true, and God sent him back with a message for this world. Perhaps especially for this grossly materialistic world in which we now live, where all knowledge of God is being whittled away progressively by man’s human wisdom.
You may not have realised it before, but I hope you do now, that Jesus died for your sins. Yes, yours. It is a very personal message, not just for the masses, but for your own heart to give a response. After the Bible said “the wages of sin is death” it went on to say “but the gift of God is LIFE, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God in His mercy and grace is holding forth ETERNAL LIFE as His free gift to all mankind, and He is looking for your response to this amazing fact. If you have lived a self-centred life, doing and thinking only those things which bring you personal satisfaction, then it is time to make a U turn, and realise that God is calling you. This U turn of thinking is calledrepentance in the Bible. It is exactly what the Moslem priest did when he was confronted by Jesus. Will you do that today? God is holding out to you the wonders of a life that is far above and beyond any form of self-centred existence this world can offer. Furthermore, it is ETERNAL LIFE. It doesn’t end with death. I asked you to be brave and face the subject of death. But now I’m asking you to be sensible, and thankful to God for providing an answer to sin and death.
The Bible tells us that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, and all things are new.” Let me say that this is no theoretical lesson that I’m giving. I took this step when I was only 17, and now I’m 77, and have proved the truth of it throughout my life. I commend the Lord Jesus Christ to you. I can assure you that God will send His Holy Spirit into your life, and by this you will find an amazing change, and an ability to change your thinking from being self-centred to being God-centred, a change that you will find quite devastating, miraculous, and wonderful.
Becoming a Christian is therefore being confronted by the truths of death and sin, and how God has dealt with them on the cross by the death and resurrection of Jesus. For some this change is instantaneous, but for others it takes a time for the truth to sink in. But be assured that it never happens by just drifting into it. We are faced with a decision, and need to face up to the facts of death and sin, and do something about it. God says, “Come , let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” We are here talking about the cross-roads of life, and the Lord God draws men to Himself, calling for them to recognise the truth about themselves, and the truth about salvation in Christ.
And so I ask you today to give these things your serious consideration, and turn to God for forgiveness for your sin, and for New Life in Christ. You will then find that the subject of death no longer holds its dread fear over you. This is the only way of becoming a Christian. It never happens by chance. It never comes about by being a regular church-goer, a Bible reader, one who prays, or one who has been brought up in a Christian home, however important those things are in themselves. No, it only happens as a result of a transaction between you and God. Think again about the Moslem priest, and realise that Jesus is the ONLY WAY, the ONLY TRUTH, and the ONLY LIFE. LIFE ETERNAL, where death is defeated, and all things are new. Don’t leave the decision until later in life. Act on it now, and know the riches of ETERNAL LIFE here on earth. Become a Christian! It is God’s gracious gift to us all. He offers mankind no other way than through His Son. It is not an option. It is God’s command that all men shall repent and bow their knees to God’s Son.