Sermon #1634 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Will You Die Tonight?
Text: 1 Samuel 20:3
Subject: The Believer’s Attitude Toward Death
Date: Tuesday Evening — October 4, 2005
Tape # Y-74b
Reading: Larry Brown & Rex Bartley
Turn with me to 1 Samuel 20:3. Saul, the King of Israel, was determined to kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, loved David and knew that David was to be king over Israel. He knew that both he had his father had to die, to make room for David as king; and he was both content with God’s purpose and dearly loved David. Here David met with his cherished friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, who had come to see him for the last time. Jonathan and David were about to enter into a covenant with one another, a covenant that would save Jonathan’s house after his death. That covenant is a beautiful picture of the covenant of grace, by which we are saved through the death of Christ, our covenant Surety. But I want to call your attention to David’s statement in verse 3.
(1 Samuel 20:3) “And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.”
“Truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.” — Blessed is that person who thus lives in the immediate prospect of eternity.
There is an hour when I must part
With all I hold most dear:
And life, with its best hopes, will then
As nothingness appear.
There is an hour when I must sink
Beneath the stroke of death;
And yield to Him Who gave it first
My struggling, vital breath.
There is an hour when I must stand
Before the judgment-seat,
And all my sins, and all my foes,
In awful vision meet.
There is an hour when I must look
On one eternity,
And nameless woe, or blissful life,
My endless portion be.
In light of these things, I want to ask you to consider a solemn, sobering, serious question. It is a question which you might prefer not to consider right now; but I want you to weigh seriously. After I am done preaching, I hope that this question will continue to ring in your heart. I pray that you will find no rest for your soul until you can face this question with some measure of peace and satisfaction. Here is the question I want you to consider – Will you die tonight? I have tried to thoroughly examine my own soul with that question. I cannot answer the question with any absolute certainty. I may or may not die tonight. And you may or may not die tonight. But my purpose in asking the question is that you may prepare yourself to die tonight. Consider it thoughtfully – Will you die tonight? You just might.
Here are five things that I know are true. Without any shadow of a doubt, I know that these five things are true of everyone of us.
1. You deserve to die.
You are a sinful creature. Having broken God’s law, you have earned the wages of death. The fact that you are still living upon God’s earth, breathing God’s air, and feeding upon God’s provision is a great act of divine mercy. If you had what you deserved, you would have been brought to the dust of death long ago, eternally separated from God in hell.
2. You are going to die.
If time stands a little longer, every one of you will die, men, women, and children. Just as surely as the sun is setting tonight, you are going to die. The day and hour of your death is unalterably fixed. Your appointment with death as already been made; and you will keep it. — “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isa. 40:6-7).
Life in this world, considered at its best, taking the longest possible view, is but a very brief and very painful experience. I once heard Bro. Scott Richardson say, “Life in this world ain’t much. It begins with a slap on the bottom and ends with a shovel full of dirt on your faces. And there’s nothing in between, but bumps and bruises.” — Man is like “the flower of the grass, he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall man fade away in his ways” (James 1:10-11). — “What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).
The days of our lives pass like a ship in the night. The time of our existence in this world is more narrow than a hand’s breadth; and it passes more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle. You may be young, healthy, and strong; but soon, very soon, the cold sweat of death will be upon your brow, perhaps even before this night is over.
Every community has its cemetery. The tombstones in the graveyard remind us that those whose corpses now lie beneath the sod once lived among us. And they tell us something else. They tell us that this is the end of all men. As surely as these have died, I must die, and you must die. Solomon was a very wise man. He once wrote, – “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Eccles. 7:2). Will you lay this fact to your heart? You are going to die. I do not know whether you will die tonight or not; but I know that you will die.
3. And I know that when you die you will immediately stand before God in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10-11).
(2 Corinthians 5:10-11) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (11) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”
The silly superstitions of purgatory, limbo, and soul-sleep are totally contrary to the Word of God. No sooner will you close your eyes in death than you will stand before the bar of God’s strict justice in judgment.
4. After you die, after your body is laid in the grave, you will live forever, either in the eternal bliss of heaven or in the eternal torments of hell.
This fact is constantly before my mind and on my heart. I am standing here, as God’s ambassador, preaching to eternity bound sinners, immortal souls who must endure forever the fires of divine justice in hell or enjoy forever the bliss of God’s grace and glory forever with Christ. Yes, there is life after death. Heaven is both real and eternal. And hell is both real and eternal.
5. And I know that your eternal destiny will be determined before you die.
Where will you spend eternity? How shall it be with you in the swelling of the Jordan? Will you live forever in the bliss of heaven? Or will you spend eternity under the terrible, inexhaustible wrath of Almighty God in hell? If you die without Christ, hell will be your eternal prison. Turn, O may God help you to turn, to Christ and live. You must be washed in his blood. You must be robed in his righteousness. You must be livingly by united to him by faith. Otherwise, you will perish forever in hell, under the indescribable wrath of the holy Lord God.
Proposition: “Prepare to meet thy God!” Soon, you must die!
Will you die tonight? I have asked myself that question. And I have come up with some answers that are both challenging and comforting to me. Perhaps they will help you.
A Dying Man
I. Will you die tonight? Let me say this first, — I know that I am a dying man.
In this world there are few things about which I can speak with absolute certainty. But this I know. I am a dying man. I must die. I am 55 years old. My body is wearing out. I am reminded of that fact every day. This earthly house, this tabernacle of clay, is rapidly dissolving, and must be dissolved. As much as I have loved and over-loved this body, I must leave it to the grave. There it must lie and rot in darkness, as a neglected and hateful thing.
· These eyes must see no more.
· These hands must move no more.
· These feet must walk no more.
· This tongue must speak no more.
· From the dust it came, and to the dust it must return; earth to earth, water to water, air to air, ashes to ashes.
This is the fruit of sin. But, thank God, this body is only my shell, my tabernacle, my tent, my clothing, and not myself.
Death is separation from the body. It must come. But it will be a welcome separation. It will be a separation from a troublesome and hateful companion. Richard Baxter wrote, “It is like taking off a shoe that hurts my foot. It will be a welcome relief.” To put this body aside will be like laying aside a worn out tool when all its work is done. Baxter said, “It will be dismissing a servant when his service is ended.”
This body of flesh has been my greatest enemy. It has caused me pain, and toil, and sorrow. It has required my constant care and attention. I will be glad to put it aside. I know by long experience that this body of flesh has been a painful lodging for my soul.
· When I am free of this body, I will be free from the bondage of corruption and the prison of sin (Rom. 7:24). By reason of sin, this body has become mortal, beastly, and vile.
(Romans 7:24) “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
· Somehow, we must learn to treat this body as a perishing thing.
I do not mean that we should be reckless about our health. That would be a great evil. But I do mean that we spend too much time, care, and money pampering, soothing, satisfying and gratifying this body. Soon, very soon, it will rot in the grave. It is your soul that is important. It is my souls that is important — “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, (for the comfort of his body) and lose his own soul? (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
(1 Timothy 6:6-8) “But godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (8) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
II. Will you die tonight? Here is my second answer to that question. – I am not afraid to die (2 Tim. 1:12; 4:6).
(2 Timothy 1:12) “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
(2 Timothy 4:6) “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”
It is not my desire to impress you with fine speech. I am not striving for eloquence. And I am not trying to show bravery. Bravery has nothing to do with this. But I do know something about what it is to be faced with death. Basically there are five things which cause men and women to fear death.
1. Their sin.
2. Their righteousness. – Is it sufficient enough”
3. The fear of the unknown.
4. Their families. – Their welfare.
5. The church of God. – It s welfare.
Let me deal with each of these common fears briefly.
There is no reason for me to be fearful for God’s church when I am gone. The church of God will survive very well without me. Truly, we are very proud creatures to suppose that the welfare of God’s family depends upon us.
And there is no reason for me to be fearful about the welfare of my family when I have left them in this world. The Lord God is wiser, kinder, stronger, and richer than I am. He can meet the needs of my wife and daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandchildren.
“She’s mine, not yours. I’m a better Father than you can ever be.”
Shelby’s Comments to the Lady in California
Martin Luther wrote in his will, “Lord, thou hast given my wife and children. I have nothing to leave them, but I commit them unto thee. O Father of the fatherless, and judge of widows, nourish, keep, and teach them.”
My sin does not cause me to fear death, because I have a perfect, all-sufficient Sacrifice. The Lord Jesus Christ has taken my sin upon himself. He bled and died as my Substitute under the penalty of my sin.
· My sin is gone. – So the sting of death is gone.
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, it is well with soul!
· God has not wrath for me. – He exhausted his wrath against me upon his Son. He says, “Fury is not in me” (Isa. 27:4).
· The law and justice of God have no claim upon me.
But am I good enough, pure enough, righteous enough, holy enough to meet God’s approval and be accepted before him? Even that question does not alarm me. – Jesus Christ the Lord is the Lord my Righteousness. God demands perfect righteousness. He will not accept sincerity, or good intentions, or the best I can do. He demands perfection. Jesus Christ is my perfection, my righteousness. And that gives me peace.
And life after death is no hidden mystery to me. I know that when this body is empty I will live before the Lord. I know that though my body returns to the dust, it shall one day be raised again in immortality! (Job 19:25-27).
(Job 19:25-27) “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: (26) And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: (27) Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
III. Will you die tonight? I have a third answer to that question. – I endeavor to live every day in the immediate prospect of death.
If I should die tonight, little would need to be done. I have endeavored to put my house in order. I am, I believe, prepared to die tonight. I purposefully endeavor to live in the habit of dying. I want to be able to say with the apostle, “I die daily.” Daily, we must put down the passions of life in this world and die to it. A man who is dead to the world cannot be greatly charmed by it. I endeavor to hold everything in this world with a loose hand.
Illustration: “These are the things that make it hard to die.”
We are living in a dying world. Everything around us is perishing. If we would be wise, we must live in the awareness of that fact.
· Your family and friends are perishing.
· Your property is perishing.
· Your fame is perishing.
Hold everything very loosely. You must be ready, at a moment’s notice to turn loose of anything in this world. For your soul’s sake, your happiness and peace, I urge you not to build your nest in any of the trees of this world. They will all be cut down and cast into the fire.
· I try to live in this world like a traveler staying in a motel. I am only spending the night here. So the things here should not greatly disturb me. What does the price of tea in China matter to a man who lives in the prospect of eternity?
And I try to live each day as though I knew it would be my last. This is the day the Lord has given me. I must press as much work and service for the honor and glory of Christ into it as possible – “The time is short!” — “Redeeming the time.” George Whitefield said, “I try to keep all my affairs so arranged that, if I were to die at anytime, they would be no trouble to those who come after me.” This is what I am saying, “Be ready to die at any time.”
IV. Will you die tonight? I can tell you this – If I should die tonight, I would count it a very great blessing.
My life in this world has been and is blessed of God beyond imagination. Few enjoy the blessedness God has heaped upon me in this world.
· God has made me one with Christ.
· I am a child of God, an heir of God, and joint heir with his Son (1 John 3:1).
· I have a wife who loves, adores, and dotes over me.
· I have a family that loves me and fills my life with happiness and cheer.
· I am surrounded, everywhere I go the world over, with loving friends who constantly encourage me.
· And I have you, a loving, blessed congregation of saints, with whom to worship and serve our God.
I would not long to die just to be free from my troubles, or just to be free from my labor and toil, or just to be free from my responsibilities in life. But if I had my preference, if I had that which I most greatly desired, yes, I would die tonight – “To die is gain!” (Phil. 1:23).
(Philippians 1:19-26) “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (20) According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. (21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (22) But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. (23) For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (24) Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. (25) And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; (26) That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
Death, I say, will be a welcome relief. Think and meditate about what it is to die in Christ. “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord!” Just before he died, a friend asked Richard Baxter how he was, and Baxter replied, “Almost well.” When God’s elect die, then all is well for them.
· Death will bring us into the presence of many friends.
· Death takes the wife from her husband, the child from its mother, the father from his family. But we cheer ourselves with the prospect of a glorious reunion (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
· It is true, above all else, we will see Christ and be with him; but it is also promised that we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
· Some of us have lived long enough that we have even more friends and relatives on the other side of Jordan than you do here.
· It seems very probable to me that we will know one another in heaven.
· Perhaps you will regret leaving some behind; but remember, you are going up “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”
Death will bring an answer to our most earnest and most constant prayers. I remember reading once about an old preacher who went into the pulpit one Sunday morning and read this verse of a hymn –
Father, I long, I faint to see
The place of Thine abode;
I’d leave Thine earthly courts, and flee
Up to Thy throne, my God.
After he read those words, he sat down, fell back in his seat, and went up to be with the Lord. One night, when Whitefield had been preaching upon the glories of heaven, he stepped down from preaching, and stepped up into heaven. And when you and I die, our prayers, many of them will be answered.
· How often we have prayed that we might be delivered from our troubles. — We shall be delivered from them then.
· Often we have prayed to be free from sin. — We shall be free from sin when this body is in the grave.
· Frequently, we pray that we might be free from temptation. — When we die, we will be free from all temptation.
· Many, many times we have prayed that we might be more like Christ, in love, in purity, in conduct. — How we long for communion with Christ! Then, we shall be like him.
Still, above all else, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!” This is our chief concern. This is our noblest ambition. This is the happiness and glory of heaven. This is heaven. We shall be with Christ, forever with the Lord.
Spurgeon said, “There cannot be heaven without Christ. He is the sum total of bless; the fountain from which heaven flows, the element of which heaven is composed. Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ… Just to be with Christ is all the heaven a believer wants. The angels may be there or not, as they will, and the golden crowns and harps present or absent as may be, but if I am to be where Jesus is, I will find angels in his eyes, and crowns in every lock of his hair; to me the golden streets shall be my fellowship with him, and the harpings of the harpers shall be the sound of his voice. Only to be near him, to be with him — this is all I want.”
What does it mean to be with Christ? What will it be?
· We will have a clearer vision of him.
· We will have a fuller knowledge of him.
· We will have more intimate communion with him.
· We will have unbroken fellowship with him.
· We will love him perfectly.
· We will behold his glory (John 17:24).
· We will possess his glory, all his glory as the God-man, our Mediator (John 17:5, 22).
Truly, this is far, far better, infinitely preferable to anything we can know in this world. Were it the will of God, according to the purpose of God, for the glory of God, I would much prefer to die than to live.
V. Will you die tonight? I don’t know for sure. Who can know the mind of the Lord? But to answer the question plainly for myself, I don’t think so, not just yet.
I trust I am not speaking presumptuously. I believe that I have good reason for my answer.
· I know that I will not die until my appointed time has come.
· I know that I will not die until it is God’s will for me to die.
· I know that I will not die until my work on this earth for the glory of God, the gospel of God, and the family of God is finished.
It appears to me, for the present time, that it is needful for me to remain here for a while longer (Phil. 1:24-26). I believe that God has a work for me to do in this place, among you, a work for us to do together for the glory of God our Savior, in this generation. I believe that he has a work for us to do together, which we have only just begun. So let us give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work, for Christ’s sake.
Will you die tonight? If so, then what will become of you? I cannot answer that question for you, but as for me, should I drop this robe of flesh tonight, should you hear tomorrow morning that Bro. Don died during the night, do not be alarmed. Do not believe the report. I promise you, when I have breathed my last breath in this world, I will not have died. I will have simply pulled off a shoe that hurts my foot and laid aside forever a worn-out tool for which I have no more use.
(John 11:25-26) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
(Psalms 17:15) “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
When I have breathed my final breath
And dropped this robe of flesh in death,
When my appointed work is done
And my allotted time is gone,
Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
I’ll not be there. I did not die.
My Savior came to call me home,
And I with Him to heav’n have gone!
Now I am free from sin and pain;
And with the glorified I reign!
Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
I’m glorified! I did not die!
Seated with Jesus on His throne,
Glorified by what He has done,
I am a trophy of His grace.
Rejoicing, I behold His face:
Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
I am with Christ! I did not die!
My body lies beneath the clay
Until the resurrection day.
In that day when Christ comes again,
Body and soul unite again!
Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
Rejoice with me! I did not die!