Thursday, June 25, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Your Mortality

Part 9 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last. What do men in heaven say of it? And what do men in hell say of it? And what do men at death say of it? And what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Is it then followed with delight and fearlessness as it is now? Is it then applauded? Will any of them speak well of it? Nay, all the world speaks evil of sin in the general now, even when they love and commit the several acts.

Will you sin when you are dying?

Gravestones by TexasTiger

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) didn’t pull any punches then, and I’m sure he would speak even more eloquently to us today if the curtains of Heaven were drawn back to allow him to speak to us.

Will you sin when you are dying?

We all know we’re born dying.  Life is a terminal condition.  And yet we prefer not to acknowledge that fact…or at least we assure ourselves that our end must not happen for many years.

Have you ever come face-to-face with your own mortality?  It’s a powerful experience, and one that we should regularly seek. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that we should become daredevils, seeking some spiritual high through reckless, life-threatening acts.  My thoughts go along with the Psalmist’s:

Psalms 90:12 (NKJV)

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Will you sin when you are dying?  Are you even willing to know that you are dying?

A few hundred years after Baxter, Spurgeon picked up this theme in his own eloquent way.  (Remember that, up until around the time of this sermon, the usual custom had been to bury the dead in the churchyards.  Cemeteries that were separate were fairly new.)

IT IS QUITE CERTAIN that there are immense benefits attending our present mode of burial in extra mural cemeteries. It was high time that the dead should be removed from the midst of the living—that we should not worship in the midst of corpses, and sit in the Lord’s house on the Sabbath, breathing the noxious effluvia of decaying bodies. But when we have said this, we must remember that there are some advantages which we have lost by the removal of the dead. Now, I believe the sight of a funeral is a very healthful thing for the soul. The soul can there find much food for contemplation, and much excitement for thought.

We remember how when the funeral came now and then, the tolling of the bell preached to all the villagers a better sermon than they had heard in the church for many a day, and we recollect, how as children, we used to cluster around the grave; and we remember the solemn thoughts which used to arise even in our young hearts when we heard the words uttered, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The solemn falling of the few grains of ashes upon the coffin-lid was the sowing of good seed in our hearts. And afterwards, when we have in our childish play climbed over those nettle-bound graves, and seated ourselves upon those mossgrown tombstones, we have had many a lesson preached to us by the dull cold tongue of death, more eloquent than aught we have heard from the lip of living man and more likely to abide with us in after years.”

(Excerpted from Sermon #200, June 13, 1858.)

I’ve already written about how God brought me face-to-face with my own mortality, and how He powerfully used that experience to bring me closer to Himself.  But it shouldn’t take a traumatic experience like that to remind us that we’re only on the very shortest leg of our journey, and that most of our living (or dying) happens beyond the grave.

Another event (my recent time of waiting for biopsy results) once again reminded me how fragile life is.  But as soon as the favorable results came through, did I forget all over again?

I know it’s almost a trite-sounding question, but don’t let its importance escape you, and I pray it won’t escape me again either:

How would our lives be different if we knew we were going to die in one month?  Or maybe tomorrow?

Think how quickly the years of your life have already flown by, and remember this:

Psalms 39:5 (NKJV)

Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.

And remember what Jacob said when Pharaoh asked him his age:

“My pilgrimage has lasted 130 years. My years have been few...” (Genesis 47:9 HCSB)

No matter how long your pilgrimage or mine might be, it will seem so short once it’s gone.

Will we sin when we are dying…and when eternity is so close at hand?


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

This post hits home in a profound way right now as I sit ringside to the final days of a very close friend. I've experienced a close examination of my own mortality over the past few years, and I've walked to the grave on behalf of more than a few close friends.

I, too, have had to undergo a biopsy and had a serious post-surgery infection that nearly took my life 3 years ago. All that to say, I still don't think I'm fully prepared, but I'm further along than most.

I just keep pressing into God and what I know to be true about him, and his peace always arrives to calm my fears in the matter.


LauraLee Shaw said...

Yes, dear sister, several times, and it has definitely brought me closer to the heart of God. Unfortunately, I can be like the Israelites sometimes and forget all He has done for me, and how He has redeemed my life from the pit, rescued me over and over again. But each time I repent and draw near to my Vine, I get a little better glimpse of Him, which makes me want to keep close and connected to my source of life. I love reminders like these to keep me sober and reminded, and no one does that better in my circle of friends than you. Thanks, dear one.

Lynnette Kraft said...

Hi Betsy,
I just wanted to pop over and say hello. I've been thinking about you this week and even told my kids that today as we were discussing the blog world(on the way to church) . I really do think about my blogging chums throughout the week. :) Your comment to me recently was a great encouragement and I appreciated that you took time to say hello and let me know that you enjoy my blog - I aim to please. :)

Have a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

I just loved this entire post! It has so many little nuggets in it that I need to reread it.

I popped in from Elaine's and I am so glad that I did.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Well, where are you friend? I'll keep checking back. Thinking of you tonight.


Betsy Markman said...

Thanks for checking in with me, Elaine!
I've been very busy with the boys home from school, with vacation, with the Sign Language class that I'm teaching every week, with Little's been a bit crazy!
I actually had a post all written in LiveWriter on Sunday, and just needed to tweak the photo in it, when something went catastrophically wrong and the entire post disappeared! There was no backup, so it's gone. Sigh.

God is in control, so I'm just accepting it and moving on. I do hope to be able to post again soon!

Please know that I am thinking of you with the loss of your dear friend.

WhiteStone said...

I'm in my 60s and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January 2009. So, yes, I've looked at my mortality. But I've done so long before my diagnosis. Several times at key points in my life. And having done that, I am reminded often of how sweet is the love of Christ for His people. Thanks for your post on this subject. Death is our enemy, yet Christ has defeated death for us.

Karin said...

Look forward to future posts! I know summer has been busy! God's best to you always!

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