The theme of this message is found in a single verse of Scripture in which we find the statement, “this year thou shalt die.”
I will give you the setting of this verse in a moment and then speak to the subject of death for a few minutes.
The statement, “this year thou shalt die,” is taken from the book of Jeremiah and was the word of the Lord to a man named Hananiah who opposed the ministry of Jeremiah.
As you may recall, Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet” because of his fervent pleas to his people to repent before the certain judgment of God came upon them. Jeremiah spoke a word of warning to the people from the Lord. The message was simple enough. The Lord sent his word through Jeremiah warning the people to turn from disobedience and rebellion and to amend their ways. If they did so, then they would avert the impending judgment of God upon Jerusalem and the temple.
However, if they would not repent, then the word from the Lord was clear. The unthinkable would happen. The city which the people thought God would never remove and the temple which the people thought God would never judge, would in fact fall to the enemy.
Hananiah brought a different “word from the Lord.” He contradicted Jeremiah and spoke a word to the people that did not come from the Lord. Consequently, Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “The Lord has not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord.”
Confirming His true word through Jeremiah, in the seventh month of that year Hananiah died.
If you will be patient with me, I simply want to lift this statement from the text and talk to you about it for a few minutes. We are in a new year, but suppose this year is the last year of your life. In fact, what was true of this man will one day be true for all men--this year thou shalt die.
We Christians do not shy away from the subject of death. We know as Paul said, "to die is gain" for a believer. Christians possess assurance of salvation, an inner knowing that at death we will be home with the Lord. Those who know Christ possess eternal life and as Jesus repeatedly promises they shall never perish.
However, there is a lost world around us avoiding the subject of death at all cost. And worse, many come to very wrong conclusions about death. Such is the case of the man I am about to quote.
This man exemplifies the thinking of a great many people in our world. He lives only for this world and sadly has his own ideas about death. I must say, there is only one authority on the subject of death. His name is Jesus. Failure to listen to him leaves you with nothing but a deceptive sedative to calm your mind when the year of your death arrives.
Listen as I quote the thoughts of this very lost man. He has plenty of money. He has some goals for the new year, but like so many he has no hope beyond the grave. He writes quote:
I woke up this morning in pain again. I injured my shoulder wrestling a few weeks ago, and it doesn't seem to be healing. Certainly not as fast as it would have healed when I was in my 30s.
This is one of the many things that happen to you when you reach 60. But it's hardly the worst. The worst is that you can't avoid thinking about death. People you know - colleagues, friends and family members - are seriously sick or dying.
Again, I am quoting this gentleman:
Right now, I see death as a hateful thief - ready to rob me of the time I need to accomplish the goals I have yet to accomplish.
There is so much still to do: books to write, movies to make, business to conduct and places to see. But most of all there are relationships I owe time to.
A reader recently wrote asking me why, when discussing how I spend my day, I don't talk about the time I spend with my family and friends. The main reason is that I don't feel I should be dragging them into public view without their permission. But another reason is that I write mostly about what I've learned... and I haven't learned how to do a very good job of spending time with them.
When I think about making good use of the time I have left, it's clear to me that working on my personal relationships should be my top priority.
So why don't I do that now?
I once read a book called The Denial of Death. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember what I took away from it: It's frightening to consciously recognize our mortality - to be fully aware that one day we will cease to exist. The fear of death is so great, in fact, that the reality of death must be suppressed from our consciousness, so we can go forward.
In other words, we deny death in order to be able to live fully.
Now let me pause here and interject something. We Christians do not live like that. We do not live our lives in bondage to the fear of death. I trust you will listen to this man’s words in the interest of understanding how the world runs from the subject of death. Furthermore, I trust you can see how those who have no hope of everlasting life live exclusively for the here and now. Truly their hope is in this world. What a contrast to a true believer whose hope is laid up in heaven. Now quoting again:
I think this is true. Especially for the young. But as we age, it becomes more difficult to keep death out of our thoughts. And eventually, we come to a crossroad where we must decide: Should I continue to deny death, to "rage against the dying of the light"? Or should I learn to accept the fact that we are all dead men on leave and learn to live, as Thomas Ken said, "that I may dread the grave as little as my bed"?
I think we can do both. We can continue living our lives fully and purposefully - even embrace long-term goals - while gradually allowing the reality of death to sit comfortably in our psyches.
Here are four steps you can take today to get yourself on that track:
1. Spend 15 minutes by yourself thinking about mortality.
Take a walk. Find a peaceful place. Breathe slowly. Look around. Recognize that one day - sooner than you can believe - you will not exist anymore. You will not be around to breathe the clean air, feel the sun on your skin and see the things you find beautiful. You will not be around to hear the sound of your lover's sigh, your children's voices and your best friend's laughter.
Try to get, as clearly as you can, a sense of your own mortality. Try to stop, if only for a few moments, a fundamental aspect of consciousness - the denial of death.
Use that recognition to get to the next step.
2. Visualize your own funeral. Imagine that four people stand up to speak about you. One is your spouse or significant other. Another one is a child or parent. Another is a friend. And the fourth is someone involved in your career. What would they be saying about you if you died tomorrow? Be honest.
I must pause here and interject again: why does it matter if you cease to exist at the moment of death?
3. If there is a difference between what you think those four people would say about you and what you'd like them to say, you've got some work to do.
4. Make a commitment to respect the time you have. That means living in such a way that you honor your core life goals as well as other important but nonessential life goals. The best way to do this is to make your core life goals a priority. That means attending to them during that first precious hour of your working day, before you get to all your other daily obligations.
Don't think you can put off working on your core goals until sometime in the future. Use your newly acquired ability to face your mortality to motivate you. Get the most important things done first. (unquote)
This man is a classic example of what Jesus warns about in Matthew 6:33. The most important things are not connected to this temporal world, rather they are connected to preparation for the next. Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The most important things are not your core goals for this life, but preparation for the next!
This man is an investment advisor. He is worldly wise and probably can offer some sound advice on how to navigate the world of investing. But he is out of his league when it comes to the subject of death. His philosophy is dangerous, misleading, and amounts to pure spiritual blindness. He is godless and the goals he sets are not motivated with a desire to glorify God.
Did you notice this man did not quote the Lord Jesus Christ? In fact, he never mentions God at all and sadly says twice when a man dies, he ceases to exist. This is folly at its very height. This man is in grave danger of losing his soul. In some measure he has gained the world but will soon go out to meet the God so willfully rejected from his heart.
Like so many, are you running from the subject of death? Or like this man, are you coming to grips with a false idea about death?
Here is what the Bible teaches about death:
- Death is an enemy, an intruder into God’s very good creation.
- Death has passed upon all men for all have sinned.
- It is appointed unto all men to die, but after this the judgment.
- Jesus clearly teaches those who die in their sins upon death enter hell; while those who repent and believe upon him enter the joy of the Lord
- Through death, Jesus has destroyed him who held the power of death, that is, the devil. No one needs to subject themselves to a lifetime of slavery to the fear of death. Jesus Christ will set you free from that fear if you turn to him. Gloriously, those who believe upon Jesus pass from death unto life. Furthermore, our salvation includes the resurrection of our body. So, we may boldly say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Indeed, “thanks be unto God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If this year thou shalt die, are you ready?
I started today by introducing you to a man named Hananiah. He was severely rebuked by Jeremiah because he made the people to trust in a lie. My friends, our world is filled with many voices and they are not speaking the Word of the Lord, rather they are causing many to trust in a false hope. There is only one way to have real hope. You must listen to His word.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole authority on the subject of death. He says if you refuse to believe upon him you will die in your sins and cannot come where he is. Said another way, apart from faith in Christ we must face the wrath of God expressed in the place called hell.
Life is but a vapor that appears for a short while and then fades into eternal ages to come. Will you spend eternity with Christ, or will you perish everlastingly in a place separated from the presence of the Lord?
Bow your head right now and call upon the Lord. Give your heart and life to Christ and pass today from death into life (John 5:24). I trust you will be of serious mind.