PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
It is said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. While we can’t avoid those realities there are other issues that are also fixed and permanent. In fact, they are irrefutable. However we feel about it, there is the fixed law of gravity that we cannot ignore or deny. We can only adjust to it and work with it. Then there is the fixed order of the sun and moon that can never be broken. The sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, and all without regard to anything we can do to counter it. The Seasons of summer, winter, spring, and fall are also fixed and without repeal. But as certain as is gravity, the constellations, and the Seasons I want to investigate a fixed order that transcends each of these. I want to look at several irrefutable realities that Scripture sets forth.
(Transition) The first irrefutable reality I want to mention is this: Death. Death is an irrefutable reality.
I. The Irrefutable Reality of Death
There are obvious reasons we must take death seriously. One reason is because it’s inescapable. No one eludes his appointment with death. You are going to die! In fact, two people die each time a second ticks by. That equates to sixty million people per year! Death affects every living organism—plants, animals, and men. But while all creatures succumb to death, man is the only creature that contemplates it. We have the ability to reason and analyze and nothing else in creation can do that. And because we have the ability to contemplate we can’t enjoy living without first resolving how we will die.
1. Many people that contemplate death are completely terrified with it. They fear facing Almighty God in Heaven because they ignored Him on earth. And because they never take time to acquaint themselves with Christ they live with constant fear of dying.
2. Others appear apathetic toward death. As existentialists, they believe nothing lies beyond the sphere of the present and they dismiss standing before God as Judge. Listen to the strange reasoning of Peter Weiss: “Man has given a false importance to death. Any animal, plant or man who dies adds to Nature’s compost heap and becomes the manure without which nothing could grow, nothing could be created. Death is simply part of the process.” (Thesaurus of Quotations, Compiled by Rhoda Tripp, page 360, Harper and Row Pub., NY, 1970.)
Let me assure you that man does not place a “false importance [on] death.” There are only two destinations you will face when you die—heaven or hell. You will spend all eternity in one of those places. We know what the Bible says about heaven. It is a place where we will fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It offers perfect peace, eternal rest, and unending joy. Heaven is beautiful beyond description and it’s wonderful to imagine what it’s like, but we don’t like to contemplate the terrors of hell that the Bible clearly outlines. Listen how the Bible describes hell.
It is a place of tormenting fire. The sufferers of hell will endure excruciating anguish. And though they search for release, it won’t be found.
- It is a place of remorse. Hell is a place where you will remember your sins and how you could have lived differently. You will recall how you rejected opportunities to live for Christ, but you will be plagued with remorse because there will be nothing you can do about it.
That means hell is also a place of mental anguish. The sufferers of hell will never be able to mitigate their unbearable and unabated anxiety. There won’t be any tranquilizers or narcotics to offer relief. And there will be no one to sympathize with your agony. It will last forever
Hell is also a place of eternal isolation. You will never have another opportunity to share a pleasant conversation with a friend. It seems that the only communication of hell will be the hideous cries of demons and the screams of tormented souls.
Hell is a place of darkness, where the slightest ray of light never appears.
Many people joke about hell, but hell is nothing to joke about. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:3 that unrepentant people are “objects of wrath.” Think about that statement—“objects of wrath”! Sinners are targets of eternal retribution. You say, “Why? That seems cruel and unfair.” It is because a holy God has a moral obligation to judge sin! God operates with laws that govern creation and He can’t ignore or pass over sin. Sin carries consequences—both deadly and eternal.
But the Good News is, Jesus Christ suffered the consequences of our sins. He paid the price for our escape from hell when He died on the cross, and all He asks from us is to accept His work. If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation, I encourage you to do so today. You don’t want to spend eternity in a place created for Satan and his minions. Ask Christ to forgive you now and when you do, you will find yourself in a third group of people that view death altogether differently than the two groups I have mentioned.
3. People that place their faith in Christ live without the foreboding dread of death. They have a deep assurance that “to be absent in body is to be present with the Lord.” Jesus removes the fear of death, hell, and the grave! He gives us perfect peace for life’s final hour.
(Transition) So despite how we may fight it, death is an irrefutable reality. But another irrefutable reality is the fact that man is spiritually dead without Christ.
II. Man is Spiritually Dead Without Christ
When you study the Bible, you find that saving man from sin is God’s central deliberation. Nothing is more important to God than rescuing those created “in His image.” But in order to save us, He has to raise us. That is because sin has rendered us spiritually dead.
(Quote) In the late 1960’s a professor at Emory University made the pronouncement that “God is dead!” I don’t believe God was shaken, in the least, by that assertion, but what is disturbing is God’s indictment against our deadness. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul said this to the Ephesian Christians, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
What does the Bible mean when it says sinners are “dead in transgressions and sins”? It means, without Christ we are as spiritually lifeless as a corpse.
(Transition) Imagine being physically dead. What do we understand about physical death? We understand the following:
1. The deceased don’t respond to stimulus. You can poke them, shout at them, flash bright lights at them, but they can’t respond. They are totally unaffected.
Without Christ in our life, we are insensitive to God’s Word. We aren’t moved by His Spirit or responsive to His commands.
2. We also understand that a corpse is subject to corruption. People without Christ are literally decaying before God’s holy presence.
Do you remember how Martha reacted to Christ’s request to open Lazarus’s tomb four days after he died? She said quite bluntly, “Lord, by this time, he stinks!” And from a spiritual perspective, sinners continually deteriorate when they forbid Christ from infusing them with life.
3. And then, we know death brings separation. Death separates the living from the dead. And when Ephesians says we are “dead in transgressions and sins” it means we’re separated from God! Isaiah 59:2 says: “your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
So what is the answer to this dilemma of being dead before God? A resurrection! As sinners, we need resurrecting. And that’s what Jesus Christ offers. Eternal life doesn’t begin in Heaven it starts on earth. When we invite Jesus into our life as our Lord and Savior, He forgives our sin and raises us up to stand righteously before His Father. Jesus has resurrecting power!
(Transition) Jesus talks about the issue of deadness in His Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Parable of the Prodigal Son
You remember the story of the father with two sons. The younger son announced that he was ready for his portion of the estate. When his father granted the request, the boy trotted off and wasted everything by partying and consorting with prostitutes. And when he spent his last penny, as fate would have it, a famine struck, and he took a job that required him to feed pigs just to survive. But that’s when he remembered his father. He knew he would be better off as a servant in his father’s house than living among swine, so he headed home. And when he came faintly in view, his father ran out to meet him. His father embraced him, kissed him, placed a ring on his son’s finger, and threw a party.
You know what Christ’s real warning from this parable is? It’s not that the boy squandered his inheritance and sowed wild oats. And God doesn’t want us living with reckless abandon. The real warning isn’t that the older brother vehemently resented the celebration. The real warning is that the rebellious boy rendered himself “dead” when he left his father’s house. When the older brother complained about all the hoopla and how his brother had shamed the family name, his father jumped in and said, “You don’t understand! Your younger brother was dead, but now he is alive again.” Notice that! “He was dead.” That’s the issue! When the prodigal returned to the Father, he experienced a resurrection! (Luke 15:32).
Paul said in Ephesians 2:4, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, (5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Note that! Christ makes us “alive.” Unlike a philosopher, Jesus does more than improve our morality. Philosophers are in the business to make bad men good. But Christ’s work transcends that. He makes dead men live!
It’s dangerous to separate yourself from God and become disconnected from His care. Satan will ruin us if we give him a chance! Stay close to your Heavenly Father. Trust Him. Serve Him. He loves you with an everlasting, unconditional love.
(Transition) Then, there is a third irrefutable reality. And it is this: All Roads Don’t Lead to Heaven!
III. All Roads Don’t Lead to Heaven
This is what Solomon said in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
When I was in college I took a course entitled, “Contemporary World Religions.” In that class the professor noted the four major religions of the world: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Anyone that understands the major tenets of these religions becomes acutely aware of one fact: They cannot all be right! There can only be one true God, not two, three or four. And in the end, every religion except Christianity will let you down. Christianity is the only religion that will sustain you at the end of your life.
IllustrationFifteen years before Gandhi died, he wrote: “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism, as I know it, entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being, and I find a solace . . . that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.” But just before his death he wrote: “My days are numbered. I am not likely to live very long—perhaps a year or a little more. For the first time in fifty years I find myself in the sloughs of despond. All about me is darkness; I am praying for light.” (7,700 ILLUSTRATIONS, Assurance Publishers, P.L. Tan, 1979.)
Solomon was right when he said: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
- The French philosopher Voltaire was overpowered with death the last months of his life. He could be heard crying out: “O Christ! O Lord Jesus! . . . I must die—abandoned of God and of man.” His nurse was quoted as saying: “For all the wealth of Europe I would never see another infidel die. It was a scene of horror that lies beyond all exaggeration.”
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
The Death of the Righteous
But the most glorious accounts of dying have come from the lips of departing Christians. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” I love the accounts of those that died in Christ.
One Christian said: “What shall I say? Christ is altogether lovely; His glorious heavens open before me.”
Another said: “Is this dying? No, it is sweet living.”
Still another departing Christian testified: “I am not afraid to look death in the face.”
I like this testimony: “I have no desire to recover . . . I would rather depart and be with Christ.”
One soul said: “The sun is setting, mine is rising. I go from this bed to a crown. Farewell.”
Dwight Moody said this: “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all. . . . I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
(Example) You’ve seen the movie where the villain takes a hostage and then demands ransom. The villain is only satisfied by exacting money for a life. That illustrates what sin demands. Sin snatched us from God, held us hostage, and demanded a divine ransom. And even though we were unworthy of being rescued, Jesus died for us, paid the ransom with His life on the cross, and offers to rescue us.
Have you accepted Christ’s payment for your sin? You can today!