Are you Prepared to Die?

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Title: Are you Prepared to Die?

Text: John 14:1-4

Time: June 16th, 2008

My neighbors who live next door to me here in Jamestown have been having health problems over the last few years. They are both in their eighties. She recently was diagnosed with lung cancer and isn’t expected to live very long. He was getting weaker and weaker being 88 years old this year. So when I heard the emergency vehicle screaming up to the driveway last Thursday night I expected it to be the woman, the one with the cancer. I fully expected that she had taken a turn for the worse and needed to be rushed to the hospital – or worse, that she hadn’t made it and would be pronounced dead by the paramedics. But that wasn’t the case. It was the older man this time who was in trouble. I guess he had stopped responding and had just slipped into unconsciousness. I watched as they took him to the hospital on the stretcher in the ambulance. I later learned that he regained some of his strength on Friday, but early Saturday morning passed away. Just last weekend I had seen him out in his garage scratching away at something. I saw him walk up the back steps at the rear entrance to his house. He seemed to be struggling, but nothing unusual. But now he’s gone. They cremated his body. His memorial service will be this coming week at the First Presbyterian Church down the street from their house on Fifth Street. I plan on attending. It’s strange, because on the Thursday evening when they took him in the ambulance to the hospital, I had the chance to talk to his wife and pray with and encourage her. I reminded her of the passage found in the New Testament, the Gospel of John 14:1-4, “Don’t let your hearts be trouble, trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Little did I realize that her husband would die a couple of days later. But the Lord was using me to prepare her for his death through this passage. I quoted the passage to her because it’s one of the best verses for thinking about death and the life to come for a believer. I assume they are both believers because I used to see them go to church every Sunday, although the pastor of their church doesn’t preach the Bible much. Still, hopefully, they’ve been exposed to gospel preaching in their 80+ years of churchgoing. But that passage really puts things in perspective during the loss of a believing loved one. I heard one pastor say that if the Christian church does one thing right, it should at least prepare a person to die. And so that is the topic of today’s message: are you prepared to die? Are you? We don’t know when it is our time to go. Certainly I wasn’t expecting that the man next door would be dying before his wife with cancer. After all, the doctors had given her three months to live, not him. She was expected to die, but not him, not so soon, not at this time. But death doesn’t wait for our timing; it comes in its own time. Are you prepared for it? Let’s look at the verse in the Gospel of John.

First, it starts with faith in God. John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” For a Christian there is no real division between Jesus – the one who is speaking here in this passage – and God. For the Christian, for believers in the Trinity, that God is Trinity, there is the Father who is God, the Son who is God, and the Holy Spirit who is God. There is no real difference in trusting in Jesus or God the Father. For some cult groups there is. For example, just this week I had two Jehovah’s Witness women visit my house. We got into a long discussion on how Jesus and God the Father are one and the same God. They don’t believe in the divinity or deity of Jesus Christ. They claim that Jesus is a little god and that the Father Jehovah is the Big God. But the Bible doesn’t say that. Jesus came as God-in-human-flesh, as a human representation of God the Father. So trusting in Jesus is trusting in God the Father. By putting our whole-hearted trust in Jesus, especially his death on the cross for our sins, we don’t have to be troubled – the word the verse uses, troubled — we don’t have to be troubled by death. Or in other words, we don’t have to be worried and anxious about death if we trust in Jesus to make everything all right and take care of everything for us. Now when someone dies, when someone passes away, when someone passes on to the next life, we are often saddened and grieved. But Jesus tells us we don’t need to be troubled or worried for them if they are believers. We don’t have to be anxious for their soul because we can trust in God, in Jesus, to bring the soul to heaven. On that Saturday morning when the man next door, Martin was his name, passed away, I was out walking around my house on the sidewalk, actually praying as I normally do each day. That day I decided to get my praying in a little earlier because the weather was expected to be pretty hot that day. So I started my prayer walking a little earlier that day. On the way, I met Martin’s daughter walking back from the hospital and she told me that he had passed away. Then and there, on the sidewalk about a block away from the house, I led his daughter in prayer and prayed that God would safely escort Martin’s soul from earth to heaven. I reminded the Lord that Martin believed in Him and faithfully attended church each week as evidence of that. You see, we don’t have to be troubled by death. We don’t have to be anxious about it because Jesus says trusting in God takes the place of doubt and anxiety. Do you trust in God whole-heartedly today? The best thing you can do right now to prepare for death – your own in particular – is to trust in God, or in other words, have faith in Jesus Christ to forgive and save you from your sins. Don’t trust yourself, that only leads to anxiety. Trust in God. That’s how we can keep anxiety from overwhelming us.

Second, there are many places in heaven and Jesus is preparing a place for us. John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” There is no shortage of space in heaven. There is plenty of space in heaven, plenty of room for however many will come. There is no shortage of places there in God’s house in heaven. The old King James Version says that “there are many mansions” – uses the word “mansion” to describe the space in heaven for each of us. Now we realize that Jesus is probably not speaking literally of a huge mansion home in the sense we think of a mansion here on earth. He’s not referring to some kind of castle, which is about as big of a mansion as I can think of. I know that the royals in England don’t just have mansions, they have castle-mansions. But I’m not actually sure that I’d want a castle to live in, even if someone gave me one. What about you? Would you want to live in a castle? It might be scary, creepy. It might be kind of cold, damp, and dark. I’m thinking of medieval castles, maybe they aren’t all like that image – with secret passage ways, secret rooms, dungeons, etc. I don’t think that’s what Jesus is referring to in this passage. He probably is not referring to a big house or mansion as we think of them either. I live in a nice, big house. To some people in the world it might be described as a mansion, although I don’t think most Americans would consider it a mansion. But it’s a nice, big house with plenty of space. I’ve lived in pretty small spaces too. Out in Colorado I lived in a studio apartment, which I was happy to have at that time, but it was all just one big room and not much space. I then graduated into a one room apartment, where I had a separate bedroom in addition to the living room and kitchen. That was better. After that I moved into an actual home – a mobile home, which had two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and utility room. I couldn’t believe how much space I had in that mobile home. It was great. Now I live in a two story house with walk-in attic, three bedrooms upstairs, two more bedrooms in the attic, two bathrooms, two sunrooms, one up and one downstairs, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen, plus a nice big basement. I have plenty of space for my needs. But that is what Jesus is saying, heaven has plenty of space for everyone. Nobody who desires to live with God forever will be left out for lack of space. There is room for everyone, any kind of person, all races, all cultures, all sizes, all nationalities, short people, tall people, skinny people, fat people, black, white, yellow, all kinds of people. And the good news is that if you are a Christian believer, if you trust in Christ alone for salvation, Jesus says that he’s going there to prepare a place for you too. That’s good news isn’t it? You won’t get lost in the numbers in heaven. Your reservation won’t be overlooked. Have you ever checked into a hotel only to find out they forgot to reserve your room for you; they sold it someone else? That will never happen in heaven. Jesus is taking personal responsibility to seeing to it that you get in and get your space in heaven. There will be no mix-ups. Jesus will personally see to it. I feel good about that, don’t you?

Third, Jesus not only prepares a place for us in heaven, he’ll come back to take us there at the moment of our death. John 14:3-4, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” According to the last verse, Jesus is taking personal responsibility in preparing a place for us in heaven. He’s not delegating the job to some angel or some holy creature in heaven – not that they’d mess up or that they could even mess up in that perfect world called heaven. But Jesus wants to assure us that “He” – that’s what the text says – “He” will go and prepare a place for each of us believers, so that there will be no mistakes. I don’t want any mistakes when it comes to my eternal soul; do you? If Jesus is making the preparations I know that there will be no mistakes in heaven. The next point is that he’s not only going to take care of things in heaven for us, he’s going to take care of things on earth as well, at the moment of our death. He says, “I’ll come back,” meaning, “I’ll return for each and every believer’s soul that dies. I’ll be there and present when each Christian passes away from earthly life.” That’s what the verse means when it says that Jesus will come back. It’s not referring to the Second Coming – he’ll come back then too, but that’s not what the verse is specifically referring to here. It’s referring to the fact that Jesus will return from heaven and be with each and every one of us at the moment of death. Isn’t that comforting to know? Jesus will see us through from the passage of this life to the next. When our soul no longer is present in our body at the moment of death, Jesus will be there to help comfort us and calm our fears at that exact moment. Now Jesus tells us “let not your hearts be troubled” but I have to admit that at that very moment when my soul leaves my physical body, I know I’ll experience something different because I’ve never felt my soul any other place than in or with my body. I’m not one of these patients who’ve had an out-of-body experience where they see themselves rise above their body in the hospital bed. No. The only experience I’ve ever had is my soul with my physical body. So it’s comforting to know that when I experience that unique feeling of losing my physical body, Jesus will be there to reassure me that everything is going to be all right. But that’s not all. Jesus says in addition, “I will take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” So he’ll be there when I die, when you die, and then he’ll take us to heaven to the place he’s already prepared for us. He’s got us covered from start to finish, from the moment of death to our new heavenly home.

I can’t imagine facing death without Jesus, without his presence at the moment of death. I can’t imagine being on my deathbed without reading the Bible promises concerning life and death in God’s care. I can’t imagine facing death without prayer. And the time to prepare for death is during this life. I said before that if there is one thing the church can or should do for people – and there is more than one thing, but if there were only one thing the church should do – it would be to prepare them to face eternity, to prepare them for death. At that moment, it won’t matter how much money you have in the bank, or how much land or real estate you own, or how big a house you have down here on earth, or how many possessions you posses (or posses you!). It doesn’t matter how famous you are, or how much success and achievement you’d have in this life. There will really only be one thing you’ll be concerned about – what’s next, what’s happening to me? If you are a believer, you’ll turn to Jesus and pray, “Jesus help me, help me make it through this.” If you haven’t learned to trust Jesus, you may react some other way. You may be terrified, you may harden you heart even more in unbelief. I’ve heard of atheists on their own deathbed who refuse faith, even when others near them urged them to just believe. One atheist said, “I’ve rejected God all my life, why should I be a hypocrite and turn to him now on my deathbed?” He died unrepentant and unsaved. According to the Bible, he perished in his sins, and will suffer eternally, forever. But believers can face their death with faith, hope and love knowing that the promises of God are true, that Jesus is preparing a place for them in eternal happiness, that Jesus will be there to help them through the experience of death, and that Jesus will carry them there personally to the place he’s prepared for them in heaven. I don’t know about you but that comforts me a lot. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to face death any other way. Now are you prepared to face death if it where to come upon you soon? Is your soul right with God? Have you confessed and repented of all your sins? Have you received the forgiveness of Jesus for your sins? Have you trusted in Christ’s death on the cross for your sins? Have you committed you whole heart, mind, soul and strength to Christ, to live for him for as many days, weeks, months, years as he gives you on this earth? Don’t play games with God on this issue. It’s just too important for that. Get serious with God about this. Are you ready to die? Have you prepared your soul to meet God? If not, do so today. There’s nothing more important to do.

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