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The Last Dance: Instructions on How to Die Well - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
December 3, 2021 2:00 am

The Last Dance: Instructions on How to Die Well - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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December 3, 2021 2:00 am

Cemeteries remind us about the unavoidable certainty of death—and to think about our future. In the message "The Last Dance: Instructions on How to Die Well," Skip considers how you can face the end of life on this earth with no regrets.

This teaching is from the series Now Streaming.

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Decide to be faithful.

That's how to die well. Decide right now, even if you haven't been so faithful up to this point, that today will be the reset. Decide to be faithful. Now look at verse 7. In verse 7 he says, I have fought the good fight.

I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Paul sums up his whole life in one verse. The apostle Paul didn't avoid talking about death. Rather, he spoke plainly about it and anticipated it as the finish line for his spiritual race.

He would finally be with Jesus. Today on Connect with Skip Heitzig, Skip shares how you can live faithfully so you can finish your spiritual race well. But before we begin, we want to invite you to be a part of an unforgettable journey to Israel. I want to invite you to join me on a tour of Israel in 2022. I've been there a number of times and visiting the places where the events of the Bible unfolded, it just doesn't get old. Register by November 30th using promo code ConnectIsrael to receive $150 off the tour price.

Get all the tour information at InspirationCruises.com slash C-A-B-Q. Thanks Skip. Now, we're in 2 Timothy chapter 4 as Skip Heitzig gets into today's message. There was a man who got a severe bonk on the head and he went into a deep coma for a long time. They thought he was dead. They sent him to the funeral home. And there in the mortuary, they did with him what they would normally do with anybody thought dead. They put him in a casket. Well, at 2 in the morning, in that dimly lit room all alone, the man set up in the casket.

He looked around and he said, Man, what's going on? If I'm alive, why am I in this casket? And if I'm dead, why do I still have to go to the bathroom? I'm going to venture a guess that this may be the most unusual sermon you have heard in your life. Unusual because it has nothing to do with life. It has everything to do with death. I want to talk to you about how to die well.

I told you it would be an unusual sermon. You see, most messages, most teachings, most sermons are all about life. Spiritual life, how to grow spiritually, how to have great relationships, solid marriages, how to help others grow in their faith, how to go through trials.

All of the things that deal with life. But what we have before us in 2 Timothy are the last words of a dying man. Paul the Apostle knows he is going to die imminently.

He writes this letter knowing he has days, perhaps weeks, or maybe just hours left to live. And I have discovered that people's final words are the most revealing words. When people die, they get really honest.

Hypocrisy is stripped away. And what you may have thought they were may come out differently in their last words. I've always been interested in the final words of dying men or women. I found it fascinating that when Mahatma Gandhi, for all that he did for India and for all that he said he believed in nobly, when he died, said, my days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slew of despond.

All about me is darkness and I am praying for life. Voltaire, this fascinates me, Voltaire was one of the most outspoken critics against the Christian faith. Thought himself to be intellectually superior, those poor dumb Christians out there. And he often wrote against believers. When he died, however, he said out loud, I am abandoned by God and man. I shall go to hell. And he cried out, oh Christ, oh Jesus Christ.

He cried out all night long, so much so that the nurse attending him said for all the money in Europe, she never wanted to attend the death of another unbeliever. When Buddha died, he uttered these words, I have not yet attained my goal. Now compare those to the words of the apostle. In chapter 4 of 2 Timothy verse 6, for I am already being poured out as a drink offering. The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will give to me on that day and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing. You know that I have discovered that most people do not like to talk about death. It's an uncomfortable subject. It's sometimes even fun to bring it up just to watch people squirm a little bit. It's like I don't want to talk about that. Well, there's a number of reasons why.

I had this discussion with the funeral director this week, but she said it's amazing how much people do not want to talk about this subject. But for some of us, the road ahead is much shorter than the road behind. So we think about death a little bit differently as we get closer to it.

C.S. Lewis said, as we grow older, we become like old cars. More repairs and replacement parts are necessary. We must just look forward to the fine new machines, the latest resurrection model waiting for us in the divine garage.

I like that. Well, the closer we get to that garage, the more dominant the idea, the reality of death becomes. And so we wonder about it.

We wonder what it's going to be like for us. I had a staff member who left here years ago, planted a church, very successful. His wife grew ill. She's in heaven now. Before she died, I went to visit her in the hospital. I was there with her husband. And she said, honey, I'd like a few moments alone with Skip.

I want to talk about death in heaven. And he said, you sure you don't want me here? I mean, he's a pastor.

He's good. She goes, no, I love you, but I just want time alone with my pastor. So she had all sorts of questions about what it would feel like, what she would see, what she would experience, people she would see.

Do I have to hang out in heaven with all the Christians I know who are there but I never liked hanging out with on earth? You know, stuff we all think about. The name of this message is The Last Dance. Like others, we borrowed it from a TV series, a basketball documentary series, how in 1997, the coach of the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, announced it would be his last season. He called it the final dance, the last dance. And the series depicts how Michael Jordan and other great team members gave it their all and took the championship, the last dance. We are in, as you know, 2 Timothy chapter 4, where in three verses alone, just three verses, Paul looks at his life presently, his life past, and his life future.

Talk about using an economy of words. All of that is wrapped up in these three verses. And I will just say as we start to get into this, this is the way to go. This is the way to die. This is the way to go out. When you know how to go out, you know how to go forward. You know how to live when you know how to die. So what I want to do in these verses, and we'll look at a few others, is give you four main ingredients to dying well as a Christian. Let's get into it.

First of all, face the inevitable. It's going to happen. In verse 6, Paul says, Paul is so matter of fact, he's in jail and he goes, it's over.

This is it. I'm about to die and I know it. What I love about Paul is he doesn't avoid the subject. He doesn't say, I don't want to talk about it. He shockingly is abrupt about it and very plain about it.

And I'll show you what I mean by abrupt, shockingly abrupt. Paul the apostle not only knows that he's going to die, Paul the apostle knows how he is going to die. He was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens didn't get crucified.

Roman citizens got decapitated. Paul knew that was his future. And he describes it as being poured out like a drink offering. He knows it's a bloody event. He had seen it before.

But he uses Jewish language. He takes us back to the Old Testament drink offering, he calls it. It comes to us in Exodus 29 in Numbers 15.

Let me describe it for you. In the Old Testament, there was an offering called the burnt offering. The burnt offering was an animal put on an altar, wholly consumed.

They didn't take parts off and eat him. They barbecued the whole thing. The burnt offering was for sin. On top of the burnt offering was placed oil, poured oil and flour. So can you just imagine what that would smell like?

Barbecued lamb or beef with baked bread. Then on top of that was poured the drink offering, which was a libation of sweet wine poured over the sacrifice. So it all became what God described as a sweet smelling sacrifice or savor to the Lord.

That was the drink offering. And Paul is saying that is my life. That's my life. I've wholly been consumed like the burnt offering from the Damascus road to this day, 30 years. My life has been consumed for his glory. And now to top it off, I'm about to be executed. And the spilling of my blood at that event is like the drink offering being poured out to complete the sacrifice. You see what I mean by shockingly stark and honest about it. That is what he is describing.

Now let me take you back, fill in a little gap. Paul had been in a Roman prison before. He had been in many prisons, but he was in Rome once before. And when he was in Rome the first time in prison, he wrote a letter to the Philippian church. He didn't know if he was going to live or die in that first trial.

He ended up living for a considerable amount of time after that. But he didn't know at the time, am I going to live or die? But then he writes this to the Philippians.

For if I am being poured out as a drink offering for the strengthening of your faith, I'm glad. Then he said, if. Then it was hypothetical. Now it's real.

It's actual. He knows this is the end. And he faces it. And he does it plainly and honestly. And he talks about it.

He's not afraid of the subject. Nor should we ever be afraid of the subject. Especially as believers.

Especially as believers. I think it's good to talk about it. I think it's good to even plan it. I've planned mine. Down to the song.

Or songs that will be sung. Did you know that Solomon in the Old Testament basically said going to a funeral is more beneficial than going on vacation? Listen to what he writes. This is Ecclesiastes. It's better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.

That's his way of saying a funeral is better than a party. For that is the end of all men. And the living will take it to heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.

But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. You see, when you live with death in mind, you live differently. First of all, because you don't know when it's going to happen. You don't schedule it.

Right? It's not something you put on your calendar. It's not like 8 o'clock, go to work.

1030, work out. 12 o'clock, eat lunch. 2 o'clock, die.

You don't get that luxury. Even though the Bible says it is appointed for every man once to die after this, the judgment. God has made an appointment with you for your death.

But He hadn't told you when the appointment is. But it will happen. And when you live that way, you live differently. And you live wisely. Because you realize, I have a certain amount of time. This lifetime is going to cost me my life. And so I want to invest it. I don't want to just waste it. You know, it's like going to a lawyer. If you go to a lawyer, and the lawyer, before he begins, or she says, before we start, I just want you to know, my rate is $250 an hour. At that point, you get down to business. You don't ask about weather, or kids, or hobbies. You just want to deal with the business.

Because of the cost. So, living with death, as in inevitability, is a healthy way to live. Now, notice how he describes his own death. He says, the time of my departure is at hand.

I found that's a great word to describe death. Departure. When you think of a departure, you think of going on a trip, right?

An adventure, even. When you go to the airport, and you look up, and you see a sign, it says, Arrivals and Departures. They're people who are leaving the different parts of the country, or the world, on their trip. But let me tell you about the word, quickly. The word departure, an interesting word that Paul used, is the Greek word anelousis.

It means to break up, or to unloose. But it was a word that was very descriptive, and used a few different ways in antiquity. First of all, sailors used the word anelousis, departure, for the pulling up of the anchor, and the loosening of the ropes on the dock, so that that ship could set sail. So, Paul may be saying, I'm leaving the port of earth, and I'll be in the harbor of heaven.

That word was used by sailors to describe it. Also, anelousis, departure, was used of oxen, who would plow a field. So farmers would, at the end of the day, take the heavy yoke on the oxen, and unhitch it, unloose, and set that oxen free. So, that's a good way to think about death. When I die, I get unhitched.

I get unloosed. The work is over, the toil is over, the labor is over. Revelation 14 describes death that way. Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on, for they will cease from their labors, and their reward will follow them.

The work's done, the labor's over. Also, the word anelousis was used of slaves, or slave owners, for the setting free of the slave. When the shackles fell off the ankles, or off the wrists, he was anelused, right? There was a departure.

And so Paul may have had that in mind. I'll be unchained from this Roman prison. I'll be unchained from temptations. I'll be unchained from my fallen nature.

I'll be set free. But also, the word anelousis, departure, was used of travelers, soldiers or travelers, when they would break up camp and move their tent somewhere else. They would pull up the stakes, fold the tent up, go somewhere else, set it up again.

That was called the anelousis, or the departure. And you know how the Bible talks about our bodies being like a tent. You've heard that before from Paul the Apostle.

He said in 2 Corinthians 5, when this earthly tent that we live in is taken down, we have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God, not by human hands. I'm camping. I'm going to pull the tent stakes up and move to something permanent. You know, I love camping.

I always have. And when I married Lenya, I mean, I was a hardcore camper. If you don't put a tent on a backpack and walk out into the wilderness, you ain't camping. That's how I camped. And I still love tent camping, but I got to put it this way.

I like it for like a day. And if you're out in a tent for a couple of days and you start smelling ripe and you're feeling a little bit sticky and gnarly, you long for something permanent. And the longer we live in this tent, we long for something more permanent, something to move into that will never fade away. What is interesting to me, and it always has been, is that though we know we're just in a tent, it's amazing how preoccupied we become with our tents. We've got to preserve the tent. How did the flaps look today? Boy, there's a few more of them, I notice. The tent stakes are wiggling loose a little bit. We put so much energy into the tent, so much so that when people die, I've heard this time and time again at funerals.

Casca gets open, people come forward, look down, you know what they say? Boy, he looks good. Okay. I hope you told him that before. A few days before his death, F.B. Meyer wrote to a friend.

F.B. Meyer's one of my heroes in the faith. He said, I have just heard to my great surprise that I have but a few days to live. It may be that before this letter reaches you, I shall have entered the palace.

Listen to that description. I'm in a tent. I'm going to a palace.

Don't bother to write. We shall meet in the morning. We'll meet in the morning. See you later. When I met with that pastor's wife in her hospital room before she went to heaven, we were done with our conversation. We were walking out and she said, skip. I turned around and she said, see you around the corner. It's just that quick. It will feel like. Now here's a little FYI. History tells us that the apostle Paul was only 58 years old when he died.

He may have been 60, may have even been 62, but most scholars place it right around 60, probably 58 years old. And here's a 58 year old man in prison who could plant many more churches and do more work, but he knows this is it. This is it. It's time. The time for my analysis, my departure, my setting sail, my being unshackled has come. So face the inevitable. Second, decide to be faithful. Decide to be faithful.

That's how to die well. Decide right now, even if you haven't been so faithful up to this point that today will be the reset. Decide to be faithful. Now look at verse seven. In verse seven he says, I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I've kept the faith.

Paul sums up his whole life in one verse with these words. When you read those words, is there any sense of regret in them? None. There's no regret. There's no sense of unfulfillment. There's no disappointment. There's no incomplete bucket list. Man, I wish I could have done that or gone there. I've done it. I've completed it. So he faces death with satisfaction.

Why is that? It's because he had made a decision years earlier that he was going to be faithful to God, that he was going to follow God's will throughout the course of his life, that that would be his, his singular passion. You remember when he was on the Damascus road, still unconverted. He gets knocked off his high horse.

Literally he's on the ground. He asked two questions. Question number one, who are you?

That's good to find out. Who are you, Lord? Answer, I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting. Second question and the second question he spent his whole life getting answered. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? This man spent his entire 30 years spiritual ministry career answering the question, what does God want me to do?

That's his passion. That's why he can say I'm done because he lived that way. He made the decision to be faithful. Wouldn't it be great to look back over your life with absolutely no regrets, no disappointments, no misgiving, no sense of unfulfillment, nothing left undone. If you want that, then decide today that faithfulness is going to be your aim.

2022 is almost here. Plan now for your spiritual menu starting in January. This month, we're offering Skip's daily God book devotional containing strong thoughts for each day of the year.

Here's a sample from January 1st. Martin Luther once said, The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet.

It runs after me. As you read each day, listen each day and prepare for the greatest adventure of your life. That's an excerpt of the direction found in Skip's daily God book that you'll receive in hardcover when you give thirty five dollars or more today to help keep this Bible teaching ministry growing. We'll also include playlist eight messages by Skip on key Psalms delivered on CD as our thank you. Here's a sample of the wisdom you'll hear in the playlist series.

If you're going to spend energy in life and we all do, make sure it's about people that you're building up, not just projects that you're building up to give and receive this month's resource package. Visit connect with Skip dot com or call 800 922 1888. Did you know there's an exciting biblical resource available right at your fingertips through your mobile device? Skip has several Bible reading plans available in the YouVersion Bible app.

Simply download the app and search Skip Heitzig. Next week, Skip Heitzig shares how you can finish your race of faith well and leave an eternal impact. Make a connection, make a connection at the foot of the cross and cast all burdens on his word. Make a connection, connection. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-15 00:58:49 / 2023-07-15 01:08:19 / 10

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