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How Do I Prepare for Death? Spiritual Preparations

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 16, 2023 12:01 am

How Do I Prepare for Death? Spiritual Preparations

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 16, 2023 12:01 am

Each one of us will die, if the Lord should tarry. But we must not wait until the end of this life to ready ourselves--preparation begins now. Today, Guy Waters provides five ways to prepare ourselves spiritually for death.

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Our fellowship in this world is imperfect at best. We are all sinners. But fellowship in that assembly is wonderful.

No sin, only holiness and joy in the Lord. And of course the best thing of all is that we enter straight into the presence of God to be with our Savior. While it's important to honor God in our grief and to care for those who are grieving or facing death, it is vital that you and I are prepared for our own deaths.

And that's what we'll be considering today on Renewing Your Mind. The thought of death can lead many to worry, fearing the unknown and wondering, will I finish well? Will I die well? In a message that I found immensely helpful, here's Guy Waters with five thoughts on how we as Christians should prepare for the end of our lives. To begin, we want to think about preparing ourselves spiritually for death. We may think that preparing ourselves spiritually for death would be the work of a few weeks, maybe months before the time of our death. But in reality, the Scripture tells us we prepare our whole lives for death. And so much of what we're going to be thinking about touches on the very heart of the Christian life. Living the Christian life well is the best way to prepare yourself for death whenever it comes. So how does that work in our lives?

What does that look like in concrete terms? And I want to offer five thoughts on how we day to day, year to year, prepare ourselves for death. And the first thing that we should be doing is attend to the means of grace.

That is, commit to the regular, public worship of God in the congregation that we're part of. We see in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God has set apart one day in seven for his worship. We find spiritual rest and refreshment on that day. And God gives us that day to remind us of the fullness of rest that awaits us in heaven. There remains then, Hebrews tells us in chapter 4 at verse 9, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And so God in his kindness gives us a weekly reminder of that heavenly rest that lies ahead of us. And that energizes us and prepares us for fruitful service in the week ahead. That came in the Old Testament, in fact beginning at the creation, as a command set apart the seventh day of the week. Now under the New Covenant, we observe, according to Christ's command and the apostles command, the first day of the week, which the apostle John calls in Revelation chapter 1, the Lord's day. The most important thing that we do on this day, first day of the week, the most important thing we do is to gather together with God's people to worship our God. And of course, coursing through biblical worship is the word of God.

Biblical worship will feature the reading of God's word, the preaching of God's word, singing psalms and hymns that are biblical, praying in a way that is biblical. And a ministry that is faithful to the word of God is one that will bring the reality of death, the hope of eternal life, and the truths of the gospel before us on a regular basis. And that's why it's so important that each of us sit under a sound ministry of the word and commit to that regularly, just in the same way that you and I need regular meals.

And if we don't have regular meals, nutritious meals, we can become sick or worse. Spiritually, we need that regular diet of the ministry of the word of God to keep us spiritually well and healthy, not least to ground us as we prepare for death and as we look to our heavenly hope. That's the first thing, attend to the means of grace. Second, commune often with Jesus Christ.

Remember what Paul wrote the Philippians in the first chapter. He pronounced death gain. Only a Christian can say death is gain because, he goes on to say, to die is to be with Christ, which is better by far.

Where does that confidence come from? Well, it comes from what he says right next to his statement that death is gain, namely to live is Christ. Death is gain because Paul knew from his life that living is Christ. So the way to look at death through the lens of the gospel in hope, Paul says, to see it for what it is to the believer, gain, is to live in Christ now.

And that's something that the Reformers and their heirs recognized. Puritan Edward Pierce wrote a little treatise. It was published sermons to his congregation on death. And he says this, get into Christ, get union with Christ, and an interest in Christ by believing to fit and prepare you for the dying hour. And that's a description of what Paul is saying in Philippians 1. To prepare for death as a Christian, it begins now by living in Christ. So what does fellowship in Christ look like? What does communion with Christ look like? Well, that's a big topic.

We can only skim the surface. We can revisit a couple of passages we looked at in an earlier lecture. You remember Galatians chapter 2, verse 20. Paul writes, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. So Paul says, I am in Christ, and Christ is in me.

And look at how he describes that reality. He speaks of it in terms of death and life. Christ died, Christ was raised from the dead, I am in Christ, therefore his death is mine, his resurrection life is mine. And Paul explains that he shares in all that Christ has done for the believer at the cross. He'll go on to say in the next chapter, for instance, in Galatians 3, 13, Christ became a curse for us.

He was hung, accursed on the cross. So I am no longer under the curse of the law. There is also life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. There is a new principle of life, Paul says, that was not there before. Christ is present.

And how do I live practically and day to day? I live by faith. And notice Paul does not say, I live by faith in myself.

I do not put faith in faith. My faith is in Christ. So I have fellowship with Christ, who lives in me, sharing in his death and in his life, I live by faith. In Romans chapter 8, Paul helps us to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life.

How is it that Christ indwells the believer? Paul explains, chapter 8 verse 9, the Spirit of God dwells in you. The Spirit of Christ is in you. Verse 11, the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. And Paul goes on within Romans chapter 8 to describe the marks, the evidence of the Spirit's indwelling.

How do you know that the Spirit is there? Well, he says in verse 4, we do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And verse 5, we set our minds on the things of the Spirit. So there is a lifestyle that is in keeping with the Holy Spirit, that is pleasing to the Spirit. And Paul says there is a mindset that is in keeping with the Holy Spirit and what is pleasing to the Holy Spirit. If we want to know what's pleasing to the Holy Spirit, we go to the book he wrote, the Bible. That tells us, sufficiently, that mind and that life that's pleasing to God. Notice, Paul does not say, if you do these things, then the Spirit will come and live in you.

No, no, he says these things are marks that the Spirit is in you. How do you know that someone is alive? Well, are they breathing? Do they have a pulse?

They're alive. How do you know someone has the Holy Spirit? Is there a mindset of the Spirit?

Is there a lifestyle in keeping with the Spirit? Paul isn't saying we live this way or think this way perfectly, but the Spirit makes himself known in our lives. What does this have to do with death?

It has everything to do with death, according to Paul. Look at what he writes in chapter 8, verse 11. Spirit, he says, raised Jesus from the dead. God by the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Do you see what Paul is saying? The Spirit is changing you from the inside out. Right now, on the outside, there's decay. On the inside, there is renewal and life. But the day is going to come when that inner renewal will be matched by outer renewal, when God by his Spirit will raise your body from the dead to life, just as he raised the body of Jesus Christ from the dead to newness of life. So, Paul says, if the Spirit is at work in you now, God always finishes what he starts.

He will see the work through to its completion. You can be sure that you will be raised gloriously in the way that Jesus Christ was raised gloriously from the dead. So, how do we commune with Christ? We must be in Christ. We walk by faith and not by sight, and we think and live in keeping with the Spirit.

This is an ongoing pattern of Christian living, and it is the way that God is preparing us to meet the day of death. Third thing, enjoy fellowship with God's people. Hebrews reminds us in chapters 3 and 4 that we are a pilgrim people, and we are on our way to our heavenly home. And so we have responsibilities and privileges towards one another to be helps to one another on our heavenly pilgrimage.

Consider what he says in chapter 10 at verse 24. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. So we are to stir one another up.

We are to provoke one another. We have a ministry of provocation, not to irritate each other, but to stir one another to love and good works, the very fruit of the Spirit that Paul writes of in Galatians 5. He reminds us that we come together to worship, do not neglect to meet together as is the habit of some. We gather on the first day of the week to worship God, and so our fellowship is matched by worship. And what encourages us, he says, is the fact that the day is drawing near. As Paul tells the Christians in Rome, salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. We are getting closer to our heavenly home with the passing of each week, and that should stir us to provoke one another to love and good deeds. And remember, Hebrews is speaking to the church. There is individual application, but he's talking to the people of God as we travel together to our heavenly destination.

If you've traveled by yourself and you've traveled in a group, you know that generally traveling in a group is much more enjoyable. You share the burdens and the joys that come with travel, and that's what God has called us to do. We travel together heavenward. Fourth way to prepare for death is that we hold this world loosely. We hold this world loosely. The first thing to see is that in Christ we have a new relationship with the world. Now, the Bible uses the word world in different senses.

Sometimes it means the good creation that God has made. But very often the world carries the sense of human beings in solidarity rebelling against God. And believers have a new relationship to the world in that sense. Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 6, verse 14, that in the cross of Christ, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.

And you know that as a believer in Jesus Christ. You are a stranger to this world in so many ways, precisely because of the prevalence of sin and the thoughtlessness of God that we meet everywhere in this world. So how does the Scripture tell us to think of ourselves in this world? Well, this world remains good in itself. It remains God's world. But we're to think of ourselves as pilgrims. We saw that in Hebrews. Strangers and exiles.

Elect exiles. In the dispersion. These are all phrases from Hebrews and Peter and James. We're passing through this world. And in that sense, it should not be hard for us to part from this world. Marred by sin and the curse. The world in that sense has only hindered our fellowship with God, our service and love to God. Thomas Boston told his congregation in 18th century Scotland, while you live here, you sin and see others sinning, you breathe infectious air, you live in a pest house.

That is a house that's full of disease. And so while it is sad to leave our family, our loved ones, the good things God has entrusted to us, there are many things we should not be sorry to see go when God calls us to be with him. And we remember that the world is impermanent. Paul writes this way in 1 Corinthians 7, verse 29, The appointed time has grown very short.

Let those who have wives live as though they had none, those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. God never designed the world as we experience it to be permanent. We are receiving, Hebrews tells us in chapter 12, a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We're awaiting new heavens and new earth, and that is better. So the scripture tells us don't try to grasp onto something that was never designed to be permanent, when God has something far better in store for you. And then fifthly and finally, we prepare ourselves for death by thinking often of heaven. This goes hand in glove with loosening ties with this world. We don't belong to this world, we belong to another. Paul tells the Philippians, chapter 3, verse 20, Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We could give many other examples. What do pilgrims or travelers do when they're on the road? They enjoy everything about the trip, but they long for home. A couple days I've been here in Florida, Ligonier, as you can well imagine, has taken immaculate care of me. It has never once occurred to me to pick up the phone, call my wife and say, I'm not coming home, I'm just enjoying this place too much.

As much as I love you and being here, I want to be home. And that's the heartbeat of every Christian. And that's why Hebrews says we strive to enter into that rest, because we know how good that rest is. Think of what we exchange when we leave this world and we enter into the next as believers. This world is marred by corruption and death, but in Christ all is gain, and we will enter more fully into eternal life. Life in this world is marked by uncertainty and loss, but we have in Christ an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading, kept for us sure riches that we will more fully enter into. Our fellowship in this world is imperfect at best.

We are all sinners. But fellowship in that assembly is wonderful. No sin, only holiness and joy in the Lord. And of course the best thing of all is that we enter straight into the presence of God to be with our Savior.

How does the psalmist put it in Psalm 17? As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness. When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

You're not going to find satisfaction in this world. You have satisfaction in Christ, and that's what awaits you after death. And so we prepare ourselves for death, not only by loosening ties to this world, but by looking to the world to which we belong and is ours and where we're surely going. That was Guy Waters, and I hope I can remember the wisdom in one line that he said near the beginning of today's message. Living the Christian life well is the best way to prepare yourself for death whenever it comes. If you're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and thankfully I have a copy of Guy Waters' book and series and can revisit this teaching time and time again. If you'd like to add these to your library, if your donation of any amount will send you the hardcover edition of Facing the Last Enemy, and you'll also receive digital access to all 12 messages in the series and the study guide. Perhaps there is someone you know who is walking through grief right now or someone who is battling an illness, and this new book could be a resource to help them think biblically about this important and very pressing topic. Today is also the last day that both the series and the book will be available for additional information for a donation of any amount.

So give us a call at 800 435 4343 or visit Guy Waters has helped us think about preparing to die. Well, tomorrow R.C. Sproul will continue that theme and explains what happens when we die and what is called the intermediate state. So join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 03:27:08 / 2023-08-16 03:35:00 / 8

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