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The Day Death Died–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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March 13, 2024 2:00 am

The Day Death Died–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 13, 2024 2:00 am

No fear is as daunting as the fear of death. When Jesus finally arrived at His friend Lazarus’ graveside, He spoke this promise: that those who believe in Him will rise again to eternal life. In this message from John 11, Pastor Lutzer shares five comforting contexts in which a believer dies. Our greatest fear died on the day Jesus rose.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. There are many fears that afflict humanity, the fear of pain, poverty or loneliness, but no fear is as daunting as the fear of death. Thankfully, when God raised up Jesus from the dead, He gave us the certainty that this fear died on the day He rose.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, tell us about this new series on the vanishing power of death. Well, you know Dave, when you look at the Bible, you realize that it does not skirt around difficult issues. And the Bible says in Hebrews chapter 2 that Jesus Christ came to deliver us from the fear of death.

As a matter of fact, even though there are many atheists who want to die very bravely, I honestly think that in their hearts, there is still a fear that perhaps it is all true that there is a God to whom they are accountable. Well, this particular series, which I know is going to be a blessing to many, deals with issues like Jesus calling our name. The Bible says that He calls His own sheep by name, and He will know us when we get to the other side. How Jesus resurrects our dreams. We think, for example, of the people on the way to Emmaus and how they encountered Christ. And then, can you believe and still doubt? That's one of the most critical chapters. And of course, in this series, we'll be getting to that to help people to understand it is not wrong to doubt as long as your doubts are honest. Well, I could go on and give the other aspects, but for a gift of any amount, we're making this book available to you.

And I'll be giving you that info at the end of this message. When we think of this day, which some have appropriately called Resurrection Sunday, we're reminded of the fact that there are many fears that exist in this world, a world of heartache. Many people have the fear of loneliness. Others have the fear of pain, the fear of poverty. But there is no fear that is as awesome as the fear of death. There is something so final, so complete, so irreversible that death has an awesome power over the human race. The author of the book of Hebrews, in fact, says that Jesus Christ came to destroy him, that is Satan, who has the power of death, and to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. What we're going to do in the next few moments is to look at how Jesus viewed death. And to illustrate it, we're going to ask you to turn in your Bibles, if you brought your New Testaments, to the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus resurrects Lazarus from the grave.

The story takes place 2,000 years ago, but its relevance is as direct and as complete in our day as it was in Christ's day. And what I'd like to do to help us to summarize this long chapter is to give you five characteristics that really illustrate the context in which believers die. The real characteristics of Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord, triumphant one, over death. First of all, I want you to notice that believers die within the context of Christ's loving care, the context of his loving care. I pick up the passage in chapter 11, verse 5, now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Jesus had been a guest at this home many times, and how he loved this little trio. But the fact that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus did not mean that he prevented Lazarus from passing through that iron gate of death. No, death came to tear this little home apart. The people in the village said to themselves, how are Mary and Martha ever going to manage without Lazarus?

They are going to be lonely. He evidently was the source of their support. And now he is going to be taken from them all within the context of a Christ who could speak the word and health would return to the cheeks of this dying man. Jesus loved Martha and Mary. He also loved the one who was dying, namely Lazarus himself. And the fact that Christ loved Lazarus did not prevent this death.

Jesus let Lazarus die. Notice carefully that Jesus Christ loved the one who was dying and he loved the ones who were to remain behind. The Apostle Paul says, who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall tribulation, distress, persecution? No, he says, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities will separate us from God. Those of you who have lost loved ones, you widows who are here and widowers and parents who have little children that have gone on to glory, I want you to know today that there is no believer who dies outside of the circle of divine love and care.

Secondly, I want you to notice that we also die within the circle of God's loving providence, his loving care and his loving providence. We can't take time to go through the whole story, but when Jesus leaves the northern part of the land and goes to Jerusalem, finally we notice in the text that Mary and Martha greet him. Specifically, Martha comes first and then says in verse 21, she comes to Jesus and said, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. And then you'll notice in verse 32, Mary comes and when she sees Jesus, she gives him the same speech. She said, if you had been here, our brother had not died. One of the most difficult things for us to accept is the delays of Christ because we notice earlier in the chapter that when Jesus found out that Lazarus was dead, the text says he stayed away two extra days to give him a chance to die and to be buried so that by the time Christ arrived after that long journey, he had been in the grave already for days.

But what the sisters are saying is, master, you love us and yet you did not intervene. If you had come earlier, you could have spoken the word and our brother had not died. Where were you when we really needed you? Oh, Lord, if only you had been here. And so they begin to think of those if onlys and there is not a funeral that takes place, but that with that funeral, there are some if onlys. If only we had gotten him to the doctor sooner, if only the doctors had not operated, if only the doctors had operated, if only there had not been ice on that pavement, the accident would not have happened.

Oh, God, where are you? If only you had arranged circumstances differently, this would not have happened. But as I've said to you many times, what you need to do is to write down on the sheet of paper all of the contingencies, all of the if onlys, and then understand that God's providential guidance encircles the entire sheet of paper because my dear friend today, even the if onlys of life are firmly held in his loving hand. It's not just that God determined the time that Lazarus would die. It is also that he determined the means. We don't know what the disease was that Lazarus had, but whatever it was, it was the means that God used to usher in the death of Lazarus. And even that means was under God's providential care. Last fall here at the church, we had a teenager, 15 years old, gunned down in a drive-by shooting.

His name was Jason House. We look at this ugly crime, senseless, foolish crime that goes on in Chicago so often, and our hearts are broken because of it. But may I say lovingly that if Jesus Christ, who was innocent and sinless, was falsely accused and hung on a cross by wicked men, and that that death was also part of God's providential plan for a believer like Jason, even his untimely death must be seen as part of the big picture. And some of you have babies that are in heaven and you say, why did God even give them to us? You know, sometimes when a shepherd wants to take the sheep through a dark valley to get them to the grazing lands on the other side, he can't get them to go.

They're too stubborn. So what he does is he reaches down and he picks up one of the little lambs and puts that lamb on his shoulder. And then he begins to trek through that dark, deep valley and the mother of the lamb begins to follow him.

And the other sheep began to see that she is going and soon another one goes and the whole flock of sheep goes to the other side. And that's the way it is sometimes when God's people die young. It makes us homesick for heaven.

It is God's way of getting us to remember that we are all going to the other side. Every believer dies within the context of Christ's love, his loving care, but also his loving providence. Third, we die within the context of his loving purpose, his loving purpose. Now, why is it that Jesus didn't hurry back? Well, we know that the Martha and Mary wanted a healed Lazarus.

Jesus wanted a resurrected Lazarus. Jesus, when he was told about this death, said, this death is for the glory of God. And if your Bible is open, notice what he says in verse 40 when he comes to the tomb. Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God? How is God glorified in the death of a believer? First of all, God is glorified in our faith.

He's glorified in our faith. By the way, did you get the juxtaposition of events there in verse 40? We always say, you know, seeing is believing. The skeptic says, you show me and I will believe. Isn't it interesting that here at least Jesus reverses the order and he says, did I not say to you that if you believe, you believe, then you shall see. Sometimes we have to see before we believe, but oftentimes we have to believe in order to see. And Jesus standing there at the tomb of Lazarus says, if you believe, you will see the glory of God. God is glorified by the faith of his people.

And you know the way in which we accept death, no matter how fearful it may be, but the bottom line still is being able to die with a sense of confidence. It brings glory to almighty God. During the days immediately after the reformation, there were Huguenots in France, and these dear Christians were marched to the stake and they were burned because they were outside of the official church Christendom. And as they were marching to the stake, they sang hymns so loudly that the authorities were so embarrassed that they had a band there playing to drown out the beautiful hymns of the Christians marching to their death. It is said by the pagans of the early believers who were mercilessly martyred in Rome and in the Roman provinces, the pagans said of them that the Christians carried their dead as if in triumph. And finally Tertullian says that the pagans cried out, how long must we put up with this third race? What they said was that the Christians are different because they die differently and God is glorified because of their faith.

God is also glorified I may say because death is his way of getting his people home. You know as Christians we are sometimes so contradictory. On the one hand we sing about the glories of heaven and the wonders of the pearly gates and then we spend all of our money and all of our effort hanging around here. I don't want to be critical of that. I'd like to live a while longer.

But it is a strange contradiction. If heaven is so glorious, why is it that we're hanging on to this world with such tenacity? Well I want to tell you something about death. Death is God's way of releasing his people into heaven forever.

It is God's final victory for us because it is God's ability to prove that the sheep that have been entrusted to him have been finally brought safely home. Never to wander again. Never to sin again.

Never to backslide again. Finally they are there forever. And that's why death is a triumph to Christ and glorifies him. It is proof that the Savior has the ability to bring his people home.

We die my friend within the context of Christ's loving care, within the context of his loving providence, the context of his loving purpose, and the context of course of his loving power. His loving power because he's at the tomb of Lazarus. And I love this prayer of Jesus.

You know before Jesus came out of heaven to earth it was as if he and God the Father arranged what he was going to do. And therefore Jesus goes to prayer and he almost says, Father you know we've talked about this before so I wouldn't have to say anything. But the text says that as he was at the tomb of Lazarus he said, Father I thank thee that thou hearest me always and I knew that thou hast heard me but because of the people which stand by I have said it. And then the Bible says he cried with a loud voice Lazarus come forth. Someone has suggested very accurately that it's a good thing he named Lazarus. If he had just said come forth the whole cemetery would have appeared before him.

After all he is king of kings and lord of lords. And so he had to specify just Lazarus this time. Lazarus come forth. And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes.

His face was bound about with a napkin. And Jesus said I've done the impossible now you do what is possible. And that is you unwrap him.

And so they unwrapped him. You know when we do what is possible it is up to God to do the impossible. Now when Lazarus was raised he evidently was raised with an earthly body. Do you realize that he had to die again? Can you imagine Lazarus as he gets sick at some later point in saying my word all this again.

But he dies again. But do you know that when we are going to be raised when the trumpet is going to sound and when Jesus is going to return we are not going to be raised with these earthly bodies that we brought with us. With all of their aches and pains and the disintegration that even those of us who are very young still feel. We will be raised with brand new bodies. The Bible says we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. An indestructible eternal sinless body. Yes it will be based on the body that we have here.

There is continuity between the two. But it is going to be so transformed that we will be exempt from all the aches and the pains and the bruises of this existence. And once we are on the other side we will wonder why we were so attached to this very sinful hurtful world. I want to say to those of you who have loved ones in heaven and that applies to all of us that there is not a single one in heaven today who would ever come back to earth if he was given the opportunity to do so. They are secure in the fold of the shepherd because they die within the context of the Father's purpose and power. And then finally I want us to notice that true believers die within the context of the Father's beautiful promise. The words really of Jesus here in this text of scripture when he says in verse 25, one of the most famous verses of all the Bible, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall live even if he dies.

We can understand that quite well can't we? Of course we know that we are going to live even if we die. And all of us will die unless we are living at the return of Christ. But then Jesus with a play on words and using the word death in two different meanings continues in verse 26 and says and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. What he is saying is that if you are alive and you believe in Christ spiritually you have life and spiritually you will never die. Physically you will die but spiritually with the very life of God within you you will go on living. He is the resurrection and the life. Do you understand now why it is that Jesus Christ came to take away death's sting? We die within his loving care, his loving providence, his purpose, his power and with all the promises of God which are yea and amen in Jesus Christ.

However much agony we will go through on that deathbed we die with a savior who has gone before us and has said follow me, follow me. When I was perhaps six years old my father decided to buy some bees. It was a mistake but nevertheless he did so. And I remember how he went out and he built this beehive. I guess the Lutzer's were going to get into the honey business. And then he bought a box of bees and he brought them into the house and somehow, somehow I do not know how many of them got loose in our kitchen. And I'll never forget going to bed that night and as I was going up the stairs my hand, I was crawling up the stairs, my hand went right onto one of those bees and I was fiercely stung crying like any six year old boy would cry. Now you know it's interesting that afterwards that bee, I don't know what happened to it, it got away and joined the crowd I guess.

But do you know something? That particular bee that stung me with such enthusiasm by the way, that particular bee could not sting anyone else again. He could buzz, he could make lots of noise, he could intimidate, he could frustrate but the sting had been absorbed.

He could not sting someone else again. Oh I'll tell you death has an ugly face. It intimidates, it threatens, it is fearsome.

But all that it can do is have threats. It cannot make good on its threats because Paul says, oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? Jesus won that victory and he absorbed its sting for those that believe on him. Well my friend for a gift of any amount we're making available to you a book I've written entitled The Vanishing Power of Death. And by the way I remember very clearly being stung by that bee. I was on my way upstairs in the old farmhouse and somehow I put my hand on the stair where the bee was. But you know it is true that once a bee has stung you it can't sting anyone else.

Isn't that wonderful to know that Jesus Christ took the stinger, if we can put it that way, out of death. Well for a gift of any amount this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Hope that you have a pen or pencil. Go to rtwoffer.com.

That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Remember the name of the book is The Vanishing Power of Death. The subtitle is Conquering Your Greatest Fear. I want to thank the many of you who support this ministry. Because of people just like you we are now in 50 different countries, in seven different languages, and we thank you so much for your prayers and for your involvement. And we exist to help you make it all the way to the finish line. That's why we make resources available to you. Here's what you do.

Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Perhaps you know someone who is about to die. They may have a terminal illness. You want to be a blessing to them. I think that this book will help you in counseling others as well as when it's your time to die.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. When we die as believers, we do so within God's loving providence, His loving purpose, and His mighty power. In our series on The Vanishing Power of Death, we're reliving the day death died. Next time, more on why the sting of death has been absorbed by the sacrifice of Jesus. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-13 05:42:00 / 2024-03-13 05:50:28 / 8

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