Thursday, July 31, 2008

Preparing for Death - Part 1 "Proper Perspective"

Pastor Hall recently referenced a fascinating post on the topic of preparing for death. As a Soldier who is faced with war, this topic is one that I consider daily (if not hourly on some occasions.) I have spoken about this topic before, but it is time to do a series on a part of Christian life that is often neglected by modern sheep.

When considering all of my weaknesses, failures, and disobedience, it is a miracle of God that this bond servant of Christ has experienced success in any matter of Christian devotion. It is the Holy Spirit--working through the agencies of the Word with the Sacraments and the tutelage of church tradition--who has revealed to me the importance of preparing for a good death: my final moment of earthly faith in Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We long-lived Americans seem intent on putting death out of our minds. We delay it. We surgically erase it from our faces. We push it back, ignore it's approach, and squirm at the mere mention of the inevitable event.

As a fellow Christian, my brother or sister, do you not realize that your religion holds death as its primary theme? Your first parents ushered death into the world by their sin in Eden. Your damnable sin condemns you to eternal death. Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, became incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was crucified on your behalf to free you of the curses of sin, death, and the devil. Purchased with nothing less than the divine blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit invites and prompts you to die according to your sinful flesh so that you might follow Christ and experience victory over death and enjoy eternal life in the blessedness of Heaven.

Your thesis is death. You, Christian, are defined by the death of Christ on the cross. After a lifetime of futility and failure, your ultimate triumph will come at the end of this sinful condition. Embrace it. Look forward to its approach. Live the Creed when it says, "I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

To have a proper view of death is to finally look at this life with clear vision. Having proper perspective and priorities leads one to look to what is to come. Read what St. Paul teaches on this matter (really deep stuff!):

"for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again." [Philippians 1:19-26, ESV]

This is the true purpose driven life. This is the universal calling. The goal is to finish the race and keep the faith to the very end. We wage war against doubt and distractions with the intent of laying hold of the final prize. We let go of this life and commit it to the service of others as we look forward to the eternal life that is to come. There is emotional tension between the life of work in the church militant and the desire to enter the rest of the church triumphant.

In the coming days, I will share some thoughts and resources that have served me greatly in this area. A life spent preparing for death is not a wasted life.


Cindy Ramos said...

Good to have you back blogging again. I look forward to this series - you write well about the big stuff.

Thursday's Child said...

Welcome back! You're certainly jumping back in with both feet, aren't you? I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

Mike Baker said...

Thank you both for your kind words and support. I will do what I can to meet your expectations.