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October 5, 2022 8:00 am
Please open your Bibles again to the book of Philippians chapter 1. This week we have been considering some of the Lord's surprising servants things that we may overlook as being in his service that would be the moth on the Sunday morning God's judgment also comes through slow, quiet, almost unnoticeable means and then on Sunday night, we considered the unconscious influence how that has power on us and how that there is a a sphere of unconscious influence that we exert on others on Monday night. We considered how that God surprising servant of adversity is used, to accomplish a number of good purposes in our lives, and last night we looked at a particular adversity. Wicked men, how the Lord uses the wicked to bring about his his purposes are not going to consider God surprising servant of death of death is in this world. As a result of sin and also I think indeed it is surprising that death should be used to accomplish some of God's choicest blessings, but I think the passage of Scripture before us tonight will help us to think about the ways that death can be used to be a blessing not possible that you might live your life without having been deeply affected by wicked men.
I think it's very unlikely that you would live your life and not have to suffer any kind of adversity, but not everyone has to suffer the same depths of adversity in the amount of adversity that I encounter may be relatively small in comparison to the adversity that some of you have to encounter. But here's something that each one of us is going to go through and that's death unless the Lord Jesus Christ returns and changes.
Those who are alive and remain in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, then you're going to die and if you are like I am. I think about death quite a bit. I enjoy good health.
I'm around death, a fair amount as you can imagine any pastor or minister would be this pastor of a church of any size. I had to call to my people today to console them in.
Tell them that I was praying for them. One had lost a sister, another young man had lost his father to cancer. I have been around death. I grew up in the pastor's home and so I've been around death quite a bit and I I think about death, often and with with sobriety. I have seen some people saw my mother and my dad both die was with them when they were drawing their last breaths and it's a very solemn thing to watch someone die.
And to think what what happens next. So I think that this sermon tonight is a very practical sermon to help us think about the time when we are going to leave this world behind were going to die were going to be the one whose breathing is labored on the deathbed or were going to be the one who is in the car wreck or who suddenly dies of a heart attack. Some something along that line's but unless the Lord intervenes and since Jesus back then everyone in this room is going to die and so I hope that the sermon tonight will help us to think biblically about our death and when it comes our time to die, that we will be able to die full of hope and that we will be able to die like sons and daughters of God. And so, let's consider what the Bible says here and what it can teach us about death. In this passage of Scripture. I think that we can see what death delivers us from that's going to be my first point. What death delivers us from and then secondly how the prospect of death refines are living now and then finally will see how that death transports us to our greatest joy was read again beginning at the end of verse 18 Philippians chapter 1 verse 18 yes, and I will rejoice for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This will turn out for my deliverance just pause right there and site supposing Paul is imprisoned and it seems like he is saying. Because you are praying because the spirit of Jesus Christ is helping me. I think I'm going to get out of jail. But let's see if that is all that he saying 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 is always Christ will be honored in my body now. If you are thinking exclusively about getting out of jail that I think the sentence would in different it would in something like this. I will be ashamed with it with full courage now is always Christ will be honored in my body and when I get out I will continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. But apparently deliverance for Paul is not just the prospect of getting out of jail. It may be the prospect of being delivered from this life with all of its with all of its problems. What are some of the problems that are implied here in these few verses.
He says this will turn out for my deliverance.
Of course he is in jail and he's in jail because of the will of wicked men who are opposed to God, and who are trying to interfere with the proclamation of the gospel as it is being so effectively done by the apostle Paul and us of these people have brought charges against Paul that they have somehow worked the legal system to get this good man who had not committed any crimes put in jail and that's the sort of thing that Paul says I can be delivered from that, it may be that the Lord will deliver me out of the hands of these wicked men and let me live a few more years and preach the gospel, but it may be that the Lord is going to deliver me out of their hands by taking me completely away from this world one night this week I quoted a little bit of the poem that begins the sands of time are sinking. Usually there just for five stanzas of that in our hymn books, but it actually is part of an 18 stanza poem and died so well worth looking up the sands of time are sinking. I suppose you could find it on the Internet it's in my copy of the letters of Samuel Rutherford at the very end.
There is this this 18 stanza poem maybe 21 stanzas. I can't remember. I memorize that years ago and it's very very encouraging poem, as I was thinking about the day I thought well I need to review that poem again but here is one stanza that I want to draw out of. Samuel Rutherford was a a great and godly man and just to recommend the book to you in case you should be interested in reading it. CH Spurgeon said let it be known that outside the writings of holy Scripture. CH Spurgeon considers the letter. Letters of same annual Rutherford to be the most inspired writings known to man, and so CH Spurgeon had a great appreciation for the letters of Samuel Rutherford and do especially if you're going through a time of suffering. I would recommend that you procure a copy of the letters of Samuel Rutherford Bennett, Banner of truth prints all 365 of them that we have, but they also print a much smaller version of about 40, and not long ago, one of my sons in the ministry lost. He and his wife lost a baby that they were just so looking forward to.
She carried the baby for several months and they lost the baby, and I sent them that small version of the letters of Samuel Rutherford. They wrote me back thanking me and how how it had minister to their souls.
Samuel Rutherford lived in the early 1600s and he was persecuted for Christ.
He was exiled and and finally, things got so bad that the governing officials summoned him and they were going to put him to death, but in his letters he wrote. I have received a higher summoned from someone else because he knew that he was dying and Anna are cousin who set the set the dying words of Samuel Rutherford to this poem.
I've been referring to renders those words of Samuel Rutherford. This way they summoned me before them, but there I may not come. My Lord says, come up hither. My Lord says welcome home. My kingly King at his white throne my presence. Death command where glory glory dwells within Immanuel's land, and that's one of the ways that the Lord delivers his children out of the the in just persecution that is brought upon them in this world. He delivers them by taking them out of this life. I just finished reading that the account of first and second Samuel, first and second Kings in first and second Chronicles and you know when when the kingdom divided under Rehoboam, then Jeroboam the son of need that took off with the 10 northern tribes and Rehoboam in the house of David was left governing the two the two southern tribes will Jeroboam the son of need that headache had a son. A young son who was very sick and so he instructed his wife to disguise herself and go to the prophet and inquire whether or not the child was going to live seems illogical to me. If someone is able to know whether or not a child is going to live or die. Surely he would be able to recognize someone through a disguise and the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet spoke to the prophet Jeremiah Lord spoke to the prophet and said the wife of Jeroboam is coming to see you and so just about the time I imagine she walks up the sidewalk and stepped on the porch and knocked on the door. He says that come in the wife of Jeroboam and does so she comes in and he says I know I have, and I'm telling you, the child is going to die because he is the only one in the entire household Jeroboam Job Jeroboam who is pleasing in the side of the Lord. He's the only one I like, God says so I'm going to let them die.
Death is not always an indication of God's disfavor, and in fact in the child of God. I would say that it rarely is an indication of God's God's disfavor in the letter that the Lord directed to the church of Smyrna. He tells them the devil is about to throw some of you into prison for 10 days you will have tribulation okay after 10 days it's going to be over with. Right next sentence. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. How does that work.
I thought after the 10 days I get out but no you be faithful in the death and I will give you the crown of life. So were scratching our head and go ahead and read the rest of this read the rest of the letter, which is the shortest letter to the seven churches. And it says he who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says to the seven churches in that it concludes this way, the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. See God's way of thinking about things.
It doesn't matter how wretched and miserable. Your life is here in God's perspective that's just a little bit that's just a little while.
In comparison to the great reward that is going to be given to you when you're not hurt by the second, and so he writes this letter of encouragement the devil's going to throw some of you into prison for 10 days will have tribulation.
Be faithful in the death and I'll give you the crown of life. He has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. You're going to die. You might as well die being faithful to the Lord instead of denying the Lord in scratching and clawing and cleaning and winding on to a few extra days of life in this miserable sin cursed world. One of my one of my favorite long poems that tells a story is Horatius at the bridge. I highly recommend it to you. It's it takes about 30 minutes to read it. It's a wonderful story. It's a story of how the Rome was under attack from the from the north and separating them from these these attacking armies is the river Tyburn over the river there is one bridge and the Roman authorities recognize this invading army is going to come across this bridge and invade the city. We've got to cut down the bridge but I'm not sure that we can we can do that and then up spoke brave Horatius the captain of the gate every man upon this earth.
Death cometh soon or late hue down the bridge center console with all the haste you may, with two more to help me will hold the following day in the on the straight path and yawn straight path and Army may well be stopped by three now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me and he says every man upon this earth. Death cometh soon or late. How can man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods and yawn straight path. A thousand may well be stopped by three now who will stand on either hand, and keep the path with me in their couple guys who speak up. I'll stand on your right hand.
I'll stand on your left-hand.
Horatius is right every man upon this earth.
Death cometh soon or late, and so to die. Notably in the service of the Lord while faithfully doing what the Lord has called you to do is a good way to die and dying that way. Then the Lord delivers us out of the injustice in the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the thousand burdens that flesh is heir to. In the Lord uses death to deliver us from that you can imagine that being in a prison in the apostles Paul Paul's day was not quite the cushy experience that it is in the United States of America today. I doubt if there was a identity was working on his benchpress while he was in there and so back in those days.
About the only way that you could live if you were in prison was if you had friends on the outside who would bring you food and so that in fact is the occasion of this letter, the Philippian church has sent up Aphrodite's work half or second member which one to to bring a gift to the apostle Paul so that he can continue to live, but the conditions in that prison must have must've been wretched and in one of his letters that he writes from prison, he sends the Timothy and he says sure to bring that cloak that I left Truax as and just imagine the cold nights that he was experiencing and he only just really wishes that he had that cloak that he had left Truax as makes me think of the experience that dear at an arm. Judson had when he was falsely imprisoned and in Burma they had his legs chained together and they would raise his feet up off the floor so that only his shoulders were touching and then leaving that way all night long and then one day they decided they were going to move him and some other prisoners to another location and their their feet had not been on the floor for weeks or months and as they marched in blisters quickly formed and those blisters burst and then they were marching on their blood.
He feet and as they crossed over a bridge at an arm. Judson just thought how about if I just died in here and and and did all he was in such misery, but he carried notably on I know some of you interested in reading good books of history, and if you'd like to read a wonderful biography.
Read the biographies at an arm Judson by Courtney Anderson to the Golden shore and but the those that's what I'm reminded of when I think of Paul and in a Roman prison is being treated being treated unkindly. Not having enough food cold and death would be a deliverance from all that when death comes, it it delivers us from the cruelties that we may be experiencing at the hands of unjust men and all of the deprivations and the discomforts that are in this world. As a result of sin. Thank God we're not in prison but we still have to suffer the effects of God's curse against sin in this world the aches and pains of our bodies and in all of the things that go along death for the Christian is a deliverance from all of that. Not going to just give a little parenthetical interruption here and and and point out to you something that I'm sure you have mused upon it seems to me the idea in the United States of America. At least that when someone dies, they automatically go to heaven and someone might have been a notorious him banned drug dealer and committed gang gang murders. But when he dies. People say will think God is in a better place and that's going to heaven is not the default position of humanity going to hell is the default position of humanity. You must be rescued from from hell.
You must be rescued from sin.
If you're going to go to heaven before the child of God. Death is a deliverance from all the miseries and injustices of this life. I think this passage of Scripture shows us. Secondly, that living in prospect of death has the potential to refine and enrich our lives even now it may be that some people would hear that were thinking about death tonight and think about how how morose to just be dwelling upon death. That's so, I don't want to think about that at all. I just want to go on living my life and hopefully I'll die die quickly and I don't even want to think about. I believe that thinking about death and thinking about the brevity of life has the potential to enrich our lives even now so that we might live life more courageously. Paul says in verse 20 is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now is always Christ will be honored in my body whether by life or by death. So if it's God's will for me to die I want to live courageously. That's God's will for me to live. I want to live courageously.
I'm afraid that courage is a virtue that is an extraordinarily short supply these, but something that is desperately needed. If you arrive at the position that my life is entirely in the hands of God. It frees you up to live courageously humming the number one threat that can be can be leveled against you is taken away. I think of the story that I read in the discourses of Epictetus. Probably my favorite philosopher, a Greek philosopher who lived in the first century he tells about a man who was being threatened by a tyrant, that if the man did not inform on his friends than the tyrant would cut his tongue off and the man did his own tongue often spitted at the tyrant's feet as if to say you got no power over me. You can't kill me. I mean you can kill me, but who said I was never going to die. And when you got that kind of attitude that lays the foundation for courage. Whether I live or whether I die, that I may have the courage to glorify Christ living in prospect of death and embracing the fact that we are going to die and that were willing to die for what we believe in that were willing to suffer for what we believe in. And there's a difference between being willing to die willing to suffer in Dostoyevsky's novel the brothers car myself. There is a a wise holy man who speaks about this issue and he says there are there are eager young men who would lay down their lives in a moment. For what they believe in, but they are unwilling to give four or five years of their seething you to preparing for a calling that requires preparation sometimes according to that and I think he's right that it in a moment of great bravery.
A person may give up his life and and that that is a noble thing but for most of us, the Lord has not asked us to give up our lives in a moment of what he asked what he has said is I want you diligently to give yourself to doing well. The thing that I've called you to do.
If you are a student and you know that the Lord has called you to do it and be a student for the glory of God. If you are working in a warehouse and that's what the Lord has provided for you then work in that warehouse like a son of God. If the Lord has called you to be a mother then discharge that all important task like a daughter of God and do it well. Embracing the fact that we do not have forever helps us to live our lives deliberately and helps us to live our lives with focus years ago when I was reading the JI Packer's book knowing God. For the first time I came across a couple of lines from a hymn that was written by Richard Baxter and so I looked it up in Spurgeon's hymnal and and saw all five stands. It's a wonderful wonderful little him. I checked in your hymnbook to see if you have it so that I might ask you to sing something else that you have no idea how it goes, but I listen it's it's it's a wonderful little poem Richard Baxter who thought that he was going to die young, and wrote one of the great classics of Puritan literature of the saints everlasting rest wrote this little poem Lord belongs not to my care whether I die or live to live and serve the is my share in this thy grace must give if life belong.
I will be glad that I may long obey if short and why should I be sad to sort endless day Christ leads me through.
No darker rooms. Then he went through before.
In other words, Jesus has led the way through death Christ leads me through. No darker rooms than he went through before even into God's kingdom comes must enter by this door by the door. Death come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord, when faith has made me meet my blessed face to see for if I work on earth be sweet. What with my glory be my knowledge of that land is small, the eye of faith is dim but 'tis enough that Christ knows all and I shall be with him to come back to that last part. At the very last part of the sermon that death, it ushers us into the presence of Christ but never thinking about how that death frees us up to live life intentionally knowing that our time is short.
Jesus said to his disciples.
Night is coming when no one can work. Let us do the works of him who called us because night is coming when no one can.
In so remembering that there is a termination to our life helps us to live our lives deliberately and not waste our lives.
Paul describes the kind of life that he aspires to live in verse 21 for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Let's just think about the first part for to me to live is Christ with a very deliberate joyful way to live but what does it mean for me to live is Christ, maybe this will help you out.
I think that there are some people who would say for me to live is to eat that's the thing that I look forward to most in life, other people might say to me to live is to watch football. Some bypass it to me to live is to play video games to me to live is to shop to me to live is to hunt to me to live is to finish the Paul say to me to live is Christ. This is this is the person who occupies my mind. I want to serve him. I want to know him I I'm enjoying this I I'm enjoying even sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings so that I might enjoy a resurrection he's talking about a metaphorical resurrection. I don't think that he saying that if I suffer enough and I'll finally get raised from the dead. At the last day, but for me to live is Christ.
I have deliberately taken into account how much time I have my life is short. I may die very soon. I want to spend all of my life for something for someone really matters for me to live is Christ and I think that this this self focus in this this joyful courage and intensity is enhanced by facing the reality that we are mortal we will die and we could die soon. Let's move on. Finally, to see that death ushers us into our greatest joy. I just read the first part of verse 21. Let's go on for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I think this is perhaps a fresh perspective on death that we need to cultivate. It is not just that we're going to be okay. When we die, but death is the open door to gain death actually gives you something better than the best that you had on earth. Even if you have enjoyed sweet sweet fellowship with the Lord in the him that I just quoted by Richard Baxter.
He asks for. If I work on earth be sweet.
What will thy glory be death ushers us into the presence of Christ die is gain.
I'm getting ahead of myself must go on. Verse 22. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me yet which which I shall choose I cannot tell I am content to do what the Lord wants with me and contentment really is the key to being happy. The, the richest person on earth is not necessarily the person with the most money is the person is content with the least and Paul. Paul says not if I live good if I die better. I'm going to leave it into God's hands.
I can't choose between the two.
I am hard pressed between the two. He says in verse 20. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. So we've already seen that death is gain for us and now we see quite clearly that death is a departure from this world when we are welcomed into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. It really is kind of amazing how little description we have in the Bible of heaven and much of what we think of when we hear such a statement that I think is metaphorical language streets of gold, gates of pearl. That's an astounding feat, but honestly I and I'll be thrilled beyond description. If that's what it is but I I can think of better stuff that what what kind of a thrill visit after day one to walk on streets of gold after you've seen the gates of pearl is that going to satisfy you throughout eternity. Some of you have been to the Rocky Mountains and just maybe camped there for a few days and after a few days of being there. You, you realize that the all of the whole situation.
Kind of wears off and is still beautiful but it's not that that punch that you got when you drove up and thought are those clouds those are mountains and the thrill that you feel with that. I think that the descriptions that we have of heaven are are mostly saying the most valuable things that you have on earth are the sort of things that we make our streets out of an heaven. You just can't imagine how how beautiful and how satisfying all of this is that we we mistake if we start longing for the streets of gold in the gates of pearl and the mention this just over the hill top and even reunion with our loved ones. As if that is the greatest thing about heaven in Christ all the riches of God are condensed into one person and to be with that person into enjoy fellowship with that person to enjoy his approval and to be with.
Be with multitudes of people who also loved Jesus into have been freed from sin. What a culture that is to live in no no wonder the writer of the book of Hebrews waxes eloquent 20 says you have not come to a fiery mountain but you come to Mount Zion and to the company of thousands of angels in festal gathering into the church.
The firstborn made perfect in what what a wonderful prospect to live in a community like that that is governed by the Lord Jesus Christ and that is illumined by the glory of God. That is where you go and you die, you go to be in the presence of the Lord, the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and to immediately pass in the glory, and their bodies being still united to Christ to rest in their graves to the resurrection and at the resurrection.
Believers being raised up in glory shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment and made perfectly blessed both in soul and body in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity. Quoting from the Baptist catechism. There is a great delight and joy of heaven is that when we depart this life we go to be with Christ. There was a doctor who went to visit a dying man. This is in the days when doctors were making house calls. Both the doctor and the dying man were strong believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and so the physical doctor was also administering spiritual character. The man who was frightened at the prospect of death and he said to the doctor. I know so little about heaven. What's it going to be like Justin. The doctor heard a scratching at the door and he recognized that as the scratching of his little dog and he said to the man. Do you hear my little dog at the door. Yes, he's never been to this house before he doesn't know what's on the other side. The only thing that he knows is that I'm here and that's enough to make him want to be in this house.
That's how it is with us also. We may not know all the details of heaven and what it looks like and what were going to do there but the glimpses that we see. Make it an alluring prospect to be there, but the greatest the greatest alluring prospect of heaven is that when we depart this life will be with Christ, anticipating the time when our redemption will be completed with the resurrection of our bodies. The apostle Paul quotes that passage from the Old Testament and says oh death where is thy sting grave, where is thy victory.
The strength of sin is the law and the strength of the law of sin. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain