Alfred Place Baptist Church

14:7-8 Dying and living to the Lord

Romans 14:7&8 “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

The New Testament will often appeal to the most profound truths about God in order to encourage Christians to do basic every day duties. For example, in the church at Philippi there were two older women named Euodia and Syntyche, highly respected in the church, hard working believers, who yet were daggers drawn towards one another. There was constant tension between them; each one knew her rights, and their conflict was drawing in other members of the church – “Whose side are you on, Euodia’s or Syntyche’s?” How does Paul deal with this? By reminding the whole church of the rights of the eternal Son of God, and how he chose to become incarnate; he humbled himself and took the form of a servant. Jesus had every entitlement to be worshipped, but he didn’t demand that people kneel down before him. He knelt before them and he washed their feet. “Let that same mind be in you,” he says to them all, in other words, “Euodia serve Syntyche; Syntyche serve Euodia. Humble yourselves.” He motivates them by presenting the incarnate Christ to them.

Similarly when Paul talks to another congregation about giving more generously to the work of the gospel he bursts into praise, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” God loved sinners like you, and he gave his only begotten Son to the cross of Golgotha to save a wretched person like you from hell. What a glorious gift for such unworthy people! His love was so wonderfully free and merciful, and it should make you sing aloud, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

That is the New Testament pattern of exhorting Christians to get their act together and live consistent and honourable lives, and so here in our text Paul is dealing with a division in the church at Rome which was caused by some of the members teaching that it was wrong if you were a Christian to eat meat, and they were condemning those who did. The non-vegetarians for their part were demeaning these weak believers for their scrupulosity. Everybody had an opinion; everyone could argue about it. They all had some suggestions about how you treated a brother who differed from you on eating meat.

Paul proceeds to bring them all into the presence of God and remind them whose they are and whom they serve. We are all living to the Lord; we all belong to the Lord, he says. The weak in faith didn’t belong to the strong to be dictated to as to their conduct; they didn’t belong to the elders to be disciplined if they stepped out of the apostolic line on this matter; they didn’t belong to the church to have their conduct analyzed in every church meeting; they don’t even belong to themselves. If they belonged to themselves then they could excuse justifying their feelings of self-pity and hurt pride. “It is my choice what to do with my life.” No, in life and in death we belong to our faithful Saviour; the strong belong to him and the weak belong to him. He created us; he bought us with his blood; he controls our every circumstance. If it is true that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without his permission then nothing can happen to us without his sovereign will. So what do we see here? First of all is this observation which Paul is implying, that;

1. ALL NON CHRISTIANS LIVE AND DIE FOR THEMSELVES ALONE.

They have no transcendent God to live for and so they’ve just got themselves to live for. “Look after number one,” is their watchword. Jesus was once speaking to some materialists whose lives were dominated by themselves and their possessions, so he told them a story. He said, “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God” (Lk. 12:16-21). He was a man living for himself, for his own happiness. That was his one aim in life. “There is no one better to look after me than me,” he believed. Men live for power and pleasure. Most young people dream of becoming famous and having plenty of money. Those are the gods to which they give allegiance, and I am asking you to pause at this point, before you make a commitment, and before you bow before money, and possessions, and pleasures, and fame. I am asking you to question your choices, to have a reasoned and informed judgment. Whatever you are living for you must first interrogate your choice;

i] Will it last?

God has given us immortal souls. Every human birth is the beginning of an endless existence and the Bible is asking us, as we choose what we’re going to live for in life, to bear our own immortality in mind. Jesus speaks of certain men who had treasures, but they were treasures with a built-in shelf life; moths and mildew and rust and damp and mere sunlight would eventually destroy them. Their treasures were tremendously impressive and beautiful but they didn’t pass the test of durability. So you are being asked to apply that test to all those claimants for your attention. What will the advancing years do for that? What about the remorseless movement of time, what will it do for your treasures? What date stamp is on your treasures? What of the march of history and social change? What will old age do to those who idolize their beauty, when the plastic surgeon has run out of solutions to everything hanging down?

You are living for your wealth? Then will it survive economic, social and political change? Will such lives retain their elasticity and their depth? And if through offshore banking and the secret Swiss accounts your money is secure what of the last great change that Jesus spoke of concerning that foolish farmer? Is it true that when men breathe their last breath that the one who has collected the most toys is the winner? Is that what it’s all about? Can you bring your toys into immortality beyond? Can you take them to the judgment seat of God? Was Job right when he said that he came from the womb naked and to God he would return naked again – not holding a single toy in his fingers? You have to apply that to all you’re living for. How durable is your hold on your stuff? Can it pass the criterion that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will separate you from it? I am asking you when you make the choice of what you are going to live for that you be a thinking man, and an intelligent person and gather together all the most important information, and say to yourself, “I have a durable and lasting soul and so I want to live for what is durable and lasting.”

ii] Will it answer me when I call?

I would bring to you the test which Elijah brought to the prophets of the nature gods of Canaan. They worshipped the trees and the hills, the sun and the moon, the sunset and the rainbow, and their priests cried to those gods. How they cried! With what passion they shouted aloud their worship and adoration, and they longed for an answer, just a spark from heaven to consume the sacrifice and they would leap for joy. O that there might be some sound, some evidence that the force they were living for was there, vital, responsive, seeing and hearing everything that was gong on. But no answer came! They were crying into a void and all they heard was the persistent echo of their own voices and the mockery of Elijah. And those of you who today are living for your wealth does it answer when you call? Those who live for music and beauty and paintings do they answer when you cry? Those who live for fame and pleasure do they answer you? I am not asking whether such things exist. Of course they exist. The sun and moon and rivers and mountains exist, and I am not asking whether they can give any help, of course we are helped by a walk on the promenade as the sun goes down and the sky turns red. Do it! You may as well be living in Toxteth or Salford if you don’t go for a walk by the sea. It will do you good, but I am asking something more. Can the sea and sky return my love? Can they pity me? Can they care for me? Can they tell me how much I matter to them? Can they plead with me? Can they weep with me? Do I long to spend eternity in their embrace? Am I fed by them? Do they lead me to the living fountains of waters? Aren’t they collections of atoms, and utterly inanimate? Here I am a living soul that lives, and loves, and longs. Here I am a man who knows fear and happiness. Am I going to live for inanimatedness? Am I going to give my life for cold cerebral abstractions and concepts?

I can stand today before the glory of a personal risen Saviour who says, “Come to me.” I have never heard a credit card say Come to me. I have never heard a television set say Come to me. I have never heard an opera saying Come to me. I have never heard a six-pack saying Come to me, but I’ve heard God saying, “Come to me!” I want a God I can speak to, whom I can know face to face. There is nothing in the whole world as glorious as this, when we call out in our anguish then there is a mind that answers, and a heart that beats in pity and in compassion over me. There is a God who longs for us, a Lord who says that it gives him joy whenever a sinner returns. Will I live for him? I cannot live for anything else.

Did you read in August about the three Mexican fishermen from the town of San Blas whose outboard engine broke down on their boat last November. The boat was just 25 feet long and the three of them drifted and drifted in the boat for 5000 miles until they were picked up a long nine months after their engine had broken near the Marshall Islands on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. What they had intended as a voyage of three weeks lasted three-quarters of a year. They were eventually rescued on August 9 by a tuna trawler from Taiwan. They had survived on rain water which they squeezed into their mouths with rags. They ate sea birds and fish which they ate raw, but most important of all there on the boat they had a Bible. Every day they fought off despair by reading the word of God and crying to the God of Scripture to help them. He is a God who answers when we call.

iii] Can it save my soul?

Christ insists that we ask that question. What should a man give in exchange for his soul? “I will sacrifice my very soul for . . .?” For what will you make the ultimate sacrifice? What if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul? Imagine getting all the wealth in the world, and having such fame that you were always on the cover of Hello and OK. Imagine you have had all the leggy blondes that Rod Stewart has had, and that all the oil resources in the world belonged to you, but you’ve lost your soul. It is gone for ever. Your soul is no longer yours. The devil has it. Death has it. Hell has it. You gave it over in exchange for the women and the wealth and the fame. That’s a bad bargain. I am saying to you when you are challenged as to what you are going to live for in life, whatever the options before you then never forget that you have a soul with its own needs. My chief end in life is going to be this, having those special needs met. I have a soul. More; I have a lost soul, and when I choose what I am going to live for then I must remember my lost soul.

I go into a shop and the assistant says to me, “Can I help you? What exactly do you have in mind sir?” Imagine today you are living on the threshold of commitment; you are making a decision as to what you are going to live for, and there are so many options, all presenting themselves to you in their very best colours – here is wealth and fame and land and pleasure and culture. And the assistant smiles and says, “What exactly do you have in mind?” You say, “I want to live for something that meets the needs of my soul. Specifically something that meets the needs of my lost soul. That is what I have in mind.” What is my lostness? It is my guilt, that in my living I have sinned. I have come short of the only standard there can be, and that is the glory of God. So I have incurred the wrath and the condemnation of God. My urgent need is to deal with that problem. That is what I need, because things are not right between me and God. And the assistant fusses about running to and fro and brings me all the options one by one; he brings me unimaginable wealth, and he brings me international fame, and he brings me ravishing beauty, and he brings me an extraordinary IQ, and he asks me, “Will any of these meet your needs sir?” And I think, “Can I take these to God, and can I plead, ‘Let me share your life in eternity because of some of these’?” Would I dare? Would I say, “I really enjoyed myself,” and take that to the Lord? Millions do, but I can’t because all the assistant is offering me can’t silence my conscience. All great Neptune’s ocean can’t wash this blood from my hands. I say to him, “I’m sorry but none of these will do. I am looking for something better than all you’ve shown me. I want something to deal with my guilt and shame and blame in God’s eyes. I want something to save my soul, and all the money you’ve offered me can’t do it, and all the culture you have on display can’t obviate my guilt, and beauty can’t make atonement for my sin, and fame can’t compensate for my appalling ignominy at the courts of heaven. My soul needs nobility, and purity, and sanctification, and elevatedness, and none of the things you’re offering me can do that. I cannot live for them.” Half the world thinks they can, yet there are great lessons from human history, that vice and culture have often walked hand in hand, and depravity and learning have often gone hand in hand. The most exquisite aesthetic sensitivities have been wedded to the most appalling degradation. I can’t live for any of these thing.

I am saying that I take these three searching questions and I test everything that the world lives for; Will it last? Will it answer when I call? Will it save my soul? And I say that I can’t live for anything that the world offers me. None of them can become my chief end in life. I live or die for myself alone to my eternal destruction.

2. EVERY CHRISTIAN LIVES, DIES AND BELONGS TO THE LORD.

“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.” Paul is telling them of a fact. He is not exhorting them to live for the Lord. There is no command here; he is not, at this point, enforcing any obligation; he is not yet urging the strong and weak to live for one another. This is not a demand at all; it is a statement, a proposition which Paul affirms to be true of every Christian, that if we’ve had life from God we live for the Lord.

Christians themselves have to be on guard against living for anything else. I spoke to a friend whose wife had died during the previous year; “It’s such a dangerous time for me,” he said. “Now I have just myself to think about, what I’ll do today, what I’ll eat, how I spend my time and money.” If Christians are sensitive to self-centred living, and feel the pull of the world, then how much more an unbeliever who’s only got mere man to live for. Paul is reminding us of man’s chief end, to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever. That is why God created us; why he has sustained us until this very moment. “I have given you life and breath that you might glorify my name. You don’t live for yourself; you live for me. That is the goal I have set before you. Whether you eat or drink do all to the glory of God.” This is the challenge of our daily existence to be living our lives for the Lord, to show to the world that we have been touched by the power that made the world, the power that raised our Lord from the dead.

Grace has taught every Christian that we are no longer living for self; we are very different from what we used to be, and our transformation of life should announce, “This person belongs to God. He serves God.” You see a group of dogs in a park sniffing, running and playing with one another while their owners talk together. You can play a little game with yourself by guessing which dog belongs to which owner – people say that dogs become like their owners. The exercise is more of a guess than a science. Then one of the owners has to leave says good-bye to his friends and he proceeds to whistle, or he blows a canine whistle, or calls out a name with authority, and one dog separates himself from the pack and comes running towards him. You know whose this dog is by his obedience when he is called. So it is with the Christian; we show that we belong to God by doing what God says. As the eyes of a servant are on the face of his master so our eyes and ears are attentive to the Lord.

Jesus Christ makes maximal demand on his servants. Listen to this parable he told: “Suppose one of you had a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” (Lk. 17:7-10). The servant comes in exhausted, but then he has work to do; he has to prepare a delicious meal for his Master. Bowls of gravy, a leg of mutton, succulent peas, crisp cabbage, rice pudding and cream He is starving, but he is a servant. He is not the Lord; he is a mere servant and not until he has done his duty can he feed himself. The Son of God makes maximal demands on us.

Then you know what you hear? The cry, ‘People won’t wear that!’ and it leads to the scaling down of moral demands to the level of what is conveniently acceptable. People won’t tithe so let’s ask them to spare one per cent of their income; people won’t come to church twice on a Sunday so you just have a morning service; people get bored listening to full-blown sermons so let’s hope to attract them with a ten minute chat; people are frightfully busy so let’s plead that they’ll spare us an empty space in their crowded engagement diaries. And so the Gospel of the minimal demand is transformed from true sacrifice into the acceptance of a certain degree of inconvenience.

I think this philosophy of the minimal demand is one reason why the older generation of church-goers have forfeited the respect of so many of the young. We have failed not in terms of not singing modern songs, and not in terms of making too many demands on them, but because we make too few and of the wrong kind. It’s a strange thing about human nature; there are people who will not give you a pound but who will respond favourably to a request for a thousand pounds; there are people so busy they can’t squeeze half an hour out of the diaries for you, but who in the right conditions will offer their whole lives for a cause. Paul says, “You live and die for the Lord; you belong to the Lord.” The philosophy of the Minimal Demand which has killed Christianity is swept aside because it calls for no sacrifice; it is based on a minuscule division; it is not the pouring out of life blood but the disposal of a surplus we won’t miss. It is not worth giving our lives for.

It is one of the great and urgent questions for our day how effectively and genuinely are we the servants of Jesus Christ? Do our lives bear testimony not only to the sincerity of our theological convictions but the reality and the nearness and the relevance of his Lordship over our lives? Are our lives new? Are they different? Are they transfigured? Are they elevated, pure and noble? Are they patient and courageous? Are our lives all these things according to this measure that we’re not living for ourselves but we’re living for the Lord? He is my Master. The life that I now live in the flesh I live serving my Lord. The Christian lives, moves, stands, has his being all as Christ directs. You cannot explain the way Christians live from the way they’ve been brought up. You cannot explain it from the education they’ve had. You can’t explain it in terms of their temperament. It is a life spent serving a loving living Lord. It is not God beseeching, or God pleading, but it is God himself explaining to us how we should live, and then giving us the power to make it absolutely certain that certain changes are going to be effected in my life and conduct. I live for Christ. I am pressing on to serve him better, and that is my ambition. I am hungering and thirsting, I am parched, I’m utterly famished and absolutely starving; I’m really desperate to do the will of my Saviour. Such people belong to the Lord. How can we tell?

i] Our lives are lives of submission.

We actually do the things Christ says. I read the Sermon on the Mount and I don’t merely admire it or wonder at it, I seek to do what Jesus teaches. What is controlling us in our Christian profession? By what standard do we live? By what norm? By what rule? Are we still going our way? Are we making our own decisions? Are we serving self too much? Or are we controlled by the words of Christ?

Let me put it perhaps in more concrete terms. Here the apostle Paul says that the Christian lives to the Lord, dies to the Lord, and he belongs to the Lord. So in the light of this my question is that if I held a great conviction, say one about vegetarianism or keeping extra sacred days, and I discovered that it had no foundation in the will of God, would I let it go? Would I educate my brain and my taste buds and my theology and change? Just because the Lord said that my conviction was erroneous would I dispense with vegetarianism? Would I change? All I am asking is how do I stand in relation to the word of God? Isn’t it a constant peril that my own Christian thinking is merely the rearranging of my own prejudices. I seem to see in so many Christians scant regard for God’s word. Why are we so reluctant to contemplate the possibility that God’s word may mean that some things have to change in our beliefs and practices? Do we think that we’ve got everything sorted out? Are we being controlled by the word of the Lord?

Oliver Cromwell spoke some great words to the Scottish parliament during the Protectorate. The Presbyterians sitting in the parliament were being very stubborn and the consequences of this would be disastrous for them, and Cromwell’s words were, “Gentleman, I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please consider you may be wrong.” That is what I must say to some Christians today, “Please consider you may be wrong.” I am asking whether our lives show that we belong to the Lord. I must start with me; is my life different – and I am painfully conscious of the anomaly of preaching to you what I should first be preaching to myself, but this is God’s message for you and me. It is the providence of God that you are reading these words and being tested in this way. God in providence is asking you whether you truly belong to the Lord because if you do then you do what the Lord says, however his word may contradict your prejudices and background and tradition, or contradict your revolt against your background and traditions. Are our lives lives of submission?

ii] Our emotional lives are lives of peace.

The Master whom we belong to and serve says so much about our whole emotional lives. Are his words controlling our emotions? Do we immediately feel our hackles rising as we protest, “My emotions are my affair. I can’t dictate to them. They dictate to me.” I am asking have we realised that Christ is Lord over every part of us living, and dying. He is Lord of my temperament; Lord of my emotions; Lord of my psychology; Lord of my drives; Lord of my urges.

The Lord speaks about the emotion of anger. He says, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matt 5:22). Do I remember this when I begin to lose my patience with those I belong to, my children, my spouse, my parents? Am I guided by the Lord’s words? Am I in control of my anger? Do I mortify it by the power of the Holy Spirit? Am I tempted to retaliate when someone has been very critical of me and made my life very difficult? Do I remember then that Jesus said there was to be no retaliation? “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:39-41). I live like that because I belong to the Lord. I love my enemy because I belong to the Lord. I do good to them that hate me because I belong to the Lord. I am not to be thinking that there can be cases when anger is legitimate and righteous. That is correct, but it is rarely legitimate, and rarely correct. I am not to spend my energy asking whether it is appropriate for me to be angry now. My emotions are under Christ’s Lordship.

The Lord speaks about the emotion of worry, and some of you again are thinking, O pastor whenever you talk about the sin of worrying I start to feel guilty, but in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter six Christ specifically tells me that I am not to fret about where my food and drink and clothes are going to come from. I am to trust him that he will look after me. He looks after seagulls and rats, then how much more will he care for me, when I am sick, or when I am unemployed, or when I grow old. Do not worry, he says. That is a command. It is found in Matthew chapter six and verse twenty-five. It is as much a command as, “Thou shalt not kill . . . thou shalt not steal . . .” I am not to worry about those physical and intellectual deficiencies which providence has allotted to me. I am not to worry about being single or having many children or having no children. I am not to worry about my providence that I am too short or too tall or that I didn’t get promotion or that my pension fund collapsed. It is wrong to worry. I must trust in God because I belong to him.

Everybody knows a famous phrase of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” But we are not to know it, we are to do it. We are to bring our troubled hearts under his Lordship. You can see how wrong it would be for Peter and John to go on month after month thoroughly depressed after Christ’s ascension. Such a depression would be sinful. They would be sinning against their whole position as Christians that Christ has gone from them to reign in heaven with all authority in heaven and on earth. There he prays for us; there he is able to save us to the uttermost; there he will receive us unto himself. Then how can we justify depression when Christ sits in the heavens and does whatsoever he pleases?

You remember how Jesus dealt with their depression. He told them that they trusted in God so they must also trust in him. “Exercise your faith,” he commanded them. “I am doing the best for you by leaving you alone without me. Do not be depressed that you can’t see me around. Have faith,” he says. So if we belong to the Lord is our emotional life reflecting his word?

The Lord speaks about the emotion of fear. “Fear not,” he says more than any other commandment those words were on his lips. Are we brought down by our fears? Are we afraid about the time when Mum and Dad will have passed away? Are we afraid of the time when our dear husband or wife will be in the grave? Are we afraid that one day we will find a lump, or we will find ourselves short of breath with a pain going down an arm? Are we afraid of dirty bombs and evil terrorists? Are we full of fear? That is wrong; that’s sinful. Civilization is under his control. The whole world is in his hands. Do not be afraid. I am asking whether our emotional life is one of submission to the Lord. Here is a strong Christian. He has sorted out the idea of having extra sacred days. He has sorted out vegetarianism. He is mature and orthodox, living an impeccable life, but look at his emotional life and he is worried constantly about the church in his home city of Rome, about the tensions in the congregation, of the divisions and possible splits. He is angry with the vegetarians for causing trouble. He is full of resentment that Paul doesn’t allow them to be swept clean out of the church. His whole life as a Christian is coloured by wrong emotions, and almost ruined by it because he is not living to the Lord. He is living to his emotions. So I have asked you whether your life is one of submission to the Lord, whether your emotions are being controlled by the Lord.

iii] Our devotional life is always going out to the Lord.

The Christian lives to the Lord. He is the most important reality in his life. He is the hub of our daily living; everything revolves around the Lord and always our hearts are going out to him in thanksgiving and confession and supplication. The Lord Jesus said little about how to evangelize, but he said much about praying. I am suggesting that the impact of our lives and words in the university, and in the community, and in the Principality, would be greater if we were opening out to the Lord to ask for his blessing, and welcome him and have him near us. Here is this extraordinary definition of a Christian; a Christian is a person like a compass needle, whose life is always pointing in a certain direction, to the Lord. Wherever he is, in whatever company, on any day of the week, his heart is going out to his God in a spirit of dependence and hope. We live to the Lord because we belong to the Lord.

I want to say something that I intend to be encouraging and it is this, that if you feel you are able to reach out and touch God, and get communion with God any time you want, and if you are easily moved in religious services, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each Sunday without fail, then I’m afraid I doubt whether you’ve got very much good in you, or indeed any good in you at all. I remember Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones talking about a certain preacher and saying about him, “The problem with him is that he never has a bad Sunday.” You understand? This man considered every time he preached his words were full of the blessing of God to the people. This was not the case with him or with anyone. Blessed are those who know this!

If you are one of those people whose direction is towards the Lord, who longs to know him and the power of his resurrection and you can’t get it, nor can you see any means of finding it, then that says to me that you have no confidence in the flesh; neither your flesh nor anyone else’s. The engineering of man can’t bring the Lord Jesus to you and you know that. Yet you find this that your heart keeps going out to Christ and you belong to Christ.

As pants the hart for cooling streams when heated in the chase,

So longs my soul O God for Thee and Thy refreshing grace.

Now that is the kind of person I like, and that is the kind of person I would like to be. But remember, I’m not referring to people who say that they’d like to get it and then forget God all day long. I’m not saying that I admire the preacher who says he wants to be used by God but that man does nothing to make himself usable. I don’t mean that; that is hypocrisy of the worst kind. I love being with the people who can say from their hearts, “For to me to live is Christ,” and yet they grieve that they haven’t attained this fellowship they would love to have with their Saviour. What are we going to do about this? The most satanic thing is to decide we’ll do nothing, to think that it is all too late, that too many years have gone by, that too much of our lives have been wasted, that we can’t change now. That is a denial of everything we believe concerning the power of the Lord. The Christian never ceases living to the Lord, and belonging to the Lord.

iv] Our dying is to the Lord.

When the end comes all those who have lived to the Lord will die to the Lord. Your husband or father, your wife or mother, did not live to you did they? You were not their purpose in living were you? You were not their God, their end, their life, their all, were you? That was God. Your chief end was not to glorify your best friend on earth, it was to glorify God, and you wouldn’t have had it any different. You would rather have been hated by them in comparison to their wholehearted love for God. Maybe you’ve had the privilege of living with someone for many years who loved God more than he or she loved you. Their whole life was going out to the Lord, and that was your privilege.

Then at the end they died to the Lord. There was a transaction between them and the Lord at the end as he took them to himself. You weren’t privy to it. You couldn’t break in. This was something just between them and the Lord. They were dying to the Lord. You grieved over all the accompaniments of dying, the loss of memory and forgetfulness and repetitive questioning and bursts of hostility and sharp words to you, but you said, “They are dying, and they are not dying to me, they are dying to the Lord. He was in charge of their living and now he is in charge of their dying. In their lives there were strange providences, and now in their deaths there are also strange providence, but it is all between them and the one they belong to.”

That is our peace and certainty as we walk with our loved ones in the last steps of the journey through the valley. That is the hope of the Christian in living and dying. They are neither living nor dying to themselves alone but to their Lord because they belong to him for ever and ever.

October 1 2006 GEOFF THOMAS