Once to Die

There is a truth here the men and women have tried to escape for centuries.

Every year we try to take a week vacation, and many years it ends up being in August. Between all the kids, dogs, chickens, and just trying to make it financially on one income, it is difficult to be able to go away for a week. So instead we do what many families do, we plan some day trips, spend time together, and occasionally plan a big project to work on.


This year we decided it was time to renovate the kitchen in our old farmhouse. All of the cabinets were old and in various stages of disintegration, floor tiles were breaking free (and occasionally cutting small feet); it was past time to update this heavily used room.


I have been around construction projects my whole life. My wife and I renovated a 1790’s cape when we were first married, we built a house in Montana (8 miles beyond power or pavement). I have built garages, decks, barns and more. Making the decision to rip apart the kitchen didn’t sound like a big deal, so we ordered the dumpster and got ready to begin.


Contrary to what you may see on TV, demo day is not fun especially when you are living in the house you are working on. You must be careful that essential functions are still able to occur, that only the intended objects are demolished, and most of all you try to keep track of all the little people running around your job site. These little people also seem to have an irresistible attraction to all tools, especially those with blades.


This whole scenario was very familiar to me with one notable exception. While I was wielding a crowbar, tearing apart cabinets I realized that this was my first major project since my dad died.


My dad was an amazing man. He could fix seemingly anything, he was a master machinist, and a skilled craftsman. While I was growing up he always took time to teach me about what he was doing. He used to tell me that a man with good tools, and the knowledge to use them could always provide for his family. Through all of the crazy big adventures my wife and I undertook my dad was always there to help, to guide, and to continue teaching me. He even moved to Montana and back with us.


When dad got up and went to work on a Friday for the night shift, he didn’t know that it was the last time he would go to his job. He was not old, still years away from retirement. He had no way to know this particular Friday that by Tuesday he would be in an ambulance heading to the hospital, and that by Wednesday only his body would be left in the funeral home.


Hebrews 9:27-28 “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”


There is a truth here the men and women have tried to escape for centuries. The number of myths and legends surrounding immortality are staggering. Yet for all of time this simple truth remains, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement.”


In our culture the topic of one’s own inescapable death is not viewed as acceptable conversation. That does nothing to change the fact that each of one us will one day get out of bed for the last time, put on shoes for the last time, maybe wave goodbye to a loved one for the last time. We will then reach the time appointed by a sovereign God for our death. At this point we pass through to the phrase in Hebrews, “and after that comes judgment”.


Judgment is another topic that is not popular. If you want to have people gather around and listen to everything you are saying, judgement would be a poor topic choice. The Word of God makes it very clear that judgment is God’s only response to sin. Always has been, and always be.


Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”


Romans 2:1-5 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.


A perfect and Holy God, will always punish sin for if He did not, He would cease to be perfect, Holy, or good. This paints a rather bleak picture for all of humankind. If the Scriptures ended here, there would be no hope for any of us in this life, and only the promise of eternal wrath for the dead. God in His love and mercy does not end the story here, rather He works through love and kindness to write the living stories of amazing re-creations.


If you look back into Hebrews 9, you see that Jesus Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many”. Sin creates a separation from God that we can do nothing to bridge, the wrath of God against our sins we cannot satisfy. Yet Christ, when He was crucified after having lived a life that perfectly fulfilled the law, bore the wrath of God in our place.


Jesus bore the wrath of God when He shed His blood and died a violent death at human hands. He did this so that there could be a way for us to be restored and at peace with Him.


Ephesians 2:4-9 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


This kindness of God in Christ Jesus is overwhelming! That He would take beings who were enemies, and through the death of His only Son, transform them, adopt them, and lavish kindness on them is beyond our comprehension. Yet, that is just what He did.  This is why all that have repented and placed their faith in the complete work of Jesus look forward with eager anticipation to when He comes to “save those who are eagerly waiting for Him”.


Every single one of us will at some point die, unless Jesus returns first (remember that eagerly waiting). The wrath of God is real and will fall on all sin. The question is, have you or will you repent of your sins, trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and follow Jesus? For all that repent will come under the kindness of God that He will show for all eternity. We have no promise of tomorrow, if you have not repented and been made new by the blood of Jesus, I would plead with you to find a Bible and read what the Sovereign God has written. Read until you are broken before God in repentance and then can be made into a new creation by Jesus.


II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”


If you are already a new creation in Christ Jesus, then I would like to ask you to consider something. When was the last time you earnestly prayed for someone else to be reconciled to God? We almost all have people in our lives that are still living their lives as enemies of God. Make no mistake, anyone who dies still unrepentant of their sins, will perish and forever be under the wrath of God. My friends if we as Christians truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that there is no hope for anyone apart from the reconciling work of Jesus; then I ask you again when was the last time you earnestly prayed for someone else to be reconciled to God? When was the last time you wept and cried before God asking for a mighty work of repentance and new birth in someone’s life?


We as Christians have a job to do. God gave us the ministry of reconciliation, and so as ambassadors for Christ we must proclaim the Gospel, cry over the lost, implore others to turn from their wicked ways in repentance and be re-created from a God-hater into an ambassador for Christ.


My kitchen isn’t quite finished, my vacation ended and I had to go back to work. In between work, soccer games, and the running of errands that comes with a big family I am only left with small blocks of time to push ahead with it. It has been a good time of reflection for me, at the life my dad lived, the life I am living, and what it means to know that “It is appointed for man to die once”. My dad, while far from a perfect man, had one thing right. He had repented of his sins, and he knew that Jesus was the only way. So based on his profession of faith in Jesus Christ, I know that my dad is in heaven.


While the day that was appointed for his death was a surprise to me, as my own appointed day will hopefully also be a surprise to me, it has served one very good purpose. The death of my dad has helped me to begin to lose the fear of talking to other people about their eternal future. I would encourage you to take some time and discuss these issues around your life with God in prayer.


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