I'm sorry, followers of Jesus Christ. The one thing you are not allowed in this life - and certainly not the next - is fear of death. It's verboten, off limits, taboo.
Fearing death ranks first as the ultimate insult to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is unbelief of the first order.
Death was the biggest gun in Satan's arsenal when the enemy's forces trotted it out on that Passover Eve on a hill outside Jerusalem's walls. This Jesus Person would be dispensed with once and for all.
For a few awful hours, it appeared the diabolical plan had succeeded.
Jesus was dead. Really dead.
Then, on that never-to-be-forgotten Lord's Day morning, the tomb was found to be empty and reports began popping up that Jesus was appearing to His followers. The disciples, who had been ready to give up and go home and deal with their dashed hopes and the Galilean's embarrassing claims, suddenly were energized and "shot from cannons" as they blanketed the world with the news: Jesus is alive!
If He was alive, everything else had changed for all time.
That was the point.
Opponents and critics, eager to find holes and loopholes and potholes in the Christian message, rush to inform us that one man's death and even His resurrection, if indeed there was one, changes little.
They miss the point.
In those three days that changed everything, the Lord Jesus absorbed death by His death on Calvary and defeated it by His resurrection the following Sunday morning.
The disciples of a long-discredited Indian guru once scoffed at my question, "What do you do with the resurrection of Jesus?" They looked down at me as though from their throne on high and said condescendingly, "Sir, we do not believe anything that happened 2,000 years ago has any possible meaning for us today."
They missed it too.
The death of Jesus was all about His payment for our sins; His resurrection was all about God's confirmation of what He had done, everything He had claimed, all He had taught, and the Lord He had personified.
If Jesus is alive, everything has changed for all time. This is why serious seekers and honest questioners will want to look into the resurrection, called one of the most dependable historical realities by countless historians and millions of disciples. As Paul told King Agrippa, "This (the death and resurrection of Jesus) was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26).
Check it out. Seekers have nothing to lose and believers have nothing to fear.
They call fear "false evidence appearing real." Until something better comes along, that definition will serve us well.
For 2,000 years, believers have delighted in the characterization of death by the Apostle Paul. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
Paul scoffs at death. He taunts it. He rubs its nose in its defeat. He laughs, he brags, he overflows with joy.
When facing his own approaching death, Paul said, "In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (II Timothy 4:8).
Sounds pretty confident, doesn't he?
Earlier--same epistle--he had dealt with the matter of fear: "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
Think of that triplet in this way:
--No fear of people, but a spirit of love.
--No fear of the devil (and all his forces, including death), but a spirit of power.
--No fear of the unknown, but a spirit of a sound mind.
Why fear a defeated, cowering, bully of an enemy?
My mother is approaching her 96th birthday, although if she makes that milestone, she'll never know. Her mind and body are gradually shutting down after nearly a century of strong and active service for her God and her family. We count the days good when she recognizes us. And, though we will grieve and miss her something awful, we will count as a very good day when the Father takes her to Heaven.
This precious lady--Lois Jane Kilgore McKeever--did not struggle with faith as some of us have. Throughout her life, from infancy on, hers was the simple, pure trust of a child. She read her Bible and believed it. She listened to sermons and obeyed them. She prayed and trusted the Lord to answer however He chose. Hers was a hard life, particularly in the early decades of her nearly 74-year marriage to our dad. But she never wavered.
Mom hardly noticed as the years piled up and she grew elderly. She and my dad, who lived into his 96th year also, would joke that they just never thought about getting old. Yet they did it with a flourish.
She will die soon. But fear will have no role in her homegoing.
Why fear leaving a body that is shutting down and inheriting a glorious one not subject to pain and grief? (I Corinthians 15:42-44)
Why fear leaving this humble earthly abode for "a kingdom prepared for (us) from the foundation of the world?" (Matthew 25:34)
Why fear departing from a life of decay to receive one which is "glorious beyond all comparison?" (II Corinthians 4:16-17)
Why fear dwelling "in the House of the Lord forever?" (Psalm 23:6)
Why fear the absence of tears and mourning and pain, an enchanted land where "the former things have passed away?" (Revelation 21:4)
Why fear "beholding (His) face in righteousness" and "being satisfied with (His) likeness when (we) awaken?" (Psalm 17:15)
I have a suggestion.
Let's decide not to fear death.
Let's make up our minds that when the fear of dying begins to creep up on us, we will laugh at it and call it the impostor it is, then rejoice in the Lord.
Let's decide to live boldly and to make no decisions from fear.
Let us laugh and dance and sing while we stake our claims for the reality of the risen Christ with everything that involves.
I think about my own dying. Just last night when my wife and I were discussing some decisions regarding expensive dental work which was one of the choices I was facing, she put it all into perspective. "Joe, you're 72 years old. Why spend all that money for something you're just going to leave in the ground?" (How's that for perspective! smiley-face goes here.)
If I have a choice, my family will be gathered in the house at my homegoing. Some will filter in and out of my room. Tears will be all right, although I will love one of my sons telling me a joke or something funny they heard. And to a grandchild whose tears are flowing, I want to say, "Honey, it's just fine. After all....
Five minutes after they close my eyes here, I will be laughing up there."
I want her to believe that, but not because I said it. It's the proper attitude of all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
No fear allowed. Just laughter.
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About Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
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