Links Daily Devotional

A Death That Counts

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40, NIV)

Because golf courses are living landscapes, they are not only sprouting and growing; they are also dying. Trees are lost to disease and storm. Grass goes dormant, then resurrects unto the green of spring. Four seasons running, I have arrived at a course in Southern California in late May. Jacarandas dot the edges of the fairways, and just as I’ve been there, their blossoms have been falling, leaving rings of purple lying on the grass above their roots. Isaiah was right. The grass does wither, the flowers do fade.

But the ancient prophet also spoke of the word of God. It goes on, he proclaimed, forever. In this way, it is like God himself. And one other thing. People.

One of the orthodoxies of Christianity avers that while we all die in the flesh, a life beyond this one stretches into eternity.One of the orthodoxies of Christianity avers that while we all die in the flesh, a life beyond this one stretches into eternity. Some will live that life with Christ, in glory. But those who reject him will die “the second death,” separated from Christ in judgment. This is hell. Designed for Satan the rebel, it will hold all who have said to God in this life, “I want nothing to do with you.” They will be given what they’ve asked for.

And so we’re left with this great understanding: We want our death to count. We want to die well that we may live in glory.

In an article titled “Die Well,” pastor Jonathan Parnell explains the excellence of such a perspective set against another option in our time:

We die well when we call death gain—which is not about what death gets us, but what death can’t take away. There is a major difference here between false gain and true gain. It’s one key distinction between a Muslim jihadist blowing himself up and an Ethiopian Christian being beheaded. The former is trying to use death to earn himself something. The latter is saying that death, cruel as it is, can’t touch that which he already owns and to which he has ascribed surpassing value. The jihadist buddies up with death in search of an empty promise. The martyr looks his fiercest enemy in the eyes with the inextinguishable rage of hope.

For the Christian, death is not gain because it gives us something great, but because, even though it takes away everything else, it can’t take away Jesus.

In Hebrews 11, the writer recounted the ancient martyrs, those of the days before Jesus. These would have been the remnant people, clinging to hope in God when many of their Jewish relations had turned to wicked faithlessness. The writer commended these men and women, not only for dying in faith, but for doing so without having seen the promise fulfilled—the Messiah, Jesus. We, too, have not seen Jesus, but we know the promise via his full story, the gospel. His death foreruns the death we will die; his glory goes before us. It is the better plan the writer of Hebrews referenced. It is the way of salvation. By it, though we die, we shall live.

Jeff Hopper
July 5, 2017
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