How Can Christians Embrace the Fact of Their Mortality?

| Pastor
2021
3 Nov
Red rose on a black tombstone

My grandfather was a real “man’s man.” I remember him as being big and strong, even with the prosthetic leg he had from the knee down. When he would put it on, he would say, “It’s time for me to become The Bionic Man,” and back then, I believed he really did have a super robot leg like Steve Majors on the TV show.

At times, he’d bring home a huge hero sandwich from a deli – the largest sandwich you ever saw – and he’d hold it up in front of the two of us. Then he’d start eating from one end and I’d start eating from the other, and we’d have a race to the middle of that hero sandwich! As you can imagine, he was my hero. He was Grandpa, and there was nobody more alive than him.

But one morning, my parents came into my room and woke me up. They sat down on my bed and told me something that I could not believe. 

Grandpa had died.

Grandpa? Big, strong, happy Grandpa? He was gone? It didn’t happen – it couldn’t happen, not to Grandpa! But it did.

Death is an inevitable part of life.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Dragana991

Red rose on a black tombstone

The Facts of Mortality

“And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 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 my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain 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 whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).

Even though death is inevitable, a great number of people waste their time here on earth chasing after the American Dream and accumulating temporary things. 

Not that this is anything new. In Jesus’ day, His people chased the “Israelite Dream.” In fact, it appears many of the Biblical heroes were rich guys. There was:

- Abraham, a real estate tycoon who snapped up all Canaan for a song

- Jacob, a savvy livestock mogul, who had a peculiar flair for animal husbandry

- Joseph, a political savant, prime minister, economic prognosticator and financial genius

- David, a rags-to-riches success story, powerful leader and influencer; top 40 rock star

- Solomon, Richest. King. Ever.

Just like today, the Israelites loved the rich guy, and they all wanted to be the rich guy. So as Jesus told this parable, His listeners would have agreed that the man was just being sensible. Here was a hard-working businessman, climbing the ladder of success right to the top, just like Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph.

Notice Jesus did not say the man lied, cheated, stole or mistreated his employees. He just said the guy made money, and took steps to protect it. 

God called him a “fool,” not because of any sin he had committed, but because his days on earth were done and all his effort was for nothing. It wasn’t punishment; it was just a statement of fact. The man’s number was up. His ticket was called. His bucket was kicked. There was no “because” whatsoever; it was just his time. 

“…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

If the man had been a pauper or a preacher, a celebrity or a hermit in Timbuktu, it wouldn’t have mattered. His life was over because life on earth eventually ends. 

Bam. Just like that.

Photo credit: Pexels/JÉSHOOTS

Red rose on a black tombstone

Pity the Fool

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

The man was not a fool because he was wealthy. He was a fool because he neglected to deal with the reality of his own mortality – he was not rich toward God. He ignored the fact that everyone dies and leaves all their earthly wealth behind. As someone once pointed out – hearses don’t come with trailer hitches. 

“We all must die, and everyone living should think about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Everyone must die, including those who run five miles a day and lift weights, avoid sugar and alcohol, take vitamins and eat organic. Everyone, even those who have positive relationships, take relaxing vacations, and sleep soundly every night. 

And it includes big, strong, strapping, bionic heroes like Grandpa. Death is an inevitable part of life, and Scripture says we must deal with it head on, while we are still living!

To be a “fool” in God’s eyes is to live without regard to the destination of one's eternal soul. So let's take a moment to refocus, and refresh our understanding of the truth regarding our human existence, so that we can share with others who are just being foolish.

We are More Than a Physical Body

I also remember the day of my grandmother’s funeral. The last time I had seen her, she was still alive and full of faith in God. Even in the hospital bed, her face was vibrant and rosy. She was Grandma. That was the picture in my mind’s eye, and when I walked into the funeral home, that’s what I expected to see.

But when I looked, I didn’t see Grandma. I saw something that looked like Grandma, a shell that resembled Grandma; but it wasn’t her. She wasn’t there. 

Maybe you can recall a similar experience, where you looked down at the lifeless body of a loved one and knew that they were no longer there. That the breath of life, the most essential part of them, had departed. Our collective experience tells us that there is a part of every person that gives the body life, and that, at death, that part of us leaves the body.

“God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!” (Genesis 2:7, MSG).

Friend, you are more than just a body – you are a living soul!

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

So when I looked down at Grandma’s body – her tent – I was filled with eternal hope because I knew Grandma was still living, she had just changed locations!

Photo credit: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Red rose on a black tombstone

We Are Made in God's Image

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Did you notice that there are three parts to us?  It means we are triune beings: spirit, soul and body.

God is also a triune being: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and He created us in His image and His likeness.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:26).

Specifically, we are a spirit that possesses a soul (mind, will and emotions) and lives in a body here on earth. Notice the spirit and the soul are two distinct parts of us. Many times in Scripture they are interchangeable, and refer to simply to the “inner man” inside of our physical body.

We Have the Testimony of People

“I died then. I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you’d pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner.   It flew around and then came back and went in again and I wasn’t dead anymore.” - Ernest Hemingway[i]

“Suddenly the pain, fever and acute distress seemed to evaporate. I was floating above my body, surrounded by soft blue light. I began to glide down a long tunnel, away from the bed… but suddenly I found myself back in my body. The doctors told me later that I had actually died for a time.”  - Donald Sutherland, actor[ii]

These testimonies are called NDEs (Near-Death Experiences) and there are over 8 million of them on record, ranging from 3-year-old Colton Burpo (Heaven is For Real) to Pastor Don Piper (90 Minutes in Heaven). Could 8 million people all be making up these stories that are so similar, or is it God’s grace to humanity, calling us to recognize the existence of our eternal souls?

[i] P.M.H. Atwater, “17 Near Death Experience Accounts from ‘Beyond the Light’” (New York: Birch Lane Press, 1994)

[ii] From www.near–death.com/famous.html, account excerpted from Jean Ritchie, Death’s Door: True Stories of Near-Death Experiences  (New York: Dell, 1996)

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Aaron Amat

Red rose on a black tombstone

We Have the Testimony of Bible Greats

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows” (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Most biblical scholars believe that the Apostle Paul was relating an experience that he had, personally. Notice what he describes:

1. Paul refers to this man as a being able to either live inside a body or outside of a body; it infers we are more than a physical body, but rather a spirit and soul that is eternal.

2. He has a difficult time ascertaining whether it was the soul or the body, because the soul resembles the body.

We see this again in the account of Jesus' Transfiguration found in Matthew 17:1-4. In that account, the disciples were able to identify Moses and Elijah, even though they were no longer living in their physical bodies. This also indicates that there is an eternal part of us that goes on living after we die, called our spirit/soul, and that we continue to resemble our physical bodies after death.

It confirms that we must live our daily lives ever conscious of the fact that we all have a soul that is headed off into eternity some day, and that same soul will end up in one of two eternal places – Heaven or Hell. We must tell those around us who are unaware and are living like this is all there is, just like the foolish businessman in Jesus' parable.

It's time to recognize our lives are short and will eventually come to an end for all of us. We must focus our efforts and use our time wisely to prepare ourselves and others for an eternity with God!

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Photo credit: Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez

Frank Santora headshotFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.

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