12 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy.14 They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.15 “Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” – Acts 23:12-15

Today is the day after 9/11/2023. It is the twenty-second anniversary of that fateful horrific day of terror. So many continue to recognize with great heartache that world shaking day when tremendous losses were suffered as terrorists intruded on our safe spaces in America. None of us expected such an attack. When those planes rammed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, it jolted us to reality not only geopolitically, but to an eternal truth, that life can change, and end, in an unexpected moment. For those on the planes or in and around the targets, a life question was immediately front and center. That question was not about 70 virgins. It wasn’t about seizing an opportunity to invade the Middle East to enrich a gross military industrial complex, and all connected to it. Those reactions impacted countless lives, but the consequences were mostly temporal and worldly. There was a much bigger question brought before us by the agents of evil that day.

Fanatical terrorists in their blood lusts created an unexpected consideration for all this world. As the global community watched in horror, (or glee), the planes exploding into Tower I and Tower II, a question of eternal destiny struck us like a vicious bind side slap in the face. That question is a question every person must at some point in life ask. That question is, “Am I ready to die?” Are you, are you ready to die? Right now, this second, are you ready to pass from this life to the next? Are you ready to stand before God? An atheist will decry, “There is no God.” Someone has said, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” Life and its sudden endings have a way of terminating ideological platitudes with that eternal question.

Life and death and terror attacks are sensitive issues. I mean no offense. But I do mean to challenge you, to poke you, to confront you, to put an arm around your shoulder and talk with you, to call you to answer the question, “Are you ready to die?” My heart for you is that you would be ready to die. I pray for those who read this teaching that if they aren’t already, that they would become ready to die. I pray death for you would be transformed from something that instills fear, or uncertainty, dread, to instead a proclamation, “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). What follows is a word to help you consider some of the realities associated with death. What follows is an effort to help us all grapple with life’s greatest and most important question, “Are you ready to die?”

Paul’s attempt to communicate the gospel to his brethren had been rejected. His testimony had been met with a riot where people were trying to physically rip him apart. Then he learns of a conspiracy where those involved “bound themselves to an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.” They even incorporated the “chief priests and elders” of the council in their plot. These conspirators were caught up in a frenzy no doubt demonically inspired. Paul’s life was in peril. What would you do in such a situation? How would you feel? Are you ready to die?

Life. Death, Curse, Cure. Life is a vapor. Death is sure. Sins the curse. Christ is the cure. That is the gospel in a nutshell. And it is such a gospel and the assurance of salvation it provides, that enables someone like Paul to face death without fear. How about you, are you ready to die?

Many people, especially young people, tend to see life as rock solid and never-ending. When you are young with your entire life in front of you, it’s easy to get distracted with hopes and dreams of what this life will hold for you. You’re thinking of many BIG questions like: “What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of my life? What should I do with my life?” “Should I go to college?” “Should I learn a trade?” “Should I buy a car?” “Will I marry?” “Who will I marry?” “Should we have children? How many children should we have?” “Where should we live?” “Should we buy a house?” “Should we start a business?” On top of all these questions you can pile the new cultural trend of questioning gender identity. These life questions which we all face can prove overwhelming. Life is all about answering questions.

This life is temporary, the next life is eternal. The answers to these questions are greatly affected by considering what happens after this life. Regardless of how old we are, the BIG question is or should be, “What happens when I die?” The reason for that is, this life is temporary, the next life is eternal. And that is where the gospel comes in.

This life is a vapor. When I say, “life is a vapor,” I am simply repeating a truth of the Bible. The LORD in His word says, “Indeed, You have made my days as handbreaths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39:5). “When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; surely every man is vapor” (Psalm 39:11). “Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor” (Psalm 62:9). And lastly, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14). Life is a vapor; it can go up in smoke. Every day we see news reports of people, even young people, killed in accidents, violent acts, natural disasters. Terminal illness shows no favorites and can hit young and old alike. Life often does end suddenly. Life is brittle. Life is delicate. Life is fragile.

Death is sure. Only God knows how long, or short, our life will be. “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Therefore, we would be wise to take the advice of the Psalmist who was inspired to write, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We would be wise to look at “our days,” through a lens that includes God and His word. That’s because, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Sin is the curse. Life is a vapor. Death is sure. Sins the curse. We die because we are infected with sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). When Adam sinned, his DNA was corrupted. The image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) that he was created in was warped. No longer did we see ourselves and the world with a godly worldview, but now our focus was lowered to ourselves. Humanity became sinfully self-centered, self-reliant, proud, and oppositional toward God. Adam the sinner produced offspring infected with “his own likeness, after his image” of sinfulness (Genesis 5:3).

Sin is a BIG problem for humanity because sin separates us from God. “Behold the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities [i.e. evil, perversity, depravity, offense, law breaking] have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Not only does sin separate us from God, but it kills us. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Every moment you continue living in sin, separated from God, in a state of rebellion or willful ignorance of Him, is a moment you are earning a wage of death, eternal death.

What is sin? Sin is a willful transgression against a known law of God. Sin is rebellion. Sin is refusing to live in a reconciled relationship with God. Sin is living as king and Lord of your own life. Sin is “I did it my way.” Sin is a dismissal of God and His word as important or as valuable. Sin is disregarding God. Sin is outright rebellion against God as Creator, Sustainer, Sovereign. Sin, because it prioritizes self and causes pain to others. The pain and suffering in this world are, for the most part, all traced to some human cause and effect. Pain and suffering are caused through sinful treatment of the environment, or sinful treatment of other people directly.

We may at some point in our lives do some acts of goodness. But that does not account for the overwhelming other bad sinful acts we have committed. The Bible states clearly, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).

A just judge would never or could never simply dismiss charges based on some effort of the offender to compensate their bad crime with what they view as a balanced good. Performing works suitable to offset our offenses is way beyond our comprehension. The murderer can’t say to the judge, “But I’m kind to animals and some people, please forgive me.” That fails to account for the victims. That makes no allowance for potential further pain producing offenses. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). No, we can’t work off our debt of sin, only a Savior can do that.

Because sin separates us from God and because it is the prime pain producer to Gods creation and those He loves, those who persist in sin and willfully disregard God will one day be cast in a place where they can do no more harm. The persistent sinning rebel and rejector of God will be justly punished first in Hell, and then finally, in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). The idea that sinful humanity, unredeemed humanity, will at some point be annihilated rather than be punished eternally, is not a view supported by scripture. It is not an option because of the gravity of the offense. Eternal punishment is severe, but it is warranted.

Jesus Christ is the cure. How can such a severe eternal punishment be warranted or just? Because of the cure for humanities’ sin problem that God has provided. Humanity is in a predicament. There is no good work or effort a person can perform that resolves the criminal consequence of the sins committed by the sinner. But God. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead[1] in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having be justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).  “For the wages of sin id death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We don’t deserve God’s gracious gift of salvation provided in Christ His Son. We deserve damnation. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” has planned to redeem us from our sin, to reconcile us to Himself, give us spiritual life through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and a hope of eternal life. “For He made Hm who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). We owed a debt of death consequently for our sins. That is a debt no person is equipped to pay off. “But God,” made a way through Jesus who paid our sin-debt of death on the cross in our place for us. All we must do to receive the benefit of Christ’s atoning death is turn from our sins (i.e., repent) and trust Jesus and His cross-work by faith. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

Considering this incredibly righteous, just, merciful, and loving plan of salvation provided freely as a gift of His grace, to reject it results in a sentence commensurate with that blasphemous offense. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…?” (Hebrews 2:3). There is no escape for those who reject God and His glorious plan of salvation from sin.

So what should we do when faced with the eternal reality of this great salvation? If you haven’t yet called on the name of the Lord to save you from your sins, now would be a good time to do that. God only guarantees this opportunity for you to be forgiven your sins through faith in Jesus. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Now” is the only time you might have to deal with your sins and get right with God. I beg you, don’t let this time pass you by.

Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:5). He said that to the religious pharisee Nicodemas. It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship. It’s about knowing Jesus as your personal Savior (John 17:3). It’s about trusting Jesus as Savior and being “born again.” It’s being given spiritual life by the indwelling Holy Spirit who indwells the one who first turns from their sins to God and trusts Jesus as their sin bearing Savior. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). No work you do can regenerate you, only trusting in Jesus as Savior opens the door to spiritual life. “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Only the spiritually regenerated enter heaven. You must be born again. That can happen if you trust Jesus as your Savior.

Call on the name of the Lord. If you don’t, you can expect with certainty God’s punishment (e.g. Amos1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1,4 ,6). If you do, you can expect with just as much certainty, God’s forgiveness, and the eternal life He has promised (John 3:16). God desires all people to be saved from their sins (1 Timothy 2:4). God desires all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you believe in the Lord Jesus with all your heart, according to His gospel, you certainly will be saved from your sins (e.g. Acts 8:37). This salvation is made available to all by the God of grace. “And it shall come to pass that all who call on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Call on the name of the Lord. Call on Him in your own words, from your heart, with all your heart, according to His gospel, and you will be saved.

If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord and have been born again of the Spirit, then I encourage you to spread this gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are fearful of sharing the gospel or discussing it with people, I remind you, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We live in fear mongering times. Those in political or governmental positions use fear to control the citizenry. We fear pandemics, indoctrination, conspiracies, natural disasters, threats of war, economic collapse, and a plethora of other fear tempting things. But God has not given the Christian a spirit of fear. Instead God has given us power. He has given us a powerful gospel (Romans 1:16). The Holy Spirit gives us power to be witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8). And we have in Christ the compelling power of His love (2 Corinthians 5:14). Call on the name of the LORD. Encourage others to do the same. Call on God from your heart, in your own words, according to His gospel, and you will be saved, and be ready when death comes to you.

So I ask you, “Are you ready to die?” You’re really not ready to live until you are ready to die. Paul was ready to die. I pray you are too.

[1] The idea of “dead” does not mean, inability to respond. Humanity is created in God’s image with a capacity to choose and make decisions. This provision is just as much grace from God as thinking, as Calvinists do, that “dead,” means inability to respond. The father of the Prodigal Son described his son as, “for this my son wa dead and is alive; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). To be “dead” means therefore, to be separated from God.

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