The American way of death

th-1What happens when you die?

It’s the most obvious, avoided question on record. Obvious, because there is a pretty high percentage rate of people who will have to face it. (Last I checked it was 100%.) Avoided, because if you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure about it, it’s the last thing you want to face into.

I had to read a book for a sociology class in college called,  The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford, published in 1963 and revisited in 1996. I love the New York Post review: “Brilliant … hilarious … A must-read for anyone planning to throw a funeral in their lifetime.” Mitford’s classic is about the funeral industry and how we spend most of our time and money pretending death doesn’t exist when we all know that it is the surest bet in life.

When the first man and woman let the DNA of sin loose on the human race, God had already pronounced the sentence:  “for in the day that you eat from [the tree] you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17), and sure enough, they did, and so has everyone since. The fact that we have 70, maybe 80 years at best to think about it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a done deal. The fact that we have a chance to think about it at all is nothing short of the grace of God.

Life is nothing but an extended death. Like the way everything slows down before a serious crash so that you have time to think about your options of survival and choose the best course of action, so God slowed down the death process to give us a chance to respond to the gift of life eternal He is offering through His son on the cross. This was the plan all along. God could have snuffed out the human race right then and there, but instead, His son became the lamb of God “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). See, He had a solution in place before we even started.

Zombies are a big deal now in movies, television and video games. No wonder. Deep in our psyches we all know we are the walking dead. So you can do all kinds of wonderful and incredible things in your lifetime, but if you don’t do business with God over this one thing, it will all come to naught. You will have missed the reason you lived.

I taught about this yesterday to a group of Christians who acted like it was the first time they’d thought about it. Even believers are uncomfortable with this subject, when, in fact, it should be our favorite, because we, of all people, can answer the question.

Imagine having a strong, solid, knowledge, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what the answer to the question of death is. Imagine no more.

For we know that if the earthly tent [mortal body] we live in is destroyed, we have a building [resurrected body] from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

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19 Responses to The American way of death

  1. Greg Krejci says:

    “Life is nothing but an extended death.” I like this sentence because it really gives you all your options in life. We all like to think that if we eat this, don’t eat that, take this pill. don’t abuse that one, drink this concoction, avoid that one; that we have some control. We are all on a downhill or upward slide. That is our 1 choice Your lyrics a bunch of years ago;” I’m just one old hungry beggar showing you where I found food.”

  2. I hate the subject. I mean we really don’t know anything till it happens, Sure we have faith and hope but we won’t have true knowledge till it happens. If there is nothing when we die then making life count here is even more important. I really like life, I thank God for it. It’s all I really know I have. Everything else is speculation. On my death bed I’m sure I be thinking, I really hope this isn’t the end. I like scripture and 2 Cor 5:1 is great stuff, but I won’t know if it’s true till I’m dead.

  3. Ralph Gaily says:

    Tim…. You can know the Truth if you believe the One who is the Truth. ….,r

  4. You can say and believe anything but till you die it’s hope and faith. Lot’s of people believing in something does not make it true. I believe but I won’t know if I’m right till I’m dead and then what ya going to do? Believing in Christ and following his teaching at the moment of my death will have meant everything or will have meant absolutely nothing but death is the only way to really know.
    I’ll just hang onto life as long as I can.
    Truth is subjective. People know what they believe and most times belief blinds us from truth.

    • Ralph Gaily says:

      Tim… And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven….. ” Matthew 18: 2, 3

    • jwfisch says:

      Tim, I want you to think a lot about this verse: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1) Do you think this verse says you can know you’re right about eternity before you’re dead?

      • I think you can believe you’re right, believe so much that you think you know you’re right. Some can feel assured, confident, and be frustrated with others that don’t have that peace.
        You said,”Even believers are uncomfortable with this subject, when, in fact, it should be our favorite, because we, of all people, can answer the question.”
        That’s kind of true, we can answer with what we believe, but then so can everybody else.
        I would answer, “This is what my faith and tradition teach me and in it I find comfort”
        My son had a childhood friend die from an accidental drug overdose when the boys were in high school. There were some that said this kid went to hell. People that said that, said it based it on what they “knew” about scripture.
        I contend that if that brings you peace you’re sick in the head.
        The truth is we don’t know but according to scripture God loved this boy as much as he ever loved anyone. So much in fact that Jesus died for him, took his place.
        Now was that good enough for a boy that didn’t say the right prayer or follow the 4 spiritual laws to enter into heaven?
        If not, there is no good news.
        It’s not my faith that saves me, it’s what God did.
        Faith is for my comfort and I certainly hope there is a heaven but I’m in no big hurry to find out.

  5. I’m just saying death is the test. I believe all that stuff, Born again in 1969, Just in time for the Jesus freak days. Long hair and maranatha patches on my jeans. I’ve been to everything from Bill Gothard seminars to Billy Graham. I’m born again, baptised, and bound for glory.
    The greatest gift given to me is life. I treasure it. Without it I would have no hope of heaven. And when it’s all said and done everything I have believed, every prayer prayed, every deed done, everything I have had faith in will mean everything or it will mean nothing. Regardless of what I believe it’s just faith and hope and none of will know for sure till we quit breathing.
    2,000 years from now there may be studies on what Christians used to believe.
    So I say love others, you may never have another chance, follow the teachings of Christ it will make your life better and better for those around you.
    People who want proof of life eternal life don’t want faith. I can believe I am right till the day I die, but that’s the only day I’ll know anything and if there is nothing, believing won’t have hurt anything.
    Blood Sweat and Tears
    “Now troubles are many, they’re as deep as a well.
    I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell.
    Swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell,
    But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell.
    Yes only my dying will tell.
    Yeah, only my dying will tell.”

    • Ralph Gaily says:

      Pop culture, (music in this case), can be very deceptive when it comes to spiritual Truth. Don’t be fooled…. seek Him with all your heart…. in your Bible. ….,r

      • Relax Ralph, It’s just a song to lighten the mood. Spiritual truth is all in the eyes of the beholder.
        But when we’re dead we will see clearly no longer seeing as through a dim glass.
        1 Corinthians 13:12
        Or there will be nothing

  6. Ralph Gaily says:

    Tim …. I’m relaxed… just concerned about someone who claims faith in Christ, but doubts His promises, His word, to those who trust in Him. How can that be?!? What kind of “faith” is that? … to have “faith” in Him, but to not believe Him. Think about this. There has got to be a “storm” raging inside of you to hold that position…. “or there will be nothing”. That has to be the most double-minded stance one can take. He warned about this kind of thing. Put yourself in that boat with the other guys in the midst of that storm they were caught in, and take notice of the Lord’s admonition….to them, and to you, and to all of us….. please. Mark 4: 35-41

  7. I think you are missing my point. Belief is wonderful, faith is an awesome thing to have. It is not double minded it is the truth when I say Death is the test, death is the day we find out who is right or if anything exists. You ranted about Catholics some time back and wanted us all to know what is wrong with them. For you it seems that not thinking like Ralph Gaily is like not believing at all. The day you die you’ll find out if you knew anything or if you were wrong. Death is the moment of truth.
    Did you dance the right dance, did you believe the right way, did Jesus really come from a virgin mother, How did that whole creation thing really work, did my faith save me or was it the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone that was enough?
    Believing and faith don’t equal reality and the day i die will be the moment of truth, is what I believe true?
    So I’m in a boat and it is storming out and I’m hanging on and Jesus says, what’s the matter with you, don’t you have faith? And I say, well, NO as a matter of fact, I don’t. Then Jesus calms the storm, shakes his head and goes back to bed and I am left being grateful I didn’t have to have faith for God to take action.
    We walk by faith not by sight, we believe without proof or verification.
    We who claim Christ as our savior claim him because we believe we are called to him, predestined to be his.
    Christians believe and have believed all kinds of silly things. I have friends that say I can’t get to heaven unless I have been baptised and only full emersion counts. I have friends that say I don’t have the holy Spirit because I don’t speak in tongues. There are people who think I can’t enter heaven because I am a trinitarian while others might call me double minded because I say in death we’ll find out what the truth is.
    I’m glad you believe, I really like most believers, I want you to have strong faith and stand firm in the storms of life, I want that for everybody.
    And on the day you die, you’ll know the truth, till then it’s all faith and hope. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
    I guess I could conjure up a faith and pretend as if I had all the answers, name it and claim it jump all around and shout at the devil. That seems so 70’s to me.

    1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

    2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

    3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

    4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

    5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

    6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

    7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

    8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

    9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

    10. The forgiveness of sins:

    1l. The resurrection of the body:

    12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

    And the day I die I’ll know if I was right.

  8. Ralph Gaily says:

    Tim…. My original intent was honestly to point you to simple trust in Jesus…. all He has spoken… all He has done… and all He has promised to those who would put their faith in Him. I once was one of those who believed all sorts of silly things, and I thought I was right about it all…(catholic). Then I simply read the Gospels for myself out of curiosity, at age 23, to see if I could “get it” for myself without anyone telling me what the message was through their bias. That was 43 years ago….very 70’s. I was very hungry for the Truth… whatever “it” was. I discovered “it” was a Him…. all alone in Big Sur mountains with my little Bible and His Spirit pointing the way. No dances, no tongues, no “name it/claim it”, no conjuring up a faith, no shouting at the devil, no pretending to have all the answers…. God knows I didn’t have all the answers… but I had HIM!! … the Son of God! He came to me on my face in a little room, weeping like a little boy because of my sinful life… I was guilty and I knew it… and I believed the Cross was because of me. I don’t understand predestination, and a lot of other things, but I know love now…. and I know where it comes from, and I know the power of it… and I know forgiveness… “as far as the east is from the west” is where my sins got put because of it. And I know what a changed life is because I’m it… and it all happened because I was embraced by His love and mercy back then…. and it’s been growing all these years…. and I will tell my story to anyone who will listen, not because I want them to be just like me…. but to know Him…. and what He promises to those who will trust in Him. If “not knowing for sure” is all we can have now… till we die, then the 5th chapter of 1st John would be totally untrue for all believers. Have you read it lately? Tim… don’t lean on your own understanding regarding these things…. that’s trusting in your intellect….. rather than God’s Word. ….,r

    • I don’t think I can make myself any clearer.You don’t have to save me.
      I believe most of 1 John 5, Not to sure about vs 18.
      You are hearing everything except I believe.
      Let’s go back to what started this conversation.
      I like life and I don’t like to think about dying.
      nuff said

      • Ralph Gaily says:

        Tim…. I feel like I’ve about emptied what I have on our discussion. Maybe someone else, from another perspective, has something helpful to add. I’ve never saved anyone, by the way, Tim. I do enjoy spirited discussions about what the Bible tells us about Jesus, and His Work. …..,r

      • jwfisch says:

        Tim – Paul says faith is the evidence or assurance of what we hope for. It is the “down payment” of what is to come. It’s not something we produce. It, like everything else, comes from God. If you don’t have it, you need to ask for it.

  9. I completely agree with that. All I have is faith and hope but I will know something when I die. We all will.
    Religion and or theology is man’s way to define an indescribable God, put him in a box and pretend we know all about him/her.
    The truth is we can’t prove the existence of God. We can’t prove there is heaven, we can have faith and hope.
    I don’t trust feelings although I enjoy them. I like the feeling that comes with saying I know what will happen when I die, I’m gonna see Jesus. I Like the feeling I get when a song come on that makes me feel closer to God. I like the feeling I get when I recite the Apostle’s Creed and the Lords prayer. I loved the feeling I had the night I gave my heart to the Lord 44 years ago.
    I’m planning on seeing grandma and grandpa’s and all the other cliche things we say when we talk about heaven.
    The human mind is amazing and can make us feel all kinds of things. It can fool us, and as I mentioned earlier, belief can blind us, but when I’m dead, I’ll really know something.

    I know not why God’s wondrous grace
    To me He hath made known,
    Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
    Redeemed me for His own.
    But “I know Whom I have believed,
    And am persuaded that He is able
    To keep that which I’ve committed
    Unto Him against that day.”

    So till I die I’ll enjoy what I know, which is life, I’ll enjoy my belief, which is faith, I’ll share what I believe which is the hope of Christ.
    Like it or not I am in no big hurry to experience heaven, I like what God has given me here, this world is my home given to me by God. I want to love every second I have here.
    Let me try another way of putting it.
    Death is like being at the top of a rollercoaster with only hearsay about the twists and turns ahead but till I take the ride I don’t know a damn thing.

  10. Tina Watkins says:

    Awesome! I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13); For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21); So I say that we have confidence. And we really want to be away from this body and be at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

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