Memento Mori

“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Psalm 39:4

Thinking of one’s own death can often seem an unhealthy and morbid thing to do, when in reality, there is Biblical wisdom to be found in “remembering your mortality.” I was thinking about this while running this morning, having just read Psalm 39, and thinking about the genuine benefits from remembering that all will die (there are times when I’m running that I’m pretty sure I going to die). Here are some of the thoughts I came up with:

  1. Remembering your own mortality is a healthy reminder that this life will come to an end and one day all will stand before the throne of God to be judged according to His righteous decree. Some may achieve great things in this life, others may simply fade in obscurity, but all will die. Rich and poor, righteous and wicked, all will one day lay down this life. The natural course of events is to move from birth to death, and with each day there will be evidence of what is to come; fading ability and failing health. While we certainly shouldn’t live recklessly, tempting death and rushing to a quick end, neither should we become so obsessed with health and youth and vitality that we deny the reality of death.
  2. Remembering our own mortality also serves as a call to action. We’ve all played the game: IF YOU KNEW THE WORLD WOULD END TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TODAY? If this were my last post, what would I want you to know. If this Sunday were my last sermon, what would I want to say? If this were the last time you had to speak with your parents, your spouse, your children, what needs to be said? Often, so many live with regret over things they wanted to say but never had the opportunity.
    This is your chance. David prayed in the Psalm that God would help him to measure his days, so that he could live accordingly, making the best use of the time given. There is no time like the present to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be loved, to heal and be healed.
  3. Remembering our own mortality also points us to greater spirituals realities. “In Adam all die,” Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 15:22. The death that comes through Adam is both physical and spiritual. In sin, we are dead to God and unable to do that which would please Him or even bring us to life. More important that a reminder that we will one day lay down this mortal body is the knowledge that, even though we may live and breath, apart from Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sins. In our death, we need one who would come and give us life, breathing new life within us, and enabling us to live in righteousness before God.
    Praise God that He has given us this One, Jesus Christ, through whom we have died to sin and have been raised to new life by the power of His Holy Spirit. Because our sinless savior died, we who are hidden in Him by faith, may now live, and live for forever more. And though we may sleep at the end of this life, laying down this mortal body, we will be raised when the trumpet sounds, and we will take up that which is immortal, so that we may be with Him forever.

Memento Mori, remember you will die, remember that in sin you were dead, remember the One who died, remember that death has lost its victory and sting, remember that you have died to sin, and live in the light of Christ now forever more!


Be Diligent

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these things,
be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
(2 Peter 3:14)

I guess I’m one of those guys who has to learn something the hard way.  And then, once I’ve learned it, I’ll forget and have to learn it again.

Last year around this time I was writing about the joys of running, how disciplining the body and the soul go hand in hand, and of the many blessings that come from both.

Then winter in NW Iowa set it.

To call my running from December through April sporadic would suggest that there was a modicum of effort made on my part, and that would be an overstatement.  40 miles over 4 months.  It’s embarrassing to even write it out.

Oh, I had plenty of excuses – the cold, the snow, the busy-ness – you name it.  But in the end, an excuse is just that, and it doesn’t make things any better.  Someone once said, “If you really want to do it, you do it. There are no excuses.”  So there.

Should I also confess that as the discipline of running slipped, so did all other disciplines?

Oh, I’ve maintained my scripture reading plan.  I’ve been reading books left and right.  I’ve been praying, preaching, visiting, and ministering with and for others.  But it’s been a while since I’ve made the time to meditate on God’s Word, preach to myself, and allow my Spirit to be ministered to.  I’ve been doing all of this out of my own strength, and I have proven that I am not strong enough.

Like a runner who’s lost conditioning and let the muscles atrophy, my heart has become sluggish, the flame of passion for Christ is only smoldering rather than burning bright, the fruit of the Gospel is being choked out by the desires and the cares of this world.

Then I read this morning the passage above: “Be Diligent!”  Diligence is something that is great if you are already doing it, but seemingly impossible if you don’t.  Like being organized.  “Be diligent,” Peter writes, “to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

Now, I could write several pages about the things I/we ought to do to exercise this due diligence in the Christian life, and that would be appropriate.  Things like prayer, worship, meditation and memorization of God’s Word, avoiding gossip and other negative influences, holding fast to those things that are commendable and uplifting… all of these are worthwhile and essential in the kind of diligence that Peter is calling for.

I could also write about the motivation that Peter gives for this diligence; the fact that Jesus is returning like “a thief in the night” and we want to be found ready and waiting when he comes.  There were those in Peter’s day, and they’re still around today, who deny Christ’s eminent return, and therefore have fallen away from the commandments of Christ, thinking that His delay will ensure their safety.  Peter writes that this mentality will lead to their destruction, and that we should “take care that [we] are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose [our] own stability, but [are to] grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Those would be fine points of discussion, but when you are heading out on the road to diligence and discipline, the best place to start is at the very beginning.  If I were to throw on the tasks of discipline all at once, it would be overwhelming, and would lead to frustration, despair, and resignation.  If I were to focus solely on the motivation, the warning of Christ’s return, one might be driven and consumed with fear – and Yoda taught us all that “fear is the path to the darkside.”

The foundation of our diligence, however, is not in the motivation, nor is it in the act of discipline.  The foundation of our diligence, our zeal before the Lord, is in His gracious gift.  Peter writes earlier in the letter,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

It is only because His divine power has given us life, given us godliness, given us the knowledge of Him, given us His secure promises, that we could ever hope to partake in His holiness in peace (the essence of divine nature), escaping from sinful desires.  Our diligence doesn’t come from some self-driven zeal for the Lord, but comes from trusting in His grace, relying on His Holy Spirit, holding fast to His Word, counting on His promises.

Be diligent in righteousness.  Do the things you know you need to do as you eagerly await His appearing so that you may grow in grace and knowledge.  But let God’s grace and goodness in Christ be the foundation of your diligence.

To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.