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!

SDG

Warning to Save Lives

“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, ESV)

A few years back there was an advertising campaign to help prevent texting and driving.  Below is one of the videos. Watch with care, the images are terrifying: 

Commercials like these come as a dire warning.  The dangers of distracted driving are real and deadly; the NTHSA reports that in 2018, distracted driving was the cause of 2,841 deaths. Still, I am tempted to pull out my phone while driving and check my texts, and I am appalled at how many times I see others driving while staring at their phone.

This is the kind of message that Jude is giving here in Jude 7. In verses 5-7, Jude gives a series of 3 warnings to those who would “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).” In the first warning, we read of the Israelites, who though they had been delivered from Egypt persisted in unbelief and were destroyed in the wilderness. Next we read of the angelic beings who left their positions of authority and are now being kept in chains awaiting the judgment of the great day. Finally, today we are reminded of the awesome judgment brought down upon Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what awaits those who persist in sin and ungodliness.

Let us be clear: the Bible explicitly condemns the practice of homosexuality (Lev 18:22, 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Ti 1:9-11), and this is seen most vividly in the wrath of God poured out on Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities in Genesis 19. In that story, we read that while Lot brought the angels into his home, the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house demanding he send out the two men so that they may “know” them. In Hebrew, “to know” someone suggested sexual intimacy (Gen 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…”). While sexual sin was not the only sin for which these cities were punished (Ezekiel 16:19 tells us they were also punished for their pride, gluttony, and disregard for the poor), we can be certain that sexual immorality is what Sodom and Gomorrah would be remembered for through the ages. The message of God’s Word is consistent: God has created us male and female, and our lives are to bring him glory, even in our relationships with one another.  The practice of homosexuality is a sin in that it does not conform to God’s law for our lives.

And let us remember, Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  All who come to him in faith, trusting in His righteousness, resting in His completed work of redemption in His death and resurrection, will know forgiveness and peace with God. Jesus is able to save from every sin, and to break the power of sin in our lives.

But if we only focus on the sexual immorality associated with Sodom and Gomorrah when hearing Jude’s warning, we’ve missed the picture entirely. It would be like watching the video and saying to yourself “Well, they didn’t say anything about drinking and driving, so that must be okay now.” 

Certainly Jude is warning the church against the ongoing practice of sexual immorality, this is the sensuality at mind in verse 4. It is likely that the false teachers who were twisting the grace of God were saying that because you have grace, you can sin all the more because it’s all been forgiven.  But the purpose of Jude’s warning is to remind us that those who persist in sin will come under judgement. You cannot play with fire and not expect to be burned, you cannot abide in sin and claim to have seen and known the Lord (1 John 3:5).

I read recently that warnings are one of the means by which God helps to preserve His people. He tells us of the dangers of sins, and gives us examples (the unbelieving Israelites, the fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah) to keep us from falling into sin. Let us not be like those who would persist in ungodliness, or like those who would encourage others in their sin (Rom 1:32), nor like those who sit in self-righteous condemnation of others (Rom 2:1). But let us heed the warnings and trust in the grace of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation, listening to and obeying the voice of our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ as he leads us in the way of righteousness.

SDG