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Ready to Die

If Manuel were here, he would be tugging on my sleeve, reminding me that this is more about His Savior, than about himself. I know he would be eagerly waiting for me to tell you about Jesus, as the only means for the forgiveness of your sins and entrance into God’s glorious presence. Manuel’s life illustrates truths that deal with the most important decision you will ever make. As Manuel and His Lord look down on our gathering this afternoon I’d like to spend these few moments talking to you about eternity.

Only Jesus can make you ready to die. As he told me and others, Manuel was ready to die. One of the Scriptures I read to Manuel as I sat at his bedside the last day of his life is found in 2 Corinthians:

13 But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believed; therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak. 14 We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 For all these things are for your sake, so that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 1 For we know that if our earthly house, the tent we live in, is dismantled, we have a building from God, a house not built by human hands, that is eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed, after we have put on our heavenly house, we will not be found naked. 4 For indeed we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment. 6 Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord- 7 for we live by faith, not by sight. 8 Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:9).

Years ago Manuel recognized that he was a sinner, and that Jesus had died to pay the penalty for his sins. Manuel trusted in Jesus, who not only died on the cross of Calvary, but rose from the dead. Manuel enjoyed the presence of God in this life, but he yearned to spend eternity in God’s presence. It is true that our earthly pains prompt us to let go of this life, and to anxiously seek the next, but it would not be accurate to say that Manuel simply wanted to escape the suffering and groaning of earthly life. More than anything, Manuel loved his Savior, and wanted to be with him.

Manuel had no fear of death because Jesus took that fear away. In the Book of Hebrews we read,

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

But more than this, Manuel had a yearning for heaven. He wanted to dwell in the presence of his Savior for all eternity. This is the way the apostle Paul felt, as well, after he came to faith in Jesus:

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Philippians 1:19-23).

I cannot know your hearts, my friend, but you know, and God knows. As we remember the life of Manuel and you come face to face with the reality of death, is there fear in your heart, or faith; do you dread death and try to avoid even thinking about it, or do you see death as an escape from this life and an entrance into the presence of God forever? The difference is what you do with the death of Jesus Christ, who died that your sins might be forgiven, and that you might enter into eternal life.

Manuel’s testimony calls our attention to a very important truth: BEING RELIGIOUS IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING A CHRISTIAN. There may be those here today who are trying to suppress the fear of death with the consolation that they are religious. I must tell you plainly that religion will never save you, only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, by faith.

I am simply telling you what Jesus Himself said, as we read in the third chapter of the Gospel of John:

1 Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, 2 came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus replied, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. 12 If I have told you people about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven-the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God (John 3:1-18).

We are told not only that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a devoutly religious man, but that he was “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). He was, perhaps, the most prominent teacher of that day, and yet Jesus told him he must be “born again.” To be born again Nicodemus must trust in Jesus, the one who would soon be “lifted up” on the cross of Calvary. To be born again, Nicodemus must not trust in what he had done - or would do - but in what Christ had done, and in what the Holy Spirit would do - give him life. Being born again meant that Nicodemus would have to renounce his religious good works and trust in Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.

It would not be long before another Pharisee - Saul -- would be “born again.” He describes his conversion this way:

3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials 4 -though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. 6 In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. 7 But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. 8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things-indeed, I regard them as dung!-that I might gain Christ, 9 and be found in him, not because of having my own righteousness derived from the law, but because of having the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness-a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. 10 My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:3-11).

And so, as we come face to face with sin and the reality of its penalty - death - I must ask you this question: “Are you ready to die?” “Are you trusting in your good works or in your religion to save you, or are you trusting in God’s only provision, Jesus Christ?” He died on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for your sins. He rose from the dead, so that you can live a life pleasing to Him, and so that you can spend eternity in the presence of God.

Manuel trusted in Jesus Christ. He was ready to die. He was eager to see His Savior face to face. If you are not yet ready, then I urge you to trust in Jesus Christ this very hour.

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