I hate to admit it, but this Christian maturity thing is hard. Knowing that death is out there is one thing. Losing a friend to death is quite another. As with most things, the general knowledge of a thing is just not the same as a personal knowledge.
A friend died yesterday; a man I had been disicipling and encouraging to grow in Christian maturity. And I could actually see the growth.
Like many of us, he was a refugee from Hillcrest Baptist Church. He, like the rest of us, was feeling insecure and hurt spiritually.
But about a year and a half ago he just seemed to ignite. We had been going over a couple of Lewis S. Chafer books, “Major Bible Themes” and “True Evangelism” and he had ignited with respect to Evangelism. Wednesday, we held a training session in preparation for going to Iverson Mall this past Saturday (24 August 2013). He died Friday, 23 August 2013.
I won’t try to pass off the usual bromides. I am certain he was, as Jesus called it, born again. So yes, his sins were washed by the blood of Jesus and he had the righteousness of Christ. And yes, the Bible promises that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). But a personal experience with death helps us, helps me, to understand that those who are left behind will miss the one who is now present with the Lord.
The knowledge of salvation gives those left behind a reason to both mourn (however long we need to mourn) the loss of a loved one and to rejoice in knowing, with the assurance of the Bible, that the one we love has “gone to be with the Lord.”
That phrase, gone to be with the Lord, is not simply a euphemism for “died.” It is, when used with any understanding on the part of the Christian, an affirmation of faith for the Christian. It is an affirmation of the statements the Bible makes about the result of death for the Christian. It is an affirmation of our faith in the truth of the Gospel and in the faithfulness of God. It is an affirmation of our faith in the ultimate destination of the Christian.
If we believe Jesus died on the cross, if we believeHe was raised from the dead, if we believe He ascended into heaven nds sits at the right hand of God, then we can be comforted with the Bible’s assurance that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord.
I don’t know what that presence looks like. I don’t know what that presence feels like. But I do know that we are promised that presence. And given that God is faithful even when we are unfaithful (2 Tim 2:13), we can have the assurance that the unsaved lack.
My friend died yesterday. I will miss him. But I know, based on the word of my Lord and Savior, that my friend has gone to be with the Lord.