by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:59 mins 30 secs

Dying: Preparation, Dying Grace, and Grieving

The doctrine of preparation for dying  (Cont.)

4)  We need to prepare ourselves in relation to the death of those around us. We all have friends that we love, spouses, children, parents—anyone who is close to us. We all fall prey at times to a sense of entitlement, and this is just another manifestation of our own arrogance, our own self-absorption, that we are so attached and become so attached to people that we just can't imagine not living without them. Yet we know at some level perhaps that we are only on this earth for a set number of days. God does not guarantee that people are going to live four-score and ten years, or whatever it may be. God determines that we are going to be on this earth for five years or ten years, fifteen or twenty-five years, etc. Fortification with doctrine gives a strength and stability at the time of a death. A mark of good leadership is being able to think about the negative what ifs and to plan for them. What if I wake up tomorrow and my child has been killed? How am I going to respond? What am I going to do? What kind of testimony is my response going to have? What promises am I going to claim? Has God given me a guarantee that my child is going to live beyond tomorrow, or that my spouse is going to live beyond tomorrow? So it is just a part of facing the realities of life and thinking through the harsh, negative what ifs and how we are going to respond and what doctrines apply.

5)  The best and only real preparation for our soul is found in Bible doctrine. It is the truth of God's Word that fortifies our soul, and this personified for us in Proverbs 1:20-33. Principles to remember from this passage. a) If you prepare your soul ahead of time you can weather any storm; b) If you fail to prepare your soul with doctrine ahead of time then you will be overwhelmed by the storms of life. It will be too late to try to fortify yourself. This passage in Proverbs personifies wisdom. The key idea is to understand what wisdom is to begin with. The Hebrew word for wisdom is chokmah. It means wisdom. We think of wisdom as philosophical, abstract intellectual activity, but that is not the Hebrew concept of wisdom. The Hebrew concept of wisdom is skill. One of the first places this word shows up in the Old Testament is talking about Bezaleel and Aholiab who were given skill/wisdom for manufacturing and creating all of the metal work, carpentry and jewel settings of everything in the tabernacle. So the idea of wisdom is something that is very practical. It is taking those principles that the Word of God teaches and then being able to apply them in a very beautiful, skilful way to the issues of life. So wisdom here is a picture of all that Bible doctrine is; not just an abstract theological concept but everything that the Word of God teaches in terms of its application. It is personified as a person in Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:20 NASB "Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; [21] At the head of the noisy {streets} she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: [22] How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?"

The first thing we have to understand is that within the book of Proverbs the starting point for wisdom is the fear and reverence of God. It is not IQ, not education, it is our volition towards God. That is the issue. We see this emphasized in Job 28:20 NASB "Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?" This is a fear that goes beyond just reverence or respect, it is that kind of a fear that you had when you knew that you did something wrong and you heard your father's voice, or your mother's voice, and said your name in a particular tone and you knew that you were in for it. You did not ever want to hear that tone, so rather than doing something which would put your hind end in jeopardy you didn't do it. That is what the fear of the Lord means. It is truly a realization that there is accountability, and because I understand that accountability and don't want the divine discipline I am going to make sure that I keep my priorities correct. That is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 NASB "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Throughout the book of Proverbs there is this contrast between the wise and the fool, the wise and the naïve, and the naïve person is basically the person who rejects doctrine, who thinks that he can on the basis of his own experience or knowledge that they can pretty much go through life and make it work without paying a whole lot of attention to God. The fool is a practical atheist, he may be in church on Sunday morning, he may say he believes in God, but that believe in God doesn't affect how he does business, how he balances his cheque book, how he pays his taxes, how he votes, how he runs the family, how he trains up his children, because he is a practical atheist; God doesn't have anything to do with the day-to-day running of his life. Proverbs 8:13 NASB "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate." So there is this contrast between evil, which involves anything from arrogance and that which is sin and that which is good done out of the arrogance and self-reliance of man's fallen condition, and the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs 1:30 NASB "Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square," the picture is that wisdom is readily available and offering herself to everyone.

The second point is that wisdom is developed through the practice of doctrine. When we talk about the ten problem-solving devices, there are ten spiritual skills, and a skill is developed by practice. Confession of sin puts us back in fellowship. Walking by the Spirit is something we train ourselves to do. The faith-rest drill: claiming promises. Grace orientation involves humility, teachability, and dealing with people on the basis of grace, not on the basis of legalism. Then we have doctrinal orientation, which means that we have to understand reality as it is defined by God in the Scriptures, not how our culture defines it or how we would wish it to be, but that the Word of God is the grid for understanding reality. Then we have a personal sense of our eternal destiny, we know where we are headed, we know that there is accountability, and we know that God is training us for our future position. We have personal love for God which is motivation, our impersonal love for all mankind, our occupation with Christ, keeping our focus on the author and finisher of our faith, and then sharing the happiness of God. All of these are things that keep us stable in the midst of crises. But it is the practice of them which is where we become skilful, and when we become skilful at it that is when it becomes wisdom.

Wisdom is personified in this passage as crying out to everyone to accept her and make her their own. Looking at the passage, she is going everywhere. She raises her voice in the open squares, she is not hidden off and is not something restricted to academia, to the elite. Wisdom is pictured going up and down the streets saying, "Do you want me?" It's free, you don't have to work for it. Wisdom is exercising the initiative to get you to accept her. The problem, then, is up to you whether you are going to pursue wisdom or not. Wisdom is freely available to all, the only issue is your volition. There is more truth available today than ever before in history and yet the average Christian is more biblically ignorant and spiritually retarded than at any other time in history. This shows that the average believer today has rejected the invitation of wisdom. So the difference we see in Proverbs between the wise and the fool is volition. The wise person sets his priorities, listens to the Word of God, he studies it, he thinks about it. There are many good and wonderful and pleasurable things in life that are just set aside so that the Word of God can just saturate the soul so that there will be wisdom.

Wisdom is everywhere; it is offered everywhere. There is no way that anyone can say they just didn't have access. God has made His wisdom available to everyone.

God has made doctrine available to all and He takes the initiative to offer it to all. Proverbs 1:22, 23 NASB "How long, O naive ones [simple ones], will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." There is a parallelism here between the simple ones and the scorner. The simple one is the naïve one by a sin of negation, by just ignoring, by not accepting the offer. The simple one here becomes a scorner because he doesn't make doctrine a high priority in his life. Positive volition isn't the fact that I'm a believer and I'm not rejecting the Word; positive volition is either you are all the way up in the high gear with the pedal to the metal going forward, or you are negative. That is the difference. It's no use making excuses for other people, if they are not listening to the Word of God five or six times a week they're negative; it is not a priority in their life. That is what this is talking about. You can scorn the Word of God by just saying, I'm going to sleep in today, I'm going to play golf today, or I'm just going to show up to church on Sunday, that's all I need. You haven't really understood how important and crucial the Word of God is in your life if you think an hour a week is going to do it. You are just lying to yourself and playing games with God. So many people convince themselves because they know the right verbiage and they show up once a week, but if the goal of the spiritual life is to learn to think biblically then that means you have to re-educate yourself from human viewpoint paganism and that doesn't happen in an hour a week. You have to make that a priority or it won't happen.

Proverbs 1:23 NASB "Turn to my reproof [says wisdom], Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." There is that free offer. You've been negative but you can turn, just accept this free offer that is there. The word that is translated as "simple ones" or the "naïve" is the Hebrew word pethi. It means foolish, it is someone who naïve concerning the complexities and challenges of life. They are living in denial: 'I can get by on my own., I can rely on my own resources and that is good enough.' They convince themselves that they don't need to have a mentality that is totally saturated with Bible doctrine. There are too many people who get distracted by the details of life and they are considered fools because they don't understand the true dynamics of reality that every believer is a target in the angelic conflict and that if they don't get the Word they will be a casualty; because they are divorced from reality and divorced from truth because they lack insight and they will constantly make bad decisions. They may only be little bad decisions but those little bad decisions pile up and pile up and snowball, and ten or fifteen years down the road their life is a wreck, their marriage is a wreck, they don't understand which way to go because they made so many little bad decisions for twenty or thirty years and the recovery process will take them the rest of their life. Parallel to that is the word for "scorners," latson, which means to scorn, to ridicule, to show contempt or disdain. To not make the Word of God your priority is to say it is not really all that important. That is considered by God contemptuous. Positive volition is really gung ho volition; anything less is really negative volition; it is not positive, it is playing games with God.

The consequences of the rejection of wisdom, if you are not paying attention, neglect: Proverbs 1:24 NASB "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; [25] And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof." Someone who is not paying attention to the Word is negative. Negative volition is the neglect of God's Word, it is not necessarily hostility and rejection. What is the result? Wisdom says, [26] "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes." The consequences of the rejection of wisdom is that wisdom won't be available when the crisis hits, and wisdom is pictured as mocking and laughing derisively: you have had your opportunity; now I am just going to sit back and laugh at you while you reap the consequences of your bad decisions.

When the time comes it is too late. Proverbs 1:27 NASB "When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you." The storm has broken, your life is a wreck, and the basic principle is that it is too late to try to sort things out now because everything has already fallen apart. [28] "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me…" How many people have called out to God to help them and save them, to rescue them? They've had the Word of God available to them for years and now they are reaping the consequences and they want God to help them. When God doesn't magically remove everything they start blaming God for all their problems. The problem is they never would have gotten in them in the first place if they had prepared themselves. They are just reaping what they have sown. Doctrine [wisdom] says: "They are going to call for me, they are going to try to apply doctrine, but there is no doctrine there. I am not going to be there, I am not going to answer them, I am not available to them because they never learned me to begin with." You can't start cramming for the final five minutes before the final when you never attended class for the whole semester. It is too late.

Failure to learn doctrine and fortify the soul before the crisis leads to self-destruction. Proverbs 1:29 NASB "Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD." Their volition; the issue is, what is your priority? Is the Word of God so real to you that you are going to arrange your schedule in such a way that you get doctrine every single day. [30] "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. [31] So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. [32] For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them." When the believer is complacent towards doctrine he is a fool, he is contemptuous of the Word of God. That is negative volition. Not taking advantage of doctrine is just as negative as any militant atheist.

Then the closing promise. Proverbs 1:33 NASB "But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil." In Matthew chapter seven Jesus talks about two people. One builds his on a foundation of stone; one builds a house on shifting sand. When the storms comes, which one survives? The one built on solid rock. That is the same principle that we have here in Proverbs chapter one.

The application we are making for this is preparation for the time of death. This is the preparation of your soul for the death of anyone you love. It even applies to the loss of anything because grief and mourning don't apply just to death, they can apply to the loss of a job, loss of income, loss of a dream. People in Scripture grieved over many things. The Lord grieved over the negative volition of the Jews. There are many things that we can legitimately grieve over and have sorrow over. What fortifies our souls though, even in those times of grief, is that we prepare ourselves ahead of time with the proper mental attitude from the Word of God.

The doctrine of dying grace

1)  Dying grace is but one category of grace for the believer. We have saving grace, sustaining grace in the believer's life, common grace where God gives blessing to both believer and unbeliever, and dying grace is a category of grace to the believer, a special experience of peace, tranquillity and happiness in the soul at the time of death. That doesn't mean that if you are a mature believer there won't be physical suffering prior to death. This is talking about the attitude of the soul, that the believer will have a special experience of peace, contentment and happiness at the time of death.

2)  Why? Because dying grace is a by-product of the faith-rest drill. As you have practiced the faith-rest drill over the years your soul is fortified with doctrine. Because of that the believer enters that period of death fully confident that he is just stepping across the threshold from this life into heaven and there is no turmoil in the soul. As the believer has practised the faith-rest drill over the years, then at the time of death he can be relaxed, calm, there is minimal anxiety. His focus is on the truth of God's Word.

3)  Dying grace does not guarantee at time of death freedom from pain, from death being a lengthy process or from heartache; it guarantees that the believer who has been prepared through doctrine can relax and have tranquillity at these times of death. We see this in the 23rd Psalm. David states the underlying principle in the psalm in the fist verse: NASB "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." Everything in this psalm flows from an understanding that God is his persistent caretaker. God takes care of him, is what he is saying in that first line. Because no one could take care of him better, he has no wants. There is nothing missing. God knows exactly what we need and He provides it. [4] "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Whenever I go through any situation where danger is prevalent, whenever there is any possibility of a crisis, I don't fear any evil. It is not necessarily talking specifically about death, but death is the most extreme danger that we think of. Whenever it is a small crisis or a major crisis, whenever I put myself in a position where my safety is threatened and I could potentially even lose my life, I am relaxed, "for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." This is the omnipresence of God for His children; He is always with us to support us. The principle from Psalm 23 is simply that God is watching over us and because he is our shepherd we shouldn't fear any evil. We can even go into death totally relaxed. Paul expresses it in Philippians 1:21 NASB "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." When Christ is my priority and I as living to serve Him, then death is just simply a transition to gain, to a higher level of service. So there is nothing to be feared.

4)  The believer knows with certainty the realities of death because God has informed us what is going to happen at the time of death. Because we have knowledge we can relax. Because of that physical death is to be expected and anticipated. We can look forward to it as an advancement from where we are. 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 NASB "For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.[2] For indeed in this {house} we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, [3] inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. [4] For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. [5] Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. [6] Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Then we go on to understand what physical death is because of 1 Corinthians 15:50ff. "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [53] For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. [54] But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. [55] "O DEATH [Hades], WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O  DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" Because we know these truths we can relax at any time.

5)  God determines the time, the manner and place of our death. It is not accidental. Mathew 6:25-27 NASB "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, {as to} what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, {as to} what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and {yet} your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? [27] And who of you by being worried can add a {single} hour to his life?"

6)  God cares for us at the time of death. Psalm 116:15 NASB "Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones." God is infinitely involved with the death of every single believer. He sends His angels to transport us to heaven.

7)  Death is a time to glorify God and how we face death without fear, and we can be a witness to those around us as to the grace of God in salvation. Romans 14:8 NASB "for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."