You know the truth, yet the pain of death rushes over you like waves and it forms a pit in your stomach. Where does death get its power?

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1 1 Death is a topic that most people avoid. It's the last enemy. We don't want to think about it or talk about it because it is so terrifying. It will be the most difficult battle you will ever fight. Yet try as we do, we cannot avoid death. Many of us have seen the pain and terror of death when we had to watch loved ones pass away and when we had to bury them. How do we cope when confronted with death? Our confession of faith doesn't avoid the question of death. The Apostles' Creed says of Jesus, "He was crucified, dead, and buried." The Catechism dwells on Christ's death for a little while, even long enough to make us bit squeamish. We see the Son of God humbling himself more than he did before - even to the point of death. Not that it was easy for him because he is God. He suffered the same death we will all face with added terror of eternal punishment. Death was not easy for the Son of God. He wept bitterly over the death of his friend Lazarus. And the day before he died on the cross, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father for another way, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." He was in such agony that an angel came to strengthen him. Then Jesus prayed in anguish until sweat like drops of blood fell to the ground. The pain of death confronted Jesus in real and terrible way, but he could not avoid it. He had to die. Lord's Day 16 tells us why death comes to everyone; why Jesus had to die; and what his death means for us. We learn what comfort there is for us when we confess that the Son of God suffered even to the point of death. The Son of God humbled himself even to the point of death 1. He overcame death for us 2. He overcame the sin that leads to death for us 3. He delivered us from hell. 1. He overcame death for us. Maybe we fear death so much because of the unknown. What will happen to me? Where will I go? What have I done with my life? What will God do with me? Death seems to have this power over us making us live in constant fear. Even when you receive the comfort of the gospel after losing a loved one, still the fear and pain of death rushes over you. That's normal.

2 2 You know the truth, yet the pain of death rushes over you like waves and it forms a pit in your stomach. Where does death get its power? The Bible says it began its reign of terror already in the Garden of Eden. God said to Adam and Eve, "You are free to eat of any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you must surely die." Still, Adam and Eve ate from that tree. When they ate, they sinned against God, and the wages of sin is death. Of course, they didn't die right away, but now they live under the shadow of death. In the New Testament, Paul writes in Romans 5 that death reigned over people from the time Adam and Eve until now. Now we're all slaves to sin and death. Adam and Eve should have died in Paradise. God was very clear: you eat; you die. The wages of sin is death, so why aren't we all dead? Why did the world go on after the fall into sin? Look at the mess that resulted - a world of sin and misery with sin and death as their master. Someone might charge God with a miscarriage of justice. "A crime was committed, aren't you going to do anything about it?" People can be very good at demanding truth and justice. If we demand truth and justice, we demand our own death. What will God do about this crisis? God must act - his truth and justice require it. But he doesn't want you to die. He wants you to live because he loves you. But how will he satisfy his justice and truth and let you live. What is he going to do with us? Christ had to suffer to the point of death because we deserve death for our sin. If he will save us from the wrath of God against sin, he must die. And it had to be the Son of God who died, otherwise the debt would not be paid. If anyone else tried to suffer God's wrath, that person would die forever, the rightful end to a sinful life. Only the Son of God could undo the sin committed by Adam. He did so by living the obedience that Adam, and all of us, owed God. And only the Son of God has the power to sustain the wrath of God against sin. Death only ever feared one man: the man Jesus Christ who is both God and man, the Son of God. "Consequently," Paul excitedly unfolds the gospel of salvation in Romans 5, "just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification for all men (people)." What is Paul saying? The charges have been dropped. Jesus took our punishment by dying for us. Justice has been served. We're free.

3 3 That's hard to believe! Some people have tried to say that all of this stuff about Christ dying didn't really happen. The logic matters, they say, not the facts. But then we confess with the Bible, that Jesus was buried. It matters that Jesus was buried because his burial proves that he really did die. Maybe you have experienced the effect of watching a burial. It's so real and final. Also when we confess that Jesus was buried, we are assured that he died and therefore took our death upon himself. It's a visible and historical event that proves that Jesus did what he came to do. Now you might be thinking that this would all be really comforting if it meant that now I don't have to die. but that's not true - we all still have to die. So how is Christ's death any benefit to us? Why do we still have to die? Here's the comfort. Now that Jesus Christ has died for you, your death is not a mystery anymore. You don't have to be afraid of the unknown. In the first place, Christ went through death and burial before you. He prepared the way and fought all the battles you would have faced and won. So, Christ's death has robbed death of its victory. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "where, O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?" We all must face this last enemy and it is a terrible enemy, yet Christ comforts us with his power over death. Now you know that if you have faith in Jesus Christ, death will not win the battle. Jesus has won the victory over death and has given you life. You know it's in his power to give you life. Jesus promises it in John 5:24, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." If you have faith in Christ, you have this hope of eternal life, but the Catechism reminds us of something that death is also an end to sin. Imagine a life where you never lash out at your children, you are free from the power of lust, you will not be bitter, you will never hurt anyone and no one will ever hurt you. You will be free from sin. What sweet rest waits for us who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. You will receive the benefit of Christ's death when you enter into eternal life, free from sin forever. The power of sin is broken, and Jesus will not allow death to rule your life. You must go through those dark doors of death and face the last enemy, but now you don't have to be afraid anymore. Now you know what God will do with you when you die. Because of his love which he gave through Christ, he will bring you home to live with him forever.

4 4 2. He destroys the sin that leads to death When Christians think about and talk about death, we can talk about the hope of entering into a sinless life. You long for the day when we will stop sinning all together because we hate the effects of sin in our lives today. And now you have the hope of becoming the sinless version of yourself. Lord's Day 16 points to Romans 6 when talking about the transition from the sinful "you" to the sinless "you". Your old self is what we all are because of Adam's sin before Christ died. It what Adam and Eve became after they sinned against God. They changed that day, they were corrupted to very core of their being. They went from children of God to rebels against God. Adam's nature after the fall was passed on to all of us. The old you is incapable of doing anything good; it is blinded by sin and a slave to sin. Paul says in Romans 6 that the old you is under sin just like a slave is subject to his master. When you are under sin, you are controlled by sin and you feel obligated to obey. You are insecure and fearful so that you can't seem to stop! It's why we can't love as we should and why we are so prone to violence and revenge. They old you feels compelled to offer his mind, his heart, and his hands to sinfulness and rebellion against God. When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that the old self is in desperate need of change. The need for change is felt all over the world. Just look at all the books on becoming the "new you." Some of these books tell you how to change your diet, others tell you how to exercise and develop a healthy lifestyle. Still others teach you how to take control of your life. There are even books on how to change other people in your life. There's "How to have a new kid by Friday," and "How to have a new husband by Friday." People want to change and we all need to change too. How will we change? Do we have to wait until the end of our lives to experience the kind of change the Bible promises us? Lord's Day 16 points us to Romans 6 to show us that the answer to that question is "no." Romans 6 shows us how the effects of Christ's death on the cross are already being felt all over the world today. Romans 6:6,7 says, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Paul is saying that Christ's death matters for the way you live today because your life is tied to his life now. If you have faith in Christ, you

5 5 are united to him and whatever he did, you did. Whatever he gains is yours too. Because he died, so did you. Paul says so again in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died." So today, your old nature is dying and you are becoming the new you. Being united to Christ means that you don't have to wait until the end of your life to be free from sin. If you have faith in Christ, you are united to him and the power of sin has already been broken. Your heart and mind and all your actions begin to change - the old nature is fading and the new is shining ever brighter. God doesn't say that he will be done with you by Friday, but you have his promise that he will work on you for the rest of your life and then, in the end, take you to glory. The new you doesn't care what sin or Satan wants. The new you only cares what God wants and will submit only to the Lord Jesus. The new you cares about our home visit theme more than anything else. It wants to do the things that are excellent and praiseworthy. The new you wants to put into practice whatever you learned from God. 3. He delivered us from Hell When Christ breaks us free from the power of sin, he gives us a foretaste of the life to come, but when we fall into sins and let the old nature dominate, we get a foretaste of hell. Adam and Eve got a foretaste of hell after they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Immediately, there was a separation between them and God. They could not walk with God in the garden as they once did. They were banished from the garden. And they began to live beneath the shadow of death. Israel got a foretaste of hell when they rejected God too. They were sent into exile away from God and the blessing he offered them in the land of promise. Ephesians 2 says that people who do not have God are already dead because they live without God. They are, "dead in [their] transgressions and sins" and "separate from Christ...without hope and without God in the world." People who live without God today, though not beyond hope of God's love, are walking a death march away from God, towards hell. Lord's Day 16 defines hell as the anguish and terror of being forsaken by God. In our confession, we don't say that Jesus went down to hell. We say that hell came to Jesus on the cross when the darkness descended and when he cried out, "my God, why have you forsaken me?" There is no greater anguish, no greater pain than being cut off from God. There is only complete darkness and gnashing of teeth. You cannot live without God. If you do not have

6 6 faith in Jesus Christ, if you do not hear him when he calls, you will be cut off forever and you will die the eternal death in hell. Yet, "in my greatest sorrows and temptations I may be assured and comforted that my Lord Jesus Christ...has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell." This is a confession of faith in God and in Jesus Christ. If you are united to Christ in faith, he went to hell for you. What unspeakable comfort when we think about death today. You know the things you have done. You know that you sin against God and that you don't deserve his love. Yet he will not walk away from you, ever. Still, we know that we are not living in hell on earth today because God is still calling. Just like he called out in the garden, "Adam, where are you." So he calls out today, "Where are you." If you refuse his voice and walk away, you are headed down the road that leads to hell. But you who trust in God and have faith in Jesus Christ have fellowship with him. He overcomes sin and death for you, and puts you on the road that leads to communion with God forever. Amen.

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