Saturday, 5 February 2011

Meditation on death

Very quickly there will be an end of you here (Job 9:25-26; 14:1-2; Luke 12:20; Heb. 9:27); look what will become of you in another world. Today man is; and tomorrow he appears not. And when he is taken away from sight, he also quickly passes out of mind.
Oh, dullness and hardness of man's heart, which thinks only upon the present, and does not rather care for what is to come! You ought to order yourself in every act and thought, as if today you were on the point to die. If you had a good conscience you would not greatly fear death (Luke 12:37). It were better to avoid sins than to flee death. If today you are not prepared, how can you be tomorrow? Tomorrow is uncertain, and how do you know if you shall have a tomorrow?
These words are quoted from a book entitled The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, a monk who lived in the 15th century, before the Reformation. As I was reading through the book, these words reminded me of the theme of my blog: "Here today and gone tomorrow". The Imitation of Christ is divided into four books. The quote above is from the first book ("Admonitions Useful for a Spiritual Life") and the 23rd chapter which is entitled "Meditation on Death".

Death is not a topic we like to think about a lot. But the day of your death is the day of your destiny.The Bible makes very clear that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). So while we have this life on earth, we should be preparing ourselves for that day. Are you ready to meet your Maker? What will be said of you on that day of judgment? Will you stand guilty in your rebellion against God before Jesus Christ, the Judge, and be condemned to an eternal punishment in hell? Or will you stand righteous before Him and have entrance into heaven, not because of any good deeds you have done, but because of His mercy in forgiving your sins and covering you with the righteousness of Christ when you trusted in Him as your Lord and Saviour? Jesus Christ still holds out forgiveness and everlasting hope to you if you will only turn to Him in faith and repentance. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). If you know Christ as your Saviour, you need not fear death. Will you come to Him today?

Thomas à Kempis closes his chapter "Meditation on Death" with the following words:

Labor now to live so that in the hour of death you may rather rejoice than fear. Learn now to die to the world, that you may then begin to live with Christ (Rom. 6:8). Learn now to forsake all things (Luke 14:33) that you may then freely go to Christ. Chastise your body now by repentance (I Cor. 9:27) that you may then have sure confidence.
Ah, fool, why do you think to live long, when you have not one day that is safe? How many have been deceived and suddenly snatched from the body! How often have you heard them saying, That man has fallen by the sword; that man has drowned; that man by falling from a height has broken his neck; that man died while eating; that man has come to his end while playing! One perished by fire, another by the steel, another of the plague, another at the hands of robbers; and thus death comes to all, and man's life suddenly passes away like a shadow (Job 14:2). Who shall remember you when you are dead?
Do now, my beloved, whatever you are able to do; for you know not when you shall die, neither what shall befall you after your death. While you have time, heap unto yourself everlasting riches (Matt. 6:20; Gal. 6:8). Think on nothing but your salvation; care for nothing but the things of God. Keep yourself as a stranger and pilgrim upon the earth (I Peter 2:11), and as one to whom the affairs of this world do not belong. Keep your heart free, and lifted up to God, because you have here "no continuing city" (Heb. 13:14).
The quotations above are from Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who desires to have a closer communion with Christ and to be an imitator of Christ. The book includes many helpful prayers centred around Christ and His work.

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