Monday, March 13, 2006

Death is loss...
...but oh, what gain!

This past weekend I was ministering in a wonderful church in Greenville, SC. One thing that was unusual and an added blessing, was I had the privilege of meeting several Christian "bikers" at the Sunday morning service. One gentleman in particular, named Dave, came over and introduced himself and we had about ten minutes or so to converse. He had a beautiful fully dressed Harley Davidson Heritage Classic and wore a full set of his best leathers to church as well. He was an articulate, stately man blessed with the most charming tenderhearted southern grace about him. He also had this unmistakable speaking voice that I told him "should be heard on the radio." He graciously smiled and we continued to share stories about family, childhood, faith and ministry. He was very encouraging about the message from Hebrews 2:17 on "The Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross” that I had just finished preaching.

Last evening, about five minutes before the Sunday evening worship concert was to begin, Pastor Scott came up to me and told me of a tragic situation that had just occurred only a few moments earlier. One of the members of the praise team, the organist Rob who I had worked with yesterday morning, was riding his motorcycle to last evening’s service along with Dave and his girlfriend on their bike. As I understand it, the front wheel of Rob's motorcycle nicked the back wheel of Dave's motorcycle and a severe accident resulted. Rob and the woman were injured, but Dave died immediately and went home to be with the Lord.

As most of you know my older brother Norm went home to be with the Lord just two months ago—so the memory of what the Lord recently brought me through in that situation had a profound impact as to the direction of how the evening worship concert and time in the Word unfolded when ministering to these dear people. In light of this situation, I am dedicating the content of the blogs and website today to two articles, one by written by J.I. Packer and the other by C.H. Spurgeon on this theme of the hope of the resurrection for the believer in Christ.

What joy there is to know beloved that in the midst of such heartache and pain, that we do not sorrow in vain; for "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord..." Amen?

May I encourage you to pray for Dave's family and girlfriend today; pray for Rob and the emotional shock he is going through; for Pastor Scott as he ministers to the congregation and community this week; and pray that the Lord will use this tragedy to give opportunity to proclaim His gospel, to show the frailty and “vapor” of this life, to inquire of others “are they ready if their soul was required of them today?”; and to use this sobering event to press upon all our own hearts the great need to keep the eternal things ever dear and near to us as we long to please the Lord and glorify Him in all things.

"Grave where is thy victory, death where is thy sting?"

Grace and peace,
Steve Camp
2 Cor. 5

Jesus Christ was raised from the dead
by J.I. Packer

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (LUKE 24:1-3)

Jesus’ resurrection, which was a divine act involving all three Persons of the Godhead (John 10:17-18; Acts 13:30-35; Rom. 1:4), was not just a resuscitation of the ruined physical frame that was taken down from the cross for burial. It was, rather, a transformation of Jesus’ humanity that enabled him to appear, vanish, and move unseen from one location to another (Luke 24:31, 36). It was the creative renewing of his original body, the body that is now fully glorified and deathless (Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:16, 24). The Son of God in heaven still lives in and through that body, and will do so forever. In 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, Paul envisages that Christians who are alive on earth at the moment of Christ’s return will undergo a similar transformation, though in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 he shows himself aware that Christians who die before the Second Coming will be “clothed” with their new body (the “eternal house in heaven”) as a distinct event, at or after the time of the old body’s return to dust (Gen. 3:19).

Christianity rests on the certainty of Jesus’ resurrection as a space-time occurrence in history. All four Gospels highlight it, focusing on the empty tomb and resurrection appearances, and Acts insists on it (Acts 1:3; 2:24-35; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; 13:33-37). Paul regarded the Resurrection as indisputable proof that the message about Jesus as Judge and Saviour is true (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-11, 20).

Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated his victory over death (Acts 2:24; 1 Cor. 15:54-57), vindicated him as righteous (John 16:10), and indicated his divine identity (Rom. 1:4). It led on to his ascension and enthronement (Acts 1:9-11; 2:34; Phil. 2:9-11; cf. Isa. 53:10-12) and his present heavenly reign. It guarantees the believer’s present forgiveness and justification (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17) and is the basis of resurrection life in Christ for the believer here and now (John 11:25-26; Rom. 6; Eph. 1:18-2:10; Col. 2:9-15; 3:1-4).

From: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." — Philippians 1:21

Surely DEATH is loss.
When I look upon thee, thou clay-cold corpse, and see thee just preparing to be the palace of corruption and the carnival for worms, I cannot think that thou hast gained! When I see that thine eye hath lost light, and thy lip hath lost its speech, and thine ears have lost hearing, and thy feet have lost motion, and thy heart hath lost its joy, and they that look out of the windows are darkened, the grinders have failed, and no sounds of tabret and of harp wake up thy joys, O clay-cold corpse, thou hast lost, lost immeasurably.

And yet my text tells me that it is not so. It says, "To die is gain." It looks as if it could not be thus; and certainly it is not, so far as I can see. But put to your eye the telescope of faith, take that magic glass which pierces through the veil that parts us from the unseen. Anoint your eyes with eyesalve, and make them so bright that they can pierce the ether, and see the unknown worlds. Come, bathe yourself in this sea of light, and live in holy revelation and belief, and then look, and oh, how changed the scene! Here is the corpse, but there the spirit; here is the clay, but there the soul; here is the carcass, but there the seraph. He is supremely blest; his death is GAIN.

Come now, what did he lose? I will show that in everything he lost, he gained far more. He lost his friends, did he? His wife, and his children, his brethren in church fellowship, are all left to weep his loss. Yes, he lost them; but, my brethren, what did he gain? He gained more friends than ever he lost. He had lost many in his lifetime, but he meets them all again. Parents, brethren and sisters who had died in youth or age, and passed the stream before him, all salute him on the further brink. There the mother meets her infant, there the father meets his children, there the venerable patriarch greets his family to the third and fourth generation, there brother clasps brother to his arms, and husband meets with wife, no more to be married or given in marriage, but to live together, like the angels of God.

Some of us have more friends in Heaven than in earth; we have more dear relations in glory than we have here. It is not so with all of us, but with some it is so; more have crossed the stream than are left behind. But if it be not so, yet what friends we have to meet us there!

Oh, I reckon on the day of death if it were for the mere hope of seeing the bright spirits that are now before the throne; to clasp the hands of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, to look into the face of Paul the apostle, and grasp the hand of Peter; to sit in flowery fields with Moses and David, to bask in the sunlight of bliss with John and Mary Magdalene.

Oh how blest! The company of poor, imperfect saints on earth is good; but how much better the society of the redeemed! Death is no loss to us by way of friends. We leave a few, a little band below, and say to them, "Fear not little flock," and we ascend and meet the armies of the living God, the hosts of his redeemed. "To die is gain."

Yes, brethren, "TO DIE IS GAIN."
Take away, take away that hearse, remove that shroud; come, put white plumes upon the horse's heads, and let gilded trappings hang around them. There, take away that fife, that shrill sounding music of the death march. Lend me the trumpet and the drum. O Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah; why weep we the saints gone to glory; why need we lament? They are not dead, they are gone before. Stop, stop that mourning, refrain thy tears, clap your hands, clap your hands... "They are supremely blest, have done with care and sin and woe. And with their Saviour rest."

What! weep! weep for heads that are crowned with coronals of heaven? Weep, weep for hands that grasp the harps of gold? What, weep for eyes that see the Redeemer? What, weep for hearts that are washed from sin, and are throbbing with eternal bliss? What, weep for men that are in the Saviour's bosom?

No; weep for yourselves, that you are here. Weep that the mandate has not come which bids you to die. Weep that you must tarry. But weep not for them. I see them turning back on you with loving wonder, and they exclaim, "Why weepest thou?" What, weep for poverty that it is clothed in riches? What, weep for sickness, that it hath inherited, eternal health? What, weep for shame, that it is glorified; and weep for sinful mortality, that it hath become immaculate? Oh, weep not, but rejoice. "If ye knew what it was that I have said unto you, and whither I have gone, ye would rejoice with a joy that no man should take from you." — "TO DIE IS GAIN."

Ah, this makes the Christian long to die — makes him say, "Oh, that the word were given! O Lord of Hosts, the wave divide, and land us all in heaven!"

And now, friends, does this belong to you ALL?
Can you claim an interest in it? Are you living to Christ? Does Christ live in you? For, if not, your death will not be in gain. Are you a believer in the Saviour? Has your heart been renewed, and your conscience washed in the blood of Jesus? If not, my hearer, I weep for thee. I will save my tears for lost friends; there, with this handkerchief I'd staunch mine eyes forever for my best beloved that shall die, if those tears could save you.

O, when you die, what a day! If the world were hung in sackcloth, it could not express the grief that you would feel. You die. Oh death! Oh death! how hideous art thou to men that are not in Christ! and yet, my hearer, thou shalt soon die. Save me thy bed of shrieks, thy look of gall, thy words of bitterness! Oh that thou couldst be saved the dread hereafter! Oh! the wrath to come! the wrath to come! the wrath to come! who is he that can preach of it?

Horrors strike the guilty soul! It quivereth upon the verge of death; no, on the verge of hell. It looketh over, clutching hard to life, and it heareth there the sullen groans, the hollow moans, and shrieks of tortured ghosts, which come up from the pit that is bottomless, and it clutcheth firmly to life, clasps the physician, and bids him hold, lest he should fall into the pit that burneth. And the spirit looketh down and seeth all the fiends of everlasting punishments, and back it recoileth. But die it must. It would barter all it hath to coin an hour; but no, the fiend hath got its grip, and down it must plunge.

And who can tell the hideous shriek of a lost soul? It cannot reach heaven; but if it could, it might well be dreamed that it would suspend the melodies of angels, might make even God's redeemed weep, if they could hear the wailings of a damned soul. Ah! you men and women, ye have wept; but if you die unregenerate, there will be no weeping like that; there will be no shriek like that, no wail like that. May God spare us from ever hearing it or uttering it ourselves! Oh, how the grim caverns of Hades startle, and how the darkness of night is frighted, when the wail of a lost soul comes up from the ascending flames, whilst it is descending in the pit.

"Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Christ is preached to you. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Believe on him and live, ye guilty, vile, perishing; believe and live. But this know — if ye reject my message, and despise my Master, in that day when he shall judge the world in righteousness by that man, JESUS CHRIST, I must be a swift witness against you. I have told you — at your soul's peril reject it. Receive my message, and you are saved; reject it — take the responsibility on your own head. Behold, my skirts are clear of your blood. If ye be damned, it is not for want of warning. Oh God grant, ye may not perish.


littlegal_66 said...

This is the third such incident I have learned of within the last month that has profoundly impressed upon me just how vaporous & temporal our lives are. In Feb., I learned that the southern gospel music industry said good-bye to one of its most remarkable pianists, Anthony Burger. And last week, the sports world lost former Minnesota Twin, Kirby Puckett.

What is striking to me personally about these deaths is the fact that these individuals were not elderly, or suffering long-term/terminal illnesses, but rather, like me, they were in their forties--and their deaths were sudden and without warning, just as "Dave's" was. (I'm presuming that "Dave" was around this age, as well). You're so right-we do need to strive keep the eternal things near & dear-because eternity itself is probably closer for each of us (respectively) than we realize.

I must say that "Rob" is really weighing heavily on my mind as I think of what he must be going through on this day. I'm praying for all involved, but I'm particularly burdened for "Rob." I can't imagine what he is feeling.

(BTW, I said a short prayer for you, too, Steve-as I was reminded of the similar incident your family experienced so long ago).

donsands said...

Death has no more deadly sting! But it sure is a terrible thing to face in this life, at times. When a family member dies without Christ, it is so incredibly difficult. When one dies in Christ, it's still heavy, but with a sweetness.

Spurgeon has such an astounding way with words! Can not wait to meet him.
Thanks for putting all this together. Excellent toughts for the heart for sure. Rev. 1:18

Mike McIlwain said...

What wonderous and consoling thoughts by two great spitual giants. I was especially encouraged by Spurgeon's word to the saved. I was also great challenged by his warning to the lost. May we be ever vigilant to warn others knowing that the time is short. Dave's family as well as his girlfriend and Rob are in my prayers.

Mike Ratliff said...

The following verse is one of my favorites.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
(Psalms 116:15 ESV)

The believer's view of death should be one of victory rather than loss.

Mike Ratliff

donsands said...

mike r,
I would say it's both, victory & loss. But I know what your saying.

There's no way to simplify the death of a loved one, especially if it's a child.
A couple in my church lost their 5 year old son a few years back, when he was playing on the swing set in their back yard and he became entangle around his throat with a rope as he went down the slide.
There's is nothing that I have seen like the excruciating emotional pain these parents had to endure.
The Lord was there, the truth was evident, but the relentless suffering from the death of this dear son was unbearable.
The Lord allowed me to be a spiritual buffer, and an encouragement of our hope in Christ, but it was such a tragic loss.
The mother is now serving the Lord with such faith, and a zeal for the glory of her Lord, that it truly humbles me.
And what hunbles me more than that is that our Father in heaven allowed His Son, whom He loved with a perfect love, to die the death He died for sinners like us.
John 3:16-17

Michele Rayburn said...

Dear Steve,

The Lord put it on my heart to pray for your ministry this week especially, and for your safety. But you never want to think of something like this happening.

Our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to all involved. And may God comfort you, also, Steve.

I am sure you were a blessing to that church at a time when they needed it most.

Love and prayers,
Michele (and Terry and Michael)

Mike Ratliff said...


I agree with you completly. I was referring to the believer's own death.

Yes, I have had friends who have lost children. It is a terrible thing to outlive your children. I have seen that thing in families that I love very much. They love the Lord, but that doesn't keep the unthinkable from happening sometimes.

On the other hand I want to be with my Lord more than anything. That desire is so deep I cannot really express it so I will leave it with that.

Mike Ratliff

donsands said...

"the believers own death"

Yes. We're on the identical page.
God bless.

4given said...

It will be an honor to pray.

Well said Donsands.

Thank you for a window into your heart Steve.

STrider24-7-365 said...

I want to share a little information about this accident from the perspective as a full time motorcyclist. I read the write up in the Greenville News (I live in Greenville, SC) and wanted to share the fact that Dave was not wearing a helmet, which in all likelihood would have saved his life, as his passenger was wearing one and she escaped with minor injuries.

For the story:

It is sad to hear of a fellow motorcyclist losing their life on the road. Whether it is because of a cager not seeing them (left hand turn in front of an oncoming motorcyclist is the number one accident and cause of death in a collision for the motorcyclist) or a bike to bike accident, it does not make it any easier to see a rider go down.

Sad to say, SC has more than it's share of motorcyclists dying because of two reasons primarily... our driver's are some of the worst in the nation (the statistics bear that out) and because we do not have a helmet law. But as long as the HD crowd are the primary driving force in the motorcycling community, I don't see this changing anytime soon.

My condolences to David's family and my prayer is that his loved ones realize he died doing what he love doing, keeping the rubber side down.