I once was a monitor-tech, reading and interpreting heart arrhythmias in a cardiac unit. To prepare for the tests to get certified, one of the text-books raised the question: “What is life?” This was the question after a long chapter on how the electricity is conducted through the heart, explaining that the beginning place is a self-conducting sinus atrial node (SA Node) in the top part of the right atrium; this is where the electricity begins. “And what sends electricity to the SA Node?” This was the next question in a standard text-book on cardiology. The answer to this two-part question: “Only God knows.” There was no text-book explanation for what starts the electrical stimulus in the heart to beat. The electricity is just there. “That’s Life” as one doctor put it.
Now, to look upon a dead person and observe such lifeless existence rattles the brain. And it should. Intuitively, we know that death is not right. Something is wrong. We accept it – we have to, but at the same time our insides scream: STOP – This is not the way it’s supposed to be!!
This raises a query: Why do we want death to stop if it is a normal part of human existence? Did you catch the operative word in that last question? Though evolutionary theory wants us to believe that death is a “normal” part of the upward path to higher living, we just can’t bring ourselves to accept it no matter how many elementary teachers and high school teachers and college teachers told us otherwise. I hate death and you can’t make me feel good about death no matter how many sympathy cards you send me. Death will never feel normal!
This brings us to what I believe is the hardest confession known to man to pay homage to: Man refuses to acknowledge that he can’t be God and be Man at the same time. It was a delicious offer, but it was a lie then and it still is now.
The devil ghoulishly proposed to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Though the woman had some fortitude to speak up and tell the truth, that God said we will die if we disobey, Adam was too passive to make the truth stick and protect their lives. They rebelled. They ate. They tried to live without God. They died. Now we all die. The tantalizing offer to be like God was a sham.
When God warned with death that if you commit mutiny against all of his joy, his love, his gifts, his eternal life, his protection for your life – when you throw all this away and attempt to live forever on your own strength and self-preservation, you will surely die.
I think about these things every time I attend a funeral:
1. Death is an appropriate opposite experience compared to what we could have had. For God to show us what we lost it took more than a time out, or an “off to your room with no supper” discipline. How else is God to demonstrate the level of exquisite Life with God that we could have had if he does not respond with the most painful and mind-numbing experience that man could know? God uses death to show us what we lost with him. Death is a universal megaphone that shouts in agony, “What have we done???”
2. Death is an appropriate response to our mutiny against God. What we did in the garden and what Man still does with unregenerated heart is treason against God. Our refusal to turn to Jesus Christ who rose from the dead to give life to all who will come to him, is STILL, an all-out assault upon the God who created the heavens and the earth. In his and her rebellion to turn to the Giver of Life, men and women believe the old putrid lie that Man can live as God on his own terms. I believe if God sent his Son Jesus to earth today, with unmistakable glorious identity and presence, and offered mankind eternal life with joy and peace and no death, IF – he would love Jesus with all his heart, Man would attempt to kill him again by his own hands, if he could. (Rev. 17:14).
3. Death is unquestionable proof that I am not God. And that’s the point, for now. One day even Death itself will be put to death (Rev. 20:14). In the presence of Christ in the new heavens and new earth, nothing contrary to the person of the Triune God will ever again insult his Majesty. Never again will there be a just response from a Holy God that will demonstrate how horrible it is to “go it alone” without God. Man cannot live without God. There is no self-generating Life in Man. One day, the selfishness will stop.
Death is all around us. It’s even in our bones. But if you are reading this it means you’re alive – God is being merciful to you! Today is a good day to be alive – it’s a day to say no to the lie and believe the truth, that only in Christ there is hope for Eternal Life (John 3:16). You cannot be God. But you can live with him forever. Won’t you join me?