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Fear of Death Conquered Forever

Fear of Death Conquered Forever

April 20, 2003 | Andrew Davis
Hebrews 2:14-15
Resurrection of Christ

sermon transcript

Endlessly Looking to Kill Death

Take your Bibles and look with me if you would at Hebrews 2. We'll be focusing on two verses, verses 14 and 15, taking a break from our series in Matthew to zero in on the triumph of Jesus Christ. I often wonder what it would have been like to have been there that first Easter morning, to be with the women that saw the angels, that saw the first evidence of Christ's resurrection. To look at the Roman soldiers that were lying like stones on the ground, terrified because of the angel that had come to move the stone. I wonder what it would have been like to be with Peter and John as they ran to that tomb and looked in and saw what they alone were privileged to see compared to us, they being eyewitnesses, apostles of his resurrection, that they might see the actual physical artifacts of his resurrection, to look at the cloth that covered his body, to look at the cloth that had been wrapped around his head and to see it, and to know that they still didn't understand from scripture that Christ had to rise from the dead but that they would soon be witnesses, even at the cost of their own life, witnesses of this very fact around the world. Wouldn't that have been something?

But you know, whatever joy there would be in seeing that is nothing compared to the joy that you will have when you see him face to face, looking at him as a lamb who had been slain from the foundation of the world, and realize that those wounds bought your passage to heaven. And so, it's a great privilege to stand in front of you and get you to think today about the treasure that we have from the cross and from the empty tomb. And we're only gonna consider one part of it, and I'm gonna zero in on this one concept in Hebrews, namely that Christ's resurrection has and should free every child of God forever from fear of death. That we're not slaves anymore to fear of death. 

Canterbury Tales

A long, long time ago, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales and it's a story of a number of pilgrims that were traveling on their way to Canterbury and each one got to tell two stories. And there is one in particular that I found noteworthy, and it was “The Pardoner's Tale.” This is a religious man who goes around proclaiming the gospel, and he had a story to tell. It was a tale of three highwaymen who had just found out that their fence, the man that they sold their stolen goods to, had died of the Black Plague, and his family as well.

So the fence, his wife and his children all had died of the Black Death. And they were indignant about this, furious as a matter of fact, and they resolved that they were going to hunt down Death and kill him. They're gonna chase him down. One of them said this, “I don't see what gives death the right to go carrying off anyone. If you ask me, it's about time that some brave soul stood up to death and put an end to his carryings on or should I say carryings off. Let's take an oath, friends, not to rest until we've tracked down this Death fellow and stuck a knife between his ribs. Think of what the mayor and the parish will pay if we can bring Death's corpse and lay it down here. Besides, how many purses do you think he's captured along the way? He must have quite a walletful by now.” So motivated by pride and by hope at gain, at greed probably, they tramped off full of indignation, ready to hunt down Death and kill him, then no one would have to fear Death anymore.

Well, as they travelled, they saw an old man up ahead of the road and they had a sense that this might be death, and they went up and they asked him if he was Death. And they looked at him, but then they realized just how feeble he looked, he looked old and wizened, and it seemed there's no way he could have this kind of power. And the man answered, he said, “I wish I were dead, be freed from the burden of this old body that I carry around all the time, but actually, I just saw Death over there by that oak tree. If you hurry up, you can catch up to him.” Well, they went over to the oak tree and they didn't find Ceath there but they tripped over a pot of gold, a huge pot of gold, the wealth of seven lifetimes. And they immediately forgot their errand, their mission, and started thinking about how they would divide the plunder, the gold. And they sent the youngest one into town to buy some wine to celebrate where the other two stayed behind. And as he was gone, the two of them said, “You know, it'd be much better to split it two ways rather than three. So I'll tell you what, let's jump this guy when he comes back and then we can just divide it two ways.”

Meanwhile, the younger one's in town and buys three bottles of wine but he gets to thinking about his two partners, and he buys some rat poison and pours it into two of the bottles but marks his own bottle very clearly. It's very late at night by the time he comes back and finds his former partners there, and he's already drinking from his marked bottle of wine. The two of them jump him and kill him with a knife, and then take the two unopened bottles of wine and begin to celebrate. In the morning, Death came to reclaim his pot of gold. He wrapped it up in the miserable rags of his decaying cloak, close to his gappy ribs. The three corpses under the oak tree made no move to stop him and he left them to a wealth of flies and crows before continuing his endless journey. The heavy pot of gold weighed light in his arms for though his bones were dry and his muscles were like the withered tendrils of a grape-less vine, his strength was immense for he could carry off the biggest or strongest of men even though like any man or beast, he could never carry off himself.

Now that would take someone stronger than death, wouldn't it? That would take the man, Christ Jesus. That would take him, Jesus Christ, to conquer death and he had to pay a price to do it, didn't he? He had to die. And that's what we celebrate today. We celebrate the death of Death in the death of Jesus Christ, and we celebrate the triumph that we have through Christ that we will never fear death again.

Worldwide Cultures: Many Differences, One Great Unifier

Now, as we look around the world, we see a lot of things that unify cultures. The world is getting to be a smaller place, isn't it? And little by little, we start to see those things that are common to us. There are differences, that's true, differences in food, differences in customs and culture, differences in dress, in world view and in architecture, certainly these things, but there is this one unifying factor, the inevitability of death.

If you were to go to the distant mist-covered valleys of Irian Jaya, a mysterious island which is huge and has many uncharted areas, do you think you would find a valley somewhere where people have found the secret to conquering death? I'd tell you no. Or if you went into the outback of Australia, would you find a small group of aborigines that had that secret whereby we could live forever? The answer is no. Suppose you went up to the northern country of the Laplanders where the Finns live, do you think that those frozen people have found also the secret to surviving death, living forever? The answer is no. How about in the teeming metropolises of Asia, do you think you could go down an alley and find an old oriental man who knew something about herbs and special homeopathic medicines, and he would be able to tell you the secret of living forever? You know the answer is no.

No matter where we go all over this sin-cursed world, you're going to find the same thing and that is slavery to death. We're all under the same death sentence and there is no escape apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. So also in history, it's not like the secret at one point was known and now we've lost it. Ponce de León was searching for the waters of eternal life down in Florida and he never found them. He found many other things and eventually became the governor in Puerto Rico, but he never found the waters that would enable you to live forever.

And we in our 21st century technology, we're seeking a way that we can defeat death through surgery, perhaps, or through certain types of medicines and all of this hasn't done one thing to extend our life beyond the 70 or 80 years that God has ordained. The fact of the matter is that death is inevitable, and our text shows us the only way we can escape fear of death and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

Fear of Death is Natural for Slaves of Sin

Now I'm gonna look at four things this morning out of the text. The first is that fear of death is natural, and I would say appropriate, for those that are in slavery to sin. Fear of death is natural for slaves of sin. Look at verse 15, it says that Christ came to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

From the Beginning, It Was Not So

Now from the beginning, it was not so. Death was not originally part of the plan in Eden for Adam and Eve. Spurgeon put it this way, “It is a very natural thing that man should fear to die for man was not originally created to die. When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden, they were in such a condition that they might have remained there for myriad years if they had kept their integrity. There was no reason why unfallen man should die. But now that we have sinned, the seeds of corruption are in this flesh of ours and it is appointed unto man once to die. Yet as if the body knew that it was not according to the first decree of heaven that it should go to the earth and to the worm, it has a natural reluctance to return to its final bed.”

What Spurgeon is saying there is that it doesn't feel like the way it should have been. We have a sense of a yearning to go back to Eden in one sense. “God has,” it says in Ecclesiastes 3, “set eternity in the hearts of men.” And so, we have a sense that we should live forever, and that death is really a shockingly unwelcome intruder, very much like the explosion that took the lives of the men and women on the Columbia, so there's a sense of explosion and a ripping into life when death intrudes. A sense that it's wrong, it's unwelcome.

Why Death a Source of Terror

Why is death therefore a source of terror? Why a source of fear? First, because of death's power. The grip of death cannot be broken. When death has a hold, it cannot be broken. There's a sense of the pillage of death. What does death steal from us? It takes everything earthly from us, relationships and possessions. It steals from us what is most precious. The pain of death also; we could be afraid of the very process of dying. What's it going to be like? What's it gonna feel like to actually go through the process of dying? Then there's the permanence of death, the fact that it can't be reversed. The things that are lost through death are lost forever and we can't get them back. The loved one is gone and we will never see them again in this world. But above all these, I think, there's the penalty of death, isn't there? For it is appointed unto man to die once and after that judgment. And I think that, in our heart of hearts, is what we fear the most or should if we're slaves to sin.

Fear of Death of Some Benefit to the World

Now, fear of death can be of some benefit in the world. I think it gives incredible courage to men, let's say on a battlefield, to strive greatly because they don't want to die or it gives ingenuity to drug manufacturers to find a way that we could defeat a disease like SARS, for example, or some other disease and it gives them motivation and a drive, probably the greatest use of the fear of death is to bring people to saving faith in Christ, that they might realize that they're under a death sentence and that life is uncertain. They don't ever know when they're going to die and so they should today close with Christ, to come to faith in Christ because they don't even know if they'll be alive tomorrow.

Fear of Death Natural to Slaves of Sin

But I say to you that fear of death is natural and appropriate to those who are slaves to sin. Verse 15, Christ came to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” That's a strong word, isn't it, that we were slaves to fear of death? Why is that? Because the wages of sin, according to Romans 1:32, are well-known. Romans 1:32 says, “Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” And so they feel, inside their hearts, a death sentence for their sin. They know that they deserve it. Now they may harden their heart, they may steer their conscience but inside they know that there's a death penalty for sin.

Romans 2:15, Paul says, “Since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” So there's a sense of fear of death because they know they're under a condemnation, that the law speaks against them. It speaks wrath and punishment. Hebrews 10:27 speaks of “a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” This is what they fear, this is the fear of death and it's natural for those that are slaves to sin, it's appropriate actually.

Now, some worldly people do what they can with the fear of death. They'll use philosophy, they'll use bad theology or false religion, they'll use humor, they'll use many things to try to escape their fear of death.

I’ve witnessed to people before that I thought should be afraid of death. I've talked to them of the gospel and they didn't know Christ and had no interest. And they were absolutely fearless, had no concern whatsoever for death. I thought they should have. I don't know what philosophy or way of thinking has gotten them to turn away from this natural fear of death but they do it.

Greek philosopher Epicurus said, “Men, believing in myths, will always fear something terrible, everlasting punishment as certain or probable. Men base all these fears not on mature opinions but on irrational fancies. So they are more disturbed by fear of the unknown than by facing facts. Peace of mind lies in being delivered from these fears.” Epicurus would say through philosophy, through realizing it's all a myth. Yes, we die but after that, there's nothing, there's no judgment. Don't worry about what your conscience says, don't be concerned about that. And so, through philosophy, they can get rid of fear of death.

Some do it through humor, like Mark Twain. Mark Twain said that we should go to heaven for the climate and to hell for the company. Well, that's clever Mark or Samuel. But the fact of the matter is, there really isn't any company in hell. It's a place of darkness, a place where there's nothing good, a place of suffering, and there's all good things in heaven. But he's trying to dispense with it through humor. It's very funny. What is he saying? He's saying, “I don't like church people.” That's what he's really saying. “I don't like being with them, I like to be with those like me but I'm kind of afraid of that heat thing that is going on there in heaven or in hell. So I'd rather be in heaven for the climate but I'm gonna go to hell for the company.” That's what he's saying. And so, he's dispensing with the fear of death through humor.

Others do it through a way of thinking like the kamikaze pilots of World War II who were sure that they would have a glorious death if they would die that way in battle or Islamic fighters in a jihad will go right into heaven if they will die on the battlefield. And so, they dispense with fear of death through bad theology or bad understanding. But fear of death is natural for slaves of sin.

The Devil Held the Power of Sin and Death

Power to Murder the Body Directly

Second, the devil held the power of sin and death. It speaks in verse 14, “of him who holds the power of death, that is the devil.” Now the devil has power to murder the body directly, he has that power. If the Lord permitted him, he could kill you today. Jesus said in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And putting together what Christ just said a moment ago, he's a murderer and the father of murderers. The Greek word there is man-slayer. He kills human beings.

And so, when he came in the book of Job to the throne of God, God had to restrain him from this, you remember? He said, “You can take any of his possessions but you can't touch the man himself.” And Satan had to obey God's command. And then the second time, Satan comes back and says, “Skin for skin, a man will give anything he wants for his life, anything he owns for his life.” And so, God says, “Okay, you can touch his body but you can't -” Do what? “You can't take his life.” Does that not clearly imply that the devil has power to murder? He has the power to kill physically. And so therefore, I think the devil is behind every murder that there's ever been.

In one sense, he's responsible broadly for every death that there ever has been because death entered the world through sin, and sin entered the world through the temptation of the devil. And so, he's the father of everyone that's ever died, of every infant that's died in a third world country of starvation or of a lack of medical care, of everyone that's ever died of AIDS in Africa, of every young man in one of our cities that dies in a gang sling, a drug-related incident. He's the murderer of every 68-year-old man who dies of a heart attack. In one sense, the devil killed us all. He had the power of death.

Power to Murder the Soul Indirectly

But he also has the power to murder the soul indirectly through temptation and sin, doesn't he? You see, the devil's under a sentence and he knows it. He knows his time is short, and so he's under the sentence of hell, of the lake of fire, and what he has been doing is drawing us into his condemnation. He did it right from the garden, to draw us into his sin, into his rebellion and into his condemnation. And in this way, he seeks to kill the soul.

The world system around us is designed to entice us to follow him that we might also be like him, a sinner. Therefore, it says in 1 John, chapter 2, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, comes not from the father, but from the world.” And also, it says in James 1:14 and 15, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then when sin is fully-grown, it gives birth to death.” And so, the devil seeks to be a soul-murderer as well. The devil's greatest goal of all is to keep people from understanding the gospel by blinding their minds so that they cannot understand or see the light and the glory, the knowledge of God in the face of Christ, so he seeks to murder their souls that way.

Power Far Too Great for Us

And you know, his power is too great for any one of us or all of us put together. Martin Luther knew that in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” This is what he said, “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work his woe, his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” And so the devil held the power of sin and death.

Christ Destroyed the Devil to Deliver the Slaves

First Step: Commitment by Christ to Love the Children of God

Thirdly, Christ destroyed the devil in order that he might deliver the slaves. Now this is the beauty of it all. If you stop and think about it, we have, as Christians, two great religious holidays: Christmas and Easter, what I call Resurrection Day. The two are joined in this text. Do you see it? Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation of Christ, that he came to earth and took on a human body. Look what it says again in our text, verse 14 and 15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” And so at Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus took on a flesh-and-blood body.

At Easter, we celebrate why he did it, that he might lay it down on the cross and take it back up again through the empty tomb. And so we see the two together. But there are steps to this, how he destroyed the devil. The first step was a heavenly commitment that Christ made to love us. He set his love upon us. His passion was to rescue his people from sin and from death. I was reading recently a quote from Dorothy Sayers, who lived earlier in the 20th century, talking about the seven deadly sins, and she zeroed in on the sin of sloth. And this is what she said, “In the world, it's called tolerance.” That's a popular word these days, isn't it? Tolerance. “But in hell, it's called despair.” Now listen to what she says about this tolerance. “It is the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”

Does that characterize some of your neighbors? I think it does. This is an apathetic age we live in. We're always showing our coolness by saying, “Oh well, it doesn't matter.” Just life goes on. There's nothing we would die for. How different is Christ from that. How passionately different is Christ from that whole list. I'll go over the list, but put Christ in. Christ believes in the Father's glory for his children. He cares for his children. He interferes with the devil's power of death. He enjoys the eternal consummation of his children in glory. He loves his children enough to take on flesh and blood, he hates sin and death, he finds purpose in his father's plan, he lives for his children, and for all of this treasure, he is joyfully willing to die. That's the passion of our Christ. And it started in heaven before he ever took on a human body. And so he had to share with us, since the children have flesh and blood, he also had to have flesh and blood. He wanted to be with us. And what that meant was taking on weakness, taking on fatigue, taking on hunger, taking on temptation, taking on all of these things, and ultimately, taking on mortality, taking on death.

Second Step: Choice by Christ to Partake in Their Humanity

And so Christ does all of this. He shares in our flesh and blood, he partakes in it. It's one of the things that knits us together, isn't it? Around the world. John F. Kennedy gave a speech on June 10th, 1963, at American University, a very famous speech during the time when he was addressing the escalating Cold War with Soviet Russia. And this is what Kennedy said, he said, “For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal.” Jesus stepped into that mortality. He took on flesh and blood. He did it for a purpose that he might destroy the devil by dying.

Third Step: Conquest by Christ of the Devil on Behalf of the Children of God

Now recently, I was doing a Bible study with my kids, and we were going over the story of Samson. We actually read the whole story of Samson on one Saturday. It was very enjoyable. I mean, Samson's quite a character. But on the way to his wedding, do you remember the story? He sees a lion there, a lion jumps at him, and he attacks the lion and kills it. Sometime later he walks by and the carcass is there, and inside the carcass, there's a swarm of bees and they've made honey in the carcass. Now that is strange, isn't it? Would you have eaten the honey out of the carcass? I wouldn't have done it, but Samson did. He scooped it in his hand and got some honey out and was eating it as he went on his way and gave some to his parents, but he didn't tell them where he'd gotten it from. Good thing, they would have - I guess that was before germ theory, so they probably would've kept eating. But it's just a strange thing, very strange.

As a matter of fact, it's so strange that it gave Samson an idea of how to plunder his enemies, the Philistines. He said, “Okay, I'll make a bet with you. I'm gonna tell you a riddle, and if you can answer my riddle, then I'll give you 30 changes of clothes, but if you can't, then you have to give them to me, 30 changes.” They said, “Tell us the riddle.” And do you remember his riddle? “Out of the eater, something to eat, out of the strong -” What? “something sweet.” How did they do with the riddle? Very poorly. Very poorly. They had to nag his wife until finally she got it out of him, and then the whole thing went that way.

But I started thinking about Samson's riddle. Isn't that what Jesus has done at the cross and at the tomb? Out of the eater. What eats us? The corruption in the grave. It destroys us, it takes everything we have, it destroys everything we have. Out of the eater, something to eat. And what is that? The bread of life, that we might have eternal life and live forever. And out of the strong, what is stronger than death? Well, the Bible says love is stronger than death. Something sweet, eternal life. Isn't that wonderful, Samson's riddle? Bet you never heard another interpretation of Samson's riddle, but there it is. Christ is able to destroy the strength and the power and the plundering of the grave, but he only does it one way, by submitting to it. He goes through it.

Fourth Step: Deliverance of the Children Forever from Fear of Death

Now his body isn't corrupted, that's protected by Psalm 16, but he's going to go through that grave and out of it comes a triumph, and in this way, he destroys the devil. How does he destroy the devil? By taking from the devil any accusation he can launch at us at judgment day. All of those sins have been paid for, every last one. We're justified through the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. And so it says in Romans 4:24, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification,” Verse 14, “so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil.” And so Jesus is the living one, he holds the keys of death and Hades, and he lives forever and ever. Christ the conqueror has won the victory, and he's given us the spoils.

Fear of Death Unnatural for Children of God

What is the fourth point? Well, fear of death is unnatural, therefore, for the children of God. It's unnatural. Now, I didn't say it's unheard of. I've actually seen children of God die poorly. I don't understand it. I don't understand it. I don't know why it is. Why should we die poorly? We should be ready to die. We should be eager in one sense to die. Reluctant as Paul was in Philippians, that his earthly service and the benefits that come to earthly people would end, and that's reasonable, but glad to go in the presence of Christ. Because Christ has set his eternal love on us as his dear children. Because Christ was willing to be a partaker with us of our flesh and blood nature. Because Christ, gladly, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame. Because Christ thereby destroyed the devil and all of his accusations against us, and we are free forever from condemnation because of his death, because Christ has therefore delivered us from the devil's dark kingdom, because of all of this, fear of death is unnatural and inappropriate, wrong for a child of God.

Now it still happens, you've read Pilgrim's Progress, you know there's two that cross the river, Christian and Hopeful, and one of them does very well, Hopeful, and one of them does very poorly, Christian. He can't feel his feet under him, and he's struggling, and before they even get in the river, they ask the angel, “Is there no other way?” They said, “There's no other way. You've gotta go through it to get to the Celestial Kingdom. You've got to die.” And he said, “Well, how deep is it?” And the angel said, “I cannot tell.” He said, “What do you mean you cannot tell?” He says, “It'll be deep or shallow to you in proportion to your faith in the king of that place. The stronger your faith is, the easier the process.” And so Hopeful is going right through, and Christian is all he can do, not to be swamped through doubt and despair and through the false accusations of the devil. So it is true that Christians sometimes die poorly, but they don't need to. They don't need to.

A year ago, I read a series of quotes about how some of our brothers and sisters have died and I wanna finish with those. Spurgeon said, “Every day Christ is overcoming death, for he gives his Spirit to his saints, and having that Spirit within them, they confront death with songs. They face death with a calm countenance and they fall asleep in peace. ‘I will not fear thee, death. Why should I? You look like a dragon, but your sting is gone.’ For these saints, to die has been so different a thing from what they expected it to be, so lightsome, so joyous, they have been so unloaded of all care, have felt so relieved instead of burdened, that they have wondered whether this could actually be the monster they've been afraid of all their days. They find it a pin's prick when they feared it would be a sword thrust. It is the shutting of the eye on earth and the opening of the eye in heaven.” Isn't that a great quote?

Thomas Goodwin said, “Ah, is this dying? How have I dreaded as an enemy this smiling friend.” William Preston, “Blessed be God, though I shall change my place, I shall not change my company.” So much for Mark Twain, he's gonna stay in the same company, right on into heaven. Charles Wesley, “I shall be satisfied with thy likeness, satisfied, satisfied. Oh, what a beautiful way to die.” Adoniram Judson, this is probably my favorite quote, “I'm not tired of my work, neither am I tired of this world, yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away on the last day of school.” Remember that feeling, final day of school? The joy of being free. So that's what it's gonna be like for me. John Pawson says, “I know I am dying, but my deathbed is actually a bed of roses. Heaven for me has already begun.” And then one other, William Everett just said, “Glory, glory, glory,” for 25 minutes till he died. Don't you wanna die like that? So filled with faith and trust in what Christ has done at the cross and at the empty tomb, that you go right into the presence of God with, it seems almost hardly a hitch.


How then shall we conquer fear of death?

How can we do this? How can we conquer fear of death? First, you have to be a Christian. I mean, there's no escaping it. You've got to be a believer in Christ through faith or none of the encouragement I've given this morning is for you, none of it. You've got to come to Christ.

Secondly, you have to consider that the devil's power over you has been broken forever. It has no right to accuse. Christ's blood has been shed and all sin is forgiven. Thirdly, therefore, we should value the blood of Christ as sufficient forever to cover all your sins and those with a thousand worlds besides. It's enough. You're justified.

Fourth, you should look on death as the finish to a race well run. And then fifth, you should run the race well. You should keep your conscience clear and do the things that God's commanded you to do. Be faithful to use your spiritual gifts. Run the race well with endurance, lay aside the hindrances of sin and that which so easily entangles us.

And sixth, you should grow constantly in Christ-like character. 2 Peter 1, it says, “Therefore my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Seventh, celebrate frequently the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

And eighth, saturate your mind in scripture. Just keep going over the promises of God again and again, and you will face death unafraid, unafraid. And any burden that the actual process of death brings you through, Christ's power within you will be more than sufficient to meet.

Well, what should we do with such a fearlessness? Now that we're this fearless, what should we do with it? Well, I think we should be willing to lay down our lives for Christ here on earth. I think a very specific example, I know that some of us are considering going overseas even to Asia as missionaries. And you know, you've heard in the news about SARS and the danger there is, and I'm not saying we should or shouldn't go, that's going to have to be a decision that we make, but we should be unafraid, unafraid. That's all I'm saying. It gets very specific, doesn't it? We have to be willing to lay down our lives as witnesses for Christ, even to face unafraid something like SARS, the great unknown. And that's just a symbol, isn't it, for anything that would hold us back from being witnesses for Christ and serving him in this world. With this fearlessness, our brothers and sisters in Christ have conquered the world up to this point and so shall we.

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