Picture Christ

Martin Luther’s advice on preparing to die.
Dennis Ngien
[ posted 4/12/2007 in Christianity Today
I remember an African brother who stood in an evangelistic meeting and told how he was brought to Christ by his dying seven-year-old daughter. One day he heard her praying for his salvation, though she lay in bed debilitated by tuberculosis and malaria.
“Dad, do you believe in God?” she asked as he sat beside her.

“Oh, yes, darling; only a fool would deny God’s existence.”

“If you believe in God, you should also believe in eternal life.”

“Oh, yes; if there is a God, there must be eternal life.”

“But, dad, you don’t have eternal life, for Jesus is not in your heart.”

He reported, “Then my little daughter begged me to kneel beside her deathbed. I recited her words as she prayed for my conversion. ‘O God, let Christ come into my heart. Please save my soul; give me eternal life.'”

Not all Christians face death so courageously. In the past 20 years, I have conducted and preached at more than 150 memorial and funeral services. I have sat beside numerous deathbeds, with people terrified by the sight of the final conflict. For me, it is no wonder that Scripture calls death “the last enemy.”

This brother, now advanced in years, is battling cancer and is face to face with his own death. Knowing how fierce this last battle can be, I sent him one of the most helpful meditation guides I’ve known: Martin Luther’s “A Sermon on Preparing to Die.” In this sermon, Luther provides pastoral counsel to his closest friend, who was troubled by thoughts of death.”

Dennis Ngien came to mind when I thought about the Autumn leaves and what they mean.  Contemplated death is not fun but as Luther said it needs to be done and the practical implications of not doing it are all around us.  We see them in our family and friends.  He first suggests you get all your worldly affairs in order so that in the event of your death, “there won’t be occasion for squabbles, quarrels or other misunderstanding” among the survivors. “Second, we must cheerfully and sincerely forgive, for God’s sake, all men who have offended us” and seek the forgiveness of others we have offended. Then the third thing is “we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us.” Here he makes the interesting comparison between the passage “from the small abode of the mother’s womb into this immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world.” So when we depart this life, which seemed so big after the womb, we pass through another narrow gate into a large mansion and joy will follow.