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Meditating on Death

The world is loud. And crowded. We surround ourselves with people and noise and busyness (you’re likely listening to something while reading this and will probably read something else while reading this, too). The clamor and commotion add up to more than mental flightiness–they add up to a hell-bent distraction from eternal things. Those great things we do and surround ourselves with–all the music and talk shows, all the home improvement and sports–are things the enemy would love to keep flashing in front of our face, like the magician’s waving hands keeping us from seeing life disappear in front of us.

My friend Dave Long reminded college students last night of the incredible and counter-cultural importance of silence. And I say “amen.” Well, I suppose I should think “amen.” But what to do with that silence? May I suggest spending some time meditating on death? Despite how furiously our society avoids real contemplation of the brevity of life, God would have us realize that we are from dust and will return there (Eccl. 3:20), that we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (Jas. 4:14), that we are like flowers of the spring already wilting into the fall (Jas. 1:10), that our days pass away like smoke (Ps. 102:3). Death–both Jesus’ and ours–is a major theme in Scripture: just the one word “death” appears 442 times! Yet many Christians remain distant from this fearful stranger, neglecting to talk about death with their children, neglecting to meditate on and pray about death for the benefit of their souls.

Consider from Thomas Watson (The Christian on the Mount) how meditating on death accomplishes the following:

  1. It pulls down pride–Only by forgetting how transient and temporary we are can we be boastful!
  2. It gives the death-wound to our sin–In considering our end, we will see our sin with greater hatred and fear than ever before.
  3. It bridles intemperance–“…shall I pamper that body which must lie down in the house of rottenness?”
  4. It makes us use time better–pushing us to build eternal things with our temporary life.
  5. It spurs us to pursue holiness.

If you are convinced, here are some hints from Watson on what to think and write about in your meditation:

  1. Meditate on the certainty of death–see Hebrews 9:27
  2. Meditate on the proximity of death–see Psalm 39:5
  3. Meditate on the uncertainty of time–see Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:15ff
  4. Meditate on the fact that, after death, our state is eternally fixed–see Luke 16:26

If we are faithful to meditate on the fact of our life’s end, we will find more and more reason to live eternally and rejoice in our Savior, who died to give us life!

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