This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on October 21, 2016.
My late mother-in-law’s favorite hymn was I’ll Fly Away. This great old song, which was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1932, expresses the joy and anticipation that Christians have over the prospects of going home to be with the Lord. The lyrics soar with the upbeat tempo of the music and the singers are transported from the dreariness of earthly life to the very edge of Paradise. One cannot sing these words without a smile, because as we sing them we are grasping a glimpse of the joy that awaits the faithful.
The words of the song say, “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; to a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away. When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll fly away; like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away. Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away; to a land where joys shall never end, I’ll fly away.” The chorus completes the picture: “I’ll fly away, O glory, I’ll fly away; When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.”
Death is the separation of the spirit from the body. The spirit is what animates the body, and when the spirit departs, the body ceases to live. Everyone who has ever lived has experienced, or will experience, this separation of spirit and body. However, not everyone who dies “flies away” in the way described in this beautiful song. The Lord’s teaching about the rich man and Lazarus in Lk. 16:19-31 bears this out. As the Lord taught this great lesson, He said that the poor man Lazarus died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (v. 22). The rich man’s death, on the other hand, was described very differently in the same verse. The Lord said, “And the rich man died and was buried.”
The poor beggar Lazarus flew away, as it were, because the angels carried his soul to Paradise. There he was comforted after a lifetime of toil and affliction (v. 25). The implication is that Lazarus had lived a godly life, and for this reason his death was a transition to the waiting place of the righteous dead. He flew away from all the bad things of life, to a taste of the eternal reward awaiting all the redeemed.
The rich man, however, found himself in torment (v. 23). There he began to experience the reward for his ungodly life. The Lord said that the rich man was “in agony in this flame” (v. 24). Not only this, but he was in a place from which he could not pass, and to which no one in Paradise could go (v. 26). The rich man’s death was a transition to the place of the unrighteous dead, where there is no hope, and no relief.
The lesson for each of us is that we have to live a particular kind of life if we hope to “fly away” when we die. The kind of life we must lead is revealed in the lesson of the rich man and Lazarus. As the rich man pleaded with Abraham to send someone back to warn his five brothers, Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” For a first century Jew, the phrase “Moses and the Prophets” was shorthand for the scriptures, by which they could stand justified before God. For us today, Abraham’s words point us to the revealed word of God, the Bible, which is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21).
If we hear the words of Scripture, and obey those words, we can look forward in joyful anticipation to the end of our earthly sojourn. If we have shown our love for the Lord by obeying His commandments (Jn. 14:15), our souls will be secure, just as Lazarus’ was. Then we can, in fact, sing, “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away”, and it will be the truth.
*My sweet mother-in-law, Louise Forrister, flew away to Paradise on October 17, 2016.
One of our old favorite hymns is the beautiful, Just As I Am. This hymn was written by Charlotte Elliott in 1834 and has been a standard in many hymnals ever since. The lyrics portray the wretched condition of people in sin who are seeking relief. With all their guilt, with all their remorse, with all their sorrows, penitent sinners humbly come to the Lord for redemption. It is a song of hope which has long been used at the close of sermons to invite and urge sinners to respond to the gospel.
As wonderful as this great old hymn is, a recent adaptation of it has given even more power to its theme. In 2009 a talented songwriter added this refrain: “I come broken to be mended, I come wounded to be healed. I come desperate to be rescued, I come empty to be filled. I come guilty to be pardoned by the blood of Christ the Lamb, and I’m welcomed with open arms, Praise God, just as I am.”
This refrain captures the biblical truth of the penitent soul seeking redemption. We come to the Lord for salvation, because we are not able to save ourselves. We come to the Lord for salvation, because there is no other from whom we may receive it. This is what Peter said in Acts 4:12 — “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
We come, “just as I am”, but we come in order to be changed into someone better than we have been. We are broken by sin, and we come to the Lord to be mended as only He can do. We have been wounded by our sins and by life, and we come for the touch of His healing hand. We are desperate to be saved from our sins, and only He can rescue us from eternal condemnation. Our lives in sin are empty, no matter how much of the world’s goods we may possess, and only the Lord can fill us with the only thing of lasting value. We are guilty because of our sins, and we come to the Lord to receive pardon by the power of His blood, which was shed on Calvary to atone for the sins of the world.
The glorious bottom line is that we don’t have to clean up our act in order to come to the Lord. We come, just as we are, stained and dirty because of our sins, and the Lord takes us in that condition. He takes us, just as we are, in order to cleanse us from sin in the waters of baptism (Acts 22:16). He takes us to cleanse us so we will rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). He takes us so we no longer will be “just as I am”, but will be a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).
One cannot sing these words without coming face to face with both the reality of his sins, and with the need to become something different in order to inherit eternal life. The Lord did not shed His precious blood so we can falsely claim His name, and then continue to live in sin. In Rom. 6:1-2 Paul said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Instead, the Lord shed His blood so we would be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and would no longer be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2). The Lord wants us to come, just as we are, so we will appreciate the change that only His blood can effect in our soul’s condition.
“Just as I am! Without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee. Just as I am! And waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot. Just as I am! Tho’ tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, with fears within, and foes without. Just as I am! Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
Let this be our anthem, and our goal each and every day until the Lord brings us home.
In the scriptures light is used as a symbol of goodness and righteousness. Darkness, on the other hand, is used as a symbol of wickedness. In Gen. 1:3 we learn that the source of physical light is God. The scripture says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” In the same way, God is the source of spiritual light. In the gospel of John this light is described in this way, speaking of Jesus: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines into the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.” In 1 Tim. 6:15b-16 Paul added this description of the Lord: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
God our Father, and Jesus His Son, are the source of spiritual light. They are the epitome of all that is light in a spiritual sense. They are sinless and perfect in every respect, and there is not one shred of darkness even remotely connected with them. Their presence in light, and as light, is in Paul’s words, unapproachable for us as human beings, except for the grace of God which makes this light available to us. We enter into this light when we obey the gospel by being baptized into Christ to have our sins washed away, just as Paul himself did. In Acts 22:16 the preacher Ananias told him, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
As children of God, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 1:5), we live in the light of God as we travel through life. The scriptures contrast our life in the light to the darkness in which the unbelievers and disobedient live. This is why our daily lives are characterized as walking in the light. In 1 Jn. 1:5-10 John said, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
With these words John captures the essence of what being a Christian is. We are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, because we still sin (vs. 7-10). We are not perfect, but we are forgiven, because we walk in the light. That is, we are striving every day to follow the example of our Lord (1 Pet. 2:21), and we are trying to grow and mature in the faith as the inspired word requires (2 Pet. 1:5-9). Our intention each day is to live in such a way that others will see us and glorify God in heaven. This is what the Lord commanded in Mt. 5:14-16. He said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Therefore, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). If we commit ourselves to His way, and to the leading of His word, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psa. 119:115), then we will walk in the light all the way to heaven.
One of the most common marketing devices today is the subscription service. Admittedly, this way of doing business is perfectly suited to our high-tech, internet-based way of life. Consumers subscribe to various services and thus have unfettered access to the online content they desire. These subscriptions may be for entertainment items, such as games, or music, or movies, or they may be for protective services, such as online backups for computers or ID theft coverage.
The advent of subscription services is a boon for companies. Instead of selling a product one time, they essentially rent it on a monthly basis. They receive a steady, and often increasing, monthly cash flow with very little additional capital investment on their part. The downside for consumers is that they can become slaves to their subscriptions. Once subscribed to a service, it is often difficult to give it up. We become accustomed to the service and cannot imagine living without it. This factor is compounded by the fact that while individual subscriptions may be modestly priced, the cumulative effect of multiple subscriptions can be devastating to one’s finances. Subscribers can thus literally become enslaved by their subscriptions.
This marketing device is a perfect analogy for Satan’s methods. He entices us with the appeal of this sin or that. He places it before us in such a way as to emphasize the joy it will bring us. He markets sinful conduct as though it will have very little impact on the big picture of our lives. When we give in to temptation it seems as though there is no immediate impact on our lives. The longer we participate in that sin, however, the more difficult it becomes to extricate ourselves from it. We thus become enslaved to it, just as Paul said in Rom. 6:16. There he said, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”
The only way to become free from enslavement to Satan’s subscription is to become a slave of Christ. We unsubscribe from Satan when we obey the gospel and commit ourselves to walking in the light. In Rom. 6:17-18 Paul said, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” The form of teaching to which the Roman Christians had committed themselves was baptism into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Rom. 6:3-7). This was essentially the “unsubscribe” button which broke their commitment to Satan.
Being unsubscribed from Satan, however, is only part of the story. When we obey the gospel, we do more than die to sin and to Satan’s subscription. We are also subscribing ourselves, as it were, to the Lord Jesus Christ. From that point onward, we owe our allegiance solely to Him, and our lives must reflect this change. In Gal. 6:17 Paul described it in these words: “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear in my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” Paul was subscribed to a new master, and it showed in his life. The same must be true for us when we are immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
Those who are subscribed to Christ no longer follow the “terms and conditions” of Satan. We follow the example of our Lord (1 Pet. 2:21-22). When we follow in the steps of Jesus, we walk in the light and His blood continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:5-10). Our actions, words, thoughts, and attitudes will reflect our heavenly subscription, and all who see us will recognize it. When we are subscribed to Christ, our light will shine into the darkness of a world subscribed to Satan, and God will be glorified (Mt. 5:14-16).