Is today a good day to die? Earlier this week, I thought it was. As I drove home from Vacation Bible School, I felt really good. I am helping lead a group of 4th grade future men. I had shared the gospel with them. I plead with them to walk the path of wisdom and to begin the journey that very night. Some of them asked good questions. They seemed to grasp what I was telling them. And that made me excited. It felt good.
As I neared home with David Crowder* Band blaring, I thought, this would be a good way to go out. It would be a good day to die and enter into glory with my last moments spent serving children and bidding them to come to Christ. Yes, that’d be a great way to go. But there was a problem. The thought sprang from my heart in a moment of self-referential me-ness. Because I felt good about my service, I judged myself fit to come before the Throne and in the process, effectively denied the very Gospel I had pleaded with some 4th grade boys to believe.
The Gospel of Jesus is news that utterly subverts our natural point of reference: self. Any and all hope and trust in self must shrivel up and die like a tree deprived of water if we seek to follow Jesus. He demands that all of our trust and hope rest on his broad shoulders. For we all stand condemned as law breakers. None is clean. All fall short. All miss the mark. What we deserve is the wrath promised for law-breakers. But Jesus lived perfectly. He never sinned. Not once. And instead of receiving reward, he died the cursed death of a law-breaker. Why? So that guilty sinners like you and me could escape. He paid the penalty and we enjoy the reward. My salvation has absolutely nothing to do with my obedience, and everything to do with Jesus’ (speaking strictly in terms of our justification). My standing before the Father is not referenced in my daily obedience to an abstract list of rules, but in my faith in Jesus. And Jesus has promised me that all who come to him will not ever be cast out. My standing is sure and secure.
But my morbid little thought exercise effectively rejected that Gospel. Quite subtlety, I made preaching the Gospel the foundation of my standing before the Father and not receiving the Gospel. The difference may seem insignificant, but dangerous ground lay before me. The choice between the path of folly (trust in self) and wisdom (trust in Jesus) is one of eternal significance. Gratefully, it was but a brief relapse of memory. Gratefully, God opened my eyes to the folly of that thought almost instantly. Grace upon grace indeed.
In reality, any day that one dies in Jesus, is a good day to die. And that is true no matter what the details of that day. I could die after sharing the Gospel with 10,000 people, or die after sharing with none and struggling terribly with sin. Both days would remain good days to die because the circumstances of neither of those days change my standing before the Father. What God sealed before the foundation of the world cannot be broken (Praise God!). That’s the simple and yet exceedingly profound truth of the Gospel.
Is today a good day to die? That depends entirely on how you answer the question, who is Jesus?