La La Church

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Photo from the movie “La La Land”

Yesterday, the Academy revealed its list of winners for the much-coveted Oscar awards. It also has its share of unforgettable moments especially when the announcement of the Best Picture award gone out of proportion—Steve Harvey style. Moonlight bagged the Big One over La La Land, which is an early crowd-favorite (mine also). I was able to watch the latter when it hit the local theater. I have to admit, it is seldom for me to watch a romantic tragedy—how much more a musical! But for a movie that promised to offer a stark reality about dreams and commitments, well, I think that’s worth a watch. And it was. The cinematography and choreography—accompanied by a string of songs—are a treat for the moviegoers. The film’s plot followed the lives of two budding Hollywood prodigies, Sebastian and Mia. Sebastian started as a fledgling musician who desires to saturate the music scene with jazz in all of its purity while Mia spent her stay to audition for an actress role while serving coffee.

I don’t intend to write a review of the movie but I was moved to write about something that Keith, played by the singer John Legend, said to our lead actor which we could connect to the life of the church today. I could barely recall one of his lines: “How could you save jazz if it is dying? How could you be a revolutionary if you insist to be a traditionalist?”

At the back of Keith’s mind, he believes that to tweak jazz is to save it. Change is good if it is done for the better. It is even inevitable given that we are participants to a history that is still unfolding. We should not be afraid of change. It could be turned into a useful tool; the church has profited from the boom of technology. Martin Luther welcomed the advent of the printing press and utilized it to distribute his writings widely. He also employed it to produce Bibles in the local language so that all could read God’s Word. In the same manner, we use social media, blogs, and podcasts to proclaim the gospel in every language and nation.

Eventually in the movie, Sebastian started to embrace the change since it helped him boost his career as a band pianist. It has reached to the point that Mia confronted him and said that this was not his dream; success has diverted him to what he truly loves. But he is unmoved; people loved him in what he does. That’s all that matters right now. The church may suffer with such pragmatic philosophy—change is always better. However, when change becomes the end rather than a servant or when it becomes the controlling factor rather than faithfulness, the church loses its identity.

Instead of being a witness to the world, we just become a choice among other options for the world. Instead of being not of the world, we blend with the world. Instead of being guided by biblical principles, we adopt the philosophy of the world. Just look on how the modern church resorts to gimmickry just to draw multitudes. Worship services are suited to the outsiders’ preferences and every sermon becomes an entertaining talk. Some even employ pop psychology in their sermons to make themselves more appealing to their hearers. Just look on how best-selling “preachers” put a smile on their faces and tell their audience “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” There is no call to repentance. There is no doctrinal substance. There is only a “Christianized” mix of health-and-wealth prosperity gospel. All of these things we do for the hope of proselytizing those outside our camp.

While God might use such instances to draw His people, these are not the ordinary means in which He brings His lost sheep to the flock. The church is not called to be trendy but to be faithful. Sadly, much of the efforts to “relativize” the church tend to diminish the value of the faithful preaching of Word. Ministers are called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) and to preach not ourselves but “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). It is through the faithful preaching of the Word that God quickens the unbelieving heart for “faith comes from hearing , and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The gospel alone is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This should take preeminence in our mind as we engage the outside world. This should be our main concern—the center of it all. We leave the results of our preaching and evangelism not in our well-devised programs but with God.

Also, we must worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We honor God by honoring Him according to His Word and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). Finally, we are called to make disciples by teaching the Bible, administering the sacraments, and fellowshipping (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 2:42). These tasks seem to be boring and ordinary but God chooses the weak over the strong of this world. Change should be a servant to the Word, not the other way round. We don’t need to dress the gospel with the cloth of contemporary gloss. The gospel remains relevant, in and of itself, all throughout history.

On the other hand, just as Sebastian initially thought that the good ol’ jazz is much better, the church may also catch the “nostalgic bug.” She might think of the “glorious days” of Christianity. Just think of the time of Reformation, or that of the English Puritanism, and you might say “Oh, gone are those days!” or “How I wish we’re same as before!” There is nothing wrong with setting up models of the faith but I think that when we turn this into a golden-age mentality, it does more harm than good to the church of today. Nostalgia usually brings into us those things that we only chooses to remember, thus creating an image of a “more-to-be-desired” state. By this, we turn a particular age as an embodiment of the ideal. We might get ourselves enamored by the past and forget to appreciate the contributions of the present church. We might also forget that the church of today has its own problems and issues that we need to attend.

However, there is no golden age. In this side of history, the church remains to be a body of flawed sinners dependent on God’s grace. The church of the past also shared a list of problems and sins. Just look at the accounts of Israelite nation, and even at the times of the apostles, immorality and arrogance waved their hands at the corner. Prophets arose to prosecute the people and call them into repentance. In light of the disturbances and infidelity, Paul and John wrote to the churches. And boy, the Reformation is not a walk in the park. You could see Luther calling those who didn’t believe in His view of the Lord’s Supper as unbelievers. Even Puritanism wasn’t able to lead England into its full potential; we shake our heads with regret at how secular Europe is now. However, God works through this broken church. Just look at the growing churches in Africa and in Asia and be amazed on how God is calling our lost brothers into the fold.

Yes, there is no golden age. The antidote for this unhealthy view of church history is a right understanding of God’s providence. At times, the Old Testament prophets recalled the prosperity of Israel before the exile. How they wished the days weren’t gone! But they believed in the outworking of the sovereign Lord, the Lord who called them out of Egypt and will redeem His people. We could also recall Augustine’s The City of God. He wrote the book partly in response to those who fault the Christians for the fall of Rome. However, he wrote the book mainly to give comfort to the weary church—Rome in all of its glory, a “golden age” if you like, is not the triumphant Church. The only golden age we should look forward to is the age that will come.

The tides will change but the Lord who has authority over all things, in heaven and on earth, is the same Lord who said that He will build His church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it (Matthew 28:18; 16:18). What brings us more comfort and strength to persevere is that He is also with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). We respond to this truth by being faithful to what God wants the church to be, that is, humbly submissive to His Word.

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A Quick Note on Valentines

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No matter how hard we try to dismiss it, we are products of our culture. Because we are not aware of it sometimes, our notions of what love is are shaped by some of the things the world says about it. Just try to list down some of your thoughts and see how much they are influenced by what we have read or seen from novels and movies. A lot of things already happened since the dawn of modernity and Romanticism. Ideas from these periods subtly crept into our consciousness. We could see them at work during the Valentine season.

I know that many would object in celebrating Valentines Day—Christian circles still debate about the legitimacy of this day—but I see this occasion as a means to start a conversation. We should not fear contextualization; we know that the message of the gospel is always relevant to us sinners. However, we should not border into thinking that we should avoid any appeal to relevance at all. The apostle Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Augustine wrote the City of God to instruct and comfort the weary Roman Christians. The minister of the Word should not be shy to give pastoral insight during times like this. He could address the needs of his congregation and yet still be faithful in explicating the texts in front of him. Also, if the apostle Paul could appeal to the “unknown god”—the product of the pagans’ thinking—and show them the true God (Acts 17:22-31), then I think preachers could follow suit in engaging the culture and the philosophy prevalent today. If we are sick of how the world paints love, shouldn’t we all the more preach about what love truly is?

We should bear in mind that this worldly love is a distortion of what is originally a good thing. After the fall, man started to think in allegiance to himself and in rebellion to God. That is why the apostle Paul admonished us not to be “conformed to this world,” that is, we should not follow the autonomous manner by which fallen men live their lives. It is because of “being transformed by the renewal of our minds” that we could take a second look at love under the light of God’s revealed will (Romans 12:2). In His light we see light (Psalm 36:9). The gospel reorients our view of love.

Because of the acknowledgment of our sins, we know that we could not trust ourselves; we know that impurities are still in us—that we are selfish and proud. A man could boast of the stars and the moon but in reality, he only wants to get what he wants in a woman. He might be on a chase for his ultimate satisfaction and eventually will make his idol work for him in his quest for self-fulfillment. The woman, in return, might use this to gain favors from the man, or in other cases, exhibit authority over the weakened lover. She might seek identity in the embrace of a man; only to find that her idol will not deliver. One needs to look at the standard that the apostle Paul set in 1 Corinthians 13 to know the gravity of what a lover is claiming to do. Whenever I weigh myself against this standard, I fall short of keeping it.

However, it is because of grace that we could hope for change; we know that we are not lost cases—that we are already loved and could be loved for Christ loved the unlovely (Romans 5:6). We meet ourselves within the story of redemption. And in this fertile ground, our love could grow bountifully with every good fruit. Every state that we are in is an avenue for our sanctification. Every state is a vocation where maturity is cultivated along with virtues that follow faith. Marriage—and being in a relationship—is such a state. This we could heartily pursue by putting on God’s Word as our corrective lens. Other than Paul’s oft-quoted love chapter, we could see some parameters set in 1 John 4:7-12: Why do we love? Because God loved us. How do we love? God’s way. When do we love? Always. Even though these verses speak of brotherly love, these could be expressed as well within the bounds of intimacy. After all, the Christian couple are nothing but two sinners redeemed by grace.

In light of these things, the lovers could forgive each other, bear one another’s burden, and build one another up (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). It is because of God’s love for us—and working in us—that we could love truly. This is where I put my hope whenever I recount all my flaws regarding love. I think these are the things that we should say to the unbelieving world when we celebrate Valentines Day.

Resilience: Rooted in God

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Last year, I was able to make a trip to Legazpi City, Albay, Bicol—southwest part of Luzon. A strong typhoon just passed by the area so when I set my feet, I was welcomed by the darkness due to the citywide power outage. During my entire stay, I hoped for a chance to see the Mayon Volcano’s full beauty. But she remained elusive as she hid herself behind the clouds. However, I was able to stroll around the place to visit some of the region’s famous landmarks. A Bicol trip won’t be complete without visiting the Cagsawa Ruins. The place still holds the remnants of what supposed to be a Franciscan church buried under the ground after Mayon’s violent eruption in 1814. The event claimed many lives and the cold church belfry testifies to that grim catastrophe.

However, the Bicolanos now look to the tower as a symbol of the local people’s resilience. Aside from living under the shadow of the fatal beauty, the region also suffers from frequent storm visits. The rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the recent storm serve as a testimony to the folks’ attitude towards calamity.

How do we define ‘resilience’? It is the ability to recover quickly after something bad has happened. Given this definition, the world put too much confidence on the human soul. Some settle for the Stoic resolve, and sing, “que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.” Others tap sentimentality to provoke a sense of comfort. But all boils down to this—man should muster the strength that is in him to be able to ride along the tides of life. Just believe in yourself. But, such confidence is hanging on a thin thread. What if I start to doubt my ability? Where should I go? When circumstances corner me like a pack of wolves, to whom should I call for refuge? Such foundation is built upon sinking sand.

Conversely, those who are in Christ are standing on solid ground. The Christian’s resilience has its foundation in God. But this does not mean that the Christian will not be assailed by worries. After all, we are pilgrims who are still on the way. There will be moments when we will complain to God like the prophet Habakkuk: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Far be it from us to shake our fists at God and blame Him for all the bad things that are happening to us! At this point, we should repent of our doubts and cry out to God, “I believe, help my unbelief!” There will also be times when sin will knock us down. Just look at the Lord’s disciples. Even while they enjoyed a close communion with our Lord, they fled and left our Lord at the night of his arrest (Mark 14:50). These are the very same disciples who said, “even if we die, we will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35).

They got knocked down. But, they got up again (pardon the Chumbawamba reference). At the face of an impending crisis, Habakkuk spoke of his joy in our God of salvation. After our Lord’s resurrection, the disciples became bold witnesses who proclaimed the gospel. It pleased the Lord to have these weaknesses of His servants be written and preserved for posterity so we could see His glorious work in these weak vessels. It’s like as if He’s telling us, “If I restored them into life in spite of their failings, what makes you different?” And yet, this makes us different from the world on how it sees resilience. Instead of just keep on pushing and believing in ourselves, we are reminded to lose confidence in ourselves. Instead, we find ourselves being redeemed by the Lord. The will to go on is not harnessed by reaching down inside our selves but by reaching toward our Father in heaven. We are fortified not by our sheer prowess but by the strength of our Almighty God.

Well, as for example, we could look at the life of the apostle Paul who said that he is “able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). This is the Paul who received forty lashes less one from the Jews five times. Thrice he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned. He was shipwrecked three times and remained afloat for one whole day (and I complain about the daily traffic). There’s danger whenever he went. He experienced “toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Yet, this is the very same Paul who said that he is “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (4:8-9). Why? It is because he knew the grace of the Lord. Much more, the Lord knew him. (5:11). And thus he also knew “this light momentary affliction is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (4:17).

This is the heavenward perspective that the apostle Paul would like to instill in us. “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In Romans 8, Paul listed the things we already possess and the things we will later receive fully. And because God is true and faithful, we can truly hope in Him. Hope in God fuels our resilience knowing that “in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

One thing is certain in this side of the cross—troubles and problems will always be on our way. The apostle Peter forewarns us: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Even our Lord has said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). But, after he gave a warning, he assured us “But take courage; I have overcome the world.” He conquered sin and death. He endured all His sufferings for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). And that is why Peter continued in his letter, “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). Why should we rejoice? “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made live in the spirit” (3:18). What is there to rejoice about? “After we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us” (5:10).

We look past our troubles and know that in the midst of them God is working in us for our good and His glory. Our resilience lies in our assurance that God will deliver all of His promises. Our resilience is rooted in God’s faithfulness. And this resilience is not from us, it is not found in and of ourselves, but from the One who endured the cross. So, we press on and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

We can look at Christ and say to ourselves, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Just as we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His comfort. And because we are of one Body, we share with the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in faith. And to the extent of our resources and abilities, we are encouraged to build each other up and to comfort others as the Lord comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:4-7).

Even though we live in the shadow of this valley, we can sing “With Christ in my vessel, I could smile at the storm.” And in our battles and struggles, we could sing along with the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

P. S. As of this writing, the rehabilitating efforts in Bicol are still ongoing. Let’s continue to pray for the welfare of our fellowmen in the areas that were affected by the calamity. May they also find hope and comfort in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Art of Dying Well

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A year has ended and I cannot help myself but to be reminded of a verse in the Bible—Ecclesiastes 7:8. “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” But when I moved my eyes in reading the verses that preceded it, I was drawn into a specific text. “The day of death is better than the day that one is born” (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

Talks about death or dying seem to be a taboo nowadays. Whenever it is brought up, people will begin to put it down and try to divert the conversation away from the subject. Or, one might look you in the eye and say, “You sound morbid.” Aren’t we supposed to talk about the good life? People flock conferences and bookstores for “the art of living well.” No one will tell you that he desires to know “the art of dying well.” But, given that death is inevitable, no matter how we try to evade the fact, we should all the more think about it.

But, how could death be a good thing? Death still has its gloom in this fallen world. We experience the pain of losing someone we love. We feel afraid at the thought of dying. However, while death remains an evil in this age, God uses it to the benefit of his saints. The great Reformed catechisms speak of it in this way:

Q. Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?

A. Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life. (Heidelberg Catechism 42)

Q. Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?

A. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon. (Westminster Larger Catechism 85)

Louis Berkhof aptly listed the sum of these benefits in his “Systematic Theology:”1

The very thought of death, bereavements through death, the feeling that sicknesses and sufferings are harbingers of death, and the consciousness of the approach of death, — all have a very beneficial effect on the people of God. They serve to humble the proud, to mortify carnality, to check worldliness and to foster spiritual-mindedness. In the mystical union with their Lord believers are made to share the experiences of Christ. Just as He entered upon His glory by the pathway of sufferings and death, they too can enter upon their eternal reward only through sanctification. Death is often the supreme test of the strength of the faith that is in them, and frequently calls forth striking manifestations of the consciousness of victory in the very hour of seeming defeat, I Pet. 4:12,13. It completes the sanctification of the souls of believers, so that they become at once “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23; Rev. 21:27. Death is not the end for believers, but the beginning of a perfect life. They enter death with the assurance that its sting has been removed, I Cor. 15:55, and that it is for them the gateway of heaven. They fall asleep in Jesus, II Thess. 1:7, and know that even their bodies will at last be snatched out of the power of death, to be forever with the Lord, Rom. 8:11; I Thess. 4:16,17. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live.” And Paul had the blessed consciousness that for him to live was Christ, and to die was gain. Hence he could also speak in jubilant notes at the end of his career: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved His appearing,” II Tim. 4:7,8.

Now, this brings us to the role of death for us living in this time. In his book A Salve for a Sick Man’ (or a treatise containing the nature, differences, and kinds of death; as also the right manner of dying well), William Perkins listed five duties of the Christian with regard to dying well. He started by naming “the meditation of death in the life time” as the first duty in preparation to death “for the life of a Christian is nothing else but a meditation of death.”

“This meditation of death,” he wrote, “is of special use, brings forth many fruits in the life of man” in which are identified as follows: (1) it serves to humble us under the hand of God, (2) it is a means to further repentance, and (3) it serves to stir up contentment in every estate and condition of life that shall befall us.

The second duty is that “every man must daily endeavour to take away from his own death the power and strength thereof.” We know that the “sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56) and in our sins, there is where the strength of death lies. This comprises two tasks, namely, (1) “to humble our selves for all our sins past, partly confessing them against our selves, partly in prayer crying to heaven for the pardon of them” and (2) “come to turn unto God, and to carry a purpose, resolution, and endeavour in all things to reform both heart and life according to God’s word.”

The third duty is to “enter into the first degree of life eternal.” What did he mean by that? Nothing else but to “rise out of the grave of [our] own sins, in which by nature [we lie] buried, and live in newness of life.” In the present life, we must begin to live that blessed and eternal life before we die if we would live eternally. We should live as bearers of God’s saving knowledge with the peace of conscience and life ordered according to His will.

The fourth duty is to “exercise and [accustom] ourselves in dying by little and little so long as we live here upon earth.” While the former duty enjoins us to live according to the word of God, here we are called to die daily and take up our crosses by mortifying our sins. We should begin to die now while we are living, so that we might die well in the end.

The fifth and last duty is “to do good while [you] have time” (Galatians 6:10). Meditating about death stimulates action. It inspires us to do all what our hands find to do in any good service to God and our neighbors all the days of our lives.

Here are some of the select quotes from the book:

“Objection [against Ecclesiastes 7:3]: Death is the wages of sin, Rom. 6. 23. it is an enemy of Christ, 1. Cor. 15. and the curse of the law. Hence it seems to follow, that in and by death, men receive their wages and payment for their sins: that the day of death is the doleful day in which the enemy prevails against us: that he which dieth is cursed.

Answer: We must distinguish of death: it must be considered two ways: first, as it is by itself in his own nature: secondly, as it is altered and changed by Christ. Now death by itself considered, is indeed the wages of sin, and enemy of Christ and of all his members, and the curse of the law, yea the very suburbs and gates of hell: yet in the second respect, it is not so: for by the virtue of the death of Christ, it ceaseth to be a plague or punishment, and of a curse it is made a blessing, and is become unto us a passage or midway between this life and eternal life, and as it were a new wicket or door whereby we pass out of this world, and enter into heaven. And in this respect the saying of Solomon is most true: for in the day of birth, men are born and brought forth into the vale of misery, but afterward when they go hence, having death altered unto them by the death of Christ, they enter into eternal joy and happiness with all the Saints of God for ever.”

“. . .indeed, it is a very hell for a man that hath but a spark of grace to be exercised, turmoiled, and tempted with the inborn corruptions and rebellions of his own heart: and if a man would devise a torment for such as fear God, and desire to walk in newness of life, he cannot devise a greater than this. For this cause, blessed is the day of death which brings with it a freedom from all sin whatsoever. For when we die, the corruption of nature is quite abolished, and sanctification is accomplished.”
“God both in the beginning, and in the continuance of his grace, doth greater things unto to his servants then they do commonly ask or think, because he hath promised aid and strength unto them, therefore in wonderful wisdom he casteth upon them this heavy burden of death, that they might make experience what is the exceeding might and power of his grace in their weakness.”
“Thus much of freedom from misery, which is the first benefit that comes by death, the first steep to life: now follows the second, which is, that death gives an entrance to the soul, that it may come into the presence of the everlasting God, of Christ, and of all the Angels and Saints in heaven. The worthiness of this benefit makes the death of the righteous to be no death but rather a blessing to be wished of all men. The consideration of this made Paul to say, Phil. 1. 23. I desire to be dissolved: but what is the cause of this desire? that follows in the next words, namely, that by this dissolution he might come to be with Christ. . . O then, what happiness is this, to see the glory and Majesty of God face to face, and to have eternal fellowship with God our father, Christ our Redeemer, and the holy Ghost our comforter, and to live with the blessed Saints and Angels in heaven for ever?”
“Now then considering our conjunction with Christ is the foundation of all our joy and comfort in life and death; we are in the fear of God to learn this one lesson, namely, that while we have time in this world, we must labour to be united to Christ, that we may be bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. This very point is as it were a flagon of wine to revive our souls when they be in a swoon at any instant. And that we may be assured that we are certainly joined to Christ, we must show ourselves to be members of his mystical body by the daily fruits of righteousness and true repentance. And being once certainly assured in conscience of our being in Christ, let death come when it will, and let it cruelly part asunder both body and soul, yet shall they both remain in the covenant, and by mean thereof be reunited and taken up to life eternal.”
“[We] are not to fear death, but to be glad of it, and that for many causes. First of all, in it we have occasion to show our subjection obedience which we owe unto God, when he calls us out of this world, as Christ said, Father, not my will but thy will be done.

Secondly, all sin is abolished by death, and we then cease to offend God any more as we have done.

Thirdly, the dead body is brought into a better condition then ever it was in this life, for by death it is made insensible, and by that means it is freed from all the miseries calamities of this life; and it ceaseth to be either an active or passive instrument of sin, whereas in the life time it is both.

Fourthly, it gives the soul passage to rest, life, celestial glory in which we shall see God as he is, perfectly know him, and praise his name forever, keeping without intermission an eternal sabbath; therefore Paul saith, I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, for that is best of all.

Fifthly, God executes his judgements upon the wicked, purgeth his Church by death. Now in all these respects godly men have cause not to fear and sorrow, but to rejoice in their own death, and the death of others.”

“… [The apostle] Paul saith, Rom. 14. 7, 8. None of us liveth to himself, neither doth any die to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord, whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lords. For this cause we may not do with our lives as we will, but we must refer the whole disposition thereof unto God, for whose glory we are to live and die. . . Life is not bestowed on us, that we should spend our days in our lusts and vain pleasures, but that we might have liberty to come out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of grace, from the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty of the sons of God: and in this respect special care must be had of preservation of life, till God do call us hence.”

You may download a free copy of this book in the Digital Puritan website.

[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth), pp. 670-671