Over the years I have developed a curiosity which is hopefully not morbid but it does deal with death. That curiosity is a fascination with the recorded “last words” of men and women as they approach the last moments of life. Of course I am particularly interested in the last words of believers and have recorded many “last words” in my journal specifying who said them and if they were believers. I mentioned this in a Sunday evening sermon recently and the result was another addition to my journal. It came from one of our dear, Godly ladies who had been and was fighting cancer which had been deemed incurable and inoperable. Knowing that unless the Lord intervened that she only had a few weeks left she came up after the sermon with her emaciated body yet twinkling eyes and a sly look. She reminded me of her soon demise and very likely I would not be there when she died so could she give me her last words ahead of time. I smiled and said yes, if I can pray with you. Her reply was, of course and then she gave me her “last words.” She said, at my funeral my last words were “Y’all come!” Knowing her heart for personal evangelism and her love for lost to come to Christ, on the one hand it was not surprising but on the other hand it was inspiring.
The Apostle Paul gave his last words in his last epistle facing death in a roman prison while writing to his son in the faith, Timothy. They are found in II Tim 1:12 and are highly informative and gloriously encouraging. “I suffer these things and I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that Day.” In this true pastoral epistle Paul is placing the mantle of ministry upon Timothy. Of course the epistle is rich in light of how Timothy is called to be a “man of God,” a Gospel preacher and a faithful pastor. Think how profound these “last words” are. They gloriously expound the hope of the Gospel embraced in the life of Paul now not only in life but also in death and not just any death but a “suffering” death. So as he gets to the end of his earthly life and ministry his words are simple… “I have no regrets.” Why would Apostle Paul who is about to die a martyrs death say no regrets, no second thoughts, I suffer willingly and even joyfully. There are five reasons this Gospel hope is being declared gloriously even from an inglorious prison cell.
SAVING FAITH IS PERSONAL – I
II Tim 1:12 declares Paul has no regrets as he now dies for Christ and goes to meet Christ; the one whom he has served by faith he will soon see by sight. Again, the words to the Philippian church from his first imprisonment ring forth…for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. The reason? His saving relationship with Christ was by faith and his faith was personal. The word repeated the most – 6 times – is the shortest word in the verse “I.” He says, I suffer, I am not ashamed, I know, I believe, I am convinced, I entrust. Paul’s relationship with Christ was person to person. God’s grace had brought him to faith so he believed personally in the person and saving work of Christ. No one can believe for you. To be saved you must know Christ by faith personally. Your pastor, your parents, your siblings nor your friends can believe for you. You alone must believe in Christ alone as your Savior.
SAVING FAITH IS RATIONAL – “KNOWLEDGE”
To be saved there are certain things that you must personally know. You must know that you are a sinner and need a Savior. You must know that you cannot save yourself. You must know that God in his unmerited love has graciously sent his son who gave himself on the cross to save you from both the penalty and power, the practice and ultimately the presence of sin and its consequences. Paul declared I “know.” The reason Paul knew was because God by his sovereign grace had laid hold of him to transform a religious terrorist not only into a vital Christian but an effective evangelist and unparalleled church planter and author of 13 letters designed to be incorporated into the Bible. The one who killed Christians now became the one the Lord used to win sinners to Christ. The one who desired to destroy the church had become a church planting factory spreading the gospel throughout churches all the way to Europe. He had no secondhand faith. It was personal. It was not a faith of wish fulfillment nor sentimentality but one that was knowledgeable. While you can never know Christ exhaustively you can know him accurately. While the majesty of Christ is supra rational it is never irrational. He knows you and you can know him.
SAVING FAITH IS EMOTIONAL – CONVICTION
When one comes to Christ as the apostle Paul he not only knows accurately but he also knows the truth of Christ passionately with conviction. Notice Paul’s last words state clearly that he was “convinced.” The truth that had come to his mind had been firmly implanted in his heart. Knowledge had landed with full contact and was fully embraced by the passions of the Apostle Paul’s heart and life. Not only must we know Christ personally and knowledgeably we must embrace him with full conviction. He is not only the Lord of glory with raw yet gracious sovereignty, he is also our Savior fully and emotionally.
SAVING FAITH IS VOLITIONAL – TRUST
Paul now leads us to the 4th element of saving faith. Saving faith is not only personal, rational (I know) , emotional- conviction but it is also an act of the will whereby we “entrust” ourselves completely to Christ fully as Lord and Savior. Christ is received personally with knowledge, conviction and then the declaration of authenticity is when a true believer will entrust himself fully to Christ as Lord and Savior. I can see a chair and “know” that it is a chair and in philosophical terms it has chair-ness all around it. I can be emotionally transparent by declaring it a chair with full conviction but the one moment that I know and truly believe with conviction that it is a chair is when I entrust myself to it as a chair by sitting upon it. I may know that I am a sinner and cannot save myself and furthermore that Christ is the son of God and Savior, I can be emotionally drawn to such a message with a certain passion and conviction but I do not know for sure the I know who Christ is and am truly convinced until I rest upon Him as Lord and Savior. I am his he is mine, hallelujah what a Savior.
SAVING FAITH IS DIRECTIONAL – CHRIST ALONE
Paul has made it clear that his relationship with Christ was personal, knowledgeable with full conviction expressed by a willful act of trust but notice Paul doesn’t put his faith in faith. He doesn’t say I know “that” I have believed. Nor does he put his faith in his conversion. I know “when” I believed. Furthermore, he doesn’t put his faith in his knowledge. I know “what” I have believed. Paul’s relationship with Christ, person to person and he declares I know whom I have believed. He is able to deliver me from my sins to himself because I have entrusted myself to him. Christianity will always lead to a sacred way of life i.e. a religion. It is not the religion that leads us to Christ. It is the relationship with Christ that leads us to live before the face of God. Coram Deo.
Last words? Basically, men and women die the way they live. There is only one exception: the thief on the cross. As Bishop Ryle says, “…only one death bed conversion – only one so that we will not be presumptuous yet there is one so that we will not lose hope.” So if you die the way you live and last words reveal it then come to Christ today. Your last words will be assured by these words…Jesus, I come to Thee alone. Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.