I remember an African brother who stood in an evangelistic meeting and told how he was brought to Christ by his dying seven-year-old daughter. One day he heard her praying for his salvation, though she lay in bed debilitated by tuberculosis and malaria.

"Dad, do you believe in God?" she asked as he sat beside her.

"Oh, yes, darling; only a fool would deny God's existence."

"If you believe in God, you should also believe in eternal life."

"Oh, yes; if there is a God, there must be eternal life."

"But, dad, you don't have eternal life, for Jesus is not in your heart."

He reported, "Then my little daughter begged me to kneel beside her deathbed. I recited her words as she prayed for my conversion. 'O God, let Christ come into my heart. Please save my soul; give me eternal life.'"

Not all Christians face death so courageously. In the past 20 years, I have conducted and preached at more than 150 memorial and funeral services. I have sat beside numerous deathbeds, with people terrified by the sight of the final conflict. For me, it is no wonder that Scripture calls death "the last enemy."

This brother, now advanced in years, is battling cancer and is face to face with his own death. Knowing how fierce this last battle can be, I sent him one of the most helpful meditation guides I've known: Martin Luther's "A Sermon on Preparing to Die." In this sermon, Luther provides pastoral counsel to his closest friend, Mark Schart, who was troubled by thoughts of death. His counsel contains a great deal of wisdom for today.

The Three Temptations

Luther believed that death becomes ominous because the devil uses it to undermine our faith. He haunts us with death in three ways.

First, the Devil taunts us with the remembrance that death is a sign of God's ...

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April 2007

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