2016: Celebrity Killer – and what it teaches us about Life and Death

2016 has been dubbed “The Celebrity Killer” because of the amount of celebrities that died last year. Just a quick glance over the names in the following list surely suggests that the title is fitting: Sir Terry Wogan, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Sir George Martin, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Arnold Wesker, Victoria Wood, Prince, Muhammad Ali,  Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Sir Jimmy Young, Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs, George Michael, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Carrie Fisher. These are just a few of the celebrities names who died last year. Here are some quick things that “2016:Celebrity Killer” can teach us about life and death:

Death is Certain

For death is the destiny of every person,
and the living should take this to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

No one has every escaped death. No one. That’s sobering so let that sick in for a moment …..  Ecclesiastes goes on to say (chapter 9) that it doesn’t matter how swift, strong, wise, intelligent or knowledgeable you are, you cannot outrun, outmuscle or outsmart death.

Happiness is Fleeting

Living in a culture that constantly seeks the next biggest thing makes it easy for us to get caught up with the same kind of mentality. A mentality that wants happiness above anything else. Whether we look for happiness in relationships, experiences or possessions, if we place our hearts and hopes in these things they will always fail us. If we spend our lives in the pursuit of happiness, we’ll always be left wanting more.

Life is Beyond

In 1971 John Lennon (who also met an untimely death) penned the words of the famous song “Imagine”.

“Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky”.

What most miss in this iconic song is the sheer irony of the song: imagining something that doesn’t exist. Lennon was a man searching for the truth, searching for life beyond. It’s what caused him to write these words. In this, Lennon’s most famous song, is the admission that heaven does indeed exist because, if heaven doesn’t exist, you can’t imagine it not existing. This is known as the ontological argument for God’s existence. Rather than a tuneful promotion of humanism, it’s a bold declaration that there is life beyond. Why do I bring up Lennon? Well, in many of the obituaries that have been written this year one common story is told – “this was a good person”. In almost every case the virtues of the person have been extolled and immorality covered. Fitting? probably. We don’t like to remember people for all the bad that they were, just the good. It’s right for us to commend the good but what strikes me is the need to do this at all. It’s almost as if we are plea bargaining their case to some higher Judge in exchange for dropping one or more charges against them. “Rampant pervert” claims the newspapers but in the same sentence they are also admired as a secret philanthropist giving away millions to good causes. Where do we get this sense of moral balance? In this way, it’s a subtle admission – a hidden acceptance – that one day we will all give account for our lives. The account won’t be written up in a newspapers but books will be opened (Revelation 20:12) and every secret of the heart made known.

Despair is Present

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John 11:4

This above quotation comes in the middle of the story about Jesus raising a man called Lazarus from the dead. Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard  asked the question: “would not this statement still be true even if Jesus had not raised Lazarus from the dead?”. His point was simple: Christians believe that death is not the end but a step along the way of the eternal life. In this way, for the Christian, death is nothing to fear. Instead, the inability to die is what is to be feared. The illness that leads to death does not describe physical death, but a spiritual one. The same death that God talked about in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). The death that arises from rebellion against God. This illness that leads to death is what Kierkegaard called “despair”. To sum up, it is a “life” lived that excludes the One who gives life, therefore it is not life, but death. According to Kierkegaard, an individual “in despair” is essentially dying a death, just waiting for the inevitable death.

Salvation is offered

Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise.

Ecclesiastes 7:16

Far from saying that righteousness should be taken in moderation, the writer is warning us to not only do the right thing, but to do the right thing right. According to this verse, there is a rightness that is wrong. It’s calledself-righteousness” – defining what is “right” by what we do not do, along with the idea that we can be right in our own eyes. So, for example, how do you know you’re right? Because you don’t drink? Because you don’t smoke? Because you don’t swear? It’s not like you’ve every murdered anyone right? Right? But you see the problem with this idea is that your rightness is coming at the expense of someone else. Wickedness has been defined by what others are doing and because you’re not doing those things God now has to approve of you, listen to your prayers and give you a good life. 

But righteousness is not defined exclusively in terms of conduct. Here’s what the writer says:

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

That’s laid it out for us. he says that the key to life is becoming truly righteous and with that you have to avoid wickedness. “Be righteous, avoid wickedness”.

But …, “by the way”, the writer says, “you’ve got no hope in that. You’ve got no chance to succeed in that, you’ll never be righteous”:

Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.

That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

Ecclesiastes 7:22

How many times has your heart criticised someone unfairly, got angry at someone unjustly or rebuked someone unlovingly? Avoid wickedness … fallen at the first. And so his conclusion is that this drive to be right, to be righteous, to have right standing before God, it’s a very difficult, deep, confusing thing because when I try to be right, it goes wrong and if I try to do nothing, then I fall into wickedness. It’s like no matter what I do, it doesn’t work.” The Apostle Paul in agrees:

“None is righteous, no, not one;”

Romans 3:10

But, here’s the awesome good news:

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:3-4

So what the law (self-righteous, law-keeping … Be righteous avoid wickedness) could not do for you. God did. Listen to that that again: God did, God did, God did!

God came and bore the penalty of your and my rebellion (spiritual death and “despair”) and in turn offers offers brand new life for free, no cost. This means I don’t have to be afraid of death and I have joy more than happiness) knowing that my sins are forgiven and I’m loved by God. Want to know more? leave us a message below and we’ll contact you.

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