In today's society few topics can quell a lively discussion like the subject of death and dying. In this study of Ecclesiastes and Psalm 139:16, we are directed to give the subject of death careful consideration because no one escapes it. Despite this reality, the Christian can welcome it with hope and assurance. Listen as Alistair Begg uncovers the reason for the believer's hope and broaches the sensitive issues of cremation and the body/soul connection.
I think what we should do is read from Ecclesiastes chapter 12, and then pray once again, and then… The best I can say to you is that this is sort of a break from routine. It’s not expositional as much as it is topical, and it is… I think if I had to give it a title, I’d give it “Some rambling thoughts on the issues of death, dying, cremation, burial, and all matters related to it.” So you can sense that I have a real sense of finality about it, even as I anticipate this.
Ecclesiastes chapter 12:
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain.
The writer here starts to employ a metaphor, or a series of metaphors, if you like, all related to pictures of the human body and its demise. “When the keepers of the house tremble.” That’s the hands. As our lives move on, we may develop tremors. “And the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few.” Inadequate occlusion. “And those looking through the windows grow dim.” Our eyesight. “When the doors to the street are closed.” Our ears. “And the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds.” Insomnia. “But all their songs grow faint.” That strange experience where you can’t actually hear the birds, but you wake up in the middle of the night thinking that you hear them. “When men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms.” White hair. “And the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred.”
“Then man goes to his eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
“Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher.
‘Everything is meaningless!’
“Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
“For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Thanks be to God for his Word. We pause now and pray once again.
Our gracious God, we thank you that the Bible turns us to subjects that we might seek, quite naturally, to avoid. And as we turn to these issues tonight, we pray for a sense of clarity and for understanding and for a renewed interest in looking to the Bible, not simply to find information that may be a blessing or an encouragement to us but in order that the whole of our lives may be framed in a biblical way—that our view of the world and the events in our world, globally and in our private lives, may bear testimony to the imprint and the impact of your truth in Scripture. Help us, then, to this end, we humbly pray. In your Son’s name. Amen.
Well, we might easily well have read from a whole host of passages, both from the Old Testament and from the New. I purposefully began with Psalm 139 and the verse “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” And now Ecclesiastes 12. If we were to go into the New Testament we might read from 2 Corinthians 5, the picture there of our earthly tent being destroyed but an eternal dwelling in the heavens made and fashioned by God for us, or perhaps to 1 Thessalonians 4, or to many other places.
But for us tonight, to even think of death and dying and the very process and the impact of it within the framework and context of Scripture is to immediately mark us out as a somewhat different company. Because one of the undeniable features of our contemporary culture is an unwillingness on the part of most to face the reality of death. Death is covered up in all kinds of ways. We have the notion, I think, that if we don’t mention it, perhaps it will go away—that we identify with the classic quote from Woody Allen when he said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. It’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens.” And we can all identify with that. In some ways, death is un-American. After all, as Americans we regard it as our inalienable right to life and to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. And death comes crashing in and spoils all that, throws a dreadful wet blanket over all of our hopes and all of our dreams.
By and large, parents do not speak to their children about death. If you’re under the age of twenty, unless you lost a friend in dramatic circumstances—perhaps in a car crash or as a result of the onset of illness in their mid-teens—then the average young person has really given no thought to it at all. But one day they will stand at the grave of their mom or their dad or a close friend. And in all places and of all people, it ought to be Christians who are prepared to do what the secular world is unprepared to do, and that is to look death full in the face and to acknowledge that there is no way to deny it, there is no way to escape it, and therefore, we need to find a way to approach it.
It’s a long time now since the “Games People Play.” Remember this song?
Oh, the games people play now,
Every night and every day now,
Never thinking what they say now,
And never saying what they mean.
And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Until they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine.
And then that wonderful chorus:
Na-na-na na-na-na na-na,
Na-na-na na-na-na na-nee,
All the games people play now,
Talkin’ ’bout you and me,
And the games people play.
But it’s true! And you could argue that three decades have only reinforced the notion of the desire to quite categorically sidestep death in all of its aspects. Embalmers work diligently to make those who are no longer with us look better than they did before they left. And nice suits are set aside, and if you had a particular book you liked to read, they may stick it in your hand in between your frozen thumb and your frozen first finger, so that we all may walk past you and say, “My, my, he actually looks pretty good, you know.” And those of us who knew you very well would say, “Yeah, a pity he didn’t look that good when he was here.” But it’s all part of the art of concealment. It’s all part of the art of concealment.
People don’t speak about “graveyards.” They speak about “memorial parks.” Look for cards to write to your friends in the loss of a loved one, and you will search in vain, in the vast majority of cases, for cards outwith the framework of Christianity that actually tackle death head-on. You’ll find cards about your Uncle Fred having “gone upstairs,” having “departed for a better place,” and so on and so on, but the one thing that you will find probably missing from it is any notion that this person has actually died, that they are no longer here.
Funerals, that used to be solemn occasions, are often now occasions of gaiety and laughter and stupidity, where everybody and their uncle gets up and says whatever they want to say, as if, somehow or another, we were having a high school reunion. As if, somehow or another, people had not shed tears and agonized over the passing of this individual. As if, somehow or another, we could mitigate the reality, the finality, and the ugliness of the last enemy to be destroyed by having a succession of videos or a succession of people stand up and tell of how they had a wonderful time when they were on a Greyhound bus going to New Jersey in the early ’60s. There is a place for that; I’m not convinced that the funeral is the place for that. But of course, I won’t be around for mine, and if anyone wants to talk about being on a Greyhound bus with me to New Jersey, then I suppose they’ll be able to do it.
Tom Paxton from Greenwich Village, again in the ’60s; he was there with Dylan and with all those old granddaddies now. He had an amazing song—I think he wrote it himself—called “Forest Lawn.” I used to know all of the words. I tried to remember them, and I couldn’t get them at all. But it began, “Well, lay me down in Forest Lawn,” you know. And it was a very cynical take on death. And at one point he has a little triplet that goes like this:
My likeness done in brass will stand in plastic grass,
And weights and hidden springs will tip its hat to the mourners filing past.
I want to go simply when I go,
And they’ll give me a simple funeral there, I know.
The art of concealment.
You see, there’s a significant contrast between that kind of thing… And that kind of thing, I would suggest to you, has crept very easily and successfully into realms heretofore uninvaded. I have in mind doing a funeral down in the Wooster area some years ago. And when I went there for his funeral, I was struck by the complete, full-frontal acknowledgment of what was happening. And as we processed from the church building into the graveyard which was immediately adjacent to it, the plain, simple coffin was carried by members of the family, the grave had been dug, the coffin was lowered into the ground, the male members of the family took shovels and shoveled in the earth on top of the coffin while the complete family led the gathered throng in singing hymns concerning the reality of Christ’s victory over death and the resurrection. No one in that context could be anything but struck by the preparedness of those left behind to acknowledge exactly what had taken place.
If, then, our society is marked by an unwillingness to face death in all of its finality, Christianity—biblical Christianity—confirms within us the fact that we are to be countercultural in this respect as in other respects—that Christianity changes the way we view everything. You remember the famous C. S. Lewis quote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the rising of the Sun, not simply because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.” That, if you like, in every realistic way, to be embraced by the love of God in Jesus is a mind-altering experience. If love changes everything, surely the love of God in the Lord Jesus changes everything.
Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher, writing a letter of bereavement to a friend, chose not to fill his letter with ordinary platitudes of consolation, but instead he comforted him by encouraging him to recognize the providence of God in the events that had unfolded. And this is a quote from his letter: “If we regard this event”—that is, the loss of this person’s loved one—
If we regard this event, not as the effect of chance, not as a fatal necessity of nature, but as a result inevitable, just, holy, of a decree of His providence, conceived from all eternity, to be executed in such a year, day, hour, and in such a place and manner, we shall adore in humble silence the impenetrable loftiness of His secrets; we shall venerate the sanctity of His decrees; we shall bless the act of His providence; and uniting our will with that of God Himself, we shall wish with Him, in Him and for Him, the thing that He has willed in us and for us from all eternity.
Now, there is something wonderfully liberating about that perspective. And it is the perspective that the Bible brings when we face these questions. The passage from Ecclesiastes 12, as well as, for example, passages from the letter of James, confirm what human experience makes clear: That life is brief. Even a long life is brief—in light of eternity, certainly. That life is frail. The great mystery is not that we have a list of people for whom we are praying who are unwell within the framework of the Parkside Church. The real mystery is that the list is so short in relationship to so many people, given, especially, the frailty of our lives.
And the Bible also confronts us with the reality of death, a reality from which we may wish to run but we cannot run. And when we come up against that—if you like, the brevity of life and its frailty, the reality of death, and the certainty of judgment—we have, then, within the Scriptures these clear, wonderful, encouraging, guiding statements concerning the nature of death for the Christian. And we could run through a whole host of them. But, for example, I’ll tell you just three.
For the Christian, death’s sting is drawn. The sting of death is drawn. That’s 1 Corinthians 15:56, if you want to look it up later. Paul says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you’ve ever been out in your backyard and you’ve had a youngster with you, a little one, and you’ve wanted to protect them and look after them, if a bee or a wasp or a few wasps have come around, you will have been very, very careful to make sure that you put yourself in between them and the potential of the sting. And if one of these bees comes and, as you reach out your arm, you take the sting that was planned for the little one, then you will have drawn the sting, and the little one will now have nothing to fear from the influence of that creature. Christ, in going to the cross, has dealt with the guilt of our sin, has broken the bondage of sin’s power in the Christian’s life, and on account of that, we may look into the face of God with death’s sting drawn.
Secondly, the Bible makes it clear that we are asleep in death through Jesus. Now, interestingly, when the Bible uses the picture of sleep, as best as I’ve been able to look for it, it never uses sleep in relationship to our souls; it uses sleep in relationship to our bodies. It talks about our bodies sleeping, not about our souls sleeping. And it gives to us the reality of this notion of having fallen asleep in Jesus. Again, that’s the Pauline terminology. And the conjunction is, through Jesus—falling asleep through Jesus, as a result of Jesus. In other words, just in the same way as a child inevitably hears their mom or their dad say “Bedtime!” we will hear Jesus say the same to us: “Bedtime!” And we may say to Jesus what children say to their dads or their moms: “Will you stay with me while I fall asleep? Will you stay with me till I fall asleep?” And Jesus says, “Yes, I will. Better than that, I will be with you in that sleep.”
The Westminster [Catechism], in answering question number thirty-seven, describes this when it writes, “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into Glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.” “Their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.”
I came across just a couple of sentences in Manton, in his complete works; my assistant has been a great help to me in this regard of late and has unearthed all kinds of material from these books. And I didn’t have time to keep reading this, but I’ll just read these couple of sentences to you, in relationship to this notion of the place of the body.
He comes to a number of propositions, and his proposition is “that in this life we shall be clothed again with our bodies, and our bodies with everlasting glory.” You know, therefore, what Paul writes: he says, “You know, we don’t want to be naked; we don’t want to be unclothed. We want to be clothed. Therefore, when we give up our mortal body, then we will be clothed with a spiritual body.” And Manton says,
Man cannot be completely happy till the body be raised again. The soul alone doth not constitute human nature, or that being which may be called man. The body doth essentially concur to the constitution of man, as well as the soul. Therefore the soul, though it be a spirit, and can live apart, yet it was not made to live apart for ever, but to live in the body, and so remaineth a widow, as it were, till the body be raised up and united to it. It is without its mate and companion, so that it remaineth destitute or half itself, which, though it may be borne for a while, yet not for ever.
And then he goes on to write from there.
Now, this is important to come to the question of what we’re doing with the body in the process of death, and that’s why I read it. What he is saying there is that humanity—man qua man in its constitution—is not complete simply as a soul, but body and soul unite to make the human constitution. And the absence of the soul from the body does not therefore render the body obsolete, insignificant, as if you were throwing out an old water bottle to be discarded because you knew that you were going to get a better water bottle on some later occasion.
Death’s sting is drawn, we are asleep through Jesus—and present with the Lord. Present with the Lord. Again, Paul, he’s so masterful in these things. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” So, when someone dies in Christ, in their disembodied spirit they are in the presence of the Lord, in the full enjoyment of the Lord, and when the Lord in glory comes, that individual, in their body, will be presented faultless, without spot and without blemish. And I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that suggests that when we get a new body, we’re getting a different body. I.e., I may want to be six-foot-three and look like a Norwegian sailor, but I clearly don’t, and in heaven I won’t. Because if I did, my wife, to whom I will not be married in heaven, would not recognize me if she met me on the beach.
So, somehow or another, in the reconstitution of our physical frame there will be that which is both identifiable and different—the hint of which is given in the resurrected body of Jesus, which was, on the one hand, immediately recognizable, and yet at other times unrecognizable; which had capacities that were not present, apparently, prior to the resurrection.
Well, we don’t have time to deal with cremation, we’ll just stop here.
Well, let’s say a word then about dealing with death itself, in terms of the process of death and dying, and what plans we may make for it, and decisions that we may choose to make.
I want to be sensible and guarded in my use of language here, but I also want to be fairly straightforward and clear. When a loved one dies, it is, as some of you will have experienced, phenomenally sad, it may be dreadfully ugly, and the whole event is so clearly an enemy. An enemy. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been in the home of a widow for that horrible moment when the undertakers arrive to remove the body. And it is virtually impossible to talk over the event. And given their best attempts to manipulate this human frame down the stairs in that dreadful, ugly bag, there is not one redeeming feature to it. And in all of the processes that follow from it, we say something about our convictions and about our ideals and about our Christian perspective.
In one sense—and it needs to be said very quickly, and right at the beginning—in one sense, it’s accurate to say that the manner of the disposal of our bodies after death is actually not a matter of vital importance, in the sense that God will reconstitute the human frame whether that was lost at sea in the Titanic or was burned in a dreadful Chicago fire in Moody’s day or was resurrected from a graveyard on the East Side of Cleveland. There won’t be any difference between those who were buried in graves or those who were drowned or those who were destroyed by fire. God will take care of all of that. So in that sense, we ought not to be particularly preoccupied with the question.
But given that, in the vast majority of cases, either we or someone who loves us will be called upon to make decisions regarding this process, it is of significance to think it out. And the fundamental question in relationship to cremation is not whether God can put our loved one back together again. That’s not a matter of debate. The question is not whether God can do that; the question is really whether we should put God in the position to have to do that by destroying our loved ones’ bodies in a furnace that is heated to seventeen hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
In looking for substantiation for cremation in the Bible, I’ve only discovered that the proponents of cremation argue from two Old Testaments events: one concerning the death of Achan in Joshua 7, which you can look at on your own, and the other concerning Saul in 1 Samuel 31. And what is interesting to me is that these passages of Scripture are used to say, essentially, “See, there was cremation, and therefore it’s okay to have cremation.” But in actual fact, when you look at the passages, they really argue for the reverse. When you read the events, there is nothing reverent about what takes place, there’s nothing desirable about what takes place, but what actually takes place in the disposing of these bodies speaks, actually, of a kind of judgment and approach to things that was not part and parcel of the way the Hebrews dealt with death—or, really, have dealt with death throughout the ages.
When you try and find historical substantiation for where we are, you, along with me, will discover that cremation was virtually unknown in early America. Virtually unknown in early America. The early proponents of cremation, as far as I could find, came out of Unitarianism, liberalism. They were skeptics, they were free thinkers, they were utilitarian, they were pragmatists. And in the vast majority of cases, they saw cremation as an opportunity to shake their fists in the face of God and in the face of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, so that cremation was not simply a utilitarian response to “How do we dispose of this body?” as much as it was an expression of a philosophical or idealistic view. Given that there is validity to somebody seeking to wed their philosophy of life with their perspective on death, it then falls to the Christian to say, “How do I bring everything that I know of the doctrine of man in creation, and in preservation, and in all of the beauty and the nuances of God’s creative order in making my children in this way or making my loved one in this way—how then do I deal with their demise in relationship to that far bigger picture?”
Burial fits the biblical picture of being sown in dishonor and raised in glory. That’s why Paul employs it. Burial fits the biblical picture—that Jesus used on a number of occasions, and the apostles followed him—to which we’ve already referred, of sleep, and burial shows respect for the physical frame. Now, I understand that people can say, “Well, it’s only a matter of timing in relationship to these things.” But actually, it’s not just a matter of timing.
Again, I don’t want to be so graphic as to keep children up at night, but in my experience as a young minister in Scotland, nothing chilled me more than funerals that I conducted at the Warriston Crematorium. And this is how it went. When it came time for me to say the words of committal—“Forasmuch as it has pleased almighty God to receive unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground”, which we don’t, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ who will change our earthly bodies that they may be like unto his glorious body according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things even death unto himself.” While I was saying that, I had to press a button which was right here on the side of my pulpit. And when I pressed the button, the coffin, which was beside me here on my left, moved through the velvet curtains. And if I did not get through the words of committal fast enough to get the organ playing quick enough, then it was impossible for everyone sitting in the room not to hear the furnace kicking in in the same way that it kicks in the basement of your house. And it just went bwoooom! So you had to get the organ going as fast as you could. And then, make sure that you don’t let any of the members of the family, as they drive away in the funeral procession, don’t let them look back. Because the smoke they see coming out of that crematorium chimney has been produced by the burning of the body of their mom, their dad, their brother, or their sister.
Now, you could tell that I am a great fan of cremation from this.
The Old Testament saints, it’s constant. Abram wanted a nice place to bury Sarah. Rachel was buried. Joseph was concerned that his bones would be put in a coffin and carried up. What the Old Testament saints did was to show tender care for their dead, and as a result of that, they established a pattern which made an impression and established a kind of unbroken communion of the saints leading all the way through into early Christianity. And fundamental to it is the fact that Christianity redeems the body as well as the soul, and Christianity consecrates the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. “You are not your own; you were bought [with] a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” “Well,” you say, “well, that’s only when you’re alive.” Why only when you’re alive?
You see, Christianity should honor the body in death. Because it is still the body. It’s still God’s creative handiwork. He put the eyes in there. He put the nose in there. He fashioned this body. And yes, the soul in its disembodied state is now present with the Lord Jesus Christ, but it hasn’t rendered my dad irrelevant. And if I’m going to keep my dad’s Bible on my shelf, if I’m going to keep a number of his ties to wear, because of my love and affection for him and because of the association that these things have with him—why would I treat his body in that way, if I wouldn’t treat his Bible that way?
You visited Rome, many of you. And the catacombs are a vibrant testimony to the early Christians’ belief in the resurrection of the body. Julian the Apostate said that there were three things that he had identified that could explain the rapid-fire course of Christianity spreading through the Roman Empire, and he said they were these: number one, benevolence; number two, honesty; and number three, the Christian’s care for the dead. Number one, benevolence; number two, honesty; and number three, their care for the dead.
Well, I think we should stop. I was going to leave time for questions, but I’m afraid of that now.
Let me say one final thing. In the Bible, fire is a type or a symbol, almost exclusively, of destruction, isn’t it? It’s a symbol of judgment—of a judgment that is complete and without remedy.
My personal perspective—and of course, it would come out, and it is only personal—is that burial is a more fitting end to the life of a Christian. Cremation, I think, is at best sub-Christian. I don’t think it’s un-Christian; I think it’s sub-Christian. And I haven’t dealt with Hinduism and Buddhism and Zoroastrianism and every other ism that, in the way they deal with death, say something about their conviction concerning the sanctity of life. But here’s the final thing: this piece of the puzzle is not a main thing. It’s clearly not a plain thing. And you’re sensible people, and you must figure it out for yourselves.
Father, one day we will all die, and we think about it in relationship to a will and to what we leave behind and the way we approach death, and we want to find a Christian way to tackle this. We don’t want to get sucked into spending vast sums of money for no good reason. So help us to think these things out.
I pray that no one will be harmed by these comments, especially those who’ve had loved ones cremated. We know that you’re sovereign over all of that. We don’t second-guess any of it. Some have already made plans in their will, and now they’re thinking they’re going to have to pay their lawyer another fee to fix it. But that can be done too. And at the end of the day, Lord, we have only one Master, Jesus. And where the Bible is clear and plain, we can move forward unashamedly and unequivocally, and where we have to ferret around as I’ve done this evening, then we know that we can’t be definitive and categorical in a way that would put strictures and structures on others. So help us to work out our own salvation, in this respect, with fear and trembling.
Thank you that Jesus is alive. Thank you that every Sunday reminds us of the resurrection—and, indeed, that every day for the Christian is Resurrection Day. So when we waken tomorrow morning and we see the sunrise, remind us again of that glorious day when, just as on Resurrection Sunday morning Jesus emerged from the tomb, so the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them, and so we will meet the Lord in the air, and we will be forever with the Lord.
Thank you that we have been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
 Psalm 139:16 (NIV 1984).
 See 2 Corinthians 5:1.
 Woody Allen, Without Feathers (New York: Random House, 1975), 99. Paraphrased.
 Joe South, “Games People Play” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See 1 Corinthians 15:26.
 Tom Paxton, “Forest Lawn” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.
 C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1949; repr., New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 140. Paraphrased.
 Blaise Pascal, quoted in Loraine Boettner, Immortality (1956; repr., Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000).
 See 1 Thessalonians 4:14.
 Thomas Manton, Sermons upon 2 Corinthians V, in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1873), 12:474.
 2 Corinthians 5:4 (paraphrased).
 Manton, Sermons, 12:475.
 See Ephesians 5:27.
 See Joshua 7:25.
 See 1 Samuel 31:12.
 See 1 Corinthians 15:43.
 See Genesis 23:1–20.
 See Genesis 35:19.
 See Genesis 50:25–26.
 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NIV 1984).
 Julian the Apostate, Epistle 22.
 See Philippians 2:12.
 See 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17.
Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.