Jack LaLanne died on January 23, 2011. He was ninety-six. The article announcing his death described his eighty year obsession with physical fitness. I remember seeing Jack on television when I was a grade-school-er. He was all about exercise, even before it was cool. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday by swimming from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco — handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. The last couple decades of his life, he sold power juicers and promoted the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. He was quite a remarkable figure.
I never knew anything about Jack LaLanne's spiritual life or religion. He never addressed the topic publicly, that I am aware of, and the article about his life said nothing about it. His life-long advocacy of fitness apparently won him a relatively long life on this earth. He got what he paid for. But now that is all over. It is suddenly as if he never existed, or lived only a short time. If he had a secret spiritual faith-life, it is not public knowledge, but he is with his Maker. If he did not have such a secret life of faith, all of his life is gone, it is like a dream from which he has now awakened, and he faces the greater realities of eternity with the one who was, in truth, his lord. I cannot judge the man, and have no desire to do so. That is God's job, and He does it reliably, justly, and for every man and woman. I am just mentioning Mr. LaLanne as an illustration.
He had a long life, and he seemed to be a decent human being, outwardly and in a social sense. He had all that one could reasonably expect or hope for out of this world, but in an instant, it was all over. If his public witness as I have seen it is an accurate representation of the man's spiritual condition, he is lost for all eternity, and the ninety-six years of his life were but a brief whisper, and now he faces eternal darkness and misery without end. His legacy is exercise equipment, power-juicers, and a commitment to being in shape for as long as this life endures. He stands as the symbol of a brief life of good health and physical well-being leading to an eternity of shame and sorrow. The thought is truly sad.
It raises the question for each of us, though, "What are you all about?". If you are reading this on paper, the chances are good that you are known to me as a Christian, but how would your notice to the public read? What would you be remembered for by the people around you who observe your life, or parts of it?
More to the point, I suspect, is what would you want to be remembered for?
It is okay to hope to be remembered for the work you do, the things you create, or the passions in your life. It would be strange if you did not want to be remembered for the things you spent your life working at, even if they were not of earth-shaking significance. I would just hope that while someone is remembering you, your faith in Jesus Christ and the importance of eternal salvation in your life was also something that someone would remember and point to as one of the things that impressed them about you. Such a hope sort of echoes the idea Jesus expressed when He said, "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God."
There are all sorts of things I enjoy about this world. God did really work in creating it, and even though it is troubled by sin and corruption, life in this world is pretty wonderful most of the time. Nevertheless, this life and this world are penultimate - not the final thing or the last word, but something short of the most significant and most permanent. Eternal life is the main thing, we just don't feel that naturally because this life is all that we have to experience right now. But that experience comes to an end, as Jack LaLanne illustrated so effectively on Sunday. When that end comes for each one of us, it is good to have the next step planned, and the final question answered.
God took care of that, too. This life is good, but it has the problem of having an end. We built that problem by sin, it was not part of the original design. God knew what we were going to do, and so, He also planned our rescue. Death comes due to sin, and not just physical death, but spiritual and eternal death, what the church has always described with the word "hell". It is the final judgment of God on mankind's sin and unbelief. It is also called "the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels". It is a real place, the place which is suggested for Mr. LaLanne, if his spiritual life is as empty as his public profession of it has been. It is the final destination of all those who die without faith in Christ, every single man or woman, boy or girl, who dies without the salvation which Christ has purchased with His own life and death and resurrection.
That is why the silence concerning his faith life and spiritual condition is so troubling. If a man would be so consumed by the care of his rapidly aging and ultimately mortal body as Jack LaLanne was, how much more should it concern him that he has the final question properly attended to? But so many men and women do not attend to it. So many pretend that the question does not exist and does not need to be answered. Jack spoke a great deal about the importance of exercise and proper nutrition, but, by all public information available to me, he failed to address the question of, "What comes then?".
In the wisdom of God, it was clear that there is nothing any man or woman can do to save themselves. We are, by nature, spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. We cannot sense our need, and if we were by some means able to sense it, we are unable to do anything to answer our need. According to Scriptures, even if we were finally able to summon the ability to do something about our need at the extreme of life as we know it in this world, we would not, because we are, finally, hostile to God and enemies, even against our own self-interest. God knew this and so He took matters into His own hands. He saved us. That is what the Bible says, in Titus 3:5. "Not on the basis of deeds which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit."
The saving began in this world with what we just celebrated in Christmas, and it was accomplished in full with what we will be celebrating through Lent and Easter. He purchased and won us all, and each of us individually, from sin and death and hell by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, and proclaimed that salvation accomplished by raising Christ from the dead. He has proclaimed and provided that all those that know of what He has done, and believe it in such a way that they trust in Him for salvation (and not at all in themselves), possess that salvation. Their sins are forgiven, and they are given the gift of everlasting life, and the resurrection of his or her body on the last day, and the promise of living forever in glory with Him in peace and joy and beyond all sickness, sorrow, and death.
You can see from this brief description why even one consumed with a passion for the health and well-being of the body would be properly concerned with this "last question". If the temporary life of the body in this world is so precious, how much more would the rising from the dead and living forever in the body be of importance? Because of human nature in sin, God also knows that He cannot depend on us to choose life and decide we will believe or follow Him. He has placed the power of conversion and believing into His Word, which He causes to be proclaimed from countless pulpits and by numerous servants of His throughout the world, so that all me can hear the good news and believe it and be saved. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.
The second half of that verse, as you probably know, is "but he that does not believe shall be condemned." But if you believe that this is true, and you possess this marvelous gift and salvation, how could you keep quiet about it? If health and fitness are worth sharing the news about for eighty years, how much more is life from death and eternal health and salvation? That is why the silence in the public record about Jack LaLanne's faith or spiritual life is so troubling. It is also why the question is so urgent for each one of us, "What are you all about?".
This life and this world is so urgent upon our senses and so real - for good reason! It is real! We must attend to this life and the things of this life. There is no escaping that reality. But there is also no escaping the other reality of this life. It ends. We need the answer to that problem, and the only answer that actually handles it is the one I have described. We who profess that we know it and possess it and believe it must be about that answer. We might be about other things in this world as well - our jobs, our families, our hobbies, our worldly passions -in the good sense of a passion in this world. But if we have the cure for sin and death, we must be excited about that as well, and more than willing to let it be known that we are not among those who will die and be gone, but among those who will rise, by the grace of God, and live a life without end in His glory!
The only realistic response to such good news is thanksgiving to God for His gift! This is not the sort of thing that we should keep quietly to ourselves. People do not keep making a great deal quiet. When they find a fantastic bargain, they brag to their friends, they tell their intimate associates where it is and how to procure it for themselves. We tend to like to show off our good fortune and our success. Being made the recipient of forgiveness, everlasting life, and salvation is a fantastic deal! Death is swallowed up in victory! Okay, that line is not original with me. I cribbed it from the Apostle Paul. But the news of the certainty of rising from the dead is pretty impressive stuff. Knowing that death cannot touch you, or if and when it does, it will not be able keep a hold on you, is pretty powerful stuff, if you think about it clearly for a moment or two. It kind of makes the health benefits of fresh fruit juices pale by comparison!
Now, if this was a limited time offer, or the supply was soon to be exhausted, I could understand a certain reticence about telling too many people, or making a lot of noise about this. We wouldn't want our friends and family members to rush out to get some, only to find the cupboard bare. But the supply is not limited, and the time it is available is only limited by the number of breaths they have to take. The thing is, we don't know that number. It would be tragic if we waited for a moment that never arrived to tell someone about the free gift of God in Jesus Christ. If someone in Mr. LaLanne's life was waiting until today to tell him about it and impress him with its value, they would have missed that opportunity entirely.
I am fairly sure that he heard, somewhere and at some time, about the Gospel from someone during his ninety-six years. It is hard to imagine that he did not, not in modern America. Still, there is no evidence that He ever grasped the significance of it, or found the treasure that God had waiting for Him. I hope he did, but there is not a whisper in the things that I can find about his life to suggest that he looked beyond the limit of those ninety-six years and found the hope of life in Jesus Christ. At this point in time, he is in God's hands, and God alone will know the final answer — well, God and Jack.
Your family and your friends ought not to have this particular dilemma when they look back on your life, one day. They should have abundant evidence from you life and your words to answer these questions about you. If they do, it will be a comfort for them on that day, particularly if they share your faith and hope. I know, because I have faced the moment when that answer to that final question became utterly important in the lives of a good number of my family and my friends and the people who are important to me. I miss their presence here and now, but I know where they are, and that I have not seen the last of them, nor they of me. In the midst of everything that their lives were about, I could clearly see what they were all about in Jesus Christ, and it is a comfort!
It is also a comfort to have that answer as I look forward and know that it is over all too quickly for men, including me, one day. I am not afraid of that day because I know that my Redeemer lives! I have been given the secret of the universe, that it is not death to die in faith in Jesus Christ. I will rise, by His power, and live by His grace. I like to talk about it with people who important to me. It is good to hear them say that they know the answer to that final question, too. Of course, I am a preacher, so my life is all about the Gospel - but more to the point, because I am all about the Gospel, I became a preacher. You don't have to be a preacher to let the world know - especially the part just around you - that you are all about Jesus Christ, and faith, and the good news of eternal life. So make sure that those you love know, too. Then you can work on people you merely like!
Yours in the Lord,
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