By Alex Ogden
It had been twenty-one years since this nation had buried a president. The flag draped casket being transported on a horse drawn cart, the horse without a rider, the twenty-one gun salute are all memories I have from presidential funerals during my childhood. On a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was eight, we visited Arlington National Cemetery where we viewed the grave of John F. Kennedy with its eternal flame. Now we have laid to rest the thirty-seventh president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.
It was only a few months after our visit to Washington, D.C. when Richard Nixon was first elected to the office of President. My memories of his presidency are not extensive, but I do have strong memories of the ending of the draft, the agreement to end the Vietnam war, Gerald Ford being selected to replace Spiro Agnew as Vice-President, and, of course, Watergate and Mr. Nixon’s resignation from office which resulted. All these memories started coming back to me when Mr. Nixon suffered his stroke that Monday evening.
As soon as his death was announced the various news services began looking back on the life and times of Mr. Nixon. Various politicians appeared to describe what kind of man he was. As I watched the various reports and listened to all that was being said about him, a few things came to mind which we need to stop and think about.
Mr. Nixon’s Faith
In all that was said about Mr. Nixon the night of his death, I thought it interesting how no one said that when they think of Richard Nixon they think of his deep faith in the Lord. Many said, when they think of Mr. Nixon, they think of his accomplishments abroad with the Chinese and Russians. Others said they think immediately of the disgrace of Watergate and his resignation from office. No one in the interviews I saw ever commented on his faith.
I’m sure we all know someone who has lived his life in such a way we can’t help but think of his faith when we think of him. When people think of you, do they immediately think about your faith in the Lord? Or do they think about the things you have accomplished, or failed to accomplish, in this world? Shouldn’t we all live our lives in such a way that when people think of us they immediately think of our faith in the Lord?
People will think of our faith when they think of us if we are truly committed first to the Lord. Jesus said, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Have you put the Lord first in your life? If you allow anything to come before the Lord, then the Lord is not first in your life. Paul said, “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth” (Col. 3:1,2). We should have our minds focused on those things which are above because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). People can tell what our mind is focused on by the things we do and the things we talk about. Is your mind focused upon your goal, heaven? If those around you don’t know heaven is your goal, it may be because it really isn’t.
Jesus said, “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt.16:26) What we have gained or accomplished in this life is not what is important. What is important is whether we have gained our life, secured for ourselves an eternal home in the heavens with our Creator. Have you taken the steps necessary to be assured an eternal home in the heavens?
That Richard Nixon had faults cannot be denied, nor can those mistakes ever be forgotten. He will forever be remembered as the first, and to date the only, president to resign the highest office in the land.
Before the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary it was not possible for a sinner to get rid of his sins. Once you committed sin it was forever remembered against you (cf. Heb. 10:1-4). But the Lord had promised to make a covenant with man which would finally deal with the problem of sin. He had promised, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
When Jesus died on the cross he put to death the old law (Col. 2:14) and put into effect the new law designed by God to deal with sin. Now, if we will have an obedient faith in the Lord (Heb. 5:8,9;11:6; Jas. 2:14-26), he will blot out our sins and they will be remembered against us no more. It is comforting to know the sins of our past can be completely wiped out and forgotten.
When I think of the mistakes of Mr. Nixon, and every-one else on the earth for that matter, I also think of our Saviour, Jesus Christ the Lord, who lived his life without sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22). Although we all fail to live without sin (Rom. 3:23), it should be our goal to be without sin just like Jesus. Peter said, “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:21,22). And Paul said, “For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Our Creator is so pleased with his Son he wants us all to be just like him. For the Lord to look on your life without remembering all your sins, you need to follow the example of Jesus and submit yourself to the will of the Father in all things.
A Day of Mourning
Wednesday, April 27, was declared by President Clinton as a national day of mourning for Richard Nixon. All federal offices were closed as well as many businesses across the country all in honor of Mr. Nixon.
When I think of the national day of mourning for Mr. Nixon I think of the day our Lord set aside for us to remember his death on the cross for our sins. Paul recorded the words of our Lord pertaining to the observance of the Lord’s supper. As we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine he said, “. . . this do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). The Lord’s supper is designed by our Lord himself to be a memorial of him and his death on the cross for us. It isn’t a one time memorial or even an annual memorial. It is clear from Acts 20:7 it is a weekly memorial. Each Lord’s day when we partake of the Lord’s supper we remember our Lord and what he did for us at Calvary.
Whenever someone we know dies we need to stop and examine ourselves to see if we are ready for our appointment with death. Have you prepared to meet the Lord? If you haven’t taken care of sin in your life, if others don’t know of your faith and if you don’t remember the Lord’s death each Lord’s day, then you aren’t ready.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 12, p. 1
June 16, 1994