Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Kinds of Funerals

     Over the last several days, I have been thinking about the passing of some folks that I know.  It is always sad to say good-bye to someone with whom you have been acquainted, but it is even more difficult if you do not know where they stood with Christ.  I have personally been to many funerals during my life, and they come down to two types.  There is one type of funeral which is the celebration of a life that was committed to Jesus Christ.  This is a bittersweet service where all present know they will miss the person but will one day see him/her again in heaven.  Then, the other type of funeral is one that is far more difficult both for the pastor and the people.  At this funeral, no one really knows for certain that the person who has died was a believer.  What do you say to comfort the family?  Based on the Word of God, we know their destination was not heaven if they had never made Christ their Savior.  Yes, this is a difficult thing to think about, but I believe the Lord
wants us to wake up and take the opportunity to tell others about His saving love and grace while there is still time.

     Jesus gave a command to his disciples and all believers that would come after them to go out and tell others about His life, death and resurrection.  Matthew 28:18b-20 reads:  "...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age."  We know these verses as the "Great Commission".  It is a directive given to us by the Lord Himself to tell others about Him and offer them the opportunity to commit their life to Christ.  Then, we are to teach them what we have learned from God's Word so they can grow in faith.  This sounds simple, but we often avoid doing this very thing.  Our excuses range from "I don't like to be rejected" to "It's the Pastor's job to tell people about Jesus."  Yet, there is nothing so final as when the coffin lid closes on someone we could have shared Christ with and now it is too late.

     Perhaps, the thing which spurred my thoughts on the two types of funerals was a conversation I had with someone this past week.  A mutual friend had passed away and they remarked that this individual was now at rest in heaven.  I thought to myself, "How do they know that?"  I had talked with the person who had died many times and never once did that person show any interest in spiritual things.  They may have been baptized and confirmed but does that make you a believer?  In my own life, I was baptized as an infant and confirmed in my church, but it was not until I was 23 that I had a divine appointment where I met the Savior as my Lord.  If people had thought that based on my church attendance and confirmation I was a Christian, they would have been wrong.  I had a "head" knowledge about Christ.  I could recite verses, but He was not in my heart.  I was not a new creation in Him.

     According to the Apostle Paul in his letter to believers in Rome, this is what it takes to become a child of God:  "....if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9b-10).  There is an element of vocal and public affirmation stated in this verse.  We are to confess with our mouth that Christ is our Lord and then believe in our heart.  This is what happened to me and to my dear husband three months before we were married.  We gave our lives to Christ and made it public both to our families and to our friends.  Since we made that commitment, it dramatically changed our lives for the better.  We became new creations in Him, and when we are called home by the Lord, we will be alive in Him in heaven.  This is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     I readily confess that I, like many of you reading this, have not done all I can to share the message of Jesus Christ with others.  For this reason, my heart was heavy over the death of this acquaintance.  I am not certain where this person is.  Only God knows if there was repentance before this person left this life.  What we cannot depend on to save us is church membership, confirmation, baptism or any of these good works.  The only thing that can redeem us from our sins is the blood of Jesus Christ.  When we call upon Him, repent and make Him the Lord over our life, then, we can know that we will spend eternity in His presence in Heaven.

     Sadly, there are people dying every day who have never heard the news of salvation in Jesus Christ.  They will go into eternity without God's presence.  Their funeral will truly be a sad one.  However, we can make a difference if we accept the call which Christ has put in His Word and tell others.....family and friends....about the wonderful news of salvation.  Then, when their time to leave this earth comes, we can rejoice knowing they will enjoy the Lord forever even though we will miss them in life.  May we take seriously this call to share the Good News with those around us.  Selah!

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