In April 1995 a young member (Mark, about 30 years of age) of Prince of Peace, Hecla, S. Dak. was killed instantly in a single vehicle highway accident. Pastor Paul Krause, who officiated at the funeral, wrote that “it was a highly charged, emotional time for all involved. Our church was packed … we had a sound system set up for the people in the entry way and basement.”
A member suggested that his pastor submit the funeral sermon to the Spokesman. We print a slightly abridged version.
This weekend we have been confronted with an unexpected tragedy — the life of a dearly loved one has suddenly been brought to a close. Along with our grief, we are brought face to face with the reality that our end could come at any time. Are we ready for the end?
We know from the Bible that the end will come suddenly. Paul says: “You yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upn them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And there is no escape”. The Bible also states: “It is appointed for people to die once, and after death comes the judgment”. It is on the basis of God’s judgment that we will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell.
Are you ready for that final judgment? Where do you think you will go? Not many years ago a news magazine took a poll concerning heaven and hell. In that poll they discovered that most people think there is a heaven and a hell, and the vast majority of those feel that they will be going to heaven.
Are you ready for that final day of your life? As we have been reminded in this case, the end can come very suddenly. It is no wonder then that God encourages us in His Word to be ready. Jesus says: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming”.
Are you ready to go? Mark was! Don’t get me wrong — I am not saying that he was perfect. He may have been a wonderful person, and a terrific friend, but he was far from perfect. And all of us are the same. All it takes is a brief look at ourselves in the mirror of the ten commandments, and we all have to admit that we have not kept any of God’s law at all. The Word says: “If you keep the whole law, and yet break it in one place, you are guilty of breaking the whole thing.” One sin is all it takes for a person to stand condemned in God’s eyes. And because we have broken God’s law, God’s Word says that we will die. “The person who sins shall die.”
No, Mark was not ready for the end because of who he was or what he had done. He could not be ready on his own. Nor can we prepare ourselves. Even if we could keep the whole Law, we still also have that terrible sin that we inherit from our parents and their parents all the way back to Adam and Eve. Paul wrote the Romans: “Just as through one man’s sin (Adam’s sin), so judgment came upon all men.”
Mark knew this about himself. We need to know this about ourselves too. Left to ourselves we are not ready for heaven; nor can we get ready on our own — all because of sin. We too deserve God’s anger and deserve His harshest judgment — that is, an eternity in hell with the devil and all his evil angels.
We cannot save ourselves! Sounds rather desperate, doesn’t it? And it would be if it were not for our loving God. He is well aware of our miserable condition. And so out of love for the whole human race, He has made it possible for us to be ready.
God provides us with everything we need. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To remedy our situation, He made plans to send His Son into the world to pay for all the sins of every human being who has ever lived. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus as true God came down to earth, was born of a virgin, became true man, and kept the Law perfectly in our place. To top it all off, He also suffered and gave His life in death on the cross. In that way all of God’s anger over sin is taken away. On Easter morning God declared for all the world to see that what Jesus had done was satisfactory – He showed this be raising His Son from the dead.
And there is more! Since we were dead in our sins, completely unable to come to Him, God has come to us with the good news of the Gospel of forgiveness of sins. Through that Gospel He is able to create faith in the hearts of those who hear.
This was how God prepared Mark for the end. God came to him through the Gospel at his baptism and created faith in his heart. Through Sunday School instruction and confirmation class, and in the days since by coming to church and adult Bible study, he learned to appreciate more and more what his Lord had done for him.
It was through his God-given faith that mark, and all of us who believe, are credited with all that Jesus has done. Jesus Christ and His perfect life and His innocent sufferings and death are all credited to us. God looks at those who believe in His Son as holy for Jesus’ sake.
No, Mark was not ready for heaven on his own; no, he could not have gotten ready on his own; but yes, God in His mercy prepared him. He brought him to faith in Jesus as His Savior, and thus for Jesus’ sake He declared Mark to be righteous in His sight, and gave Him the free gift of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.
Are you ready to go?
Let us hold tightly to the promise that God has made, that for Jesus’ sake Mark is with God forever in heaven. Remember that through the same God-given faith we too can be ready when our times comes, and inherit the kingdom of heaven prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Through faith in Jesus Christ cling to His promise: “Because I live, you shall live also.” Hold on tightly to His words: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Amen.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”