************ Funeral Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 16, 2015
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
"He Will Keep You Strong to the End"
Edythe Adams Memorial Service
"He will keep you strong to the end." Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston -- and your families -- that is God's Word to keep in mind as we remember Edythe.
"He will keep you strong to the end." We aren't talking about physical strength here -- because her body was failing and weak. We aren't talking about emotional strength. We aren't talking about personality or character strengths. We are talking about spiritual strength. We are talking about an unwavering hope. We are talking about being established in the faith. We are talking about being sure of God's promises. We are talking about being steadfast. Or, to use a theological phrase, we are talking about the perseverance of the saints.
"He will keep you strong to the end." That was God's promise to Edythe. But now we want to ask why this verse applies to Edythe. How does this verse apply to Edythe?
Every time I walk up the sidewalk to visit the Adams' home I notice the signs hanging by the front door: "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." These are the words of God's servant, Joshua, when he led the people to renew the covenant. This plaque basically says everything about Gary & Edythe and the kind of home they established together.Is this why Gary and Edythe can stay strong? Because they made a decision to serve the Lord? Is it up to them?
"He will keep you strong to the end." Notice the "HE." In other words, it is not a case of Edythe keeping herself strong to the end. Nor is it a case of Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston, or anyone of us keeping ourselves strong to the end. Perseverance and steadfastness is never left up to us. It is never in our hands. It does not depend on our strength, our purposes, our faith. Why? Because we have ups and downs in our faith life. Because we are under attack from the devil, the world, and the old man of sin within us. Because we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. We need the Lord to uphold us and make us strong. Without the Lord we go down to defeat. So, being strong depends on God.
"He will keep you strong to the end." In our Bible reading, Paul emphasizes that this is an unbreakable promise. A promise you can take to the bank. A promise that will never fail. A promise that is guaranteed. But, then, all of God's promises are this way. Why? As we sang and as we find in our text, God is faithful (vs 9). Reliable. Trustworthy. "He will keep you strong to the end." Meaning what? Meaning God is making us like Himself. God is reliable and trustworthy and faithful. And, He is making us reliable and trustworthy and faithful. He is transforming us more and more fully into His image. He did that with Edythe. And, He is doing that with Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston, and everyone who believes.
"He will keep you strong to the end." Our Bible reading begins with grace. God keeps His saints strong in His grace. Paul writes:
(1 Cor 1:4) I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
God's grace is so much a part of Who God is and what God does that God includes it as part of His name:
(Ex 34:5-7) Then the LORD ... proclaimed his name, the LORD. (6) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, (7) maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin ..."
Before saying anything else, I need to say something about sin. Every person here is a sinner: you, me, and every person who ever lived (except for the Lord Jesus Christ). We all are sinners. We all come under the judgment and condemnation of God. Now, there are two ways to pay for the guilt and corruption of our sin.
The first way: everlasting punishment in the fires of hell. Everlasting because the debt of sin is so big that eternity is required; and, yet, it can never be paid.
The second way: grace. Grace in and through Christ Jesus. We especially see this grace at the cross. There, as you know Christ suffered unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul. And, He suffered this in our place. He took our punishment. Because of Christ's atoning sacrifice, God will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature.
Whether it is way one or way two, the result of sin is the torment of hell. Either you suffer this torment or Christ, by grace, suffered it in your place.
As we will be singing in a few minutes, grace is amazing and sweet and precious! Grace is amazing and sweet and precious because grace is for sinners. Grace is for the undeserving. Grace is for those who are estranged from God. Grace is for those who deserve the fires of hell. Grace is amazing and sweet and precious because it saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
Edythe was the first to say she needed this grace. Yes, as we have heard, she had many good and even exceptional qualities and gifts. Paul talks in verses 5-7 of our Scripture reading about the riches of spiritual gifts. These are gifts that are used by God and the church for the service and enrichment of Christ's body, the church. Specifically, Paul mentions speaking and knowledge. Those who know Edythe realize she was quiet and reserved. She was not one for speaking. Though I do remember the time she asked me for input before she spoke to a group of ladies about the meaning of comfort in Q & A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
As we look back at her life, what were Edythe's gifts? I dare say most people right away think of her musical abilities on the organ and piano. She played for the men's quartet. She played for our shut-in services at Westgate a few times. She played for our worship services. Most people don't know this, but her most outstanding gift was hospitality. She opened herself and her home time after time. She did this by taking in a woman from the pregnancy center. She did this by the adoption of Eric. She did this by taking in her father-in-law for the last two years of his life. She did this by taking in Winston -- who was and was not adopted. And, she took in Winston's mother. Our church had three widows living at Evergreen Nursing Home -- they were taken in by Edythe and Gary every Thanksgiving Day (and, I think, Christmas as well). She opened her home and her heart. It wasn't about her and look at me and what a good hostess I am and what a great homemaker I am. It was all about serving others. To use the language of Paul in verse 6, our testimony about Christ was confirmed in Edythe.
We remember and cherish what was good and even exceptional about Edythe. Yet, she knew and admitted she was a sinner. That she needed grace. That Christ needed to take her place before the judgment seat of God. Because the good she did was not good enough to pay for her sins. Because the good she did was not entirely perfect and did not measure up in every way to the divine law. Because even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
"He will keep you strong to the end." This morning we celebrate that God kept Edythe strong in His grace. And, the same goes for Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston, and everyone here who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. "He will keep you strong to the end." He will keep you in His sweet, amazing, beautiful grace.
"He will keep you strong to the end." Notice the result: "so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." I like how the Catechism states this (in Q & A 60): it is as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I have been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. God's wants to make us look perfect like Christ. God's wants to transform us more and more fully into Christ's image. He did that with Edythe. And, He is doing that with Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston, and everyone who believes.
"He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." God molds us and sculpts us and transforms us to be like Christ. What is God's goal, God's purpose? In verse 9, Paul speaks of fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. The goal or purpose of God's work is fellowship with Jesus. That is why He keeps us strong in His grace. So we can have fellowship with Jesus.
A little more than three weeks ago Edythe was in Greece to visit with Jon and Sara and Elizabeth and Carson. She went downhill quickly after she came home. One of the last things she said, "I just want to go see Jesus." She realized that the Lord's work in her and with her was reaching its conclusion. She knew she was ready to be with Jesus in a way that is not possible in this life and on this earth and in this body. "I just want to go see Jesus."
"He will keep you strong to the end ... God has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Gary, Jon, Eric, Winston, keep that promise before your eyes. And remember and believe that Edythe is now with the Lord.
I cannot end with Edythe. I cannot even end with Jesus. I need to end with all of you, the family and friends of Edythe. Funerals are about the only time many people are open to thinking about life and death. So, let me ask, are you right with God even as Edythe was right with God? Have you repented of your sin? Do you believe in the Lord Jesus? Are you ready to die?
Don't forget, the result of sin is the torment of hell. Either you suffer this torment or Christ suffered it in your place. So, I invite you to believe in Jesus. Because only those who by grace believe are kept strong to the end. Because only those who by grace believe are blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because only those who by grace believe are called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Edythe was ready. She was kept strong to the end. Are you ready?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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