************ Funeral Sermon on Philippians 1:27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 11, 2017
Funeral of Fannie Bordewyk
"The Last Supper" is a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting represents the scene of "The Last Supper" of Jesus with his apostles as it is told in the Gospel of John. Leonardo has depicted the dismay and alarm that occurred among the Twelve Disciples when Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him.
Today, I also want to paint a picture of "The Last Supper." My painting is a mental picture. Picture Fannie's hospital room. Instead of twelve apostles, picture twelve jealous nurses (give or take a few). Instead of bread and wine, picture an In N Out hamburger, strawberry milkshake, and an order of fries. Fannie didn't want to eat and drink at Sierra Village and at the hospital. But she loved In N Out. So Patti picked up Fannie's favorite meal. The smell of a freshly grilled hamburger, of course, attracted attention and jealousy. A woman who did not really eat for two weeks ate most of the hamburger, sucked down the shake, and said "Oh, I didn't see the fries."
Maybe Sierra Village and the hospital need to contract with In N Out and people will live longer. I don't know.
We do see Fannie's character in this incident. She could be stubborn. Once her mind was made up on something, it was hard to steer it in another direction. For instance, she let me know, and she let me know, and she let me know that she was unhappy to be out of her home. But she also let me know something else: that she was not scared to die, that she was ready to die, that she wanted to die. To use the words of our text: "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" (Phil 1:23).
In our Bible reading Paul explains that he is facing a difficult decision: life or death. Continued life in the body means he will be around to encourage and direct and lead the Philippian Christians so that theirs is progress and joy in the faith (Phil 1:25); continued life in the body means fruitful gospel labor (Phil 1:22). However, death means being with Christ in the joy and glory of heaven.
"Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two ..." (Phil 1:22-23).
Notice how Paul talks of death. He uses the word "depart." "I desire to depart ..." Depart. This tells us Paul is not scared of death.
This word "depart" was used by Roman soldiers; it meant "to take down your tent and move on." What a picture of Christian death! The "tent" we live in is taken down at death, and the spirit goes home to be with Christ in heaven (cf 2 Cor 5:1–8). Sailors also used this word; it meant "to loosen a ship and set sail." The word was also used to describe the setting free of a prisoner. God’s people are in bondage to sin, but death will free them. Finally, "depart" was a word used by the farmers; it meant "to unyoke the oxen." Paul had taken on Christ’s yoke, which is an easy yoke to bear (cf Mt 11:28–30); yet, how many burdens he carried in his ministry (cf 2 Cor 11:22-12:10)! To depart and be with Christ would mean laying aside the burdens, his earthly work completed.
Paul's words were Fannie's words: "I desire to depart ..." Fannie was ready to depart. Like a soldier, she was ready to take down her earthly tent and move on. Like a sailor, she was ready to sail to calmer waters. Like a prisoner, she was ready to be set free from her bondage. And, like an ox, she was ready to lay aside her burdens.
And here is the reason: "I desire to depart and be with Christ." This is why Paul wasn't scared of death. This is why Fannie said she was ready to die: because when the earthly tent is taken down the believer is with Christ. The believer is with Christ their Savior -- He Who suffered for them, bled for them, died for them, arose for them, ascended for them, and now rules all things for them.
"I desire to depart and be with Christ." Think of what this means for the believer. First of all, this means death is not the end. Death is not the end for Fannie or for any other believer who dies. You see, the body may die and be buried but the soul, the core of our being, never dies. We all have an immortal soul. When we die the soul is taken into the presence of Jesus. And someday it will be reunited with the body. So death is not the end.
Many people do not believe this. Many people believe death is the end. A mother, whose small son was dying, was told about the Bible's promises of life everlasting and the resurrection of the body. "If I could only believe that," the woman replied. "But I don't. When he dies, I'll just have to cover him up with dirt and forget I ever had him." It is sad, but more often than not, many people around us feel the same way as this woman.
The Christian knows better. The Christian knows death is not the end. Rather, it is just a beginning. The beginning of life everlasting.
"I desire to depart and be with Christ." Second, this means death is not loss. It isn't loss. For the Christian it is gain. That is what Paul says in verse 21: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Verse 21 is one way to test our lives. Let me say the verse with two blanks: "For to me, to live is __ and to die is __." Now, fill in the blanks for your life:
"For to me, to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind."
"For to me, to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten."
"For to me, to live is power and to die is to lose it all."
"For to me, to live is to eat, drink, and be merry and to die is to have none of this."
If this is how you fill in the blanks, then death is loss and not gain.
For the believer, death is not loss. Rather, it is gain. Thus the Bible pictures death as a home-coming (2 Cor 5:8). Home. You know what home is. Home is the place where we belong. Home is the place were we find love, shelter, security, fellowship and acceptance. Home is where we find father and mother and brother and sister. Here on this earth we are not really at home. But when we die, we go home. When we die, we go to Jesus.
This is not to downplay our present existence. For in the body we are also with the Lord. We do fellowship with the Lord right now. But when we die our fellowship with the Lord is more direct and infinitely better than it is now. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Cor 13:12).
The Christian who dies goes home to be with the Lord. Think about this! For the child of God, death is a gateway, a doorway, to a better life with Jesus. Death is a homecoming. And all homecomings are joyful, wonderful experiences. Death is the end of a lifetime pilgrimage. The Christian's journey ends when he or she is at home with the Lord. So death is not loss.
"I desire to depart and be with Christ." Third, this means death is not defeat. You see, in dying Fannie was released from the trials and struggles of this life and this earth. I suspect that the real reason Fannie didn't eat and drink was because her hands and mouth were always shaking. But now she can look forward to a resurrection body that doesn't shake. Listen to how Paul describes this body:
(1 Cor 15:42-44) The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; (43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.This resurrection body is perfect in every way. How perfect? "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Rev 21:4). There will be no mental, physical, or emotional disabilities. There will be no heart-attacks, strokes, or cancer. There will be no leukemia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, or any other disease you can name.
For the child of God, death is not defeat; rather, it is victory.
"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Better than what? Better than life on this earth. Better than life in this body. Paul -- and Fannie -- were both looking forward to a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth.
We've been talking about Fannie and her death. But now I want you to take a look at your own death. Think about it. You are going to die, says the Bible. It could happen at any time, says the Bible.
What is your death going to be like? Is it going to be your end? Is it going to be your loss? Is it going to be your defeat? Or, is it going to be your beginning? Is it going to be your gain? Is it going to be your victory? Which will it be?
I need to tell you to this: If you do NOT believe in Jesus, if you do NOT ask Him into your heart, death for you is going to be your end, your loss, your defeat because you will spend eternity in the fires of hell. But, if you do believe in Jesus, if you do ask Him into your heart, death for you is going to be your beginning, your gain, your victory.
Paul -- and Fannie -- both knew where they stood and what they wanted: "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Can you say this?
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