************ Funeral Sermon on Romans 8:28-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 24, 2000
Funeral Sermon for Neil Visser
"A Sure Connection"
I'm not sure how much contact all of you have had with Neil Visser. But I can never forget the sight of him in his arm chair, poking a hole through the air with his finger as he made a point, debated theology, and argued about the things of God. He would talk to me – actually, it was more like a lecture – about the latest issue of "The Standard Bearer" and "The Outlook." He would question me closely about my views and thoughts.
I heard this past Monday that Neil Visser grew up this way. At the dinner table his father would read the Bible. But when he was done with the reading, he didn't put the Bible away. No, he would proceed to ask questions and have discussions and even invite arguments with his children on what the Bible was saying.
Neil's children told me that Neil did the same thing to his children that his father did with him. He would play the devil's advocate and challenge them to think carefully and deeply on the things of God. The children remember their father spending his nights studying, always studying, the Word of God. He would study to prepare for the youth class he led. He would study so that he could challenge his children. I suspect He would study so he could debate the minister almost as an equal.
This study of the Bible is not the only legacy that Neil left behind. He also left behind a legacy of confidence about the future, of being sure about salvation, of knowing beyond a shadow of doubt of what would happen when death comes. The one time I asked him about this Neil let me know that he was sure of his salvation.
Now, why could Neil be so sure of his salvation? Why was he absolutely confident that he would go to Jesus when he died? And, why is it that his children and every person here can have the same confidence?
Can a person be confident of salvation because they live by the golden rule? Can a person be confident of salvation because they go to church? Can a person be confident of salvation because they try to be good? Can a person be confident of salvation because they spend lots of time reading and studying the Bible? Can a person be confident of salvation because they raise their children to fear and love God? Can a person be confident of salvation because they, like Neil, support a pastor when most of the congregation is trying to get rid of him? The answer to all of these questions is "No! No! No! A thousand times No!"
Neil's favorite Bible passage was Romans 8. His favorite verses were Romans 8:28-30. Why did he love this passage and these verses so much? Because they give the reason for his confidence – which can also be your confidence – about salvation. Neil could never get enough of Romans 8. And, he could never get enough of the God Whose actions are displayed in Romans 8. It is little wonder, then, that the family asked me to base this funeral sermon on Romans 8.
What does Romans 8 tell us about being confident about salvation? Let me illustrate the teaching of Romans 8 by the use of two examples.
A couple of months ago the church secretary said to me, "I can't connect to the church's e-mail." I checked out her computer and couldn't find anything. Then I checked out the network cable – it was not plugged in at the back of her computer. To get e-mail you need to have a connection.Or, consider this:
I remember the time I was boating with a friend. Our boat broke down. Another boat came by and offered to pull us in. Unfortunately, between the two boats all that we could come up with was a roll of string. You know as well as I do that you can't pull a boat with a piece of string. To pull a heavy thing like a boat you need a good, strong connection.
You need a good, strong connection. That is true to hook-up to the internet and e-mail, that is true if your boat needs to be pulled in, and that is true when you are caught in the trap of sin.
Neil would be the first to admit that he was caught in the mud and mire of sin. More than one family member described him to me as a "crusty old man" – this was their way of talking about the blemishes of a man they loved. In Neil's defense, though, I should say that this was a cover up for a soft side that he did not want anyone to see; as family members can testify, Neil did shed tears more than once about heart-aches and trials.
In spite of being a "crusty old sinner," Neil was confident about salvation. He was confident about salvation because of a good, strong connection. And, I want to tell you, you also can be confident about salvation.
Look at it this way. On the one side is Jesus – His blood and cross and suffering and grave. On the other side is the helpless sinner caught in the mud and mire and abyss of sin. Between Jesus and the helpless sinner there needs to be a connection – a good, strong connection – before the sinner can be pulled out, set free, and released from the trap of sin.
You see, Jesus is a powerful Savior. His blood poured out on the cross is more than enough to take away the guilt of sin. His resurrection from the dead is more than enough to fill us with His new life and His righteousness. Yet, neither the cross nor the grave does us any good if we are not joined to Jesus by a good, strong connection.
Our Bible reading and text for this funeral sermon tells us about this good, strong connection that God uses to pull us out of the mud and mire and abyss of sin. We are told about a connection – a chain, a good strong chain – that binds the sinner to Christ and the work of Christ. Listen again to the words of our text:
(Rom 8:29-30) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Did you catch what are the links of the chain, of the connection, between the sinner and Jesus? They are: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. These are all links in what the Canons of Dort call "the golden chain of salvation."
What should be plain to all of us is that God is the One Who has forged each link of the chain. It is God Who establishes the connection between the sinner and Christ: God foreknew, God predestined, God called, God justified, God glorified. God does it all!
Why didn't God just send Jesus to die on the cross and rise from the grave and leave it at that? The reason is that if God left it up to us to connect to Jesus, most of us wouldn't make that connection. We are just too proud and stubborn and sinful to do that. Furthermore, any connection that we make to Jesus is flimsy at best – it is like pulling a boat with a string. No, God did not and could not leave it up to us to make the connection to Jesus and the work of Jesus. So God decided from eternity to forge the connection Himself.
God did not forge just any connection either. What He forged was an unbreakable chain, a golden chain, that connects sinful people to a powerful Savior.
Topic: ProtectionWe are all like that little boy. When we hang on to God we lose our grip. But when He hangs on to us, that grip is solid and sure and nothing can shake us loose.
Title: Hold My Hand
A little boy was holding on to his father's hand while walking across a field. He kept falling as he lost his grip. Time after time the father patiently helped him up and on they went again. Finally the little boy said, "Daddy, if you were to hold my hand I wouldn't let go and fall." So the father took his son's hand in his own and the boy did not fall again.
Maybe you feel like the person in the movies dangling over the edge of a cliff or a tall building, trying desperately to hold on to someone or something. Yet, as you watch, you see the fingers slipping and the grip weakening. Maybe you feel that is a picture of your relationship with God. Maybe you feel that your faith is getting weaker and weaker and weaker, and you are desperately afraid that you will lose your grip on God.
Let me set you straight. It is not your grip on God that keeps you safe but His grip on you. Once God connects you to the Lord Jesus Christ and His marvellous work upon the cross and in the grave there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can break His grip on you or snatch you out of His hand. Because God has hold of you, you can be sure – absolutely sure – that heaven is your destination after death. Once God has hold of you, you have a sure connection, a secure connection, to Jesus. Listen to how Paul puts it:
(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Why not? Because God has hold of us, because He has forged an unbreakable connection between us and Christ.
Now do you see why crusty old Neil Visser could be confident about salvation? And, do you see why you can also be confident?
But now we have to look at the results. What are the results, the consequences, of God forging an unbreakable connection between sinners and Christ?
We see the first result in verse 1 of our Scripture reading where Paul says,
(Rom 8:1) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ...Those sinners who are joined to Christ Jesus – and you should realize not every sinner is joined by God to Christ – will not be condemned to hell for their sin. They should be. They should roast forever in the fires of hell. But they do not get what they deserve. Instead, they get the opposite of what they deserve. Instead of being condemned, they are set free, because Christ has paid the penalty for them and God has joined them to this marvelous work of Christ.
This past week Neil Visser appeared before the judgment throne of a holy God. God opened the books. And He read off the sins of Neil Visser's life. But for each sin He said: "Forgiven! Forgiven! Forgiven! Forgiven because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
We see the second result in verse 18 of our Scripture reading. Paul says in verse 18 that those sinners who are joined to Christ can look forward to a future life of glory:
(Rom 8:18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.I just love the image that Paul wants us to imagine here. Paul wants us to imagine a pair of scales. On one side put suffering, all the suffering of this life. On the other side put glory, the glory that awaits God's people. No matter how you weigh it, the scales always go down on the glory side and always go up on the suffering side. No matter how you weigh it, future glory always outweighs present suffering.
Think of what this means. There is no suffering so great that it is greater than glory. There is no evil so bad that it is bigger than good. There is no darkness so dark that it chases away the light. Today there is pain and grief because Neil is gone; but here too the glory outweighs and outshines the suffering.
What is this glory? What is Paul talking about? He is talking about the glory of being with Christ right now. But that is not all. He is also talking about the glory of the future life, after Christ returns and our body is raised. At that time we will have a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth.
"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." We believe that Neil has gone from suffering to glory because God joined him to Christ.
The third result we find in verse 28 of our Scripture reading where Paul says,
(Rom 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Paul tells us here that God takes the pain and suffering of those who are joined to Christ and He brings good out of it. Many times, for instance, God takes pain and suffering to rivet a person's attention, need, and hope upon Christ and the Good News of the Gospel. God takes pain and suffering to teach patience and perseverance which, in turn, brings spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4).
I can mention many more things. But I won't because by now you should see the wonder and privilege of being joined by God to Christ.
Now, let me ask you: Are you sure of your salvation? I ask this because every person here – including me – needs saving. Every person here is stuck in the mud and mire of sin. Every person here needs Jesus' cross and Jesus' grave. So I ask you, are you sure of where you will go when you die?
Are you, a sinner, sure of your salvation? If you believe in Jesus, you can be and should be. If you have true faith in the Jesus Who died and arose and ascended into heaven and is seated at God's right hand then you can be sure. You can be sure because true faith is a sign that God has joined you to Christ. You can be sure because true faith is a sign that God has forged a golden chain of salvation that joins you, a sinner, to the mighty Savior. You can be sure because true faith is a sign that you are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God.
Neil Visser, the sinner, was sure of his salvation. Are you?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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