************ Funeral Sermon on Romans 8:35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 29, 2016
Text: Romans 8:35
"Who Shall Separate Us?"
Henry Visser Funeral
Did you notice what is different about Henry's funeral program? Normally, on the front of the program I put either a picture of the cross or a picture of the deceased. But Henry has a picture of tulips.
Some of you might say, "The tulips are on the program because Henry is Dutch. He wants the tulips of Holland on his funeral program." If this is your answer I'm afraid you don't know Henry well at all.
So why tulips? Let's start off by stating that Henry loved the Reformed faith. Henry loved sermons on the sovereignty of God over all of life. Henry loved the five solas of the Reformation:
-the Bible alone
-to the glory of God alone
Henry especially loved the teachings of the Canons of Dort summed up by the acronym TULIP (which explains the tulips on the bulletin cover):
T = Total Depravity
U = Unconditional Election
L = Limited Atonement
I = Irresistible Grace
P = Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints
Henry was Reformed. Henry believed God's sovereignty over all of life -- especially salvation. Henry believed the five solas. Henry believed TULIP. So what? What practical difference does that make? Or, does it make no difference at all? Is this just heavy theology that makes no impact on our day-to-day lives?
It is our Bible reading from Romans 8 which spells out for us the practical implications of Reformed theology -- especially as we face death and dying.
Do you know the number one response we get to our church's website? I am asked -- again and again -- to assure people that they are saved. Many Christians believe that their salvation is in danger. Some of them believe they have committed the unforgivable sin so they cannot be forgiven (Mt 12:31). Others believe they deserve to be punished because they -- to use the language of Hebrews 10 -- have trampled the Son of God under foot, have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant, and have insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). And still others believe they have allowed themselves to slip away from sovereign grace. All of us have known people who have fallen away from Christ and the Gospel. So, it is easy to see why people doubt the security of their salvation.
Henry was not one of those people who doubted the security of his salvation. Even in the face of death (perhaps I should say especially in the face of death) Henry had no doubts. I asked Henry if he wanted to talk about death and dying. I asked him if he was scared. He dismissed those questions with a wave of his hand. Because Henry knew where he was going. Because Henry knew death was not the end. Because Henry knew that he would live, even though he was dying. To use the language of our text, Henry knew that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ.
What can we say about the love of Christ? According to Romans 8, God in Christ loves us so much He works out all things for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). And, according to Romans 8, God in Christ loves us so much He has forged a chain, a golden chain of salvation, that links elect believers to Him. Each link of the chain has been forged by God to be strong and unbreakable. What are the links? Paul names them: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified (Rom 8:29-30). Did you catch that last one? God's golden chain of salvation ends in glory. Because of the love of Christ, there is awaiting us the glory of God. About that there can be no doubt.
Do you know what the love of God means? It means God will never fail us. I hope you see that. But is it possible that we fail God? Is it possible that we lose our salvation? That’s what our text this morning asks. That’s what people ask me over the internet.
To answer this question, Paul throws before us seven circumstances that many think could make us lose our salvation:
-trouble - that is, hard circumstances pressing down upon us
-hardship - the Greek word means narrow space, conveying the idea of circumstances that confine us
-persecution - think of an enemy intent on doing us harm
-famine - a chronic shortage of food that was so common in the ancient world and still afflicts too many today
-nakedness - think of poverty so extreme that you are unable to purchase clothing
-danger - any way in which Christians' lives are threatened
-sword - the ultimate experience of suffering is being a martyr for the sake of Christ
Can any of these seven circumstances separate a believer from the love of Christ? Can any of these seven circumstances separate Henry from the love of Christ? Absolutely not!
(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 ... will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.And, just in case he missed something big and bad, Paul adds, "nor anything else in all creation." What can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing. NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Did you notice that something is missing from the list? I don't see the mention of sin. So let me ask, can sin separate us from the love of Christ? After all, it is sin which is responsible for the mess we are in. It is because of sin that we need a Savior. It is because of sin that we need the love of Christ. So, can sin separate us from the love of Christ?
Consider Peter. Peter denied Christ. Three times he denied Christ. Three times he denied knowing the Lord. Three times he refused to confess Christ before men. So, was he separated from the love of Christ?
Or, what about David? He started off as a Peeping Tom, he progressed to adultery, he ended as a murderer. So, was he separated from the love of Christ?
Or, what about Saul who became the Apostle Paul? He persecuted the church. He approved of the stoning death of Stephen. He hated Jesus and the church of Jesus. So, was he separated from the love of Christ?
Not even horrible sin can separate God's elect from the love of Christ.
Henry, the sinner, knew this. Henry took solace in this. Henry could confidently face death and dying because of this. And, what is true for Henry is true for Bernice and the family as well. They all can face Henry's death with confidence and hope because they know nothing can separate a believer from the love of Christ.
What can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing. NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Therefore, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom 8:37).
"More than conquerors." In the Greek it is one word. A literal translation is "hyper conqueror" or "super conqueror." Christians, like Henry, are "super conquerors." Christians are given victory and more victory!
Everyone loves a winner. After Super Bowl 50 everyone became a fan of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Right now, today, Henry Visser and everyone else who believes in Jesus is also a winner. Henry is a conqueror. Not because his faith was so strong. Not because he was so faithful in worship. Not because he read the Bible morning, afternoon, and evening. Not because he was generous to the church and kingdom. Not because he raised his children in God's ways. Not because he was friends with the ministers of Trinity URC. Not because he was quite a scholar with his books and DVDs and brand new Study Bible. Henry is a conqueror through Christ. In Christ. Because of Christ. It is in Christ that we have this super ability. It is in Christ.
This is not a promise with conditions attached: "If you do this, God will do that." This security in Christ is an established fact, and we claim it for ourselves because we are in Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love! Believe it -- and rejoice in it!
Now, think of Christ as conqueror. He conquered Satan. He conquered sin and temptation. He conquered death. We, who are in Christ, have access to this super conquering power. We, who are in Christ, are conquerors with Christ. With Christ and in Christ, we are victors.
With Christ and in Christ the Christian is completely victorious. Victorious over judgment because Christ died for us and we have His righteousness. Victorious from defeat because Christ lives in us by His Spirit and we share His life. Victorious over discouragement because Christ is coming for us and we shall share His glory. Victorious over fear because Christ intercedes for us and we cannot be separated from His love. United to Christ in His death and resurrection, we are more than conquerors.
No condemnation! No obligation! No frustration! No separation! We are more than conquerors.
Are you one of those trembling souls who doubts his salvation? Are you one of those Christians who has no assurance? Look to Christ. Look to His victory. Realize that you are joined to Him and therefore are victorious in Him.
Or maybe you aren't a Christian yet. Maybe you do not believe. I need to tell you that death is not the end. There is life after death. The Bible tells us there are two kinds of life: either in heaven with Jesus or in hell with Satan. I invite you now to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus. And then you, like Henry, will be a conqueror. And then you, like Henry, will experience victory in Jesus. All because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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