Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some Christianese We Should Rethink: 'Went Home to Be with the Lord'

On Thursday I attended a funeral that I felt did not adequately explain the h0pe of the resurrection of the body.


Today I thought I'd address some Christianese I think tends to subtly leave out the hope of our bodily resurrection when spoken in front of non-believers.

Doubtless you've heard the expression, "went home to be with the Lord." It's not completely without scriptural merit, and indeed as the Apostle Paul wrote, "to live is Christ, to die is gain."

But left by itself, the phrase "went home to be with the Lord" communicates to an unbeliever that our bodily existence is to be cheerfully sloughed off, for our true home is to be disembodied in the Lord's presence. 

Yet Paul wrote that our longing is NOT to be unclothed of our mortal body so much as look forward to the resurrection of our bodies to immortality, imperishability, and incorruptibility (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1-10):

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self [3] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwellingif indeed by putting it on [1] we may not be found nakedFor while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the LordSo whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

And in a similar passage from Romans 8:18-30:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because [6] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [7] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

We groan inwardly for release from the bondage to death and decay. So does all of creation. It doesn't long to die but to live, for death to be swallowed up in victory. Likewise we groan for the redemption of our bodies at the resurrection of the dead.

The bottom line is that heaven alone is not our ultimate home, our final dwelling. A glorious immortal body in the new heavens and new earth are our home, wherein righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10-12):

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies [2] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [3]

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Please Preach the R-Word at Funerals!

Today I attended the funeral for a family friend and sister in the Lord. It was moving and touching, honoring her and glorying in God. But unfortunately, I fear, it assumed the Gospel and shortchanged attendees.

I could be mistaken, but I don't believe I once heard the R-word: resurrection.

The pastor who gave some "words of encouragement" noted that the dearly departed could credibly "be convicted in court" if being a Christian were illegal. He cited a passage from Micah and one from Matthew noting characteristics of those who are righteous, but not once did he say that the source of the departed's righteousness was faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, she was a godly lady and lived a life devoted to honoring and serving God. But that all is fruit of the sanctification which followed her justification by faith in Christ. This lady was saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Yet that wasn't explicitly mentioned. Nor was the hope of the resurrection.

There were tearful and moving goodbyes to my dear sister in Christ, but there was no reminder that while in Heaven that is not the final chapter. The dead in Christ WILL be raised to new life at the Resurrection, and those of us who remain alive at Christ's return will be transformed.

But nowhere was this glorious hope of the Resurrection explicitly preached or proclaimed.*

What's more, the pastor obliquely suggested that there are people in the congregation who need to repent and put their faith in Christ, but there was no clear call to repentance or explicit warning of the final judgment. Although a final day of judgment was suggested, it was not exposited.

In short, I fear the gospel was shortchanged and thereby God was robbed of the glory that could have been given him and unrepentant sinners were robbed of a chance to hear a clear gospel call to repentance.

All the same, there was plenty of Scripture and sound doctrine in eulogy and in song, and I pray that many people walked away with a greater sense of their mortality and the pending judgment to come.

Father, please work in the hearts of the lost who were there today. Call them to repentance and faith in Your Son Jesus, in whose Name I pray. Amen.


*The passage from John 11 where Jesus proclaims that He is the "resurrection and the life" was read, but one cannot assume people know the concept of resurrection and what it entails as a great hope for the Christian.

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