Taking the funerals of unbelievers is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There is really no comfort to give to the family and friends, only an opportunity to give the gospel to the attendees.
Just before taking the funeral of an elderly man, who as far as we know hardened his heart to the end against the gospel and passed into a lost eternity, I penned these words in the front of my Bible, and read them during the service.
Eternity, consider well,
Two destinations, heaven and hell:
The grave, the tomb, is not the end,
The soul lives on…take heed my friend;
Prepare to meet thy God, and now
Before the Lord, as Savior, bow.
For the one in the coffin it was too late. But for those who were living there was still opportunity to be saved.
What about you? The Bible says: “Therefore be ye also ready” (Matthew 24:44).
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
When the evangelist D.L. Moody was returning home late one night in Chicago, he noticed a man leaning against a lamppost. He went to him, laid his hand on his shoulder, and asked him if he was a Christian.
The man became angry and raised his fist threateningly. “I’m sorry if I have offended you,” Moody said soothingly.
The man retorted, “Mind your own business.”
“But that is my business!” the evangelist replied, as he continued on his way.
One morning some three months later, Moody was awakened very early by a knock at the door. “Who is there?”
An unknown voice answered, “I want to become a Christian.”
When Mr. Moody answered the door there stood the man he had spoken to under the lamppost.
When we encourage others to accept Christ as their Savior, we are simply fulfilling the mission that the Lord has given us. It is indeed our business, and His too.
“So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim” (Nehemiah 8:16).
The Gate of Ephraim is closely connected with the Water Gate, which is a picture of the Word of God. We also find it connected with several other gates later on. “And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate” (Nehemiah 12:39).
One practical lesson we can learn from this, is that when we have failed to act on the principles of the Word of God, and walk in “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16), there is always a way back through repentance, and return to that which is based on the work of Calvary. Notice in chapter 12:39, that this gate takes us right back to the Sheep Gate, reminding us that there is always forgiveness and restoration as a result of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Hosea said: “Ephraim is joined to idols” (Hosea 4:17), yet there was a gate of return.
There are but three brief mentions of Nicodemus in the Bible. Here is a brief summary of what we are told:
His DESIRE for Christ:
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with Him” (John 2:1-2).
His DEFENCE of Christ:
“Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth” (John 7:50-51)?
His DEVOTION to Christ:
“And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:39-40).
Last night a brother in Christ and I, were sitting chatting in his living room about this and that. During the conversation he quoted the following familiar verse of Scripture: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Suddenly he turned to me and asked, “Do we really believe it?” He then added, “If we really believed it, we wouldn’t worry or be anxious about what is ahead. We would pray more and fret less! And we would certainly have more peace and rest of spirit, soul, and body.”
As we retired for the night I thought a lot about what he said, and it is still on my mind this morning. Do I really believe it? And what about you? Do you trust in the goodness of God, and the reality that everything in your life is working out for a purpose of blessing? Let’s learn to trust more and worry lest.
Wicked hands nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross. The Lord could say, “The assembly of the wicked have inclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet” (Psalm 22:16). Wicked hands lifted the spear that pierced His side. “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34).
However, loving hands carefully removed the body of the Lord Jesus from the cross. “Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus….And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre” (Mark 15:43, 46).
What a contrast! Later the Lord Jesus showed those same wounds to the disciples in resurrection. “He shewed them His hands and His feet” (Luke 24:40). “He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). We too can rejoice as we view, by faith, the proof of a finished work.
The story is told of a nobleman who was so convicted of his sinful life that he determined to become a monk. After making inquiry he was directed to seek admission to a certain monastery 1,500 miles away, where the penance was severe and the discipline exceedingly strict.
Under the scorching sun he made the journey on foot and came at last to the monastery. He rang the bell and an aged monk, bent with the weight of years, opened the gate. Learning his business the monk admitted him to shelter for the night.
In the morning the nobleman told the old monk his story and received the following counsel: “If you want to be saved, you have come to the wrong place. Christ has finished the work, and there is nothing left for you to do.”
The young nobleman believed the old man’s message, and returned home, a sinner saved by grace alone.
Salvation has nothing to do with what we can produce or work for. The Bible clearly states, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
“I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63).
Several times this year we have spoken of the importance of having companions that are a help and encouragement to us in our Christian pathway. Here is another story that emphasizes the importance of godly friends:
Sophronius had a fair daughter named Eulalia who asked permission to visit the frivolous Lucina. “I cannot allow it,” said the Greek father.
“Then you must think me exceedingly weak,” said the daughter indignantly.
Sophronius picked up a dead coal from the hearth and handed it to his daughter, but she hesitated to accept it. “Take it, my daughter, it will not burn you.”
Eulalia obeyed, and the milky whiteness of her hand was instantly gone. “Father, we cannot be too careful in handling coals,” said the vexed daughter.
“No,” said the father solemnly, “for even when they do not burn, they blacken.”
“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me” (John 21:20-22).
Too many Christians are exercising curiosity in areas where they have no business. Why do we find such attraction in the lives of others? Is our life so dull and boring?
As in the past, so once again, Peter took his eyes off of the Lord. His interest in John can certainly be appreciated, yet the Lord gently rebuked Peter for his curiosity. The Lord’s admonition was given in order to emphasize that interest in one another must never be allowed to stand in the way of, or be a substitute for, faithfully and individually following the Lord Jesus Christ. Later on the Apostle Paul wrote, “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:4-5).