I preached the memorial service for a dear friend this weekend. His name was Kevin, and our local church family has suffered a great loss with his passing. I was personally close to him and I miss him already.
At his service, everyone who spoke basically said the same thing; that Kevin’s life revolved around the Gospel. He never wrote a book or put out a music CD. His name was not widely known outside his circle. But in mid-life he and his wife Christine left a lucrative career in industry with all the perks associated therewith and moved to Colombia to risk their lives to bring the Gospel to the poor. They took their lives in their hands when they planted a church in the Colombian jungles, in a place the State Department warns Americans to stay away from. When they came back, they were bruised and battered but had amazing stories of the things God did through them.
That period marked Kevin forever. He came back with a renewed faith in the Gospel and its power to transform. He wanted to help Americans to realize that the same power exhibited in the jungles of Colombia is available here today. I heard him many times recount the stories of God’s power in Colombia while exhorting believers at home to believe the same God who worked through Kevin in the jungles of Colombia will work here.
At his memorial service, I summarized what others said about him—that there is no way to make sense of his life apart from the Gospel. Kevin was a justified, sanctified, glorified sinner. Kevin knew justification; the personal forgiveness of sins, the most awesome gift a man or a woman can receive. That means that there was a day when he knew he stood guilty before a holy God and knew he was condemned. And he knew the penalty for that sin was death.
But then Kevin heard the good news: that Another came and died in his stead, so he could go free! And Kevin believed that good news and received the joy of knowing he was forgiven for Jesus’s sake. To say it changed his life would be an understatement. It set his soul free, and he was never the same. He now was delivered from the penalty of sin, knowing that he could no longer face the penalty of his sin.
But, then, Kevin experienced sanctification (the deliverance from the power of sin). This means that Jesus not only forgave him but took up residence in him! A sign was posted at the door of his life: ‘Under New Management.’ This doesn’t mean he was perfect; the truth is, those who knew Kevin saw an imperfect man who struggled with the same things most struggle with. There were two things that stood out clearly in Kevin’s life. First, as was just said, he was a normal man who struggled to live the Christian life as most do. And second, he passionately loved Jesus Christ who was the guiding force of his life.
Some of the men and women with whom Kevin worked personally testified to these two things. But there was a third reality to his life that gave evidence of his sanctification. It is that Kevin loved people. This came through with many of his co-workers; they felt the love he had for them and testified to it. And according to the Scriptures, this love is the crowning evidence that the Spirit of God possesses one.
Thirdly, Kevin now awaits glorification. So sure is Paul that the saints will be glorified, he speaks of it in the past tense as if it has already happened Romans 8:30). It is the promise that God shall transform our lowly bodies into the image of his glorified body. Kevin (and we for that matter) doesn’t know it yet, but he died in the hope that one day, at the appearing of the Lord, he will join the Lord in being glorified. This is what gives us hope and makes a Christian funeral so weird. On the one hand, we are greatly saddened at the loss of a friend or loved one. Yet, on the other hand, we are rejoicing in that the person we are mourning is one step closer to glorification.
These three things came out clearly during the memorial service for Kevin at our church. They demonstrate why his life cannot be understood apart from the Gospel. I will greatly miss my friend, but I am thankful that his life gave us front row seats to view the Gospel on display.
How about you? Does your life make no sense unless it is viewed through the lens of the Gospel? Are these three realities, justification, sanctification, and glorification descriptive of how you live? Are they on display for all to see? I want my life to give to those who view it a clear view of these three realities.