I attended two funerals recently. Though the occasion was the same, what I heard at these two services was world’s apart.
At one funeral, the minister (I am very hesitant to use the word “pastor” here) did read some Scripture, and he did talk of Jesus, even faith in Jesus. So far, so good. But at some point in his funeral message, he felt the need to strip God of His sovereignty. This minister wanted everyone to know he did not believe God had anything to do with sicknesses, diseases, hard times, pain, suffering, or anything that does not make us smile and ask for more. God does not send pain or hard times into people’s lives, he quipped, in order to grow them or teach them or correct them. Rather, this minister said all these things are “just the world we live in.” That’s just how things are. People die. People get sick. People suffer. People win some and lose some, but God is not to be located within any of it.
I wondered how many listeners recognized that this so-called preacher was presenting the god of Deism to them, and not the God of the Bible. Deism claims God made the world then just left it to its own devices, to run on its own, if you will. So, do not look for God in the dark valleys of life – He’s not there! He’s just sitting back watching the train wreck and hoping for our best. Hope? Guess not.
Saddest of all, this “man of the cloth” used Jesus as his “reason” for believing what he proclaimed! He said Jesus never gave anybody a disease, so that must mean God has nothing to do with anything hard or calamitous in our lives.
Well, a few days later I sat at another funeral. This time the Preacher told listeners that people die because they are sinners, and that God Himself decreed death as the “wages of sin.” He said death reminds us all that we are under God’s wrath. This Preacher proclaimed that insteads of sitting back and watching the human train wreck, God actually sent His Son Jesus into the world to live a perfect life (satisfy God) and then God punished Jesus on the cross for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. This Pastor then claimed the only way to escape the everlasting wrath of God in hell was to turn from sin and trust everything to the finished work of Christ on the bloody cross. Here’s hope! Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and was raised from the grave three days later! Look to Him in faith and live forever in His presence. Reject Him and your sure destiny is to be cut off from God in the fire of hell. There was no “being good enough” to get to heaven. No working for it. No checklists. Only Jesus saves! That’s what I heard at the second funeral.
Now, I sat there wondering how a non-Christian, or a person who thinks he or she is saved but is trusting in someone or something other than Christ, would possibly make sense of things if he had sat in both funerals as I did. I mean, which preacher should I believe? It made me sad, but also glad that the Holy Spirit can and does do His work of changing hearts and creating faith in Christ regardless of bogus preachers. But friends, let’s not kids ourselves. It is the true gospel, God’s gospel that “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). God hates false gospels (Gal 1:6-7). The minister of the first funeral, according to God’s own word, is called “accursed.” That’s serious. And sad.
If we are to take the first minister’s message seriously – that God is simply not involved in bringing suffering or hardship to people – then we should shred the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-49. We’ll need to expunge the Book of Judges from the Bible, because that’s where God actually punishes His own disobedient people by sending enemy armies to plunder them. We definitely need to rip out and burn the Books of Job and Jonah. All that stuff about God making Ezekiel lay on his side for a year and eat food cooked over cow dung, yea, ignore it too. The Babylonian Exile? Must be a joke. And what in the world is the Prophet Habakkuk so upset about?
Oh, and then there’s the New Testament. Throw out the man born blind (John 9), which Jesus said was a specific act of God done to bring Himself glory as Jesus gave that man both physical and spiritual sight. And please do not read the account of Paul’s conversion, where Jesus (meek and mild as He was) blinds Paul then tells him he is going to have to suffer much for the cause of Christ. Stephen’s stoning? A cosmic accident and I guess King Jesus stood idly by helpless to stop it. All those martyrs in Revelation? The tribulation of the saints? Nah, surely God is in no way involved in all these things, right?!
Do you see how a preacher, or any believer, getting sloppy with the Gospel is a really, really big deal? The preacher of the first funeral made a mockery of the Cross of the Lord Christ. For my Bible tells me that God planned to crush His Son on that cross before the world was ever made (Acts 2-4). And that meek and mild Jesus proclaimed by that so-called minister, He is coming again in a fury that shall consume all His enemies (2 Thess 1; Rev 6:15-16; 19). And those who are saved were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). And God sends suffering to His people to bring Himself glory and enable them to serve others who are suffering (2 Cor 1). God is sovereign. Period. Try as he may, that weasly minister simply cannot make God anyone other than Who He is. He is I AM.
Oh, and by the way, the Preacher of the second funeral was my fellow Elder at Corydon Baptist Church. What an honor to serve King Jesus with him. God help us keep cutting it straight, for the glory of the Sovereign, Risen and Reigning Savior and Judge. Amen.