Preaching to a Funeral Audience, part 2

If you haven’t read part 1, read that first.

Christ Died for Sinners

Think of any story where someone risks his or her own life for a friend or even a stranger. A man in a New York subway station falls onto the train tracks. Suddenly, some stranger jumps down and lifts the man up onto the platform. The crowd rallies and pulls the injured guy to safety, then pulls the rescuer himself up onto the platform, and it’s a good day. The news media find this rescuer, and we all marvel at this guy’s courage for however long it lasts in the news and social media cycle. For whom would you be willing to die? For a friend or neighbor? A long-time colleague? What about your enemy? The fact is that Christ died for His enemies. Let’s read from the scripture here.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

(Romans 5:6–9 ESV)

There’s a horrible, horrible saying out there that makes it into our conversations here in the West: “God helps those who help themselves.” The credit for that quote goes to my childhood imaginary friend, Benjamin Franklin, as written in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Here’s the truth: God helps the helpless. We were helpless, sitting there on the train tracks with two broken legs and two broken arms. But that’s not all. The text says we were ungodly and sinners. We were somehow managing to shake our fists at God and curse him from below. Yet while we were in that state, Christ died on behalf of those He came to save. By Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He accomplishes two things. One, His righteousness, that is his right standing before the Father, is placed upon all who believe. God looks upon that believer as if he or she were Jesus himself. And two, we’re rescued from the wrath that sin deserves because the Father poured that wrath upon the Son. There is no room for your works here.[bctt tweet=”But let me ask you, and you need to ask yourself, ‘Do you believe?'” username=”ThingsAboveBlog”]

You might notice something strange that I’ve said over the past minute or so. Go back to the scripture passage here. Paul says in his time to his audience, “Christ died for us.” Well, who are the “us” here? Paul is writing this letter between 55 and 59 A.D. to an audience of Christians in Rome. As he is addressing a church full of believers, he can confidently say, “Christ died for us” and deliver all of these promises. I know about our friend here. As we conversed about this good news over the course of many weeks, it became very apparent that she came to true faith that Christ saves by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There’s no room for you to earn it, whether it’s by knocking on doors, performing sacraments and indulgences, or mere attempted imitation of Jesus’ life on your own.

But let me ask you, and you need to ask yourself, “Do you believe?”

Chew on that question for a moment as we turn to our last scripture for today, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.

To be continued.

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