Published June 22, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Ready To Go"

Yesterday I did something I've never done before. And might never do again. I preached at a funeral.

Regular readers may recall that I occasionally fill-in preach at our home church when our pastor is preaching elsewhere. Five years ago, I preached a sermon about heaven. That very day, a dear friend (already then in his 80s) and member of the congregation, Bob Ranck, told me he wanted me to preach that sermon at his funeral. I said I would be honored.

Yesterday I fulfilled that obligation.

My sermon about heaven especially touched Bob because he had long-ago made his reservation to go there when his time in this life would inevitably come to an end. He loved to think about that place where he would spend all eternity. And that desire to go there greatly intensified in the past year as he dealt with the incurable cancer that finally claimed his life last Thursday.

But Bob was ready to go.

Bob loved to think about spending eternity, not just with his loved ones who also were believers, but also with the One who made it all possible – the Lord Jesus Christ – the One who came, ministered, bled and died, rose again and is coming back to claim His own. I love the old hymn, a few words of which say it all...

When all my labors and trials are o'er
And I am safe on that beautiful shore
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore
Will thro' the ages be glory for me...

When by His grace I shall look on His face...
That will be glory, be glory for me...

2nd Corinthians 5:8 tells us that when we as Christians are absent from the body – when we die – we are present with the Lord. What a wonderful, encouraging and exciting promise from God's Word! Death – the scourge of mankind since sin first came into the world – was "swallowed up in victory" (1st Cor. 15:54) when Christ conquered death once and for all at His resurrection.

Heaven?  Bob was ready to go.

He's been looking forward to seeing the streets of gold, the glorious mansions, the incredible sights that even the Apostle John – who was shown heaven by Christ (recorded in Revelation) – had great trouble putting into words. What John saw was, quite literally, indescribable. Paul, quoting Isaiah, put it this way: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1st Corinthians 2:9). Heaven will quite literally be far better than we can possibly imagine.

Bob was definitely ready to go there.

But Bob did ask me to be sure to add one very important aspect to the sermon at his funeral about heaven – an unambiguous invitation to accept Christ for anyone who may not have already done so. This I was most willing and eager to do. It shows the measure of a man – and the depth of his faith – that the one thing he wanted people attending his own funeral to remember about him was that he would like them to share in the eternal joy that is heaven — a joy that Bob knew he would, by then, already be experiencing.

I don't know how common it is to give an invitation at a memorial service, but I'd suggest that it is a wonderful time for presenting the Gospel and inviting folks to accept Christ. The circumstances surrounding such a gathering provide a stark reminder that this life will not go on forever. In fact, it may end at literally any moment. And unsaved family members, friends and associates may be in attendance who seldom, if ever, would otherwise even set foot inside a church.

They need to hear! They need to be ready for the inevitable. They need to accept the gracious gift of salvation that only faith in Christ can provide. Accepting Christ as Savior and Lord – and accepting the forgiveness only He can give – is the only way to get to heaven! Nobody gets there any other way. Nobody gets to heaven "by default." ("By default" you wind up in the other place – definitely not a good idea.)

Bob long ago made his choice, and in recent months he was growing more and more homesick for heaven every day.

Bob's not homesick any more. Bob's home.

He was ready to go. Are you?

- Paul

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