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A Funeral Sermon for Richard James Mann

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves where he describes four Greek words in the Bible concerning love. The first is Storge, which speaks of parental love. I gave that book to Popo (as I affectionately call him) and I understand he read the first part of that book. Lewis describes the matter of God’s love in its proper place. One has said that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god.” There is quite a difference between saying that God is love versus saying love is God. If love is made to be God, then it is demonized, made an idol with no saving effect. But if God is understood as love, then we have something to speak about in terms of good news. 

We want to be near to God in terms of approach and experience his love, but when we are born, sinners all, we are near to God only in terms of likeness. We bear something of the Lord in our lives because we are made in his image, but we can only be free from sin inasmuch as we are near to God in our approach.

Lewis described it analogously as the difference between being on a high cliff where we see just below us the place we wish to be. It may be appear to be just a few feet from us, but in reality if we are to get down there, it takes perhaps five miles trekking down the mountain. From the cliff’s tope it seems we are near the village, but in reality it is a long way off. That is the difference between the nearness by likeness and nearness by approach or distance. 

Because of sin, though we may see the freedom before us, of living a life that is free from the fear of death that will come because of sin in this world, we cannot be free of it unless we actually get near to the Lord. And the only way to get near to the Lord is by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ who came near to us, died for our sins, was buried and raised for our justification.

This is the whole matter of how we can not only be saved from the wrath of God, but no longer fear certain things, including death, judgment, and living.

The Fear of Death

Some people fear death, in fact all fear death who have not been nurtured regularly in a healthy church by a pastor who leads them in Christ. This is what John is speaking about concerning confidence in salvation. When one has followed the directions of the Bible concerning salvation and looked to Jesus Christ alone, the wrath of God for that person has been dealt on the Cross and can never be placed on that individual. This means the fear of death is gone. Dying of course is a matter only to be afraid of for those who see this land as the land of the living and the next as the land of the dying; but in truth, we are in the land of the dying and going to the land of the living. Fear of death is only taken away by an exclusive love and joy in Jesus Christ that exceeds what captures our attention in this world.

The Fear of Judgment

Then there is the fear of judgment, and this is the second matter John deals with. Judgment follows death, and for those who will trust in Christ, there is no condemnation. One who is in union with Christ has peace with God. There is no judgment awaiting the one who believes in Jesus. Do you believe in Jesus alone is the Savior of the world. Then there is no judgment beyond the grave. The grave is not to be feared, neither judgment. This is good news.

The Fear of Living

But there is one more thing, that is the fear of living. This is not in the initial text, but in chapter 5 which continues the thought. Who is it that overcomes the world? It is the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God. Faith (a gift from God) is responsible for conquering the world. The world is defined in chapter 2 as the desires of the eyes, desires of the flesh, and pride in possessions (or as some state it, the pride of life). Those who are proud of life often are the most afraid to live. They fear living, and that is why they fear dying. They fear living, so they naturally fear a judgment. 

In contrast to such fears of death, judgment, and living, we read in Luke’s gospel “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,” (Luke 1:74)

When you know the Lord is with you, and you are walking with Him, you can go through anything and not fear! “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Is he with you? If not, he can be, if you are with him. How can you be with God, only if God is with us. The gospel is that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel–God with us. God with all who believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from the fear of death, judgment, and living for him.

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