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. Funeral: Tersia Vickery

FUNERAL SERVICE – TERSIA VICKERY

3 MAY 2013

 

There are a few challenges for preaching a sermon at a funeral. Firstly we want it to be comforting to the family and loved ones, secondly we want it to be challenging to all of us as we are left behind and have to consider what would happen when we die, thirdly we want it to fill us all with hope if we are indeed in Christ as far as our own futures are concerned in this life. So for that purpose I have chosen a text to preach on from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, which we will read now, as it appears on the screen before you.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Introduction.

It has been a tremendous privilege to have known Tersia Vickery. My journey with her has come approximately 23 years during which I had the privilege of being her pastor. Her husband Don’s funeral was the first one I conducted in Polokwane, and I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord on his deathbed.

Tersia, had a tremendous enquiring mind. She was one of the least gullible people I have ever known. She questioned everything. Her motto in life seemed to be ‘unless I understand it, I do not believe it.’ This has brought about hours and hours of telephonic conversations over time and in her home dealing with all her questions. She was very eager of late to know about the New Heaven and the New Earth that God will create and what the implications are for Christians.

So today, I salute her as a friend, as a member of the church I pastored for 23 years before and now as a founding member of Logos Community Church that we started together last year March. It was also a privilege to be at her bed over the last few weeks as well as at her deathbed on Monday and the early hours of Tuesday and to join Dean, Robert and Marlize in prayer in those quiet moments in the minutes after she passed to glory.

And so our hearts go out today to them as a family and we offer our heartfelt sympathy to them.

As we turn to the Word of God now and the text we have read, we see a bunch of statements made by Paul all boiling down to the fact that ‘if Christ is not raised from the dead, then neither is their afterlife for us’, and this life is all that there is. Paul drives home a few truths that are of critical importance for all of us to understand, and which is something that Tersia understood and that is that Christ was raised from the dead and when we die, we will rise from the dead. Paul proclaims with a resounding confidence that Christians have hope because: in fact Christ has been raised from the dead...”

The whole of chapter 15 is specifically devoted by Paul to the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ and the implication thereof on our resurrection from the dead.

Now the Corinthian church had no struggles for accepting that Christ rose from the dead. They knew that He appeared to Mary and Magdalene, they knew He appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus, they were eye witnesses of His appearance to them on a few occasions. They saw Him at night, at day, inside buildings, outside at the lake. They also knew that He appeared to 500 others also, they also saw Him ascend. So, about the resurrection and the resurrection power of Christ they had no doubts. Their concern was – what would happen to them when they die, would they rise from the dead and be present with God in glory, or is this life all that there is.

Paul now clearly shows them the critical value of the resurrection of Christ from the dead not only to their eternal life, but their daily life. In fact without the resurrection, all of Christianity becomes a farce and the statement of Christ to Martha becomes a lie when He said in: ESV John 11:25 "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”

If Christ were not raised the implications for the believer are disastrous, even in this life, but if He is raised the implications for the believer is glorious. So let me for the remainder of time, from this text share with us six glorious truths that relate to all of us, based on the resurrection of Christ.

Point 1: Because Christ is raised, preaching has a glorious eternal purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain”

If Christ is not raised, I need to stop preaching right now. Preaching is the method God chose to make His manifold wisdom known and this grace has not been given only to me but to all preachers who are preaching Christ. It is through the preaching of the Word that Tersia came to saving faith, it was through the ministry of the word that her husband Don came to saving faith, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

Just think, if Christ was not raised, we are all wasting our time, and each one of you sitting in the pews of churches week after week are wasting your time listening to us. But my friend, Christ has been raised and preaching has an eternal purpose, even at this funeral.

Point 2: Because Christ is raised, our faith is secure.

1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

‘Faith’ has a double connotation. The relationship that Tersia had with the Lord was based on both of these. There is the content of our faith, which is called faith and there is the focus of our faith which is in God whom we worship by His Spirit as we cry out Abba Father. I just heard Robert yesterday telling my wife Wendy while I was busy on the computer just how unshakable his mother’s faith was. But if Christ is not risen then her faith and our faith has no content and there can be no relationship as you can have no relationship with a dead Christ. The very essence of dead religion is that it lacks faith.  Tersia testified of a living relationship with a living Christ as it was Christ in her, the hope of Glory.

Point 3: Because Christ is raised we are true representatives of God.

ESV 1 Corinthians 15:15 “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” Most translations use the words ‘false witnesses’ in the place of ‘misrepresenting God’.

What Paul is saying is that if Christ is not raised the apostles and all those who claimed to have witnessed the resurrected Christ are all a bunch of liars and have fooled us, and we are fooling the world. To lie like that would have called for the greatest conspiracy in an age where it would be most difficult without all the modern means of communication. They would all have had to be in daily contact to ensure the same story. If they lied about the resurrection of Christ, how can we believe them in regard to anything else, and if Christ was not raised, was He not a liar as well? Time and again He said that He will die and rise on the third day.

Now, to put it bluntly, if Christ is not risen, Tersia’s witness of a living relationship with Christ till the day she died was a lie, and she misrepresented truth and she misrepresented God. But because Christ is raised, she was a true witness of the inner working of Christ by His Spirit in her life on a daily basis.

Point 4. Because Christ is raised, our sins are forgiven.

1 Corinthians 15:16-17 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Do we realise the implications of a dead Jesus on our sins and the need for forgiveness. If God still holds our sins against us – and we all have sinned!--then there is no hope of anything else from God. The foundation for every other blessing from God is that God won't hold our sins against us. Everything hangs on forgiveness.

Now all of us are sinners on every level and radically depraved. Just like an onion is layer for layer onion, you and I am layer for layer sinners. It is important that we understand this, because if there is any moment in life that you are not aware that you are a sinner, you no longer need Christ. That is by the way the reason we forgive each other their sins, because we forgive as we have been forgiven. If you cannot forgive, then you are still in your sins, because then based on your own judgment of another, Christ should not forgive you. To be forgiven is critical for all of us.

Tersia, sat under my ministry for years and she knows that we were sinners saved by grace and now as Christians we are sinners kept by grace. Christ on the cross clothed Himself in our sins and died in our place, and when we believe Him and receive Him, He clothes us with His righteousness. Today I present to you Tersia Vickery, standing before the living God, not treated as if she never sinned, but treated well in spite of her sins. The very peace with which Children of God die, is based on the knowledge that because Christ is risen, we stand redeemed and forgiven in Christ.

Everybody in this room this morning needs forgiveness, and deep inside, even when we don't think about it, we long for it. We long to be accepted by God. We fear the alienation of our guilt. But Paul says, because Christ rose from the dead we are no longer in our sins. To be "in your sins" is the opposite of being "in Christ." When we are "in Christ" we get what Christ can do for us, namely, eternal life. When we are "in our sins" we get what sins can do for us, namely, eternal condemnation and death (Romans 6:20-23). Praise God for what Christ did for us on Calvary and at the empty tomb.

Point 5. Because Christ is raised, those asleep in Christ graduate to glory.

18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”

Atheist Bertrand Russell wrote in 1925, “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my own ego will survive.” Now if Christ is not risen, this is true, but because Christ is risen We do not come to an empty end after a full and valuable life. Some religions teach a ‘soul sleep’ theology, where the body disintegrates and the soul or spirit rests till the return of Christ and are then raised, Materialists believe in utter distinction, then there are those who believe in reincarnation, where based on this life you are born again to a new life, normally as a reward of the previous. Death is not just a quiet end or worse than that the damnation of a believer.  Paul says in verse 18 that because Christ is raised those who have fallen asleep in him--those who have died in faith--have not perished. Or positively, they are alive. They will live for ever, and that goes for Tesia as well.

If Christ was not raised Paul’s words found in 1 Corinthians 15:32b become applicable to all of us here today: "If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

But because Christ is risen, the death of a Christian is graduation day, and we will reign with Him forever, and ever.

Point 6. Because Christ is raised, we are of all people most to be envied.

1 Corinthians 15:19 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

If Christ is not raised then living for him, doing what he says, following his will is a great delusion and we are insane and need to be pitied. Researcher Josh McDowell said, “After more than seven hundred hours of studying this subject and thoroughly investigating its foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history.” His conclusion was that the resurrection was the most fantastic fact of history.

I believe with him that it is the most fantastic fact of history and since Christ has been raised and is alive and reigns as King forever, all our obedience, all our love, all our self-denial and even our trials are to be envied. ESV 2 Corinthians 4:17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”

I am sure if Tersia was here today she would be asking you the following question. Tell me my friend, is your life well spent? Are you living for His glory? Or is your life empty, pointless, useless, insignificant and therefore pitiable. People, if Christ is risen we have no choice but to obey. Let’s not go to our graves and say, "I've wasted my life!" It does not have to be. Christ is raised and everything done in his name--by his strength and for his glory--is not in vain.  Those who reject Christ need to be pitied; we are to be envied because we know that our labour in the Lord is not in vain.

And so, Dean, Robert, Marlize and the rest of the family and friends here today we have determined this morning that because Christ is raised, the preaching of God’s word to Tersia, both at her conversion and every Sunday has a glorious eternal purpose, Tersia’s faith was secure, she was a true representatives of Christ and the truth, her sins are forgiven, and because she fell asleep in Christ she graduated to glory and of all people needs most to be envied.