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Christian Confidence. Funeral Sermon


In Memoriam + Norman Fritz

St. Peter Lutheran Church

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

June 11, 2015

“The Confidence of a Christian”

Iesu Iuva

Glen, Bernie,

Norman’s relatives and friends,

Members of St. Peter Lutheran Church:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s word for our comfort this morning is from the epistle reading, the 5th chapter of Paul’s second Letter to the Corinthians: Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

 

In this reading Paul writes of the confidence or courage of a Christian. Now we know something about what courage and confidence are in the things of this world. It is a fine quality to have. It took courage and confidence to do a lot of the things that Norman did in his life. It obviously takes courage to serve your country at war as Norman did. It takes courage and confidence to drive race cars. I don’t think you’ll ever see me doing that! And it takes courage and confidence to run a business, let alone two successful businesses. There are many other qualities you need to run a successful business, but one certainly is confidence and courage—to take risks, to make decisions in the best interests of your company and its employees. And to manage and lead any group of people takes courage and confidence. Norman had these qualities, along with the industriousness and work ethic that seems to be a quality of just about everyone in the Fritz family. Norman didn’t sit on his hands. He was working, even in retirement.

Courage and confidence is a fine gift of God in earthly things. It enables a person to move forward when things aren’t easy and the future is uncertain. But in the reading from Second Corinthians Paul talks about a Christian’s courage and confidence. It is a much rarer gift than earthly confidence. It enables a person to live and work confidently in the face of death and the judgment of God. This is a boldness that very few people have. Some people are brave in earthly things, but very few are brave in the face of death and God’s judgment. When you ask people what they think is going to happen to them when they die, many people will say, “I will go to a better place.” But when they are threatened with death or even some lesser trouble, they are filled with anxiety. Others who are more conscious of the fact that God will judge them when they die say, “I hope I will go to heaven.” But rare is the person who believes that God will judge the living and the dead according to His holy law, but who also says with confidence, “I will be with the Lord when I die!”

Yet God wants to give us this Christian courage and confidence. It is no small thing, this courage, that enabled Paul to write: “We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…” (2 Cor. 5:1-2) Imagine that—being so sure that we will live forever that we long to put off this life and this body and put on immortality! Such confidence and courage seems crazy to the world. But imagine the courage we would have if we could be so certain that we will rise from the dead and have eternal life!

Paul says that Christians do have this courage and confidence. We don’t all have it in the same amount. But being Christians we believe that our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ and that, just as HE has risen from the dead, so also will we. But very often our faith in this is weak and our courage is not as great as it would be if our faith were firmer.

Of course there are those who have no right to be courageous and confident in the face of death and God’s judgment. Indeed, most people on earth have no right to this confidence. Paul says, “So whether we are at home or away [from the body], we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:9-10)

 

Anyone who hears those words and has no fear about being judged for the deeds he has done in the body should question whether he has Christian confidence or the false courage of the flesh. A Christian knows that if he were judged by God for the deeds he has done in the body by himself, apart from Christ, he could not please God. For God’s law requires not only that we be decent people but that we be perfect in thought, word, and deed. So the only way it can come out well for us at the judgment seat of Christ is if our evil thoughts and deeds are entirely removed from us. Those who are confident that they have lived a good enough life to stand before the judgment seat of Christ have a false courage and confidence. So do those who have no concern about serving God or hearing His Word. They have a courage and confidence that enables them to go on living in their sins without worrying about death and God’s judgment. But it is not Christian courage. It is courage that comes from spiritual blindness; a false courage, like when teenagers take risks not so much because they are brave but because they are foolish and unaware of the dangers that are around them.

Christian courage does not belong to those who are unconcerned about their sins. But it is for sinners who know that they have fallen short of God’s law. It is for sinners who perhaps all their lives have struggled against their sin and unbelief. It is for those sinners who know that they cannot stand before the judgment seat of Christ with their own works, but who believe, with however weak a faith, that Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove their sins from them and clothe them with righteousness. To you who know yourselves to be poor, miserable sinners, God wills for you to have the confidence, the good courage, that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.

Where do we get this courage? How does God give it? He gives it through His Word. God does not promise to give us a spiritual experience that takes away all doubt. He makes us courage and confident in the face of death and judgment through His Word—through the reading of the Scriptures and through faithful preaching. In the Word He promises and certifies that through the suffering Jesus endured on the cross our evil deeds were taken away and the righteousness of Christ was put on us. And if we are righteous, that means God will raise us up from the dead just as He raised Jesus.

“So we are always of good courage,” says Paul. We are always courageous and know that “while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:6-7) Our sight tells us that death is the end. It tells us that death is the final destruction of our life. Even more, our eyes and our reason tell us that we are sinners against God even while we believe in Jesus. They say, “You have no reason to expect that you have ‘a heavenly dwelling, a building from God…eternal in the heavens.’ By your sins you displease God. How can you expect that when you put off this tent, this earthly body, you will be with the Lord?” That’s what sight and human reason says. But we walk by faith, not by sight. We trust God’s Word instead of what we see. And God’s Word says that we are pleasing to God through Jesus, because He removed our evil deeds with His death and clothed us with His righteousness. In Baptism we were plunged into His death and resurrection. Our evil works were removed and we were clothed in Christ’s glorious righteousness. So we are of good courage and trust that for us to die, to be separated from our earthly bodies, is not to be swallowed up by death and destruction, but to be at home with the Lord.

This is the courage and confidence God gives in His Word. He gives us courage that when we are “away from the body we are at home with the Lord.” When a Christian dies, his soul goes to the Lord in paradise. Then suffering and sin and fear will be over. We will be comforted by Jesus. We will no longer have weakness and pain and futility. We will no longer eat our bread in the sweat of our face, for the curse of sin will be removed from us. We will be with all the saints in glory who died in faith in Christ, including our Christian loved ones. We will see them, but even more we will see Jesus in His glory, and that sight will remove all sadness and sorrow. Right now we wish we could see our righteousness and our heavenly inheritance, but we can’t. We walk by faith, not by sight. But after death Christians will walk by sight, not by faith.

God gives us courage through the Gospel not only that we will be with the Lord in our souls after death, but that at the resurrection of the dead we will put on our “heavenly dwellings,” our resurrected bodies. They will not be like these tents we dwell in now. They will not be subject to weakness, sickness, pain, suffering, and death. They will be immortal bodies that never age or grow weak. And they will share in the glory of God. Because they will be raised in the image of Jesus, who is the image of God, even as we now bear the image of Adam who sinned and died. We have courage from the Word of God that our bodies will be like His glorious body and will share in the glory of God. He pledges us this when He gives us His body and blood crucified and shed for our salvation under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. We will “not be unclothed, but further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

The Word of God also gives us courage that God has prepared us or worked in us for eternal life. Often Christians are uncertain about their salvation, unfortunately. They see the power of death and doubt that God is really going to deliver them from it. Or they see their sins and doubt that they are really pleasing to God. But Paul says, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 5:5) We know that God has prepared us for eternal life because the Gospel tells us that He has given His Son to die with our sins and punishment. And in Baptism and the preaching of the Gospel God has worked in us so that we receive the life won by His Son. He gives us the Holy Spirit in Baptism and through His Word as a down payment, a guarantee of the eternal life that is to be ours after we die, when Jesus raises us from the dead.

Finally, the courage we receive from God’s Word is the courage that our works are pleasing to God. Sometimes people have the idea that only so-called ”spiritual” works are pleasing to God. Only if you’re reading the Bible, witnessing, serving the Lord as a missionary are your works pleasing to God. But so-called “secular” works like running a business or driving a race car are supposed to not be particularly pleasing to God. Other times, as we get older and death comes nearer we wonder about the value of the thing we have done in our lives. But God’s Word gives us courage and confidence that our work in life has been valuable because it has pleased God. In our sinful flesh nothing we do is pleasing to God, not even so-called spiritual works. A pastor who is unconverted and does not believe in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t please God in any of his works, even if he preaches God’s Word and even if he suffers for it. But a Christian’s works are well-pleasing to God, whether he is cleaning latrines or working at McDonald’s, whether he is on vacation or at work, at church or at home. The Christian’s works please God because a Christian is pleasing to God through faith in Jesus alone. And when the Christian goes to work, no matter how little that work may be in his own eyes or the eyes of others, the work pleases God because he is doing what God called him to do. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, Christians will have no evil deeds but lots of good deeds. Why? Because all a Christian’s evil deeds are washed away by the blood of Jesus, which he receives through faith. And the works that we do by faith in Christ according to God’s command and will are really Christ’s works in us. If I run a business and serve my customers and take care of my employees, through faith in Jesus Christ, it is a pleasing work in God’s sight. God doesn’t judge work by the greatness of it in the eyes of the world or even our own eyes, but by whether it is done according to His will and in faith in Him. Because God is always busy at work doing things that few people appreciate. He is hard at work not building monuments to Himself but sustaining the lives of His creatures, cleaning up after them, caring for them. So He is pleased not when we build great monuments but when we believe in His great work of saving us through the cross of Jesus, and when we faithfully carry out our callings in the world according to His word.

That is our courage and confidence as Christians. We have courage and confidence that to die is to be with the Lord Jesus. We have courage from His Word that He will raise us up in bodies that are eternal and share in His glory. We have courage from His Word that God has worked in us to prepare us to participate in eternal life. And He gives us courage that our work on earth is well-pleasing to Him and not in vain, because they are His Son’s works in us.

With such courage and confidence we give thanks to God for the life of Norman. We thank God that his parents loved him and brought him to Christ as a little baby that Jesus might bless him with salvation in the waters of baptism. We give thanks that Jesus was nailed to the cross to take away all his evil deeds and the sin in which he was born, and that Norman continued hearing the Gospel which gives us courage and confidence in the face of death and God’s judgment. We give thanks for the good that he was permitted to receive and give, and above all we give thanks for the hope of everlasting life which God freely promised Norman, and which He freely promises us who are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. Through that word and promise God gives you good courage to say, “When I am away from the body I will be at home with the Lord.” And through His Word and holy Sacraments He wants to increase this courage in you so that you may be confident and bold in the face of death and judgment.

May God our Father remove from us all false confidence, so that we recognize our helplessness in sin and trust in Jesus alone. And may He strengthen our confidence that Jesus has accomplished our salvation, so that we may “always be of good courage” and eagerly long for the day when we put off this earthly tent and put on immortality!

Amen.

The Peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

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