Recently I attended a funeral where the better part of an hour was spent celebrating the life and earthly accomplishments of an individual who, from a human perspective, was considered a good moral man. (As was stated at the funeral, he was not a religious man.) Near the end of the funeral an evangelical pastor, whose part in the service was to present a eulogy of this man’s life, spent not more than a minute or two briefly outlining the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus. The pastor indicated that this individual had professed faith in Christ at the close of his life.
While I appreciated the fact that the pastor squeezed in a brief Gospel witness, I thought it too bad that at least a few more minutes weren’t devoted to explaining the Good News. I’m afraid many of the funeral-goers went home still thinking that the deceased individual had gone to heaven because of his “good life” that we had just spent so much time focusing on.
It’s crucial that we understand ourselves, and that we try to help others realize, that we get to heaven based solely on Christ’s saving cross-work on our behalf, and not at all based on our own good works. An incident from the life of Corrie ten Boom effectively illustrates the point:
When Corrie was twenty-one years old, it was discovered that her Aunt Jans had diabetes. In those days there was no treatment for diabetes, and it was a certain death sentence on a person’s life.
Jans had always been an active Christian, giving public talks, writing tracts and organizing clubs. When she learned of her diabetes she threw herself into her most recent benevolent project—raising funds to build a recreational center for the many soldiers who loitered on the streets of Haarlem, Holland, during the months leading up to World War 1. She made numerous personal visits and wrote many letters to prospective donors.
One gray Friday morning in January, 1914, a doctor informed the ten Booms that Jans likely had not more than three weeks to live. The family members decided to go together to break this news to the beloved aunt. They ascended the stairs to her bedroom where they found her sitting at a table, penning yet another appeal for funds. As she looked from one somber face to another she realized what must be the reason for their gathering.
“My dear sister-in-law,” began Corrie’s father, Casper, “there is a joyous journey which each of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their Father empty-handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!”
“All your clubs,” suggested Jans’ sister, Anna.
“Your writings,” added Corrie’s mother.
“The funds you’ve raised,” ventured Corrie’s sister, Betsie.
“Your talks,” Corrie contributed.
Their well-intentioned words, however, failed to have the desired effect. Aunt Jans covered her face with her hands and began to weep.
“Empty, empty!” she at last choked out through her tears. “How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?”
Then she lowered her hands and, with tears still streaming down her face, whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all—all—on the Cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”
Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie