September 17, 2005, would have been my grandmother’s 85th birthday. She was born on that day in 1920. But on May 31, 2002, she was called to be with the Lord. I have been thinking about her throughout the day today and in making some final preparations for tomorrow’s worship service at church I came across the file in my notes of her eulogy. I was honored to have been asked by her before her death to officiate at her funeral service. She asked specifically that her family be once again reminded of the gospel. So on June 5, 2002, I was able to fulfill her wish, remember her life, and glorify God for His goodness and the salvation He has provided through His Son.

In her memory and for the praise and glory of God, I would like to share with you the text of what I said that day now over 3 years ago.

Agnes Kathryn Cox
September 17, 1920 – May 31, 2002

Funeral Service, Wednesday, June 5, 2002
Officiated by her grandson, Pastor Phillip M. Way

“By their fruits you will know them.”
Matthew 7:20

Over the last few days and as we gather here today for this memorial service we are brought face to face with the reality of life and death. Death is a fact of life. Death, though rarely expected, is a certainty. We will all follow those who have gone before us, knowing that if the Lord Jesus tarries, we will experience the death of our bodies. The Bible tells us that “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). This is one appointment we will all keep. And the judgment to follow is promised. It is either a judgment for our sin or an awarding of eternal rewards. Either way it will be a trial by fire.

As we each deal with this loss in our own way, I want to give some assurance to everyone here that as we celebrate Agie’s life, we can really celebrate! We have a cause to rejoice and find joy in this sad occasion. Just as she kept her appointment with death this last week, we can be certain that she stepped into eternity more alive than she has ever been, directly into the arms of her waiting Savior. The trial by fire she faced was not an eternal damnation separated from the goodness and grace of God by her sin, for you see her sin had already been judged on the Cross of Calvary as the Lord Jesus gave His life for her. As she had repented of her sin and placed her faith in Christ, her sin had been forgiven and forgotten by God. She had been given the very righteousness of Christ so that she could stand before God free of the condemnation of sin. The trial by fire she endured was simply the fire of God that burnt to ash anything done in her own strength and purified the reward for her faithfulness.

The question we are here to answer today is a question of how sure we can be that she is indeed in heaven today. I am here to tell you by the authority of the Pure Word of God that she is not in heaven just because we think she should be there. She did not go to heaven because we believe she is there. She did not go to heaven because of her own merit. She could not earn a spot in glory, for just as all of us she was born a sinner and separated from an all Holy God. She also did not go to heaven simply because we cannot think for a minute that she went to hell. People die every day all around us and step into eternity bearing the judgment for their own sin because they have not trusted the redeeming work of Christ through His life, death, and resurrection.

We can be assured of the fact that she is with Jesus in heaven because of the atoning death of Christ on the cross. You may ask, “How can we be sure that she benefited from His grace through faith?” We can know by what Jesus Himself said in His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7 verse 20 He said, “By their fruits you will know them.” By the fruit of her life we can say with absolute certainty that she is a child of God. As we look for a moment at the fruit of her life, we will see that she bore the fruit of the Spirit even in this present evil age.

The Bible tells us that a good tree bears good fruit while a bad tree bears no fruit or bad fruit. A tree that bears no fruit or bad fruit is useless except to be thrown in the fire and burned. A good tree is a blessing to all who partake of the good fruit. What is this fruit I am talking about?

In Galatians 5 verses 22-23, the Apostle Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” These, I believe you will agree with me, were the fruits of her life.

She lived her life in such a manner that she typified love by always putting others first. Her love for her family was unconditional. It did not matter what we had to endure and put up with from each other, her love was constant. She showed Biblical love by always thinking the best of anyone she met and always being willing to forgive a fault. She truly gave of herself to anyone who asked or had a need.

She was a marvelous example of joy. Joy is not the same as happiness, for you see, happiness is based on happenings. If her attitude had been dependent on her happenings, then she had every right to be a bitter, grumpy old woman. But she was not. She smiled through the physical pain she suffered every day of her life, the whole time I have known her. Whether it was back pain, trouble with her legs, or any other ailment, she always smiled when you walked in the room and was always ready to sit and talk, exuding joy. Eternal joy carries us through the tough circumstances of life. It gives our spirit the strength we cannot muster in our own weak bodies.

She also bore the fruit of peace. She had a calming effect on everyone around her if they stopped long enough to listen to her common sense and wisdom. She had learned much through her long life and was always willing to share what she knew, whether or not we wanted to hear it at the time. For she knew what it meant to be at peace with God and with life.

She certainly possessed the fruit of longsuffering! The supernatural ability to “put up with” inconvenience, uncertainty, and trials. She proved her ability to suffer long on a weekly basis. This word in the text literally means “to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.” She always trusted and knew that things would work out for the best!

As far as kindness, I do not have to spend much time telling you about this fruit of the Spirit in her life. I do believe that she was the most kind person I ever knew. She was always gracious and kind. I always appreciated her kindness when it came to dessert! But then of course I am convinced that she was exceedingly kind at the dessert table because as long as we got dessert, so did she!

Our text lists next the fruit of goodness. She was indeed a good person. Not good just because she was a nice person, but genuinely good. Good to others. Good to any in need. Good to encourage and edify those who were down. Good to help carry heavy burdens. Good at being a grandmother if I might say so! She was good. When you think of her life there is little if any bad that comes to mind. Yes, she had her faults, as we all do – but she more than made up for these with the fruit of her life.

Faithfulness is next in our list. She was faithful to the end. Faithful to her God. Faithful to her family. Faithful to her friends. You could always count on her. Always. The only unfaithfulness in her life was found in the arena of politics when she confessed to me several months ago that she had lived long enough to become a Republican!!

Moving on, she was also a gentle soul. She was not cruel or mean. She did not gain any pleasure from anyone’s suffering. She would rejoice with us as we rejoiced and weep with us as we wept. Her gentleness was conveyed in her hugs and in her voice. I remember her being the most gentle with animals – whether it be the ducks at her back door wanting dinner or her love-hate relationship with her parakeets, she especially loved her little dog Alphie, who brought her so many years of love and joy. She was gentle enough to spoil the dog worse than she ever spoiled the grandchildren!

The last on our list still leaves so much to be said about the fruit of her life. This fruit is listed as self-control. The ability to do and say the right thing at the right moment and avoid doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment. This control of self did not emanate from her own soul but flowed from the very throne of God to her, His beloved child. We know she is in heaven today because the fruit of her life tells us that she knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

We also are assured of her place in heaven by the fruit her life did not produce! In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul also wrote,

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, idolatry, drug use, hatred, contentions, jealousies, uncontrollable anger, selfish ambitions, dissentions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Her life does not call to mind these evil deeds. You cannot remember her for a moment and think any of these things about her. Her life in Christ is proved by the fruit produced in that life. Praise God for the good fruit produced by His Spirit in her day by day. Praise God that as a young girl she repented of her sin and placed her faith in the Son of God. Praise God that He ensured her salvation by promising never to leave or forsake her. He told us in His Word that no one is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand. Paul wrote that nothing that has happened, is happening, or could ever happen can separate us from the love of God once we have been embraced by the Savior. Nothing can tear us away from Him. On this we base our hope and rejoice in the eternal salvation of her soul.

I want to spend the last few minutes we have together celebrating her life to meditate on her favorite Psalm. She knew it by heart. We read in the 23rd Psalm of David,

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

As we remember this all too familiar Psalm, we read it today with a word of warning! David, the man who was called a friend of God, wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.” The whole of this Psalm depends on that phrase. We know from the list of the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh that we just read that not everyone can say with the Psalmist, “The Lord is MY shepherd.” Is He your shepherd today?

As we stand face to face with the fact of death we cannot leave here – Agie would not want us to leave here – without answering this question. She knows the Lord is her shepherd for a few days ago she stepped into His arms and saw Him for the first time face to face. She was able to stand up straight, walk, yes, even run down the streets of gold, healed forever from the effects of the fall of mankind. She found herself truly redeemed. Holy, forgiven, perfect, without sickness, sin, or pain. Every tear has been wiped away. If she could come back today we know from the testimony of Scripture that she would tell us about a Savior and about a heaven that far exceeds our feeble, finite understanding of God and His ways. We cannot imagine the joys of heaven, for there we will see Jesus and be as He is, eternally perfect living each moment in the light of His glory.

So I ask again, is He your shepherd? How can you know? How can you have the assurance that she had? Let me read a few passages of Scripture. In John 10:25-30, we read,

“Jesus answered and said to them, I told you, and you did not believe. The works that I do on My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are One.”

You know you are of His sheep when you believe His Word. Do you believe the Word of God this morning when it says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Do you believe what the Bible says when it assures us that the wages of sin is still death? His Word does not change with the times for it is timeless. And the message it declares is that although we have sinned and are by nature enemies of God, He has made provision for our redemption through the blood of His Son. He has provided a sacrifice to spare us the torments of hell forever. He tells us that His free gift to us is “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and that “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So can we be sure that we are trusting in Him? Can we know with certainty that we have called out to Him for salvation? Yes we can know. Again, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31-46,

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides His sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they will also answer Him saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them saying, ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least if these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Another Gospel account tells us that those cast away from the Lord were amazed because they were religious. They protested His judgment because they had preached the gospel and even done miracles in His name. But His response to them was, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!” While the fruit of our lives is important, it is not nearly as important that the fruit flow from knowing Christ. We can manufacture fake fruit on our own and fool everybody but God. The truth about the gospel is that eternal life is found not in doing right, but in being right. We can only be right as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as we forsake our sin and trust in Him.

John 17:3 tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” It is all about knowing Him and having a relationship with Him. But beware, Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” So the Bible assures us that it is possible to claim to know God when the reality of the fruit of our lives prove that we do not.

What fruit? Remember the fruit of the Spirit we read about and talked about? Remember also the works of the flesh? Which describes your life today? If this were your eulogy, would we be able to rejoice in the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your day to day life? Or would we mourn the fact that no matter how religious you seemed, no matter how often you went to church, no matter the profession of your mouth, we had to come together in great sorrow and eternal loss because the fruit of your life proved itself to be full of self and the works of the flesh? That list again reads,

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, idolatry, drug use, hatred, contentions, jealousies, uncontrollable anger, selfish ambitions, dissentions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Is this the fruit of your life? Is this all that comes to mind as you search your heart and examine your own fruit? If so, the only word for you to hear today is a word that Agie will rejoice in heaven with the angels if you obey – the word is repent! Turn your back on your sin, confess it to God, and call out in faith for Him to save you today.

As you think about the fruit of Agie’s life, and dwell with the help of the Holy Spirit on the fruit of your life today, listen to these words written by the Apostle John. He tells us how to know for sure that we know Jesus – for in knowing Him we have eternal life. He writes in 1 John 2:3-6 and 5:1-5,

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as he walked. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Can you say with assurance today, the same assurance that Agie has realized face to face, that “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”? Do you believe the Word of God. Do you exhibit the same fruit we see in remembering Agie’s life? Do you prove your love for God by obeying His Word? Have you repented of your sin and placed your faith in Jesus today? If not, repent! Believe! You, too, can be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Do not leave this service today without the assurance of the forgiveness of your sin and your acceptance by the Father through the blood of His Son.

In knowing Jesus we have this assurance, while we pause to remember a great life today we know that we can and will see her again, more alive than ever, when we come to experience for ourselves what it really means to know Jesus and have eternal life. We will see her again to the praise and glory of God.

Let us pray.

Graveside Service

Reading Scriptures:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:1-6

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thess. 4:13-18

Let us pray.