It’s the toughest request you’ll ever receive.
A dear friend and collaborator of mine passed from gory to Glory on Saturday. Gordie had been on our ministry’s Board of Directors for decades; he was a trusted partner and had earned widespread respect from all who knew and worked with him.
When Covid’s craziness wanes, the backlog of Celebrations of Life will exceed weddings at most churches. Gordie’s service will include, undoubtedly, a eulogy. Capturing a life well lived – in a few short minutes – is an exercise in futility. Summations are strenuous business…
Over the last few weeks, we’ve spent a few minutes on Monday’s dissecting Paul’s auto-eulogy. His reflection of his life – given to his son-in-the-faith, Timothy – was worthy of the attention.
Each of Paul’s epistles included abstracts that clarified the essence of his intent in these short missives that were intensely specific and universally instructive. They varied in length, but all had unique revelations of Truth that demonstrated their divine origin: they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
He wrote to the church in Rome, planted at Ground Zero –home to Emperor Nero who was targeting Christians as his enemy – and concluded his powerful teaching with this epilog: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16).
If you had only the first 15 chapters of Romans, you’d have enough theology to ground your life of faith, from salvation to the end. Paul knew that high-impact teaching opens the door to enemy attack. God’s word in the Garden was clear and unambiguous: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17). The Serpent was openly skeptical about the Word of God when he gave the alternative to Eve: “You will not certainly die” (Genesis 3:4). Who will you choose to believe? Eve faced that question, and her answer continues to echo through humanity and history…
Paul was well aware that clear teaching sets the stage for an onslaught of contrary messages, hoping to deceive naïve people. (False) churches, bogus books, and well-produced television fantasies claiming to offer supernatural ministry are modern derivations of what Paul knew would follow the declaration of truth.
Time spent entertaining the contradictions is wasted; to be steeped in the certainty that attaches to timeless truth is an investment in wisdom.
Right now, we’re in the final lap of a presidential election cycle. Two weeks from tomorrow, America’s populace will speak their mind and cast their ballots. The candidates – local, regional, statewide, national – are all in their finishing “kick” as they seek to cross the line in first position. They’re delivering their Closing Arguments.” They’ve made innumerable speeches to get to this point; it’s time for them to wrap it up.
Paul wrapped it up for the Romans, and for us: once you’ve received the truth, expect the opposition to propose well-crafted lies intended to throw you off course. Be wise about truth; figure out who’s sweet messages are hiding deadly deception and avoid them like the plague.
A life lived in obedience to the truth is a gift to the people who will be asked to summarize your contribution to history: live today in a way that will give them a rich treasure-trove to work with!