This morning I had the privilege and opportunity to hear and view a Memorial Service for the mother of a very good friend. The Memorial was for Katherine Matheson of Calgary, Alberta. During my years of Seminary training and early church ministry service in Regina, Saskatchewan, the Mathesons opened their home to my wife, Carolyn and me. I remember them as being very generous and faithful people. They provided us with the second vehicle we ever owned! Much of the relationship we had with the Mathesons was due to the friendship that developed for me with their son, Ray, who came back home to Regina from studies in the US to teach and serve at the Canadian Bible College/Theological Seminary in those years. At that time, and through the years, I have learned much about pastoral ministry from Ray whose friendship has been like a brother to me. Over the last twenty-five years or so, Ray has served in various pastoral ministries at First Alliance Church in Calgary, most recently as Pastor of Congregational Care. As a pastoral counselor, Ray consistently combines excellent caring/listening skills with sound wisdom from the Bible. This has also made him a very effective evanglist for which he is probably best known.
What impressed me about the Memorial Service for Katherine Matheson was not only the genuine Christian love and legacy left by this beautiful woman for her family and all who knew her, but as well, the clear simple presentation of the Gospel message by Ray as the homily for the Service. Using a large number of Scriptures, Ray in his gentle manner, explained the Gospel truths:
- that the Gospel is a gift offered to everyone completely by grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
- that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
- that all of us are sinners; all of us are afflicted by wrong-doing, and in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:20)
- that as sinners we die and are only worthy of death (Romans 6:23)
- that the prophecy of the Scriptures pointed to Jesus as the one who would come to take upon Himself the sin of the whole world (Isaiah 53:4, 5)
- that Jesus was the Lamb given by God upon whom our sins were laid (Isaiah 53:6, 7; John 1:29)
- that anyone can be saved from the judgment of sin by faith in the Christ’s atoning sacrifice (Romans 5:1)
- that assurance comes through faith in seeing who Christ is and what He has done for us (as illustrated, for example by Thomas in John 20:28)
- that anyone may come to experience eternal life by a simple prayer of faith inviting Christ to forgive one’s sin and come into one’s life (as illustrated in Revelation 3:20)
The prayer of faith for personal salvation might go something like this: God, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sin. Please forgive my sin and come to live in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Just after seeing this beautiful Memorial Service and hearing this simple message of salvation, I listened to another resource that had recently been given to me by its author, Dave Leyden — a book written for children called, Do You Want to Go to Heaven? Once again the simplicity and beauty of the message, as described for children, was outstanding. In language and pictures that children would easily understand and be drawn to, this book conveys the essential aspects of this wonderful message: that God lives in a beautiful place called heaven where there is no more evil, and that He wants everyone to be there with Him forever. Anyone can know that they are ready for heaven by opening his/her heart to Jesus who died for ous sin and rose again so that we go be forgiven and be with Him forever.
As the world and even Christians so often wrestle with such large questions as politics, economics, education, and health, it is good to be reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel that even a child can understand. It is a Gospel that is essentially concerned with the matter of one’s personal salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life which comes exclusively through faith in Jesus Christ, because of who He is and what He did for us by His death and resurrection. In a time and a world of heady issues it is good to be reminded of this simple and profound Gospel message that is worth everything.