At mother's funeral on September 29, 1996 I was privileged to share with those present a little about what mother believed. At many funerals, we don't know much about the religious beliefs of the deceased. I'm writing this now to share with others who could not attend the funeral.
While recently sorting through my desk, I came across this letter which mother wrote to us dated April 23, 1983. I'd like to read a couple of sentences for you: "Yes, our Saviour is always with us. He knows our every thought and action. I don't know what I would do without my faith and prayers." And in another place she mentions my wife Kay who at that time was playing the piano in church: "It is nice you can play for the Lord and can enjoy playing the church music."
Please note that in this letter mother has referred to Jesus Christ as her Saviour and as Lord, recognizing His deity, God in the flesh.
During a phone conversation with a family friend who had known mother for many years, he said: "Your mother was a good woman. A clean‑living woman. She has certainly gone to heaven.” Later, after thinking about this for a while, I remembered what mother had said once when we were talking about the Scriptures. She said: "Yes, we are all sinners." We know that the Bible teaches clearly that sinners need a Saviour and we've already seen that mother referred to her Saviour. I never heard her speak of her goodness and clean‑living or any other self‑righteousness as a reason for her hope of entering heaven.
Some of you may not know that we called my parents affectionately Gramma and Grampa. I remember Grampa telling me once: "You know, your mother has read her Bible all the way though many times." I brought mother's Bible with me today and would like to share with you some of those verses that she read so many times.
As concerning self‑righteousness, we read in Luke 18:9‑14 “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
And in Romans 3:10‑11 she would have read: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." Verse 23 says: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Again, mother agreed with the fact that all have sinned.
Mother always said that she had a very simple faith. She spoke of a friend who told her that this was not enough, that more was required other than simple faith. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, again in Luke 18, verses 15‑17: “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
Mother would have read about the simplicity of the gospel, or good news, in many Scripture verses, such as Acts 16:30‑32, where the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord and to all that were in his house.”
The word believe as used here means to have faith in Christ for one's salvation, to trust, or rely upon Christ for one's spiritual well‑being.
In John 1:11-13 we read: “He came unto his own, and his own received Him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power (or right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
In I Corinthians 15:1‑4 Paul wrote what is sometimes referred to as the ‘gospel in a nut‑shell': "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures" and continuing from here to say how He was seen by many after His resurrection.
Mother would have read many times those Scriptures which show clearly that salvation is a gift, not to be earned by works or goodness; we'll quote just a few as in Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. " Ephesians 2:8‑9 says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
So we see that God will not allow goodness or clean‑living to earn our salvation ‑‑ He will not have any person to boast before Him ‑‑ it is God who justifies the ungodly through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. Abraham is one of the greatest men of faith mentioned in the Bible. He understood that his own goodness could not save him, as we read in Romans 4:1‑3 'What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
Somebody defined faith as the 'hand of the heart that reaches out to receive the gift of salvation.' So many would add other requirements to saving faith as to make the simple gospel unrecognizable today, even as they did in Paul's time.
Will we miss Gramma? Of course, but in John 11:25‑26 we read: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
Because of this, Paul could write in I Corinthians 15:55 “0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?”
Will we sorrow? Yes, but: Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 4:13,14 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (or have died), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep (or die) in Jesus will God bring with him.” Because of mother's words and the testimony of the written Word of God, we do have a certain hope and expectation of seeing her again, along with all others who have died trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
So much more could be said from the Bible to show that salvation is a free gift from God, that it is to be received by simple child‑like faith and that those who believe in this way have the forgiveness of their sins as well as the promise of eternal life with God in contrast to those who die without this hope, who will experience eternal separation from God in conscious torment.
Mother once asked: "How can I tell others about Christ?" It is my prayer that she can tell others by means of this the testimony of her own words. I'm sure it would be her desire that others might know the simple way of salvation also.
Heavenly Father I thank you for those who heard this at mother's funeral as well as for those who will read it. Perhaps someone will read this who is uneasy, uncertain, or just wondering about their own eternal destiny, maybe never having quite understood what is required. I pray that they will at this time reach out with the hand of their heart in simple child‑like faith believing the pure gospel of grace: that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." ‑‑John 3:14‑18
"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;" ‑‑Psalms 107:2
she “...being dead yet speaketh" ‑‑Hebrews 11:4
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;"‑ ‑2 Corinthians 13:5
In loving memory of Addie A. Cornwell, 1903 ‑ 1996
‑‑ by her son, Dean Cunningham