A Personal Invitation
Life is short, and every morning you awake the end is one day closer. Perhaps the end will come before this day is over. If you have not done so, would it be worth giving some thought to what lies beyond the grave? Or is this an issue you’ve given careful consideration and are prepared to take a chance? If so, are you resigned to accepting the consequences of eternal hell because you do not consider the mercy of God worth asking for? What will you do, if you awake in eternal burning, because you could not find it in your heart to ask God to open your eyes to His truth? Dear friend, there is a very simple solution.
The rich young man asked Jesus, What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25). He made the same mistake so common today. He assumed he had to earn eternal life. You cannot physically do anything to inherit something. An inheritance comes from what has been done for you, and that is the heart of the gospel. The word means “good news, ” and surely it is the best good news you could ever hear. Nothing you do—your “works”—can earn you eternal life. Rather, the Bible says …you have been saved through faith… not [as] a result of works…(Eph 2:8-9). The gospel is best summed up in Jesus’ own words: God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Why should I perish? I’m a good person. What is so critical about believing in him who called himself the Son of God? I’ve never murdered anyone. I love my spouse and I have never been unfaithful, and I do better than most at keeping the Ten Commandments. Haven’t you had those thoughts? Many think God grades our acts (our “works”) on a curve and they have been good enough to get into heaven. Well, listen carefully. Jesus said anyone who is angry at his brother will get the same judgment as a murderer—the 6th commandment (Matthew 5:21-22a). Jesus also said, that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart—the 7th commandment (Matthew 5:28). Loving anyone or anything more than God is a violation of the 1st commandment. And James said breaking one commandment is as bad as breaking them all (James 2:10). It is a sin, even if you break it only in your thoughts, and a single sin will keep you out of heaven. Pretty tough standard isn’t it? That’s the whole point. God wrote the Ten Commandments to make us painfully aware of how we have sinned against an infinitely holy God. Paul told the Romans, …through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). All mankind has been sinful since Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden of Eden (Genesis 3: 13-24). We are all sinners, and it is crucial that you know just how angry God is about sin. Jonathan Edwards describes it best in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Lest you think Edwards had an outrageous flight of fancy when he preached that sermon, read the Son of God’s own words. Jesus said, If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30). He said if anyone causes a little child of God to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea, than to suffer the eternal judgment that awaits him (Matthew 5:6). My friend, do I have your attention? This is the most important issue of your life. Awful wrath, incomprehensible terrors await anyone who dies in his sin. But an infinitely holy and loving God has provided the most amazing remedy in the gospel nutshell of John 3:16.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. It really is as simple as it sounds. Belief gets you eternal life—you do not and cannot earn it. You can never make yourself perfect enough to meets heaven’s holiness requirements. So what does “believe in him” mean? Three things. It means 1.) believe Jesus Christ was who he said he was, the Son of God, come to earth as a man, just as the Bible states; 2.) believe that, in the greatest act of love that ever was, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and 3.) believe that he rose from the dead, to live forever in heaven with all who believe in him. Paul said, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Without this belief you will not go to heaven. You will “perish”—be sentenced to eternity in hell (Matthew 12:30-32, 5:29-30, 10:28).
Now here is the really amazing part of this good news: God gives you this belief (Romans 8:28-30), an inheritance beyond measure! For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works… (Ephesians 2:8). “Grace” is commonly defined as “unmerited favor,” but it is much more than that. It is God’s mercy showered upon one who deserves his wrath. “Saved” means salvation from the eternal punishment your sins deserve. “Faith” is not just intellectual agreement with a theory, but trust in a living person—Jesus Christ who, in His great love, died to pay for your sins. “Not as a result of works” means nothing you do on your own saves you or even leads you to faith—God changes your heart and inclines your will (or put another way, God enables you). Salvation is God's sovereign work, not something a sinner does for himself. Good works are the fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in true believers (Galatians 5:22) and a grateful response to God’s grace. As acts of your gratitude they glorify God, but they do not earn you salvation.
Paul explains the absolute necessity of God’s grace: There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (Romans 3:11) on his own. But in his amazing grace, God…works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). God opens your eyes to your sins of commission and omission, and inclines your will to repent of them—to be sincerely sorry for and ask God’s forgiveness for breaking his laws, that is, the Ten Commandments and the myriad variations of them in deed and word and even thought. Sound impossible? It is…for man by his own efforts, but Jesus said, What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27). Believers are forgiven sinners! They are redeemed! Redemption—the salvation of your soul unto eternal glory—is the work of God through Christ from first to last. As John the Baptist said, A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (John 3:27). And James said (1:17), Every good gift…[comes] down from the Father.
Jesus told the woman at the well that if you know God’s amazing gift, ask and he will give (John 4:10). Notice there is nothing conditional between asking and receiving, once God has opened your eyes to the availability of his free gift. This is the gospel, the good news of God’s grace, his free gift of everlasting life with him, and that is as good as good news can get!
If you do not believe in Jesus, please think about the fearful danger you are in. For the sake of your eternal soul, prayerfully ask God to open your eyes to His truth, change your heart, give you faith in Christ’s work on your behalf, and enable you to fervently seek repentance. Do it now.
Here’s a prayer I urge you to pray, composed for someone just like you by one of my favorite preachers, the late James Montgomery Boice of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Make this prayer your prayer as you read the words:
“God (if there is a God), I want you to know that I am an honest seeker after the truth concerning you—or at least I would like to be. And I know that I come to spiritual things as if I were blind. Still, I come. I am as open to the truth as I can be. If you exist, I want you to speak to me. And furthermore, I want you to know that if you do exist and if you convince me that Jesus Christ is really your Son and died for my sin, then I promise to submit myself to him and follow him all the days of my life.” In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
[If you or your church would like to use this, I would be pleased to send you, at no charge, a Word file of it in a template for a tri-fold tract. Use the “Contact” link at the top of page.]
A final word from one of my favorite preachers:
“Dear reader, if you are not a Christian, here is the explanation for why you live the way you do. Romans 3:18 says of unconverted people, “There is no fear of God [reverence, honor, and awe] before their eyes.” Why do you live the way you live? Because you have no profound sense of the greatness of God’s person, no pervasive sense of His presence, and no constraining awareness of your obligations to Him. That is why you find it so easy to cheat at school or in the workplace. That is why you can lie to your parents. That is why you can open your mouth and curse. That is why you can give your body to sensual indulgence. This is why you have chosen to “live unto yourself” (2 Cor. 5:15). Why? I repeat: It is because you have no profound sense of the majesty of God’s person, no pervasive sense of His presence, and no constraining awareness of your obligations to Him. My unconverted reader, you will go on that way until God is pleased to give you a new heart. Jeremiah 32:39–40 says that in the new covenant, God’s work is to put His fear within our hearts that we may not depart from Him. The Holy Spirit never comes into the heart of a man or woman, boy or girl, but as the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. If you have no fear of the Lord, it is because you are devoid of the Holy Spirit. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, Scripture says, “He is not his” (Rom. 8:9). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a reality that you cannot conjure up. You cannot just repeat a ritualized prayer to obtain this reality. The God of grace and mercy who has treasured up in His Son all that is necessary for the salvation of men bids you look to Him through His Son.”
Martin, Albert N. (2015-11-24). The Forgotten Fear: Where Have All the God-Fearers Gone? (Kindle Locations 1095-1097). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.