PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY
There is an old tombstone in an Indiana cemetery, with the following epitaph: “Pause, stranger, when you pass me by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me.” An anonymous passerby etched these additional words on the tombstone: “To follow you I’m not content until I know which way you went.”
Can we really know in advance where we’re going when we die? The Bible states in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We can know for sure that we have eternal life and will go to heaven when we die. Do you?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
God created us to love, worship, and communicate with Him forever. When our first parents Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they fractured their relationship. This event affected humanity because we inherited a sin nature. Now, all of us are guilty of breaking God’s law. Let’s run a quick test. Have you ever lied? Stolen? Been angry with someone? Lusted? Said the Lord’s name in vain? Dishonored your parents? If you are honest, you will admit your failure to keep these commandments because the Bible says all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s standards.
Sin has consequences. Those who continue living a life of rebellion towards God and refuse to seek reconciliation and forgiveness will be punished in Hell forever. But God has provided a solution for our sin. “Although the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” Jesus Christ, the God-Man, loved us so much that he became a man to deliver us from our sin (John 3:16). He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Imagine that you robbed a bank and got caught by the police. You stand before the judge and he says, “You are guilty before the law of the land. You will serve the remainder of your life in prison for the consequences of your actions.” As you sit there in shame and fear, a stranger stands up and proclaims, “Wait a minute Judge.” First, whatever amount of money this person stole, I will pay it back two-fold. Second, if you won’t let this individual go free, I will gladly take their place. The judge replies alarmingly, “You are an innocent man. What would lead you to do something this absurd?” The stranger replies: “Because I care for this man, even more than my own life.”
This is the same radical love that Christ showed to you when He died on the cross for your sins. Even though you deserve to go to Hell for the wrong you have done, Jesus willingly obeyed the Father and died in your place. Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and his perfect life of obedience, God freely offered forgiveness and exchanged it with the full weight of God’s wrath.
That’s why salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. He is the only one worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by God’s holiness (Revelation 5:4-5). Only when our sins are dealt with in Christ can we enter heaven. We cannot pay our own way.
There is no amount of good works or religious acts that we can do to earn God’s favor. It is only by grace that we are saved. When we confess this to God, turn from our sin, and get water baptized (Acts 2:38, 22:16 Rom. 6:4-6, 1 Pet. 3:21), God is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”