Posts tagged ‘salvation’

It is Finished…making Jesus a Liar

John 19:30 – “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

What was finished?  Certainly Jesus’ life here on earth, His life as a man.  Was that all?  No.  It is deeper than that.  What did Jesus come to earth in human form to do? He came to be the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world.  He came as the sacrificial lamb to replace all other lambs and sacrifices previously required by God in the Torah (the Law of Moses) that were intended to be payment for sin.  Once Jesus died on the cross, His single purpose for being here was fulfilled…it was finished.  His sacrifice was over, and there was no need for anyone to sacrifice in anyway again in order to gain salvation from their sins.  Let me say that again because it is vital to faith and salvation.  Here it is, are you ready?  Paying attention?  Look!  Understand!  This is the salvation of the LORD!

THE moment Jesus died on the cross was THE VERY MOMENT that sacrifices on our part, in an effort to cover our own sins and save ourselves by our good works (that is, after all, what sacrifices are) STOPPED.  S.  T.  O.  P.  P.  E.  D.  Stopped.  Ended.  Fine`.  Kaput.  It was finished. 

To continue to sacrifice as a penalty for sin; to pay penance, for example, is to deny the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It is to call Him a liar.  He said it was finished, but we do not trust what He said.  We do not believe Him.  If we do not believe what He said, that His death was the be-all-and-end-all of mankind’s sacrificial attempts to earn salvation, THEN WE DO NOT RECEIVE HIS SALVATION!  Because we demonstrate that we do not believe that He, Jesus, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that NO ONE comes to the Father except THROUGH Jesus.  Jesus, the conduit…as the final sacrifice…the only sacrifice that provides the way to salvation and eternity with Him in glory.  To deny the finality and exclusivity of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is to deny His salvation through faith alone.

It is not just that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  That He was born of a virgin and was both fully God and fully man.  That He was completely sinless.  That He died on the cross and rose again from the dead.  We MUST accept that His sacrifice was the final payment for our debt.  To continue to pay penance, in whatever form that takes in our lives, is to say that Jesus’ death, His sacrifice, was not good enough.  For we must, obviously, make it better…complete it for Him…do what He, the Son of God, could not do…make a sacrifice of our own to finish what Jesus said was already finished. 

To not accept the sacrifice of Jesus is to mix pagan religious beliefs of ancient times with the true doctrine of Jesus Christ.  It is to say that OUR works, mixed with OUR faith, is what will truly save us.  This is NOT Biblical.  It is contrary to the absolute truth of God’s Word, which says, For it is by grace (extended from God the Father through Jesus the Son at the time of Jesus’ sacrifice, providing the only legitimate path to salvation, the only path accepted by God)…for it is by GRACE that we are save, NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.  Not one of us will get to Heaven and stand before the judgement seat and proudly proclaim how we did it our own way…and be given access to the Kingdom.  Anyone who stands before Jesus with that as their ticket will be told, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”  It is faith, and faith alone that will save you.  Not a mix of faith and works.  Not a mix of faith and personal sacrifices for our sins…because in doing so, you have denied that Jesus is enough, that He paid it all.  And in the end, you have not had faith at all, for you have not fully trusted Jesus alone for your salvation…you have trusted Him only as far as your own works would take you.

Please.  Today.  I plead with you as the return of Jesus draws near, accept the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.  Repent from the sin of rejecting His plan of salvation and replacing it with your own.  Seek His forgiveness and rest in the promise that He has then saved you and you will enter into His rest.

How To Clean Coal

An illustration for you today:

I was born with a piece of coal in my hand – filthy, dirty coal.   I held on to it and carried it with me everywhere I went.  Even as a babe, it was with me in my cradle, and when in my mother’s arms.  I never let it go.  As I grew, so did the coal.  Bigger and heavier and dirtier it became.  Yet I continued to carry it with me.  Never once did I consider leaving it behind or getting rid of it in any way.  It was a part of me, in a sense.

As a young teen, I wondered once what would happen if I left it at home when I walked out the door.  Out of mere curiosity I tried it.  But when my foot stepped across the threshold of my door, I found the coal was still with me.  I shrugged and went on.

The coal seemed to grow with me.  By the time I was full grown, the coal was nearly as big as I.  It weighed me down and was becoming burdensome.  It’s filth rubbed off on everything I touched.  I thought more and more of being rid of it.  One day, feeling especially labored by its presence, I determined to leave it behind.  I recalled my attempt as a youth, so decided that I would lock the coal inside a closet in the house, and lock the house door behind me.  Alas, when I turned to leave, I discovered the coal still clung to me.  I heaved it higher on my back, and went on my way.

Years went by.  The coal stood like a bastion between myself and anyone I would have a relationship with.  I got in the way of my work, and prevented me from enjoying any part of life.  It had now grown to twice my size.  Still, I carried it.  My body could not bear the strain much longer, I knew.  The blackened dust was continually filling my lungs, leaving me coughing in fits and unable to breath.  My heart pounded in my chest from the exertion.  My muscles cramped and my joints throbbed with the pain.  Finally I drove to the edge of a cliff, the highest one I could find.  I couldn’t live like this any longer.  I had to be rid of this unbearable weight.   I turned my back to the cliff and let go of the coal.  I held my breath, straining to hear the crash as it hit the ground far below.  But it never came, and I realized with horror that the coal would not fall.  I hung my head and lumbered home, resigned to living with this burden until it would eventually over-take me, and my life would be over.

One day as I walked in the country, gasping for fresh air, back buckling under my now enormous piece of coal, I heard a voice in the distance.  “Come to me,” it said.  Something in it drew me.  I turned toward the voice and trudged on.

“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened,” the voice said, and a single tear rolled down my face.  I fell to my knees and crawled on.

A third time, I heard the voice, “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I collapsed at the crest of a hill, unable to move one inch more.

“Take my yolk upon you and learn from me,” the voice, who was just before me now, spoke.  But I cried, “I cannot bear anymore weight!”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

“Oh, to have your burden rather than mine,”  I wept, with my face on the ground.  “But how can I when I have never been able to rid myself of this foul mass?”

“I will deliver you, if you trust me.  It is my gift to you.  You need do nothing save give up your coal to me.  I will take it as my own,” the voice gently coaxed.

Sobbing now, and unable to believe someone would take my burden from me only to carry it himself, I asked, “But why?  Why would you do that?”

And he replied, “Because I love you.”

Slowly I pushed myself up to my hands and knees.  My head hung low.  I couldn’t understand this offer, but I couldn’t continue to live if I did not accept it.  I had not choice but to believe he would do as he said, and take the chance, a leap of faith greater than I knew I had strength for, I pushed the weight from my back, and it fell to the ground.  As I felt freedom for the first time in my life, I rose to my feet.  My body was completely renewed.  I stood tall, stretched my back and reached my arms to the sky.  I felt strength I had never known.  I inhaled deeply of the air free of soot, and opened my eyes.  There before me, suspended high above my filthy load hung a man, severely beaten, bruised and bloodied.  Large nails had been driven through his wrists and his feet and held him to this wooden cross.  A crown made of long, piercing thorns had been pressed onto his head.  Streams of blood flowed down his body and began to drip onto my coal which lay at his feet.  I was horrified that this was the man who had taken my burden, but I could not take it back.   In spite of the scene before me, my soul was being filled with unspeakable peace and even joy.  I knew that it must be from him.

I fell back to me knees, but this time looked up to the man on the cross and thanked him over and over.  Then I said, “You have taken my weight, and given me your peace and joy instead.  What can I do to repay you?”

The man replied, “Your debt cannot be repaid, however, do this for me.  In everything you do or say, do it in my name, Yeshua*, and give thanks to my father, who is God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love the people around you like you love yourself.  If you make this the basis for how you live, you will bring honor to me.”

I bowed my head.  “I understand,” I said, “I will honor you in this way for the rest of my life.”

I looked again at the coal heaped at Yeshua’s feet.  It was covered with his blood, except for one tiny spot.  As a fresh drop of his blood fell to cover it, Yeshua said, “It is finished.”  Then he hung his head and died.  I wept.

Soon some men came to remove his body and bury it.  I followed, not wanting to be far from him, even in death.  I mourned for this man who had taken my own burden and made it is, then covered it with his blood.  I noticed that my burden had followed him into the tomb.  It was buried with him.

I prepared to remain vigilant at his tomb for days.  Waiting for what, I did not know.  I just knew that I could not leave.  But on the third morning after his death, something strange and wonderful happened.  The large stone that stood in front of the grave was rolled away, and Yeshua walked out, alive as ever!  I ran past him into the tomb.  What I expected to find, I don’t know, for Yeshua was not there.  As I turned to go back out, I realized that my blood-covered burden was gone.  Completely vanished.

I knelt at Yeshua’s feet and praised him!  He smiled and gently placed his hand on my head, and said, “No go.  Go into all the world.  Tell everyone about what I have done for you.  I will do the same for them.  And I will always be with you.”

*Yeshua is the original Hebrew name of Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 (CJB – Complete Jewish Bible) –  “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (CJB) – For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift.  You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.

1 Peter 2:24 (CJB) – He himself bore our sins in his body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds you were healed.

John 3:16 (CJB) –  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.”

Colossians 3:17 (CJB) – That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) –  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

FLAT BROKE & IN THE RED!!! Pt. 2

In part 1 of this post I talked about living in the red; the debt of a sinful life. Jesus paid our debt with his own life and filled out accounts to overflowing with His own righteousness. The only stipulation being that we accept His sacrifice as a free gift, recognizing that there is no way we would ever be able to pay our debt on our own, so Jesus’ gift is the only way.

In this continuation, I would like to talk about the connection that faith has in accepting the gift of salvation from Jesus, both during and after. At the point that a person accepts salvation from Jesus, there is faith. It is the faith that must be present in order for a person to believe in, and accept, the God whom they cannot see. Faith to recognize He is real, living, and active in the world, and in their lives. Faith that God has always been, is now, and will forever be.

One can believe that God is real, that Jesus is His Son and that He died to pay our sinful debt, and yet still not have faith. It is more of a head knowledge than a belief of the heart. So what is the difference between belief and faith? Obedience. There are a number of things I believe to be true in this world. Many of them are subject to debate, and I could, in fact, be convinced to change my mind. I may act on my beliefs, or I may not. My behavior is not crucial to my beliefs.

My faith in Jesus, on the other hand, does require action on my part. Faith requires a demonstration of proof; something that shows God, and the world, that I have taken my belief to the next level. I want to prove that I have hinged my life on my faith. I am not only willing to do things, say things, behave in certain ways because of my faith; I am willing to change the way I live my life so that all areas match up with my faith in God. I am willing to surrender my own will to the will of God and seek to obey His commands and instructions. Obedience is the evidence of faith.

It was by faith that Abraham was accredited with righteousness, before Jesus died on the cross. It was his obedience to God that demonstrated his faith, proved it before God. Hebrews 11 chronicles the great faith of so many of the Old Testament heroes. Each one, “By faith…” they did something. They obeyed. If they had not obeyed, they would not have demonstrated a faith that was worth committing to, but a belief that could change with the wind.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac….” Hebrews 11:17.
“By faith Isaac blessed….” Hebrews 11:20.
“By faith they [the Israelites] passed through the Red Sea….” Hebrews 11:29.
“By faith the harlot Rahab…received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (NKJV)

Saved by grace. Through faith. Faith which then demonstrates itself in obedience. Let me be clear that it is not the act of our faith that saves us…only by God’s grace. But it is the act of faith that brings us to His grace and the demonstration of our faith, through obedience, that we accept His grace and salvation by answering His call to come to Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20. He calls to us. Do we obey and open the door, or disobey and reject Him?

If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who died for you; to pay the penalty for your sins, which you cannot do on your own, do you also have faith? Do you have the faith to live in obedience to God, let Him change your life? Are you ready to take the next step and commit yourself fully to demonstrating your faith through your obedience to God? Do you believe it, or do you live it?  If you aren’t living it, do you need to reevaluate and determine whether your faith is real, and make the decision, once and for all, to commit yourself fully to God?

Predestination

Christmas Eve found me visiting at the church of a family member this year.  While the message was not about predestination, the topic was raised.  I had never heard of the doctrine of predestination until my teen years when my parents began attending a church that adhered to it.  What a disturbing thought!  The idea that God handpicks a certain few people out of the world to be his children, and tosses the others aside really bothered me.  It left me with this terrible uncertainty…how could I know if I was one of those chosen people?  There was no guarantee!  Even though I had asked Jesus in my heart as a four year old, I might not know if I was actually going to Heaven until I got there…or didn’t.  It was an awful feeling, and a weight that I carried until someone outside of that church described it to me this way:  God calls all people outside of the gates of Heaven to Him.  A sign above the gate says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”  Those who chose to come to God enter the gates.  When they turn to look back where they came from, they see a sign above the inside of the gate that says, “You were chosen before the foundation of the world.”  As a teenager, that was enough to settle the matter for me.

On Christmas Eve I sat in church with my four boys, and several nieces and nephews, and cringed when the pastor made it plain that the doctrine of predestination was still alive and well in that church.  I missed the rest of the sermon because I was busy researching my Bible.  As the Lord has taken me through the past few years of my walk with Him, I have learned a very important lesson…read the Bible!  The context of verses is so important to understanding their true meaning, as is researching what the Bible says in other places about the same topic.  I have said this before in more than one post, but it is so important!  I don’t think I can emphasize it enough!  As I researched the predestination topic, I also prayed…the other vital part of learning what God says in His Word.  If you don’t have the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read and study, you cannot understand the Word (1 Cor. 2:14).  There is my sidebar soapbox:-)

Let me show you the verses the pastor read.  Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV) – just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The predestination doctrine is the view that God picks those whom He chooses, as He pleases, to be those who are called sons of God.  The first verse that came to mind in rebuttal to this was John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

“That whoever believes in Him….”  Doesn’t it bug the bajeebies out of you when the Bible appears to contradict itself?!  How can it be both ways?  Does salvation come to anyone who believes, as Jesus said in John 3:16, or is salvation given only to those favorites chosen by God, as some understand Paul to say in Ephesians?  Allow me to mix things up a little bit more for you.  John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

If you read those verses just right, you might be able to see the messages of both Jesus and Paul!  But I didn’t put that verse in here to confuse you, I put it in to clear things up.  Lets take a moment to break this down.

John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus would have eternal life.  That means the door is open to anyone and everyone, so long as they believe.  The call to salvation is to the world, the whole world…also stated in the same verse.  John 1:12-13 also states that anyone who receives Jesus has the right to become a child of God.

John 1:13 seems to indicate that becoming a child of God is through the will of God only, and could be seen as God choosing.  Put that together with Ephesians 1:4-5 and the idea that people are predestined to adoption as God’s children, and it appears that indeed only an elite few chosen by God will be His children.

Here is the problem.  John 3:16 is a direct quote of Jesus Himself…and the words of John 1:12-13, and Ephesians 1:4-5 are words written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of the same Jesus through John and Paul.  And yet, none of these three lied, or were wrong.

Salvation, adoption as children of God, is available to anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus (Jo 3:16, Jo. 1:12.  That is the plain fact of the gospel.  That salvation/adoption is offered and provided by the will of God, as opposed to the will of man (Jo. 1:13).  It is not something man can do for himself in any way, shape, or form.  So God chooses to adopt those who believe.  He doesn’t chose who will believe.  This is true.  It is established in the Scriptures, and it is our base.

Consider for a moment the audience.  Jesus’, and John’s audience in the book of John, are people who have not heard the gospel message.  The intent was to share the path to salvation.  This is what it is, this is how you get it…believe.  Paul’s audience, however, is a church of already-believers.  Their salvation has already been established.  So why talk about predestination, unless it is not their salvation that is predestined, but rather what comes with the salvation that is predestined for those who chose to believe.

God decided, from the foundation of the world, that those who would accept His plan of salvation (the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for their sins), would be predestined to adoption as His children.  First you believe.  Once you believe, then it has already been predetermined that you would be adopted as God’s child, but you, and every person to ever live, is first given the opportunity to chose whether or not to believe.  Conversely, those who do not chose to believe would then, by a natural assumption, be predestined to not become children of God.  But it always starts with the personal choice of each human.

In the beginning God knew that sin would enter the world that He had created, and that He would need to have a plan to save it from the natural course of destruction that came with it.  He also knew that not everyone would chose to accept His plan, no matter who much He loved them and wanted them to.  And He would not force them to.   So He decided, then and there, before any of us were here, pre-decided…predestined, that those who did accept His plan, who chose Him (not the other way around), He would adopt as His children, to be holy and without blame.

So going back to the illustration of the heavenly gates…God calls all people to Him.  The sign above the gate saying “Come to me…” is accurate.  Some turn away and choose not to enter.  But those who do enter turn to see, this:  I decided long ago that, if you entered these gates, I would adopt you…welcome my child.

 

The Secret Is…Plan B is really Plan A!

In my previous posts, “The Replacements” and “Sharing the Blessings,”  I encouraged you to support the Jewish people today because there is a clear distinction made (in Romans) between the believers and God’s chosen people, the Jews.  It is only by the grace of God that we, as believers, are allowed to receive the blessings that rightfully belong to the Jewish people.  In gratitude for that grace, we should financially support the Jews.  But there is more to this, and I don’t want to leave the topic until I make it clear that we are not Plan B.

I know, I know.  It sure can seem that way.  God hand-picked the Jewish people to be His own.  He cleared city after city of other people just so that His people could have the best land, the Promised Land, filled with milk and honey.  He promised to be with them, fight for them, protect them, and bless them.  For a long time I had a difficult time reading the promises of the Old Testament (like Jeremiah 29:11 – “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.”)  I did not believe they were for me.  God spoke them to His chosen people.  Even though I am a believer in Christ, I did not believe that the promises for the Jews were the same for me.  It would be really easy to read Romans 11 and 12 and use it to support this notion.  The problem is that this notion is not true!

Even though the Jewish people are God’s chosen people.  And even though we as believers receive the blessings of salvation only because God graciously extended that to us through Christ.  We are not Plan B.  God did not decide that the Jews had turned their back on Him for the last time.  He did not wash His hands of them and turn to us as His second best choice.  We were never the understudies who were there just in case things didn’t work out for the stars of the show.  WE ARE PLAN A!!!  It was always God’s plan to open up the doors to the blessings given to the Jews for all  people.  From the very beginning, He intended to offer salvation through Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles.  We are meant to stand on equal footing with the Jews, as adopted children of God, not to be loved less, or blessed less, but equally.  We are joined together with them to be one family of God.

Ephesians 3:8-9 (NCV) – “I am the least important of all God’s people, but God gave me this gift–to tell those who are not Jews the Good News about the riches of Christ, which are too great to understand fully.  And God gave me the work of telling all people about the plan for His secret, which has been hidden in Him since the beginning of time.”

Step back to Ephesians 3:6 – “This is that secret:  that through the Good News those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in God’s blessing.  They belong to the same body, and they share together in the promise that God made in Christ Jesus.”

Do not misunderstand.  This is not a backtrack of my support of the Jewish people!  That is something we must do out of gratitude for God’s grace, and respect for His chosen people.  But I do want to assure you that God loves you as much as He loves the Jews, and all of His blessings are for you.  So when you read these words from the Lord, believe them!  They are for you!

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NCV) – “I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord.  “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name.  You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will search for me.  And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!”

HEAVEN

A couple days ago I took a look at what Hell is. Bottom line? Without the presence of God, and all the goodness that He is and brings, it is not a place I want to be…ever, and certainly not for eternity. All people are spiritual beings, and will live eternally somewhere (even though our physical bodies die). The question, then, is where? Is Hell the only option? When we die, are we all just doomed to eternal life in Hell? If that is the case, it is no wonder people flee death with fear and trembling!

I have good news, though. The best possible news ever. Hell has a counterpart! It is called Heaven. Just as Hell is pure darkness, evil, and everlasting torment; Heaven is pure light, goodness, and everlasting joy and contentment. It is the complete opposite.

The book of Revelations, in the Bible, tells us a little about what is in Heaven. Chapters 21 and 22 talk about a new Heaven and a new earth, the new holy city of Jerusalem. There will be no darkness, so no night, no fear of the bad things that can happen in cover of darkness. There will be no sun or moon, because God will be present right there, and the light that comes from Him will light the entire city. Hey, guess what? No sunburn!!!!

Revelation 21 & 22 also talk about the city being made of gold so pure it looks like glass. Streets of gold. The walls of the city decorated with any number of precious jewels (you think they are pretty in this world, imagine them in Heaven with absolutely no impurities!). The River of Life that shines like crystal. Trees that produce fruit every month, 12 times a year. And the gates to the city will never be closed because nothing evil will be allowed to enter in.

Since God will be physically present in this new earth, what will come with that? We know that no sin or evil can be in His presence. That is why Jesus died for us, to redeem us from the sin that permeates our lives now. When God looks at us now, He looks through Jesus’ sacrifice to see a righteous you and me (provided you have accepted Jesus as Savior). So what does no evil or sin in the new world look like? We already talked about no darkness. There will be no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, no fear, no death. Angels and people will sing continuous praise to God, beautiful music filling the air.

I think of Heaven in terms of the Garden of Eden. There was no death before sin entered the world. That means animals did not eat each other, or people. Which also means there was no need to fear them. I can’t imagine not being afraid of spiders and snakes, but I won’t be. The earth was new and wasn’t going to get old. There would have been no earthquakes, volcanoes, deadly storms. No hail to ruin crops, no bugs that destroy them. And no weeds!!!! Work was fulfilling and enjoyable, not a thing to be dreaded. Because there was no sickness, and work was not laborious, Eve didn’t worry about Adam having a heart attack while he was slaving away. Trees and plants didn’t die. Mosquitoes didn’t bite. Skunks didn’t sting, and porcupines didn’t shoot quills. The color of everything was vibrant and pure beyond what any of us can imagine today. All of the Garden of Eden and more, so much more, beyond what our feeble minds can embrace, will be in Heaven.

To me, the very best thing will be the presence of God Himself. God walked in the Garden of Eden. I don’t know if He did it every day, or only once, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. But He did it. Adam and Eve hid because they knew they had disobeyed God. But He spoke to them face to face…for the last time. Remember when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18-23)? God told Him he could not see His face because He would die. The full glory of God would be so great that Moses, in his sinful humanity, would not be able to tolerate it. So God covered his eyes, and passed before him. Moses was then allowed to see the back of God and His glory. And even then Moses glowed like a lightbulb for days afterward! In Heaven, we will see God face to face, in all His glory. We will not only be able to live through it, we will rejoice in it. We will glory in it. We will bathe in it. And we will live in the presence of it for all eternity!!

The question is, which do you choose? You have to make a choice. There is Heaven or Hell. By choosing not to choose, you simply choose Hell by default. If you are going to go to Heaven, then you must choose Heaven. You must choose Jesus. How do you do that? Believe that He is the only way. He is the only Son of God. His death on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and His resurrection back to life after 3 days, made the way for you to go to Heaven. But you have to believe it. When Jesus hung dying on the cross, 2 thieves hung on crosses on each side of Him. Luke 23: 39-43 tells how one of them recognized Jesus as God. He asked Jesus to remember him when He entered His kingdom. That is all he did. And Jesus’ answer? Verse 43: Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What do you choose today? Paradise with Jesus, or Hell? There is no other option.

DO YOU HAVE THE LUXURY OF WAITING??

This has been a difficult week. A beloved uncle went to be with Jesus. We will miss him greatly. But we are so very grateful to know without a doubt that we will see him again when we are in Heaven with Jesus, too.

As with the death of any loved one, this week has brought a lot of reflection. Uncle Ron grew up in the church. Attended most of his adult life, maybe not faithfully, but he attended regularly. It wasn’t until 6 short years ago that he gave his life to Christ. I heard more than one person in the past couple of days wonder at how he spent all those years in the church, and yet waited so long to commit. It is a question we may never have the answer to. I think that to those of us who have grown up in the church, Jesus is the obvious answer. He stares us plain in the face. How can we miss seeing Him? And yet, there are a great many who do.

Uncle Ron had the luxury of waiting to accept Christ as his savior, and making Him the Lord of his life. I say that only from hind-sight. While he was living, no one had any idea when his life would end. It could have ended 7 years ago. Uncle Ron had no way of knowing that he had most of his life, and a little extra, to make that decision. He made it in time. He made it with some time to spare. My grandmother asked Jesus to be the Lord of her life just 7 days before she went to be with Him. That is cutting it mighty close.

Jesus tells us in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.” JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY. You can’t get to Heaven by being good enough…that would make you the way. You can’t get their by simply attending church or mass…that would make the church the way. You can’t get their by being baptized…that would make baptism the way. There is no other god, no saint, no act of kindness or anything else that will get you through the gates of Heaven and into the presence of God Almighty…except JESUS.

What does it mean that Jesus is the way? It means this. Believing by faith (without seeing) that Jesus is the Son of God. His Father is God…holy…spiritual…perfect…powerful…love…truth…creator of the universe…immortal…all-knowing…all-present…God. Jesus’ mother was Mary…human…as-human-and-fallible-as-you-and-I-human…sinful…imperfect…mortal. At the same time that Jesus is God’s Son, He is also God. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the very Word of God. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So Jesus, the Word of God, took on human flesh, with all of it’s shortcomings in this sinful world, left Heaven to come to earth as a baby. Yes, a baby who needed to be completely cared for by Mary, and his earthly adoptive father, Joseph. The Son of God needed to be fed, and dressed, and had His diaper changed. He needed to grow and learn, as every child does. The difference? He had the power of God in Him so that He was able to go through His entire life on earth without sinning…not even once. Because He was perfect, and had the power of God in Him, He was then able to become our sacrifice. The penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23 – “When people sin, they earn what sin pays–death.”). Not just physical death, but spiritual death separated from God for eternity…that means separated from any and all things good. Jesus was able to, and did, pay that penalty for us. All of us. He bore the weight of the guilt of all of our sins when He was crucified on the cross. God the Father could not look at Him because of the sin. He turned His back on Jesus. Jesus died. But because Jesus is the Word of God, and because He is God’s Son, He was raised to life again after 3 days in the tomb. The penalty had been paid. Now He offers the reward from that paid penalty to you, and me. The reward is life in Heaven with God for eternity. But the thing about a gift is that it is only yours if you accept it.

You have no way of knowing if you have 6 years left of your life, like Uncle Ron did. Or if you have 7 days, like my grandmother. Or if you have just a few hours. The gift Jesus offers can only be accepted on this side of life. Once you are gone, it is too late. Do you really have the luxury of waiting? That is a question you don’t have the answer to. Are you willing to take the chance?

How? How do you give your life to Jesus? Start by talking to Him in prayer. Acknowledge that you have sinned and ask for His forgiveness. The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful, and just, and will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). Then tell Jesus that you believe that He is God’s Son, and that He died to pay your penalty. Tell Him that you believe that He came back to life and lives today in Heaven. Accept His gift of eternal life, and thank Him. Ask Him to be the Lord of your life.

If you do this, make Jesus your Lord, find a Bible. There are many available on line and as apps for all the various tablets. Obviously they are still available in print as well. Get to know God by reading the Bible. Pray and ask Him to help you understand it.
Pray…spend time just talking to God. He is there, listening, and speaking to your heart, although it may take time to hear Him and understand Him. Be patient. He will teach you because He loves you.
Find a church where they teach from the Bible. The people there will also help you as you begin this new life with Jesus by your side.

I realize that many of my regular readers are already Christians, and have been for many years. This post isn’t intended for you. But it is intended for someone. Maybe someone you know. Please take the time to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, even Pinterest…wherever. Send the link in emails to family, friends, acquaintances. The time is short. Jesus will return soon.

God’s blessings to you all!!!!

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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