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The Gospel

The Problem: Death

Death is an inevitable fact of life. No one – no matter how smart, no matter how rich, no matter how powerful, no matter how loved – absolutely no one will escape this appointed end. Death is, in at least some sense, the defining quality of our existence. We have all been born into the world, and we will live and enjoy our lives for a period of time. Perhaps we will live for thirty years; perhaps seventy. If one is lucky they may even live for a hundred years. But in the end, we will all die, and our existence after death will go on into eternity. You may live for seventy or eighty years, but you will be dead for billions. Therefore, the most important question that anyone can answer in life is ultimately about what happens after life. What happens when we die, and what, if anything, can be done about it?

The Judgment: Heaven or Hell?

The Bible explains what will happen at death. It is written in Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed for man once to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Every single person who has lived, no matter who they are or what they have accomplished, will die and ultimately stand before God in judgment. At judgment God will determine the eternal destinies of all men and women. Some will be received into the eternal joy and blessing of heaven, while others will be condemned to a eternal suffering under the wrath of God in Hell.

The Expectation: Heaven

If you were to ask a random group of 100 people how God will judge them, you would basically get only one answer. Nearly everyone would say that God is going to greet them into Heaven. Practically no one thinks that they are going to Hell. But if you were ask that same group of people why they think they are going to heaven, you would discover that there are a number of different reasons why everyone thinks that they are going to Heaven. Some would say that they are going to Heaven because they keep the Ten Commandments. Some would say it is because they faithfully attend church, or they would say it is because they were baptized or because they passed their confirmation class as a young child. Others would say they are going to heaven because they are a relatively good person whose good deeds outweigh their bad. Still others would claim that they are going to heaven because God is a loving God who doesn’t punish sin unless it’s something that is extremely serious, and they have never committed any really serious sins.

The Reality: Hell

And yet, the Bible affirms none of these answers. The Bible explains that only the righteous will be able to enter into God’s presence. As David writes in Psalm 24:3-5:

"Who shall ascend to the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of His salvation."

The problem is that no one is ultimately good in God’s eyes. God is completely holy in His righteousness, and He demands utter perfection of His creatures. Yet, no one – absolutely no one – has ever lived up to these standards. As it says in Psalm 14:2-3:

"The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there is any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one."

And as Paul writes in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In other words, no one is “basically good” in God eyes. We are all sinners deserving of Hell.

The Gift: Jesus Christ

How do we go from being a sinner in God’s eyes, worthy of His eternal punishment in Hell to becoming righteous in His eyes and worthy of His praise and blessing? Will God simply overlook our sins? No. Just as it would be wrong for an earthly judge to simply overlook the horror of murder by allowing a murderer to go free for his crime without paying the penalty, so also it would be wrong of God to simply ignore the sins we have committed. Then can we escape God’s just judgment by making a commitment to stop sinning and start living a good life? No. Just as the promise to never murder again does not remove the just penalty for murder in our own legal system, so also the penalty for our own sins is not removed simply by promising not to commit more sins. In this sense, there is no escape. One way or another, God in His justice demands that the penalty for our sins be paid.

This means that every single man and woman would certainly be condemned to an eternity of suffering under the wrath of God – that is, if it weren’t for the fact that God is also loving in addition to being just. God demands that the penalty for sins must be paid, but in His love He has established a way for our penalty to be paid without requiring our eternal punishment. This plan is explained in John 3:16, which states: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What is explained in this verse?

First, this verse explains that eternal life occurs through the gift of God’s Son. Jesus Christ, though a man, is yet fully God (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15). He willingly came to earth to live a perfect life and then to suffer the penalty for sins that He didn’t commit as a substitute in our place so that, our penalty being paid, we might be seen as righteous once again in God’s eyes (Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Pet. 2:21-25). As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” When Jesus was crucified on the cross He fully paid the penalty for sin. God expressed His acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead three days later as a demonstration of Jesus’ victory over death and of the reward that all those who receive forgiveness through Jesus will one day receive (1 Cor. 15:12-28).

Second, this verse explains that the way we receive this gift is salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, we do not earn God’s forgiveness by trying to live a righteous life. In fact, we cannot earn God’s forgiveness in this way. Instead, we receive forgiveness by simply placing our trust fully and completely in Christ. As it is written in Romans 10:9 and 10:13: “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. […] For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And as it is written in Ephesians 2:8-9: “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, so that no one may boast.” This is why Paul can say in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Cost: Faith

This is not a cheap faith to be sure. Jesus made it clear that one must be totally and utterly committed to Him in every way, even to the point of losing one’s fortune, friends, family, and even his own life all for the sake of Jesus (Matt. 10:32-39; 19:16-22; Luke 12:8-9; 14:26-33), and, He explained that there will be many who He will reject in the day of judgment because they merely believed about Him without actually trusting in Him (Matt. 7:21-23). Yet, to the one who fully entrusts every aspect of his or her life to Him Jesus has promised blessing and eternal life (Matt. 19:27-29; Mark 10:29-30). Salvation is absolutely free. You cannot earn it, but it will cost you everything. This is why Jesus urged all those who would follow Him to carefully consider the cost before they rushed commit to Him (Luke 14:28-32).

The Question: Do You Believe?

These are the questions you have to answer: Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent to earth to die on behalf of sinners? Do you believe that His death is fully sufficient to cover your sins apart from any works of your own? And are you willing to demonstrate your faith in Jesus by surrendering every aspect of your life to Him? If so, then you can know that you have received eternal life and you can look forward to the joy of heaven.

If you would like to learn more about eternal life or if you would like to discuss this message of salvation, then please feel free to contact one of our pastors at: rjoki@cornerstonecarthage.com.