What must I do to be saved?
By Jesse Jost
In the middle of the night, I have often had surreal experiences of reality. It seems that during the day I have an ability to block out awareness of certain things. Some of these things include what happens after I die. Sure I think about it, but it is often in a detached, academic way. But there are nights when the reality hits me hard. What would it be like to stand in the presence of the almighty God? My first thought is a review of my life. Have I been good enough? Nope. Will God send me to hell…for forever? This thought used to terrify me. I would have dreams of being before the judgment seat and then sentenced to hell, and would wake up shaken but so grateful to be alive!
I am sure each of you has had such a moment where you faced the realty of standing before God. Certain questions increase your anxiety. Am I one of the elect? Have I lived a good enough life? Was it really enough to simply recite the sinner’s prayer? Can I lose my salvation? Will unconfessed sin send me to hell? Have I committed the unpardonable sin?
Most of the time you can block out these questions by getting caught up in the mundane. But when you block out the outside noises and really think about it, certain things come into focus. God is Holy; terrifyingly holy. Your conscience finally gets its say and you know that to enter God’s presence in your current state would result in being consumed by His holy fire. Your guilt is obvious, every man admits to having sinned. The predicament you are in is very clear at times like this.
How do you cope with this situation? Do you try extra hard to be good, hoping that your good deeds will outweigh your bad ones? Maybe convince yourself that God’s love will overlook your sins? Do you try to earn God’s favor by being religious? Common sense will hopefully make it clear that your goal should not merely be an appeased conscience. How you feel will not change the reality of what the Judge will say when your trial comes. Your guilt is not merely a bad feeling that an aspirin will take away. Your guilt is real. Your verdict is guilty!
What should you do then? Get in touch with the court; desperately search for a way out of your deserved sentence of hell. Ask if there is any way to lighten your sentence? Maybe God can simply cancel your sentence? One thing should be clear. The only opinion that counts on this subject is the Judge’s. The opinions of the bystanders don’t matter; they are not the ones who will sentence you.
What does the Judge have to say? He has spoken, clearly and forcefully. You are not left to speculate on this critical issue. God, the judge loves you, but His justice will not allow Him to arbitrarily erase sins. He cannot deny Himself. No amount of good deeds can wipe away a single sin. Being religious will not help. There is no magic incantation that will remove your sins; your sins must be punished. There is no way around it.
Is this clear? Do you grasp the implications of this? Has the full effect of the bad news hit you? Hell is your destination and you completely deserve it. Your sins are indelible, being a “pretty good guy,” will not change the fact that you have done wrong. You have committed a moral crime against a holy God. You are not bound for hell because of a technicality – because you didn’t say the right thing, or you picked the wrong denomination. No, hell is your destiny because you sinned and sin must be punished. It is your choices that have condemned you, not God’s.
But wait. God loved you so much that He did something that is simply unthinkable. He became one of us, and took all of the punishment of sin. He took your place. He has satisfied the justice of God. He now gives you a choice. Do you want to accept His pardon?
I’m sure you do. Who wouldn’t? Your eternal destiny is at stake, so you pay very close attention to this supposed pardon. This is not an area where you can afford to be wrong or be duped into a scam. You need to know the facts. What exactly do I have to do to receive this pardon? How much will it cost me? Is this pardon conditional? Can I buy it? With hells flames reflected in your eyes, you know how critical this information is. You need to hear the answers from the One who holds the gavel.
God has made things clear. The pardon is free, yet will cost you everything. There is not a single thing you can do to buy it. It is available to whoever wants it. As long as you are alive, there is nothing you can do to disqualify you from receiving this pardon.
The pardon is a Person -Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty of sin – death – for every person. To accept this pardon you must make Christ the Lord of your life. It is critical to understand this issue. Making Christ Lord of your life is not something you do to earn your salvation; rather it is an integral part of salvation itself. Salvation is not just a train ticket to heaven but a restoration of the creature-Creator relationship. At the fall, we chose to be our own god and severed ourselves from the Source of life. Cut off from this source we are dead spiritually. When you refuse to surrender to Christ’s lordship and his demands on our life, you are committing idolatry by making yourself god. If God is not your God, you are nothing but a lifeless twig that will rot and perish. At the Cross Jesus wiped away the sins that severed our union with God. It is through Him alone that we can be reconnected with our Creator, and restored to the joy of our Salvation. But you must die to selfish nature and let God be God.
Let me be clear, you cannot add anything to the finished work of Christ! He offers complete and total forgiveness for every sin you have ever committed or will commit. This forgiveness is not based on a kind, arbitrary gesture, but on the basis that the sin has already been punished at Calvary.
All that is left to do is admit that there is nothing you can do to make things right with God. If you try to earn your salvation in any way, you are revealing your ignorance of your crime and sentence. I understand the mindset of penance. When I sin, I want to take responsibility. I want to make things right, by doing something to punish my self. But this is worthless. Sin is a stain that cannot be erased except by the blood of Christ. Sin is not forgiven simply because we confess it, or make restitution (although both of these things are important, even necessary in most cases). Sin can only be forgiven because it was already dealt with at the cross. Any other means of dealing with your failures will not solve your problem!
As horrible as the bad news was, the good news is fantastic beyond what we can comprehend! Jesus Christ has paid in full the fine for every single one of your crimes! He offers you a clean slate. Did you hear that?! He can make it as if you have never sinned! Trusting Jesus to save you is the only way to be right with God. This is not because God is trying to make things difficult. Jesus is the only One who paid the fine; He is the only One who can offer the needed pardon and restore our life-giving union with God.
You have two choices. You can choose to remain in control of your life. If you do you will find no pardon for your crimes. You will stand before the Master of the universe with no attorney to defend you. You will pay the fine…an eternity in hell, forever alone with your guilt and anger. If you feel this is unjust, let me remind you that the fine fits the crime, because the fine (separation from God) is the Crime (separating your self from God through self deification.)
Your other option is to admit your helplessness, your total inability to make amends for your crimes. Admit your need for God. Surrender the control of your life to Christ and live in obedience to His commands, in other words, putting your trust in what you know to be true and acting in accordance with it. On judgment day, when you stand before the throne, Jesus will stand in your defense. He will declare, “This one’s debts have been paid in full, I give him my perfection. He was helpless; I reached out and saved him. He belongs to me, and no one will ever be able to snatch him from my hands. This man gave me his life, in return I give him Mine.”
What will you choose?