Today, I want to talk with you about something important. In fact, it's the most important thing you will ever consider and choose in your entire life.
These are strange and unusual times for all of us. The coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading across our globe like a tsunami. There is a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and fear about this pandemic as people of all ages are wondering:
• Will I be safe from this virus? Will my loved ones be safe?
• What will happen to my job? The economy?
• When will this pandemic end?
While no one knows the exact answers to these crucial questions, we can have certainty about some things.
We can have certainty that God is in control—even when we cannot see it or feel it.
We can have certainty that all things work together for the good—even when we do not understand or like it.
We can know for certain that God loves each one of us. He is merciful and good, during the happy times and in the challenging times in life.
Most importantly, we can have certainty about where we will go when we pass from this Earth.
Ask yourself this question: Do you know with certainty that if you died today that you would go to heaven?
What was your answer? Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know.
That, my friend, is the most important question you will ever answer in your lifetime.
Listen, I'm not trying to incite fear. My aim is to provide peace by pointing you to God's truths.
Realistically, while many people will recover from this virus, sadly some people will succumb to it. Thousands already have. As of this writing, more than 90,000 people worldwide (14,000 in the United States) have died from COVID-19. And people die every day from other diseases and causes.
No matter the reason, each of us will pass from this Earth one day. The mortality rate for human beings is 100%. Meaning, that everyone who has ever lived will one day die.
But here's the Good News.
You can know with certainty that you will go to heaven. Because the One who loves you most, Jesus Christ, made a way for you. For me. And for all who choose to follow Him.
Tell Me More Good News
The Good News is that you can have a meaningful and personal relationship with God. You can be assured of heaven, experience the peace that passes understanding, and find help and hope here and now in this hard and messy world.
This relationship comes through faith in Jesus Christ, God's Son.
Jesus himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 NKJV)
Here's the thing. You can't get into heaven by being a "good person" or doing good deeds. Because what we call "good" will never be good enough by God's holy standards. You can't earn salvation through performance, and you can't buy a ticket to Paradise with money.
Instead, salvation is a gift from God for all who will receive it. It's an amazing gift of grace, mercy and love, one that each person receives for himself or herself through faith in Jesus Christ.
"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."
Sin Separates; Christ Connects
As human beings, we have a natural tendency to want to control our lives, to "do our own thing," and not live by God's ways. We may be selfish or rebellious. We do things wrong. We mess up. Or we may be ignorant; we simply don't know God's ways.
When we don't put God first—when we live our own way and reject His principles—it's called sin.
Sin keeps us separated from God. We're not right with Him. We're disconnected from the very source of life and power for living.
Bottom line: All of us have sinned. And a payment for sin needs to be made.
"For everyone has sinned;
we all fall short of God's glorious standard."
Romans 3:23 (NLT)
In The Message version, Romans 3:23-24 reads,
"God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ."
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23, NLT)
"Wages" are payment. If you work at a job, your employer pays you a salary or wages. The payment for sin is death, hell and separation from God. (Yes, sadly hell is real, even though we don't hear much about it these days.)
Thankfully, God stepped in and made the payment for us.
Because He loved us so much, He paid the price for our sins. How? By Jesus Christ's suffering and death on a cross, His shed blood was the payment.
But Jesus didn't stay in the grave. No, He miraculously rose from the dead! Death could not hold Him. He's alive! Resurrected. And He is coming again.
Jesus Christ paid a debt He didn't owe. We owed a debt we could not pay. His death and resurrection covered the sins of the world.
Once. And for all.
Here's another way to look at it.
Imagine you received a bill in the mail that said you owed one hundred trillion dollars. A gigantic amount of money. You know you'll never be able to pay the bill, and you're beside yourself wondering what to do.
Then imagine a kind person pays that exorbitant bill for you and you receive a statement that now reads, "PAID IN FULL." Wow! What a relief! Who would pay such a debt?
While that's just an example, it can help us to comprehend on a small level what Christ did for us. There is no way we could pay our "sin debt" on our own, Jesus Christ paid the price for us.
His death brought us LIFE. His pain brought us PEACE.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
Just as sin separated us from God, now Christ connects us. We simply need to believe and receive this into our own hearts and lives.
Knowing About God vs. Knowing God
Many people know about God, but they don't know that they can have a personal relationship with Him.
I didn't know that for many years.
I grew up going to church every Sunday in a traditional denomination. I tried to be a "good person" and learned the basics of right and wrong.
When I was 17, I met a friend, Dan, who told me about "being saved" and "knowing Jesus personally." I had no idea what he was talking about. He invited me to church, so I went to check it out.
My friend even bought me a Bible. I'd never had my own Bible. In fact, I didn't even know they made them in portable sizes. (I'm embarrassed to say that we had a gigantic-sized Bible at home, but we only used it to press leaves. We didn't read it.)
Then, I met a new friend, Lisa, and she began sharing with me about who God was and how much He loved me. In fact, her whole family modeled love to me. It was an eye-opening experience for a 17-year-old kid who felt lost from her parents' recent divorce and was living in a new town where she didn't know anyone.
I learned about God's love revealed to us through Jesus Christ. I also learned that:
• God is not distant, he is near.
• God is loving, kind and compassionate. God is also just.
• God is sovereign and in control.
• God is powerful and almighty. He can do anything!
• God is all about grace and mercy, love and forgiveness.
• He is our healer—for our bodies and our broken relationships.
• He is our protector, provider and our peace.
• And so much more.
As I sat there, alone in a crowd of thousands, a woman I'd never met tapped me on the shoulder. She asked if I knew Jesus and I said I didn't know.
For months, I had been going to this new church, asking questions and learning about God. But I was still uncertain.
Then, in about five minutes, this kind woman clearly explained to me the Good News, that I could know Jesus Christ personally and know for certain that I would go to heaven.
I finally understood that I needed to make a decision. So I chose to pray with this nameless woman in Illinois to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. Not because of what my parents believed, but what I believed. Not because of the good deeds I did, but because of God's grace.
I made a decision that changed my life forever in positively amazing ways.
Believe and Receive
So, what about you? What will you decide?
Will you choose to believe God's truths and accept Jesus Christ into your own heart?
Remember, becoming a Christian isn't about a set of rules, it's about a relationship. It's a one-on-one connection with the One who created you, the One who loves you most.
God wants you to know Him, to love Him, to believe Him and to serve Him. He wants you to be with Him forever. God wants to give you joy and peace like you've never known before, forgiven and free from guilt and shame.
You don't have to be uncertain; you can know for sure that you are going to heaven, and have the help and hope of Christ here on Earth.
"If you confess that Jesus is your Lord,
and you believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved."
Romans 10:9 (NIV)
What to Do Next?
Take a moment now to pray a simple prayer of commitment to God:
Lord, thank you for Your love for me. I humbly bow before You and confess my sins. I am sorry and I ask for Your forgiveness. I choose to turn from my wrong ways and follow You. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on a cross, and rose from the dead victorious and alive—so that I might truly live—in power and purpose here on earth, and in heaven forever with God. I ask you to come into my heart. I accept your gift of salvation. Guide my life and help me to grow in my faith. In Jesus' name. Amen.If you prayed that prayer, I am so happy for you!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Grow in Your Faith
I encourage you to begin the process of growing in your faith.
Just like an apple seed planted in the soil becomes a tree with a harvest of fruit, your faith journey can grow and you will "bear fruit" in your life.
Growth happens as you get to know God better by reading the Bible (which is God's Word to us), through prayer (talking to God and sharing your heart as you would talk with a close friend), finding a Bible-believing church to attend and getting connected with other believers.
While church attendance in-person is not possible right now as most of the U.S. and the world are under "stay at home" orders because of the virus, there are many churches you can watch online.
As you live out your faith every day you will find hope and joy, peace and strength. The power of God's Holy Spirit will help you do what you cannot do in your own human effort.
Faith in Christ leads to transformation. I've experienced it myself and seen it in others.
God has good plans for you, too, and He will be with you every step of the way.