For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV)
The problem we are all trying to solve is death. Or, how we make sense of life if death is the end of the story. Many of you reading this know that I died about four years ago. You can read about it here. Following that experience, I wrote a series of posts about death and what it is like to die. Today’s post is from that series.
When I had my heart attack, I was dead for about 30 minutes. I do not have a specific memory of that experience, maybe because I was sedated when it happened. I have some impressions that I will share in this next series of posts along with my thoughts on death and what happens when we die. This series will “get into the weeds” a little bit and I hope you will hang with me. It’s stuff we don’t often think about and it may be the most important stuff I say in the blog.
Let’s start with a fundamental truth: our spirit, or soul, lives forever. Once you exist, you never cease to exist. At death, your soul is freed from your body, but it doesn’t perish. Take a minute to let that sink in.
Jesus told us that, when we die, our souls will be taken to heaven where we will spend eternity with God or we will go to hell where we will spend eternity separated from God. Heaven is a place of joy and fellowship, hell is a place of suffering (we see the consequences of decisions we can’t change) and darkness. Hell isn’t something we like to talk about, but Jesus talked about it a lot. It is real and he doesn’t want us there.
What heaven and hell have in common is that things happen, but time never passes. Imagine the most peaceful and joy-filled time of your life, you look at the clock and it is stopped. The peace and joy continue and time remains stopped. Can this go on forever? Yes, it does. Now imagine the worst time you ever had: fear, regret, panic, suffering and pain. Imagine being trapped in that time. You keep checking the clock and time has not passed. Can this go on forever? Yes, it does.
So, the big question you should be asking is: How do I make sure that, when the time comes, I am going to heaven and not to hell? Do you meet the entry requirement? To get into heaven, a person must be perfect without ever having sinned. God is perfect and he cannot allow imperfect souls to be around Him. That’s a problem because, on our own, we are not perfect. That’s where Jesus comes in.
The consequence for our imperfection, or sin, is eternal death. Or, as Paul says, the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When we sin, we earn death. Paul also confirms that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). We like to think that “sin” is the “big things” that we don’t do. But, the truth is, sin is every time we do not follow God’s law perfectly. By that standard, I can’t begin to count how many times a day that I sin.
God knew that His standard was unreachable when he set it, that is why He planned an alternative. For us, because we sin, death is the necessary outcome. But, what if a person did live a perfect life? That person would not have “earned death” and would be entitled to go to heaven and spend eternity with God. That person is Jesus. He lived a perfect life, yet he gave up his life for us on the cross. Jesus died the death that we are all condemned to die. God allows us to claim Jesus’ death on the cross as the death that we should have received for our sins. Then, because the price for our sin has been paid, God wipes out its consequences and we can enter heaven as if we had never sinned. The Bible calls us “righteous” meaning that we now have right standing before God. When we get to heaven and are asked, “Did you live a perfect life?” We can say, I have accepted the perfect life that Jesus lived for me.
The last question is, if you don’t have this right standing with God and are not sure you will go to heaven when you die, how do you get it? You simply need to ask. There are many versions of the “sinner’s prayer” that you can pray. I will give you one here. There is no magic formula. You are committing your life to God and asking Him to forgive you and change you. Will there be changes in your life? You bet. Will it always be smooth sailing? No. But, I can assure you that a life spent on earth at peace with God and eternity in heaven with Him will far outweigh any temporary problems you may face.
Here’s what you can pray. Don’t be afraid to be honest and fill in the gaps.
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please take my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be.”
This prayer is from the Cru Web site. If you want more information, follow this link.
If you have prayed this prayer for the first time, welcome to the kingdom of heaven! If you have prayed this prayer or something like it to recommit your life to Jesus, welcome back. You can follow these links to read the posts on daily prayer and daily Bible reading to get started.