Life and Death! If I Had Only One More Message to Share with You!

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Life and Death! If I Had Only One More Message to Share with You!

 

Life and Death in Light of Eternity

If I Had Only One More Message to Share with You

Richard Hollerman

Let’s imagine that we were good friends and you wanted me to share with you the deepest, most intimate, and most important matters in your life. You would want me to sit beside you, with open ears, with an attentive heart, and with an open Bible. You are concerned—as you should be—about your relationship with God and your preparation to leave this life and transition into the next life. You don’t know if you will go to heaven or hell or somewhere else. What would I say? What would you expect me to say? What would you want me to say?\

Maybe there is another way to look at this. If I or you were on the brink of eternity, what last, important words would be good for me to share in such a circumstance? Or to change the figure somewhat, if you (or I) were in a hospital bed and you were given only four or five more days to live, in this situation, what would be good for me to share with you? Everything else would seem to be nothing in light of the sober truths that should be shared, wouldn’t you say? I hope that you will agree. With this in mind, imagine my sharing these truths with you in light of our limited time before death.

This is the background for this present study you are now reading. I want to speak and write sincerely, honestly, and openly with you. Matters of this importance are crucial and we shouldn’t remain on the superficial level. It is time for truth and you understand this. With this background, let’s now proceed.

Over the past several years, I’ve attended quite a number of funeral services for people I’ve known. Some have been family members, others have been fellow workers, and still others have been friends or acquaintances. If you are like me, these occasions bring much inner reflection, spiritual ponderings, and even deep regrets.

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Life and Death in Light of Eternity

What do I mean by this?  First, I am made to remember my own mortality and the inevitable fact that I also must face death, just like these friends and acquaintances have. Scripture says that “a time to die” comes to all of us (Ecclesiastes 3:2). As God tells us, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Second, I have often regretted that I didn’t say more, write more, or visit more in light of the person’s spiritual condition. I’ve wished that I would have spoken words of love and truth with a person who is on the brink of eternity (Ephesians 4:15). Third, I’ve wished that I could do more for the deceased person at the time of his or her departure but I knew that it would now be impossible. It was too late to do anything at all.

Some of these friends and family members have gone after long months of decline, but finally they are taken, regardless of the tears and regrets. On the other hand, a person might quickly succumb to fatal illnesses and we hardly have time to prepare for the person’s death. Either way, we may be struck with the frailty of the human body and how vulnerable it is to negative influences. As Paul put it, “our outer man is decaying,” but, for the Christian, “our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul could refer to our physical body in ways that plainly declare their vulnerability to disease, illness, injury, and death itself. He says that we have “a perishable body” (1 Corinthians 15:42), a body of “dishonor” (v. 43), and “weakness” (v. 43). We now have a “natural body” (v. 44), an “earthy” body (v. 47), and a “mortal” body (v. 53). It is not a question of whether we will die; it is a matter of when we will die and, more importantly, are we prepared to die and meet God? It is not a question of whether we will die, but what is the condition of the person who dies and where does the person go.

cemetery

Life and Death in Light of Eternity

There is a lot of confusion in the world about what happens after we breathe our last breath. The self-professing atheist thinks that he is like a dog; he will just cease to exist. He mistakenly thinks that he will never face life or God again. Some New Agers and devotees of Eastern Religion expect to come back in a different body for they have deluded themselves with the false doctrine of reincarnation.  The devout Catholic thinks that he will go to a fictitious place called “purgatory” for a time of cleansing, purification, or even punishment, after which he will go to heaven.

The Buddhist hopes to lose all personhood and merge into Nirvana, just as a drop of water becomes part of a vast ocean. The Watchtower Witness and the Seven-day Adventist think that they will cease to exist at death, then God will recreate them for the future. Most Protestants hope to go directly into heaven for all eternity. Some New Agers think that they will die and encounter “a Being of Light” who will conduct them into a place of bliss and peace, yet they don’t know exactly where this is located and how to get there. There are all sorts of variations to these ideas, but surely most of them are faulty, wrong, and futile. Scripture refers to “one hope” but most are confused as to what that hope really is (Ephesians 4:4).

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Life and Death in Light of Eternity

Have you sincerely and carefully examined this question of your future and do you have a knowledge of what the future holds? One thing is for sure—that no one has died and then come back to tell us what to expect. No one, that is, other than one single person!  I refer to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth!  He declared, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). Since “Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:9), we can see that Jesus Christ alone has the knowledge and power to tell us all we need to know about death and the afterlife.

The Finality of Death

Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that it doesn’t really matter what will happen in the future after death.  It does matter!  If you play the Lottery and lose, you haven’t lost anything of permanent value. If you have a car wreck, perhaps your body can heal and you can be reimbursed and buy another automobile. If your house burns down, you may be able to purchase another dwelling place. If you fail a course in school, you may be able to live without it or maybe you can take it again. Even if you lose a leg, an arm, or your sight, you can continue to live and find meaning in what you do. We all face failures—even serious ones—but often we can “pick up the pieces” and start over again.  But death is in an entirely different realm!

God’s written Word—the Bible—says that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). You will die only once and can’t return to the earth to “try again” and make better choices the second time around. No, we live only once and we die only once—and after this comes the great, awesome, terrifying “judgment of God”! Are you prepared?

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Life and Death in Light of Eternity

If you are like me, you have gone to a few or even many funerals in your life.  A funeral is definitely an occasion when people express vain and foolish ideas about the future.  One person thought that he would spend much of his time at the heavenly golf course, playing celestial golf games with his friends! Another thought that he would finally have plenty of time to go fishing all of the time. Still another thought that she would take great delight in dancing on the heavenly ballroom!  Many people think that they will spend much of their time conversing with old friends, reminiscing about what it was like to live as a teenager while on earth. Of course, there are a lot of people who think that they will constantly be feasting on the heavenly delights of the palate.

Sadly, these kinds of surmising of the future are utterly vain. First, they center on self and personal pleasure. God is left out!  Yes, there will be delights in the coming “new heaven and new earth” in the “holy city, new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-4), but the focus of the eternal future will be on Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and on the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior who suffered and died to redeem us from death and give us eternal life (Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-11; John 14:1-6). Our great delight and blessed joy will be the sweet fellowship that God affords to His people through all eternity!

One more matter is of tremendous importance: reliable surveys of thousands of people reveal that most think that they will be going to heaven and very few expect to be going to hell. In one of our booklets, we state:

A recent survey of 35,000 Americans by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicated that some 74% of the population believe in heaven, while 59% of people believe in hell. If you are like most people in America, you think that you will go to haven, but only a very few expect to be sent to hell. Some time ago, another national poll found that 62% of people claim to have made a personal commitment to Christ. Of these, seven percent do not know what will happen when they die. Only one percent of such people believe they will go to hell! A Gallup Poll revealed that 60% of the American public believe in hell, but only four percent thought they had “a good chance of ending up there” (Quoted from our booklet, Are You One of the Few?, p. 4).

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Life and Death in Light of Eternity

It may come as a shock to most people for them to realize that this scenario us utterly mistaken. The Lord Jesus has revealed to us that “many”—the vast majority of people—are on the “broad” way that “leads to destruction” whereas only the “few” are on the “narrow” way that leads to eternal life (please read Matthew 7:13-14). Just as only a few people at the time of the great flood (including Noah and his family) were rescued while all of the others (probably many millions of people) perished in God’s judgment of the deluge (see Genesis 6:8-13; 7:1, 13, 23; Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5), likewise the overwhelming majority of people are unprepared to meet God and enter His eternal presence!

What we are pointing out here is that while most people think that they will survive death and go to “a better land” which most identify as “heaven,” the reality is that only a few people (of the billions alive on earth now) will go to be with the Lord and enjoy the eternal blessings of God’s fellowship in His Kingdom. All others will stand before the “great white throne” and God will consign them to “the lake of fire” otherwise known as hell (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). What a shock this will be to unsuspecting men and women in every land down through the ages!

Does this concern you? It should! You and I are now living. Our heart is beating, our lungs are breathing, and our mind is thinking. We can still think and plan and made decisions. And right now you can make decisions that will determine whether you escape the death sentence of this fallen world and be given eternal life in the glorious Home of God! Don’t you want that? Surely you do! But if you refuse, you will surely know of your foolish decision to reject God and His blessed offer of life through all eternity.  A million years from now, a billion years from now, a thousand quintilian years from now, you will either be in everlasting misery or in unimaginable bliss. And the gift of eternal life is freely offered to you!

Sincere and Thoughtful Questions and Comments for You

Too often we look at life and our future in a very superficial way. We treat the question of our eternal future like we would a next vacation, or a course we may take in college, or the decision to buy another house. Those may or may not be important decisions, but where you will spend all eternity is vastly, vastly more crucial than anything else you might consider.  This is why it is vital that you stop for a moment and realize how extremely essential it is for you to think through where you are spiritually and your relationship with God. Everything else is of lesser importance.

Jesus told the story of a man who was financially well off, but the Lord said, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:20). He had prepared everything he needed for a comfortable future on earth, but he didn’t really think about his relationship with God or what the future holds. He was a fool! And we are also a fool if we concentrate our attention on money, family, sports, job, friends, house, and everything else, but fail to make provisions for the moment after we die!

Sobering Questions for You

I’ve been grieved too often about those who have departed this life and I never sincerely, thoughtfully, and soberly spoken to them face-to-face about their relationship with God or where they expect to go at death. Let’s suppose that I were sitting beside you and had the opportunity to converse with you sincerely and lovingly. We know that probably most people shy away from conversations dealing with their soul and where they will spend eternity. However, quite honestly, I hope you will agree with me that there isn’t any better topic to discuss than this.  After all, in the future, after death, people will earnestly wish that they had inquired further about spiritual matters—but then it will be too late!

Let’s imagine that we were good friends and you wanted me to share with you the deepest, most intimate, and most important matters in your life. You would want me to sit beside you, with open ears, with an attentive heart, and with an open Bible. You are concerned—as you should be—about your relationship with God and your preparation to leave this life and transition into the next life. What would I say? What would you expect me to say? What would you want me to say?

This is the background for this present study you are now reading. I want to speak and write sincerely, honestly, and openly with you. Matters of this importance are crucial and we shouldn’t remain on the superficial level. It is time for truth and you understand this. With this background, let’s now proceed.

We need to ask and discuss some very sobering questions about our relationship with God and our preparation for eternity. To do justice to these things would probably take an additional fifty or sixty pages, but we’ll limit our discussions so as not to prolong this matter.  We have many other articles that will help you with all of the information that follows, and we hope that you will avail yourself of what is available to help answer your questions.

For now, we want to come along beside you and ask you a series of thoughtful questions or make a number of serious comments. We hope you’ll not dismiss them of no concern to you, for I know that when one dies, he looks at life and death much different. You will surely wish that I had discussed these matters plainly, lovingly, and thoughtfully with you. Therefore, please ponder what these points mean to you, personally.

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First, are you fully assured that there is a God who has created all things? Sadly, there are many people in this world who reject this or, at least, don’t want to think about it. They think that everything in existence came about through natural processes over long periods of time—perhaps as much as 14 billion years! What existed before that is beyond their imagination! In other words, as someone said, these deceived people assert that “Nothing” created “everything”! Preposterous? Yes, but they are forced to accept such an unfounded belief since they don’t want to accept the evident fact of God’s creation.

Evolutionary theories and speculations have become a modern “god” that many people would rather accept than the true and living God! Actually, God is the creator.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). By the word of the LORD the heavens were made. . . . He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). This is a basic truth that you need to know if you would like to escape death and enter into eternal life when you die.

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Second, are you sure that the Bible is God’s written Word? If you settle this in your mind, you will find that many, many other questions can be easily answered. You will see how consistent the truth is when you observe the large panorama of earth history as revealed on the pages of your own Bible. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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Life and Death in Light of Eternity

When we accept the truth of the written Word of God, we are able to discover the truth that the Scriptures reveal to us (Hebrews 1:1-3). The written Word of God, the Scriptures, “are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Furthermore, the Bible will help you to understand and answer hundreds of other questions that will lead you to truth and righteousness. They enable a person to be “adequate” and “equipped for every good work” (v. 17).

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Third, do you believe that Jesus is the Creator, the Son of God, and the Lord of glory? We know, of course, that God the Father is the great Creator. In prayer to God, we read, “You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11). But in addition to God being Creator, the Son of God is also Creator. Scripture says, “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16; cf. Hebrews 1:2-3; John 1:3-4). Do you believe that He made all things in the beginning, that He entered earthly life through a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:30-37), that He lived a sinless life as both God and man? These are very “heavy” truths that are essential that you believe in order to have eternal life with God one day.

“In the beginning was the Word [i.e., Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14; see also Hebrews 1:1-3). Thus we read: “By Him [Christ, in prehuman form] is the image of the invisible God. . . . by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).

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Fourth, have you come to recognize that you have sinned by disobeying the will of God and by failing to obey what God has commanded? In reality, you are a sinner in your heart and spirit as well as a sinner in what you do and don’t do. This simply means that you are a sinner and are guilty of sin before a holy and just God. It does take much humility to admit this fact, but it is important. In fact, it is so important that you cannot possibly escape hell and go to heaven unless you get rid of your pride and humbly confess that you are guilty before the Lord, thus you need His help and deliverance to be saved from sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . . . The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23a).

Many people are willing to admit that they have sinned a variety of “little” sins, but somehow they are unwilling to admit that they have sinned against the absolute Ruler of the universe in thought, word, attitude, and deed. Many religious, church-going people vainly think they are without spiritual need. They are satisfied with their religious connection, their spiritual background, and their spiritual attainment. They feel they don’t really need to make a radical change in their life. They refuse to acknowledge their sin. Friend, if you hope to go to heaven, be willing to admit your spiritual lack and your utter need of God’s mercy! Our condition is serious and without remedy from a human standpoint!

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Fifth, have you come to believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, to die for you and for your sins, and that He was raised from the dead after three days? He then ascended to God the Father some 40 days later, where He now has been glorified in heaven on the Father’s right hand. As Scripture says, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Since we can’t achieve our own deliverance from sin, we desperately need a Savior—the Lord Jesus Christ! Only He could pay the price of our salvation. Only He could pay our sin debt by suffering for us and offering His body and blood as sufficient payment to God for our guilt. We also read, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:6, 8, 9b). This fact is so vital that the Bible calls it the “good news” or “gospel” of Christ!

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Sixth, do you understand the rationale behind God’s plan to save humanity—including saving you? Often people have mistaken ideas about how to be saved and go to heaven. They assume that if they do enough “good deeds,” or if they “go to church” more, or if they have more “religion,” then they will be fit for heaven. Actually, all of this is wrong. The Bible says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5a). If we try to save ourselves, we nullify God’s grace and cannot be saved. Instead we need to confess our own inability and helplessness (Romans 5:6).

God is seeking a people who will humbly take Him at His word, who will believe His truth, who will obey His will, and who will live their life for the Lord Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him” (John 3:36).

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Seventh, do you understand the results of sinning against God and remaining in that state of rebellion and guilt? Whether we realize it or not, there are disastrous, devastating effects to the guilt of our sins! Scripture says, “Your iniquities [lawless deeds] have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The “wages of sin” is spiritual death (Romans 6:23a), for “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Referring to Christians, we read, “You were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21; see also 2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

This means that when we sin, we separate ourselves from a holy God, so that we live in a state of spiritual alienation. Most of us naturally feel an inner sense that “not all is right” between God and us. We may not be able to define or explain this inner sense of guilt, but it is there.  This comes from the reality of unforgiven sin!

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Eighth, do you understand that your sins will have eternal results unless you are forgiven of all of them? Not only are there present effects of sin, but there are eternal results. Scripture says, “The wrath [holy hatred and anger] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). When we disobey God, the Bible calls this sin. Notice: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Unless you are forgiven, your sins (the deeds of the flesh) will keep you from God’s marvelous Kingdom: “The deeds of the flesh are evident . . . those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:29-21). “The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6; cf. vv. 3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Let’s be willing to reckon with this personal guilt that you and I share!

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Ninth, do you understand that the unforgiven sinner will also be sent to a place of unending punishment, misery, pain, and hopelessness? We mentioned earlier that most people don’t even think they are going to hell for their sins! Please don’t deceive yourself into thinking this. Unless we acknowledge our sins, our sinful state, and our separation from God, will we be unable to find the solution to our inevitable punishment!

Those who are guilty of all kinds of sins will be cast into the lake of fire, or the “second death,” otherwise known as hell (Revelation 20:13-15; 20:8; Colossians 3:5-6). In other words, God’s holiness, justice, and wrath means that all of those lost in sin will suffer eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 5:29-30; Revelation 14:9-11). Christ, through His holy angels, will cast all guilty sinners into a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 13:40-42, 49-50). These will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9; cf. vv. 7-10).

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Tenth, do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save you and forgive you? He didn’t merely die for the other seven billion people on the earth now or the other 50 to 100 billion of people who have lived on earth since creation. No, He actually died for you—personally. It is true that Jesus died for the helpless and ungodly (Romans 5:6), for sinners (v. 8), and for the whole world (John 3:16, 17). But we should be able to say that Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20b). You must come to see that Jesus gave Himself for you as an individual and He requires that you—personally—respond to Him in order to be forgiven.

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Eleventh, do you personally believe in God as Scripture reveals Him? We can know something about God by seeing the natural world that He has made (Romans 1:20-21) for the heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19:1-2; 8:3-5). However, we come to see God in all of His magnificence and grandeur by seeing Him revealed in His written Word, the Bible. Jesus said, “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). We not only must hear Christ’s words and believe them, but we must believe in God who sent Christ into the world! As Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

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Twelfth, do you personally believe in God as He has uniquely revealed Himself in Jesus Christ? We know that the Muslim rejects this truth. The Hindu and Buddhist reject it. The Jewish person rejects it. Most others fail to appreciate this truth. But Scripture says that through Christ, we are believers in God (1 Peter 1:21). Christ has “explained” or revealed God to us (John 1:18, NASB). In other words, Christ Jesus “has made him known” (ESV). Jesus explained, “He who has seen Me has seen, for you will find Him nowhere else!

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Thirteenth, do you believe in the Lord Jesus as Scripture reveals Him? We are to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, as the Anointed of God (the Christ), as the Lord (John 20:30-31). We must also believe that the Lord Jesus came to save sinners, to die on the cross, and to be raised from the dead. Scripture says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). God sent Jesus to deal with our sin problem and we respond to Him and His saving blood through faith (Romans 3:24-25). As Jesus said, “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). If you want to be delivered from your sins, don’t look to Buddha, Muhammad, or any other person. Look to Jesus, our only Savior!

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Fourteenth, you must come to have a different view of your sin. Generally, we look at sin very superficially. That is, we just treat it like it is “not a big deal” and not worthy of much interest. Yes, we may want forgiveness, but it doesn’t touch us very deeply. Instead, God wants us to grieve over our sins and recognize that they hurt, offend, and anger God. They violate His holiness. His justice requires that all of our sins be judged and condemned. Scripture says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We need to be remorseful that we have sinned before we can repent of them.

We grieve that we are sinners and also that we have committed countless sins! If you only commit 3 sins a day, this would be 1,000 in a year, and 10,000 sins in ten years! In reality, we commit vastly more sins than this—for we sin in thought, attitude, word, and deed! We sin in what we do and what we don’t do! We need to have a serious and sober view of our sin so that we will see the need to fully repent!

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Fifteenth, it is absolutely essential that you come to view your sin and your relationship with God differently, then you need to determine to change your heart and mind. Instead of loving sin, you must determine to love God. Instead of carelessly practicing sin, you must determine to live in righteousness. Instead of living to please yourself, you must begin to please God in all you do. This change of perspective may be very hard since it requires you to pull sin out of your life with all of its roots!

Jesus said that we must repent or we will perish (be cast off from God eternally) (Luke 13:3, 5). The Bible says that we are to repent to receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and so that our sins might be “wiped away” (Acts 3:19). Repentance is utterly required for our salvation (Acts 17:30; 20:21). When we consider deep in our heart the magnitude of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, we are led to have a genuine repentance of our sins (Romans 2:4). Do you have this attitude?

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Sixteenth, we must not merely repent of our past sins, but we must determine to live in the future for God and His will. Scripture says that “He [Jesus] died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). The average person places himself in the center of his or her own little “world”! Are you willing to change this perspective so that God becomes the very focal point of your life, your existence, your present and your future?

Our whole life should be one of obedience to the Lord (1 John 2:3-6). When the Lord told His disciples that they are to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, He commanded them to “teach” those baptized to “observe [or obey] all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, all of those baptized are to live a life of submission to the will of Jesus Christ as found in His commands. This will include you!

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Seventeenth, we must acknowledge that Jesus is our Lord, the very Lord of glory. Most people do what they want to do, and this would mean that most people think of themselves as autonomous individuals. Instead, God wants us to confess Jesus as Lord—as Ruler, Owner, or one with authority over us and over the world. Christ is not merely a local ruler, but He is “Lord of all” and even Lord over the heavens and the earth—the whole universe!

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). We respond to God with our heart and mind, inwardly and outwardly. When we confess Jesus as Lord, we will no longer want to direct our own life ourselves, but will want Jesus the Lord to hold sway over us, all we think, say, and do!

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Eighteenth, as you come to a point of repentance in your life, you will want to make things right about the past! By this, we mean that repentance will express itself in restitution. This means “reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused” (Random House Webster’s Collegte Dictionary). It means “the restoring to the rightful owner of something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered,” or “the act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury” (The American Heritage College Dictionary).

For example, when Jesus came to the house of Zaccheus, this honest man who sought repentance declared, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). He wanted to make right what he had committed in the past. Likewise, as you repent, you will want to make amends for your own past life of sin. If you have taken something from someone in the past, you will want to repay what you have taken. If you have defamed or slandered a person, you will want to confess this to the person and do what you can to rectify the situation. If you have failed to give an honest day’s work for your wages, you may want to go back to your employer and agree to recompense him for your wrong. If you have “stolen” a wife or husband from a previous spouse, you can relinquish the adulterous spouse and begin to live a pure life. There are a hundred expressions of repentance found in your desire to make restitution.

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Nineteenth, by now you can surely see that the truth is very different from the way the world has portrayed it. Actually it is diametrically opposite from what the secular and the religious world thinks. Although this is sad, it shows the importance of learning what actually is the truth and not be deceived by the fallen, deceptive culture around us! Again and again in Scripture, we are warned, “Do not be deceived” (1 Corinthians 6:9; cf. 3:18; 15:38; Luke 21:8; Galatians 6:7; James 1:16; 1 John 3:7). We can see why God would warn us: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

The modern world indeed calls evil good and good evil! This is why you need to lay aside much of what you have believed in the past and much of your past lifestyle so that you might adopt the belief system and lifestyle presented by God in the Scriptures. In our own culture, think of the many sins and deeds of the flesh that people portray as good—e.g., fornication (premarital sexuality), adultery, sodomy or homosexuality, transgenderism, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, materialism, sports competition, consuming junk foods, evolutionary philosophies, dishonesty, waste of time and money, and a hundred other expressions. Now is the time to begin to view your past deeds in a different light—the light of God’s Word.

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Twentieth, you must seek to turn from the philosophies, viewpoints, and belief systems of the world. Think of the numerous “isms” that dominate and influence modern living—secularism, hedonism, humanism, rationalism, relativism, emotionalism, pluralism, evolutionism, naturalism, denominationalism, nationalism, patriotism, militarism, sectarianism, ecumenism, feminism, selfism, and countless other “isms” that pervert and “make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). Be willing to accept a Biblical worldview that will defeat all of these humanistic views.

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Twenty-first, you must turn from all of the “gods” in your life and accept only the true and living God of the Bible. Even if you are not a Hindu who worships millions of different false gods or idols, or are not a Catholic who “adores” Mary and other Catholic “saints,” still you surely have a number of false gods in your life that must be renounced. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10). In your life, you may have various “gods” or “idols” whom you focus your attention on, such as sports, your job, your house, ease, money, possessions, pleasures, education, music, the TV, a boyfriend or girlfriend, children, and much more. In contrast, the true and living God and Jesus Christ should be the sole center of your life and attention! In all of this, you need to repent of this wrongful and idolatrous focus on people and things that have taken the place of God alone!

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Twenty-second, if you have grown up or accepted one of the major world religions, you can see by now that spiritual deception has thoroughly permeated such religions. Religion is man’s attempt to please and appease God through religious ritual and ceremony and what he thinks are good deeds. The way of God or of Christ is more of a life than a religion! Therefore, you must be able to “see through” this deception and come to see that there is only one way to heaven.

This is hard for some people to accept since we are living in a pluralistic age in which truth doesn’t really matter. “True truth” (to use a helpful term) is all that matters and you will need to lay aside all of the spiritual deception of your past religion—whether that be Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and nearly all of what is thought of as “Christianity.” There is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). This is exclusive, we know, but it is the truth and you must accept. Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to have a part in God’s wonderful Kingdom? Jesus is the only way! “There is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12; cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). Life is found alone in Jesus, the giver of life (1 John 5:11-13).

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Twenty-third, if you are a follower of a world religion, what we must discuss here won’t mean too much, but if you have any “Christian” background it is really necessary that you consider the following matters. Not every person who professes to be a Christian has truly been born again, saved, and brought into God’s kingdom. Maybe this is surprising to you since you may know little or nothing about the way of Christ, but it is true.

Again and again, God warns us in Scripture that not everyone who claims to be saved from sin and have a relationship with God through Christ actually is an authentic child of God.  Even among those who profess Christ outwardly, who belong to a “Christian” group or denomination, and who believe in one or more of the basic tenets of Christianity, there are very few who have truly been saved and born again by the Spirit of God. As you read over the following points, keep this fact in mind. As we read in Scripture, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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Twenty-fourth, at the outset, you need to come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of people who wear the name “Christian” do not have a genuine, saving knowledge of God in Christ. In other words, these people may adhere to a religion they say is Christian, but they lack the life of Christ inwardly! There are numerous plain and unambiguous verses in God’s Word to this effect. They are too abundant to examine all of them. The Lord Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

This shows that “many” (not a few) confess that Jesus is Lord, but only a few of these will actually enter the kingdom of heaven! When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?,” the Lord replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). Jesus said that His followers constituted a “little flock” and this hasn’t changed over the years. Keep this fact in mind as we continue through the following pages!

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Twenty-fifth, most people claiming to be “Christians” will not be accepted by the Lord on the great Day of Judgment! “Many” are on the “broad” way that “leads to destruction,” while only a “few” are on the “narrow” way that “leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). Please don’t be deceived into thinking that all professing “Christians” are God’s people and will go to heaven when they die! On the contrary, the majority have become “entangled” in the “defilements of the world” (2 Peter 2:20-22). The great majority of people claiming Christ have deceived themselves that they have been “born again,” and know God, and claim Christ, but they are very deceived. “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Corinthians 3:18a). Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Take the challenge of Paul the apostle: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a).

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Twenty-sixth, have you been born of God? Most people don’t know what this means; they’ve never heard of it or, if they have, they have a misunderstanding of it. Interestingly, millions of Americans claim to have been “born again” but their beliefs and lifestyle betrays their ignorance and deception about this utterly important subject. Simply said, unless a person is spiritually “born again,” he cannot enter God’s eternal presence and enjoy the delights of His kingdom!

The Lord Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Do you want to enter the kingdom of God? If so, it is essential that you be “born again.” This means “born of God” or “born of water and the Spirit,” or “born from above” (John 3:3, 5, 7; cf. 1:12-13). Many parents think that this means taking their baby to a priest who goes through a ceremony and then assures the unsuspecting and deceived parents into thinking that the infant becomes a child of God and will go to heaven! No, not at all! Billions of professing “Christians” in the present and in the past have held this confused and misleading teaching over the past 1,800 years! They have lived and died with the misconception that they became God’s children through this infant ritual that the priest or minister has called “baptism,” however being born of God and living as a child of God is vastly different from what this mistaken theology has affirmed. Deceived and deceiving priests and pastors will need to give an account before a Holy God for misleading vast numbers of people into thinking they were saved whereas they were not!

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Twenty-seventh, be assured that being part of a modern church or denomination that claims to be “Christian” doesn’t bring salvation. Multiple millions have been deceived by this nice-sounding idea, but it misunderstands the essence of salvation and the meaning of the body of Christ. This idea of “church salvation” has misled millions of people who mistakenly thought they were saved and safe because they were part of God’s “church,” whereas they knew little or nothing about salvation in Christ Jesus!

It is true that Christ “purchased” the assembly of God “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). However, this refers to the regenerated and saved body of believers and not a modern church or denomination. It is also true that Jesus is “the Savior of the body” of believers (Ephesians 5:23) but, again, this doesn’t refer to a modern man-made denomination. Rather, it refers to the people of God or the body of the Lord. Instead of people being saved by membership in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, the Anglican Church, or any other contemporary sacerdotal denomination, these groups often lead their members astray in countless ways!

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Twenty-eighth, many of these professing “Christian” churches along with their pastors, preachers, ministers, priests, teachers, and theologians, are confusing people into thinking that their defective and deceived church system is the way of salvation. Keep this in mind when you see official statistics on the world religions, and you notice that over two billion people on earth claim to be Christians! While they do take the name of “Christian” or “Christ,” they are very far from what Jesus and His apostles  believed and taught. Along with Jeremiah, we must say to these deceivers, “You have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God” (Jeremiah 23:36b).

Along with these mainstream churches and denominations, we must remember that there are others who belong to numerous cults (e.g., the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Way International, the Mormons, and others) who also blatantly lead people astray through their deceptive doctrines. “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). John also observed, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have done out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the words of our Lord, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:13-14).

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Twenty-ninth, God has made it clear how one must respond to the good news of Christ in order to be saved and forgiven of his or her sins. Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that He gave His own begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Lord went on, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Scriptures are speaking of principles here: we are saved by the principle of grace from God and we are saved by faith on the part of man. Thus, we “believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16b).

This is one of the greatest contrasts between the way of Christ set forth in the Word of God and the way of man found in the world religions. When one examines such religions as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism, or Sikhism, we notice a vain attempt for the person to work and achieve his own salvation by what He does.  Much of professing “Christianity” has the same perspective. In reality, we cannot achieve our own salvation, but we must “receive” salvation. And it is not based on what we do but on what God has done in the Person of Christ. How different! Thus, have you been willing to place all of your faith or trust in God to save you through Christ? Have you done this—personally?

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Thirtieth, we are not only forgiven or saved through faith, but we also must respond to Christ Jesus by repenting of our sins. We examined this at the beginning, but it bears repeating since it is so important. We must have a “change of mind or heart” that issues in a new perspective of life. A deep grief over our past sin and rebellion brings us to repentance that is a complete change of mind and this gives us a change of life. Scripture tells the sinner, “Repent . . . for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This change of mind will mean that God wipes away our sins (Acts 3:19) and will rescue us from perishing because of our sin (2 Peter 3:9).

Repentance is both negative and positive. We turn from all sin and we turn to God and His will. We renounce all sin and we accept by faith God and His solution to our sin problem—Jesus Christ. Our question must be: Have you come to the point in life in which you have been willing to repent of all of your sins?

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Thirty-first, you are to confess Jesus as Lord or Ruler. As we noticed earlier, Scripture teaches, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This “mouth confession” is an acknowledgement of the faith of our heart (v. 10). We confess with our mouth what we believe in our heart. Have you surrendered your will, humbled your spirit, and acknowledged your allegiance to Jesus the Lord?

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Thirty-second, have you been willing to renounce your past “baptism” and experienced the baptism of God’s Word? First, consider the subjects of baptism (who is to be baptized). Much more than fifty percent of professing Christians have only been “baptized” as a baby. Thus, a parent or guardian brings a child and even confesses for the child—for a proxy baptism. Some even think that the infant “baptism” depends on the response or commitment of the sponsor rather than the baby who is being “baptized”! Since an infant simply is unable to respond personally in baptism, we can see that true Biblical baptism requires a person mature enough to be able to actually be baptized according to the Scriptures. Baptism is motivated by repentance and expresses faith in Christ. It is called “a baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) just as was John’s baptism. One must repent before he is able to be Biblically baptized (Acts 2:38-41).

When one is baptized, he “dies” to sin and rises to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). Further, in baptism we express our faith in Jesus Christ, for Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). In the first century, people first believed in Christ and then were baptized, “men and women alike” (Acts 8:12; cf. 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12). This shows that “baby baptism” or “infant baptism” has no support in the Scriptures, thus we should turn from this unbiblical practice. If you only were “baptized” as a baby, you need to personally respond to Christ yourself.

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Thirty-third, have you actually experienced a “baptism” or have you been willing to accept the substitute of sprinkling, pouring, or moistening? We ask you to sincerely examine this question. Many have grown up and merely assumed that the action they had done to them was really a “baptism.” But, in reality, the Greek noun from which “baptism” is translated into English is baptisma, meaning the process of immersion or dipping. The verb, baptizo, means to dip, to sink, to immerse, to submerge, to overwhelm.

Thus, when Jesus says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved,” He is actually saying, “He who has believed and has been immersed shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). In the Matthew account of the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing [immersing] them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In other words, Jesus says that He wants the apostles to “immerse” disciples from all nations. In case you have only been poured or sprinkled in the past, can you see the extreme importance of being immersed (into water and the Spirit) now, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Don’t rely on a ceremony that merely uses a few drops of water, when Jesus said we should be immersed or dipped in the name of Jesus Christ.

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Thirty-fourth, besides being immersed, and doing this as a believer, do you understand the significance of Biblical baptism?  Most people have submitted to a ritual that the pastor or priest calls “baptism,” but the unsuspecting subject must have the right frame of mind and heart for the act to be true and valid baptism. In other words, true Christianity is not one of external rituals but it consists of outward actions that have inward significance. It is the inward meaning and the person’s motivation that gives validity to the outward act.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus follows His command to baptize with these words: “. . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a). Thus, baptism commits us to obey all of the Lord’s teachings as a disciple. Further, Scripture has this significant explanation about baptism: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4; cf. Colossians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:26-27). This shows that we die to sin (Romans 6:1-2), we are buried with Christ in baptism (immersion), and then we rise from the watery “grave” to live a new life. Baptism represents death and life—a burial and a resurrection!

Further, you are to be “baptized in[to] the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Thus, baptism is connected to salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12-13), washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), dying to sin and rising to new life (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12), and being added to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). We can see that baptism is extremely significant. Have you experienced a baptism like this? If not, can you see the defect in all unscriptural actions?

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Thirty-fifth, in summary, we have seen above some radical differences in the experience of most people and what people did in the first century. Today, many are sprinkled or poured instead of being baptized (immersed). Today, many people have had a ceremony called “baptism” even though this may have occurred when the person was two, four, or six months after birth, instead of coming to Christ in repentance and faith as mature people. Today, people are “baptized” to “testify to a presumed previous salvation,” or “to show people that you are already saved,” or “to become a church member,” or “to do a good deed for the Lord.” These ideas, actions, and motives are wide of the mark in regard to Biblical baptism. If you have fallen for any of these modern deceptions, I encourage you to repent and come to Christ just as revealed in Scripture.

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Thirty-sixth, beware of falling into the contemporary “sinner’s prayer” trap. Many preachers, pastors, teachers, and evangelists assume that God wants a person to “repeat a sinner’s prayer,” and “ask God into your heart,” and “invite Christ to take control,” or “sign a decision card for the Lord.” The so-called “sinner’s prayer” is a practice that has become popular during the past two centuries, since about 1830, but it differs from what we read in the New Testament. This is what counts, doesn’t it!

In the Scriptures, people did “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved (Romans 10:13), and this is what Paul did when he was told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). We do “call” on the name of the Lord Jesus when we come to Him in repentant faith expressed in baptism, just as we earlier noticed. If you thought that you became a Christian through “inviting Jesus into your heart,” you need to go back to Scripture and restudy the teaching of the Lord on how to be saved. Repeating a little “sinner’s prayer” in a perfunctory matter, using a stereotyped form, following a pastor’s lead, is far removed from New Testament conversion to Christ.

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Thirty-seventh, have you become part of a humanly-formed and founded denomination or sectarian group when you think you were saved? Sometimes people point out that there are at least 3,000 different religious organizations in the United States and perhaps 30,000 ones in the world. Whether these numbers are correct or not, we do know that there are organizations formed by men (and women) that are not pleasing to God and that differ from what we read in the Scriptures. People without a Biblical background may just assume that “church groups” and “church membership” are actually God’s will, thus they have been told that “joining the church of your choice” is the way they should go.

When we examine Scripture, we see that people automatically were added to the community of Christ at the point of their conversion or salvation experience (see Acts 2:41-42, 47). We read, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). We are “baptized into Christ” and thereby become a member of His spiritual body of believers (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27). Every person who has been Scripturally saved is a part of this body of Christ (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4).

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Thirty-eighth, have you devoted yourself to live a life of absolute obedience to God? This life of total obedience to the Lord is actually obedience of His divine Word. We demonstrate our love for Jesus when we obey Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15; cf. vv. 21-24). We also show our love for God when we obey Him: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2-3; cf. 2 John 6).

When the Lord Jesus left this earth and gave the so-called Great Commission to His followers, He said that they were to make disciples of all the nations, baptize them, and then were to be involved in “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to observe or obey all that Christ commanded us in the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament. You must express your commitment to the Lord by faithfully submitting to Him and His will in everything!

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Thirty-ninth, have you been willing to renounce all false doctrines and traditions of men? In nearly every writing of the New Testament (the new covenant writings), the Spirit gave us warnings against false teachings or aberrant doctrines, some of which were being circulated in the first century. We are in need of similar warnings in our own day. The warnings and teachings illustrating this are too numerous to give at this time. Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) and He said that many would seek to enter the kingdom but will be excluded (vv. 21-23). He referred to false Pharisaic teachers who “invalidated the word of God” for the sake of their traditions (15:6), then He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind” (v. 14). Much later, the apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).

Again and again, we are warned about false teachers who would “deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18). Paul said that some “will fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) and he even names some of them (1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18). Thus, we must diligently avoid false teachings that deviate from the words of Christ and the apostles’ teachings (1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1ff; 3:17; 1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-6). When we come to Christ, let us totally renounce all of the false denominational and sectarian teachings we have been taught, and let us pursue the pure teachings of the Word of God.

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Fortieth, have you come to the point where you diligently seek a holy and pure walk with God and turn from all unrighteousness?  “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19b). We who have been born into the family of God as His beloved children are to “purify” ourselves just as Christ is pure (1 John 3:1-3). The Hebrew writer also warns us: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [holiness, separation from sin to God] without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14).

There must be a distinction between what we were in the past and what God wants us to be now: “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8). We are to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (v. 10), and Paul warns, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (v. 11). Our walk is to be a holy one, separated from all evil and sin! Sadly, modern Christendom often seeks to blend in with the world around them—because they are part of the world!

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Be willing to make major changes in your lifestyle if you choose to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior. To many people, Christianity is merely a matter of church affiliation and minor theological differences. Instead, coming to Christ will necessarily involve key decisions that will influence nearly everything you to! Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). You must carry your cross daily if you want to be one of Christ’s true disciples. You must change (with the power of the Holy Spirit) the way you speak, the way you relate to people, the way you dress, the way you use your time, the way you use your money, what you do for entertainment, the music you listen to, the books you read, the education you pursue, and much more!

Paul wrote that you are to “present your bodies a living ad holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). He went on to say, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2a). Are you using your body to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)? Are you being “unconfirmed” to the world in your clothing, you speech, your entertainment, and your activities?

For instance, probably many (even most?) of you will need to make major changes in your employment for surely many jobs will require one to violate Scriptural principles.  Nearly everyone will need to change their clothing since most people wear worldly and immodest fashion. Most will need to completely change their speech since most people speak in a worldly way, talk about worldly things, use profanity or vulgarity, and use gossip or slander. Nearly everyone will need to change their music and throw away their CDs, their MP3 players, etc., for nearly everyone has worldly musical tastes. Friend, be willing to make these major changes for the Lord! God doesn’t ask too much of us—providing we truly love Him and want to renounce all that offends Him!

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Plan to make major changes in your life to reflect the way of Christ! If the Holy Spirit lives in your, this will mean that you will produce the Spirit’s fruit in your daily walk (Galatians 5:22-24).  You will seek to walk the way Christ walked (1 John 2:3-6). You will not only eliminate all that is negative and offensive to the Lord (see No. 41 above), but you will begin to practice all that delights Him. For example, since the Word of God will be your “food” (Matthew 4:4), you will want to daily examine the Scriptures to understand the mind of God and discover how to live (cf. Acts 17:11). You will want to understand more and more of the teachings of the Bible so you can obey God more completely (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

You will want to speak to or pray to God, and worship Him, so that you may seek His favor, request help from Him, and glorify Him in the name of Jesus and in the Holy Spirit (John 4:24; Ephesians 6:17-18). You will want to have close contact with other brothers and sisters in the family of God; and if this is not presently available, you will want to seek it as completely as you can (Hebrews 10:24-25; 3:13). Do all you can to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

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Forty-third, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul commands us, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b). We are not to “walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4b). We are to be “led by the Spirit of God” (v. 14; cf. Galatians 5:18) and “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We are also to produce “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23), the virtues that enable us to live a Christ-like life of love, holiness, faith, and devotion. We must renounce the flesh and submit ourselves to the Spirit in all things, thereby living a life that is pleasing to God (Romans 8:13). This will enable us to live a life radically different from what we used to be and the way the world around us lives!

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Forty-forth, remember that only those who persevere in faithfulness to the end will be saved. Not only is it vital that you come to God through Christ, through faith and repentance, it is also important that you endure in this commitment. Nearly every book of the New Testament offers encouragement for our continued loyalty to the Lord and warnings that we must not deny Christ. Our Lord said, “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13; cf. 10:22; Mark 13:13). Christ promises the Christians in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b). He continues, “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (v. 11b). Jesus warns that “if anyone does not abide” (continue, remain) in Him “is thrown away as a branch” and will be burned (John 15:1-7).

It is vital that we endure the suffering, hardship, persecution, and trials that will inevitably come when we serve the Lord with a true heart.  Scripture says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Again, Jesus shows the importance of confessing Jesus (even under difficult circumstances) and not denying Him: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

The Book of Hebrews warns, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (2:3a). The writer says that we must never “fall away” for this would bring disastrous effects (6:4-6). We must never go on “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (10:26; cf. 27-31). Peter likewise warns that we must not become “entangled” again in “the defilements of the world” lest our last state will be worse than it was in the past before coming to Christ (2 Peter 2:20-22). God wants you to be saved even more than you do, thus He will make provisions for your endurance in the faith, your holiness, and your perseverance through life’s trials!

This is the Only Way to God!

As we mentioned in the beginning, none of us is guaranteed another day or another year, thus it is essential that we be prepared to meet God right now. It would be the height of foolishness for a person to focus on this life, on the possessions he can amass now, on the money he can earn and spend, on the entertainment that surrounds him, on the marriage that he enjoys, and on the human relations that he may have—but then depart and be cut off from God eternally!

All of us must one day die—whether this will be before the age of 30, or maybe during our middle-aged years, or we may live to age 90 or 100. Maybe you have tried to live a life without God and without any divine guidance of the Word of God, the Bible. Maybe you have lived a “good” life as a devout Muslim, or a devoted Hindu, or a traditional Buddhist. Maybe you have been a professing “Christian” and a good church member, dutiful in all of your activities and relationships. Now you realize that the Mormons, the Witnesses, the Catholics, and the Protestants don’t have the answers either.

But now you realize that there is only one way to be prepared to meet God and go to heaven. All other ways are false. All other ways are misleading. All other ways will only take you to a Godless eternity away from all that is joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling. We must turn to God with all of our heart, and this is only possible when we come to Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). There is no other way!

Hopefully, you have been able to see that the life we’ve lived in the past will take us nowhere but down. Even if we strive to live a religious life, still we are spiritually lost unless we come to God through Christ in the way that the Word of God has revealed. Christ, according to His Word, is the only means by which we can be forgiven of all our sins and find eternal life, in this life and in the life to come.

Will you come to Jesus who offers life now and life everlasting? The Lord Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Will you live and believe in the Lord Jesus today! Will you renounce your past and come to God as Scripture has revealed?

When it comes time for you to die and meet God in judgment, you will wish you had taken the interest to prepare yourself beforehand. Please accept eternal life in Christ now so that you will have this life when you die! Be willing to humble yourself and admit that you have been seriously mistaken and even in error regarding many spiritual decisions you have taken in the past. Be willing to humbly change your ways in repentance and place all of your faith in Christ Jesus as the only way to God and heaven!

If I Had Only One More Message to Share

Richard Hollerman

Let’s imagine that we were good friends and you wanted me to share with you the deepest, most intimate, and most important matters in your life. You would want me to sit beside you, with open ears, with an attentive heart, and with an open Bible. You are concerned—as you should be—about your relationship with God and your preparation to leave this life and transition into the next life. You don’t know if you will go to heaven or hell or somewhere else. What would I say? What would you expect me to say? What would you want me to say?\

Maybe there is another way to look at this. If I or you were on the brink of eternity, what last, important words would be good for me to share in such a circumstance? Or to change the figure somewhat, if you (or I) were in a hospital bed and you were given only four or five more days to live, in this situation, what would be good for me to share with you? Everything else would seem to be nothing in light of the sober truths that should be shared, wouldn’t you say? I hope that you will agree. With this in mind, imagine my sharing these truths with you in light of our limited time before death.

This is the background for this present study you are now reading. I want to speak and write sincerely, honestly, and openly with you. Matters of this importance are crucial and we shouldn’t remain on the superficial level. It is time for truth and you understand this. With this background, let’s now proceed.

Over the past several years, I’ve attended quite a number of funeral services for people I’ve known. Some have been family members, others have been fellow workers, and still others have been friends or acquaintances. If you are like me, these occasions bring much inner reflection, spiritual ponderings, and even deep regrets.

What do I mean by this?  First, I am made to remember my own mortality and the inevitable fact that I also must face death, just like these friends and acquaintances have. Scripture says that “a time to die” comes to all of us (Ecclesiastes 3:2). As God tells us, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Second, I have often regretted that I didn’t say more, write more, or visit more in light of the person’s spiritual condition. I’ve wished that I would have spoken words of love and truth with a person who is on the brink of eternity (Ephesians 4:15). Third, I’ve wished that I could do more for the deceased person at the time of his or her departure but I knew that it would now be impossible. It was too late to do anything at all.

Some of these friends and family members have gone after long months of decline, but finally they are taken, regardless of the tears and regrets. On the other hand, a person might quickly succumb to fatal illnesses and we hardly have time to prepare for the person’s death. Either way, we may be struck with the frailty of the human body and how vulnerable it is to negative influences. As Paul put it, “our outer man is decaying,” but, for the Christian, “our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul could refer to our physical body in ways that plainly declare their vulnerability to disease, illness, injury, and death itself. He says that we have “a perishable body” (1 Corinthians 15:42), a body of “dishonor” (v. 43), and “weakness” (v. 43). We now have a “natural body” (v. 44), an “earthy” body (v. 47), and a “mortal” body (v. 53). It is not a question of whether we will die; it is a matter of when we will die and, more importantly, are we prepared to die and meet God? It is not a question of whether we will die, but what is the condition of the person who dies and where does the person go.

There is a lot of confusion in the world about what happens after we breathe our last breath. The self-professing atheist thinks that he is like a dog; he will just cease to exist. He mistakenly thinks that he will never face life or God again. Some New Agers and devotees of Eastern Religion expect to come back in a different body for they have deluded themselves with the false doctrine of reincarnation.  The devout Catholic thinks that he will go to a fictitious place called “purgatory” for a time of cleansing, purification, or even punishment, after which he will go to heaven.

The Buddhist hopes to lose all personhood and merge into Nirvana, just as a drop of water becomes part of a vast ocean. The Watchtower Witness and the Seven-day Adventist think that they will cease to exist at death, then God will recreate them for the future. Most Protestants hope to go directly into heaven for all eternity. Some New Agers think that they will die and encounter “a Being of Light” who will conduct them into a place of bliss and peace, yet they don’t know exactly where this is located and how to get there. There are all sorts of variations to these ideas, but surely most of them are faulty, wrong, and futile. Scripture refers to “one hope” but most are confused as to what that hope really is (Ephesians 4:4).

Have you sincerely and carefully examined this question of your future and do you have a knowledge of what the future holds? One thing is for sure—that no one has died and then come back to tell us what to expect. No one, that is, other than one single person!  I refer to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth!  He declared, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). Since “Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:9), we can see that Jesus Christ alone has the knowledge and power to tell us all we need to know about death and the afterlife.

The Finality of Death

Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that it doesn’t really matter what will happen in the future after death.  It does matter!  If you play the Lottery and lose, you haven’t lost anything of permanent value. If you have a car wreck, perhaps your body can heal and you can be reimbursed and buy another automobile. If your house burns down, you may be able to purchase another dwelling place. If you fail a course in school, you may be able to live without it or maybe you can take it again. Even if you lose a leg, an arm, or your sight, you can continue to live and find meaning in what you do. We all face failures—even serious ones—but often we can “pick up the pieces” and start over again.  But death is in an entirely different realm!

God’s written Word—the Bible—says that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). You will die only once and can’t return to the earth to “try again” and make better choices the second time around. No, we live only once and we die only once—and after this comes the great, awesome, terrifying “judgment of God”! Are you prepared?

If you are like me, you have gone to a few or even many funerals in your life.  A funeral is definitely an occasion when people express vain and foolish ideas about the future.  One person thought that he would spend much of his time at the heavenly golf course, playing celestial golf games with his friends! Another thought that he would finally have plenty of time to go fishing all of the time. Still another thought that she would take great delight in dancing on the heavenly ballroom!  Many people think that they will spend much of their time conversing with old friends, reminiscing about what it was like to live as a teenager while on earth. Of course, there are a lot of people who think that they will constantly be feasting on the heavenly delights of the palate.

Sadly, these kinds of surmising of the future are utterly vain. First, they center on self and personal pleasure. God is left out!  Yes, there will be delights in the coming “new heaven and new earth” in the “holy city, new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-4), but the focus of the eternal future will be on Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and on the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior who suffered and died to redeem us from death and give us eternal life (Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-11; John 14:1-6). Our great delight and blessed joy will be the sweet fellowship that God affords to His people through all eternity!

One more matter is of tremendous importance: reliable surveys of thousands of people reveal that most think that they will be going to heaven and very few expect to be going to hell. In one of our booklets, we state:

A recent survey of 35,000 Americans by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicated that some 74% of the population believe in heaven, while 59% of people believe in hell. If you are like most people in America, you think that you will go to haven, but only a very few expect to be sent to hell. Some time ago, another national poll found that 62% of people claim to have made a personal commitment to Christ. Of these, seven percent do not know what will happen when they die. Only one percent of such people believe they will go to hell! A Gallup Poll revealed that 60% of the American public believe in hell, but only four percent thought they had “a good chance of ending up there” (Quoted from our booklet, Are You One of the Few?, p. 4).

It may come as a shock to most people for them to realize that this scenario us utterly mistaken. The Lord Jesus has revealed to us that “many”—the vast majority of people—are on the “broad” way that “leads to destruction” whereas only the “few” are on the “narrow” way that leads to eternal life (please read Matthew 7:13-14). Just as only a few people at the time of the great flood (including Noah and his family) were rescued while all of the others (probably many millions of people) perished in God’s judgment of the deluge (see Genesis 6:8-13; 7:1, 13, 23; Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5), likewise the overwhelming majority of people are unprepared to meet God and enter His eternal presence!

What we are pointing out here is that while most people think that they will survive death and go to “a better land” which most identify as “heaven,” the reality is that only a few people (of the billions alive on earth now) will go to be with the Lord and enjoy the eternal blessings of God’s fellowship in His Kingdom. All others will stand before the “great white throne” and God will consign them to “the lake of fire” otherwise known as hell (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). What a shock this will be to unsuspecting men and women in every land down through the ages!

Does this concern you? It should! You and I are now living. Our heart is beating, our lungs are breathing, and our mind is thinking. We can still think and plan and made decisions. And right now you can make decisions that will determine whether you escape the death sentence of this fallen world and be given eternal life in the glorious Home of God! Don’t you want that? Surely you do! But if you refuse, you will surely know of your foolish decision to reject God and His blessed offer of life through all eternity.  A million years from now, a billion years from now, a thousand quintillion years from now, you will either be in everlasting misery or in unimaginable bliss. And the gift of eternal life is freely offered to you!

Sincere and Thoughtful Questions and Comments for You

Too often we look at life and our future in a very superficial way. We treat the question of our eternal future like we would a next vacation, or a course we may take in college, or the decision to buy another house. Those may or may not be important decisions, but where you will spend all eternity is vastly, vastly more crucial than anything else you might consider.  This is why it is vital that you stop for a moment and realize how extremely essential it is for you to think through where you are spiritually and your relationship with God. Everything else is of lesser importance.

Jesus told the story of a man who was financially well off, but the Lord said, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:20). He had prepared everything he needed for a comfortable future on earth, but he didn’t really think about his relationship with God or what the future holds. He was a fool! And we are also a fool if we concentrate our attention on money, family, sports, job, friends, house, and everything else, but fail to make provisions for the moment after we die!

Sobering Questions for You

I’ve been grieved too often about those who have departed this life and I never sincerely, thoughtfully, and soberly spoken to them face-to-face about their relationship with God or where they expect to go at death. Let’s suppose that I were sitting beside you and had the opportunity to converse with you sincerely and lovingly. We know that probably most people shy away from conversations dealing with their soul and where they will spend eternity. However, quite honestly, I hope you will agree with me that there isn’t any better topic to discuss than this.  After all, in the future, after death, people will earnestly wish that they had inquired further about spiritual matters—but then it will be too late!

Let’s imagine that we were good friends and you wanted me to share with you the deepest, most intimate, and most important matters in your life. You would want me to sit beside you, with open ears, with an attentive heart, and with an open Bible. You are concerned—as you should be—about your relationship with God and your preparation to leave this life and transition into the next life. What would I say? What would you expect me to say? What would you want me to say?

This is the background for this present study you are now reading. I want to speak and write sincerely, honestly, and openly with you. Matters of this importance are crucial and we shouldn’t remain on the superficial level. It is time for truth and you understand this. With this background, let’s now proceed.

We need to ask and discuss some very sobering questions about our relationship with God and our preparation for eternity. To do justice to these things would probably take an additional fifty or sixty pages, but we’ll limit our discussions so as not to prolong this matter.  We have many other articles that will help you with all of the information that follows, and we hope that you will avail yourself of what is available to help answer your questions.

For now, we want to come along beside you and ask you a series of thoughtful questions or make a number of serious comments. We hope you’ll not dismiss them of no concern to you, for I know that when one dies, he looks at life and death much different. You will surely wish that I had discussed these matters plainly, lovingly, and thoughtfully with you. Therefore, please ponder what these points mean to you, personally.

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First, are you fully assured that there is a God who has created all things? Sadly, there are many people in this world who reject this or, at least, don’t want to think about it. They think that everything in existence came about through natural processes over long periods of time—perhaps as much as 14 billion years! What existed before that is beyond their imagination! In other words, as someone said, these deceived people assert that “Nothing” created “everything”! Preposterous? Yes, but they are forced to accept such an unfounded belief since they don’t want to accept the evident fact of God’s creation.

Evolutionary theories and speculations have become a modern “god” that many people would rather accept than the true and living God! Actually, God is the creator.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). By the word of the LORD the heavens were made. . . . He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). This is a basic truth that you need to know if you would like to escape death and enter into eternal life when you die.

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Second, are you sure that the Bible is God’s written Word? If you settle this in your mind, you will find that many, many other questions can be easily answered. You will see how consistent the truth is when you observe the large panorama of earth history as revealed on the pages of your own Bible. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). When we accept the truth of the written Word of God, we are able to discover the truth that the Scriptures reveal to us (Hebrews 1:1-3). The written Word of God, the Scriptures, “are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Furthermore, the Bible will help you to understand and answer hundreds of other questions that will lead you to truth and righteousness. They enable a person to be “adequate” and “equipped for every good work” (v. 17).

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Third, do you believe that Jesus is the Creator, the Son of God, and the Lord of glory? We know, of course, that God the Father is the great Creator. In prayer to God, we read, “You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11). But in addition to God being Creator, the Son of God is also Creator. Scripture says, “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16; cf. Hebrews 1:2-3; John 1:3-4). Do you believe that He made all things in the beginning, that He entered earthly life through a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:30-37), that He lived a sinless life as both God and man? These are very “heavy” truths that are essential that you believe in order to have eternal life with God one day.

“In the beginning was the Word [i.e., Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14; see also Hebrews 1:1-3). Thus we read: “By Him [Christ, in prehuman form] is the image of the invisible God. . . . by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).

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Fourth, have you come to recognize that you have sinned by disobeying the will of God and by failing to obey what God has commanded? In reality, you are a sinner in your heart and spirit as well as a sinner in what you do and don’t do. This simply means that you are a sinner and are guilty of sin before a holy and just God. It does take much humility to admit this fact, but it is important. In fact, it is so important that you cannot possibly escape hell and go to heaven unless you get rid of your pride and humbly confess that you are guilty before the Lord, thus you need His help and deliverance to be saved from sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . . . The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23a).

Many people are willing to admit that they have sinned a variety of “little” sins, but somehow they are unwilling to admit that they have sinned against the absolute Ruler of the universe in thought, word, attitude, and deed. Many religious, church-going people vainly think they are without spiritual need. They are satisfied with their religious connection, their spiritual background, and their spiritual attainment. They feel they don’t really need to make a radical change in their life. They refuse to acknowledge their sin. Friend, if you hope to go to heaven, be willing to admit your spiritual lack and your utter need of God’s mercy! Our condition is serious and without remedy from a human standpoint!

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Fifth, have you come to believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, to die for you and for your sins, and that He was raised from the dead after three days? He then ascended to God the Father some 40 days later, where He now has been glorified in heaven on the Father’s right hand. As Scripture says, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Since we can’t achieve our own deliverance from sin, we desperately need a Savior—the Lord Jesus Christ! Only He could pay the price of our salvation. Only He could pay our sin debt by suffering for us and offering His body and blood as sufficient payment to God for our guilt. We also read, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:6, 8, 9b). This fact is so vital that the Bible calls it the “good news” or “gospel” of Christ!

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Sixth, do you understand the rationale behind God’s plan to save humanity—including saving you? Often people have mistaken ideas about how to be saved and go to heaven. They assume that if they do enough “good deeds,” or if they “go to church” more, or if they have more “religion,” then they will be fit for heaven. Actually, all of this is wrong. The Bible says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5a). If we try to save ourselves, we nullify God’s grace and cannot be saved. Instead we need to confess our own inability and helplessness (Romans 5:6).

God is seeking a people who will humbly take Him at His word, who will believe His truth, who will obey His will, and who will live their life for the Lord Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him” (John 3:36).

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Seventh, do you understand the results of sinning against God and remaining in that state of rebellion and guilt? Whether we realize it or not, there are disastrous, devastating effects to the guilt of our sins! Scripture says, “Your iniquities [lawless deeds] have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The “wages of sin” is spiritual death (Romans 6:23a), for “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Referring to Christians, we read, “You were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21; see also 2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

This means that when we sin, we separate ourselves from a holy God, so that we live in a state of spiritual alienation. Most of us naturally feel an inner sense that “not all is right” between God and us. We may not be able to define or explain this inner sense of guilt, but it is there.  This comes from the reality of unforgiven sin!

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Eighth, do you understand that your sins will have eternal results unless you are forgiven of all of them? Not only are there present effects of sin, but there are eternal results. Scripture says, “The wrath [holy hatred and anger] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). When we disobey God, the Bible calls this sin. Notice: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Unless you are forgiven, your sins (the deeds of the flesh) will keep you from God’s marvelous Kingdom: “The deeds of the flesh are evident . . . those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:29-21). “The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6; cf. vv. 3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Let’s be willing to reckon with this personal guilt that you and I share!

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Ninth, do you understand that the unforgiven sinner will also be sent to a place of unending punishment, misery, pain, and hopelessness? We mentioned earlier that most people don’t even think they are going to hell for their sins! Please don’t deceive yourself into thinking this. Unless we acknowledge our sins, our sinful state, and our separation from God, will we be unable to find the solution to our inevitable punishment!

Those who are guilty of all kinds of sins will be cast into the lake of fire, or the “second death,” otherwise known as hell (Revelation 20:13-15; 20:8; Colossians 3:5-6). In other words, God’s holiness, justice, and wrath means that all of those lost in sin will suffer eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 5:29-30; Revelation 14:9-11). Christ, through His holy angels, will cast all guilty sinners into a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 13:40-42, 49-50). These will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9; cf. vv. 7-10).

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Tenth, do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save you and forgive you? He didn’t merely die for the other seven billion people on the earth now or the other 50 to 100 billion of people who have lived on earth since creation. No, He actually died for you—personally. It is true that Jesus died for the helpless and ungodly (Romans 5:6), for sinners (v. 8), and for the whole world (John 3:16, 17). But we should be able to say that Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20b). You must come to see that Jesus gave Himself for you as an individual and He requires that you—personally—respond to Him in order to be forgiven.

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Eleventh, do you personally believe in God as Scripture reveals Him? We can know something about God by seeing the natural world that He has made (Romans 1:20-21) for the heavens declare His glory (Psalm19:1-2; 8:3-5). However, we come to see God in all of His magnificence and grandeur by seeing Him revealed in His written Word, the Bible. Jesus said, “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). We not only must hear Christ’s words and believe them, but we must believe in God who sent Christ into the world! As Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

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Twelfth, do you personally believe in God as He has uniquely revealed Himself in Jesus Christ? We know that the Muslim rejects this truth. The Hindu and Buddhist reject it. The Jewish person rejects it. Most others fail to appreciate this truth. But Scripture says that through Christ, we are believers in God (1 Peter 1:21). Christ has “explained” or revealed God to us (John 1:18, NASB). In other words, Christ Jesus “has made him known” (ESV). Jesus explained, “He who has seen Me has seen, for you will find Him nowhere else!

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Thirteenth, do you believe in the Lord Jesus as Scripture reveals Him? We are to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, as the Anointed of God (the Christ), as the Lord (John 20:30-31). We must also believe that the Lord Jesus came to save sinners, to die on the cross, and to be raised from the dead. Scripture says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). God sent Jesus to deal with our sin problem and we respond to Him and His saving blood through faith (Romans 3:24-25). As Jesus said, “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). If you want to be delivered from your sins, don’t look to Buddha, Muhammad, or any other person. Look to Jesus, our only Savior!

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Fourteenth, you must come to have a different view of your sin. Generally, we look at sin very superficially. That is, we just treat it like it is “not a big deal” and not worthy of much interest. Yes, we may want forgiveness, but it doesn’t touch us very deeply. Instead, God wants us to grieve over our sins and recognize that they hurt, offend, and anger God. They violate His holiness. His justice requires that all of our sins be judged and condemned. Scripture says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We need to be remorseful that we have sinned before we can repent of them.

We grieve that we are sinners and also that we have committed countless sins! If you only commit 3 sins a day, this would be 1,000 in a year, and 10,000 sins in ten years! In reality, we commit vastly more sins than this—for we sin in thought, attitude, word, and deed! We sin in what we do and what we don’t do! We need to have a serious and sober view of our sin so that we will see the need to fully repent!

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Fifteenth, it is absolutely essential that you come to view your sin and your relationship with God differently, then you need to determine to change your heart and mind. Instead of loving sin, you must determine to love God. Instead of carelessly practicing sin, you must determine to live in righteousness. Instead of living to please yourself, you must begin to please God in all you do. This change of perspective may be very hard since it requires you to pull sin out of your life with all of its roots!

Jesus said that we must repent or we will perish (be cast off from God eternally) (Luke 13:3, 5). The Bible says that we are to repent to receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and so that our sins might be “wiped away” (Acts 3:19). Repentance is utterly required for our salvation (Acts 17:30; 20:21). When we consider deep in our heart the magnitude of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, we are led to have a genuine repentance of our sins (Romans 2:4). Do you have this attitude?

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Sixteenth, we must not merely repent of our past sins, but we must determine to live in the future for God and His will. Scripture says that “He [Jesus] died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). The average person places himself in the center of his or her own little “world”! Are you willing to change this perspective so that God becomes the very focal point of your life, your existence, your present and your future?

Our whole life should be one of obedience to the Lord (1 John 2:3-6). When the Lord told His disciples that they are to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, He commanded them to “teach” those baptized to “observe [or obey] all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, all of those baptized are to live a life of submission to the will of Jesus Christ as found in His commands. This will include you!

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Seventeenth, we must acknowledge that Jesus is our Lord, the very Lord of glory. Most people do what they want to do, and this would mean that most people think of themselves as autonomous individuals. Instead, God wants us to confess Jesus as Lord—as Ruler, Owner, or one with authority over us and over the world. Christ is not merely a local ruler, but He is “Lord of all” and even Lord over the heavens and the earth—the whole universe!

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). We respond to God with our heart and mind, inwardly and outwardly. When we confess Jesus as Lord, we will no longer want to direct our own life ourselves, but will want Jesus the Lord to hold sway over us, all we think, say, and do!

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Eighteenth, as you come to a point of repentance in your life, you will want to make things right about the past! By this, we mean that repentance will express itself in restitution. This means “reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused” (Random House Webster’s Collegte Dictionary). It means “the restoring to the rightful owner of something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered,” or “the act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury” (The American Heritage College Dictionary).

For example, when Jesus came to the house of Zaccheus, this honest man who sought repentance declared, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). He wanted to make right what he had committed in the past. Likewise, as you repent, you will want to make amends for your own past life of sin. If you have taken something from someone in the past, you will want to repay what you have taken. If you have defamed or slandered a person, you will want to confess this to the person and do what you can to rectify the situation. If you have failed to give an honest day’s work for your wages, you may want to go back to your employer and agree to recompense him for your wrong. If you have “stolen” a wife or husband from a previous spouse, you can relinquish the adulterous spouse and begin to live a pure life. There are a hundred expressions of repentance found in your desire to make restitution.

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Nineteenth, by now you can surely see that the truth is very different from the way the world has portrayed it. Actually it is diametrically opposite from what the secular and the religious world thinks. Although this is sad, it shows the importance of learning what actually is the truth and not be deceived by the fallen, deceptive culture around us! Again and again in Scripture, we are warned, “Do not be deceived” (1 Corinthians 6:9; cf. 3:18; 15:38; Luke 21:8; Galatians 6:7; James 1:16; 1 John 3:7). We can see why God would warn us: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

The modern world indeed calls evil good and good evil! This is why you need to lay aside much of what you have believed in the past and much of your past lifestyle so that you might adopt the belief system and lifestyle presented by God in the Scriptures. In our own culture, think of the many sins and deeds of the flesh that people portray as good—e.g., fornication (premarital sexuality), adultery, sodomy or homosexuality, transgenderism, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, materialism, sports competition, consuming junk foods, evolutionary philosophies, dishonesty, waste of time and money, and a hundred other expressions. Now is the time to begin to view your past deeds in a different light—the light of God’s Word.

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Twentieth, you must seek to turn from the philosophies, viewpoints, and belief systems of the world. Think of the numerous “isms” that dominate and influence modern living—secularism, hedonism, humanism, rationalism, relativism, emotionalism, pluralism, evolutionism, naturalism, denominationalism, nationalism, patriotism, militarism, sectarianism, ecumenism, feminism, selfism, and countless other “isms” that pervert and “make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). Be willing to accept a Biblical worldview that will defeat all of these humanistic views.

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Twenty-first, you must turn from all of the “gods” in your life and accept only the true and living God of the Bible. Even if you are not a Hindu who worships millions of different false gods or idols, or are not a Catholic who “adores” Mary and other Catholic “saints,” still you surely have a number of false gods in your life that must be renounced. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10). In your life, you may have various “gods” or “idols” whom you focus your attention on, such as sports, your job, your house, ease, money, possessions, pleasures, education, music, the TV, a boyfriend or girlfriend, children, and much more. In contrast, the true and living God and Jesus Christ should be the sole center of your life and attention! In all of this, you need to repent of this wrongful and idolatrous focus on people and things that have taken the place of God alone!

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Twenty-second, if you have grown up or accepted one of the major world religions, you can see by now that spiritual deception has thoroughly permeated such religions. Religion is man’s attempt to please and appease God through religious ritual and ceremony and what he thinks are good deeds. The way of God or of Christ is more of a life than a religion! Therefore, you must be able to “see through” this deception and come to see that there is only one way to heaven.

This is hard for some people to accept since we are living in a pluralistic age in which truth doesn’t really matter. “True truth” (to use a helpful term) is all that matters and you will need to lay aside all of the spiritual deception of your past religion—whether that be Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and nearly all of what is thought of as “Christianity.” There is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). This is exclusive, we know, but it is the truth and you must accept. Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to have a part in God’s wonderful Kingdom? Jesus is the only way! “There is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12; cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). Life is found alone in Jesus, the giver of life (1 John 5:11-13).

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Twenty-third, if you are a follower of a world religion, what we must discuss here won’t mean too much, but if you have any “Christian” background it is really necessary that you consider the following matters. Not every person who professes to be a Christian has truly been born again, saved, and brought into God’s kingdom. Maybe this is surprising to you since you may know little or nothing about the way of Christ, but it is true.

Again and again, God warns us in Scripture that not everyone who claims to be saved from sin and have a relationship with God through Christ actually is an authentic child of God.  Even among those who profess Christ outwardly, who belong to a “Christian” group or denomination, and who believe in one or more of the basic tenets of Christianity, there are very few who have truly been saved and born again by the Spirit of God. As you read over the following points, keep this fact in mind. As we read in Scripture, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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Twenty-fourth, at the outset, you need to come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of people who wear the name “Christian” do not have a genuine, saving knowledge of God in Christ. In other words, these people may adhere to a religion they say is Christian, but they lack the life of Christ inwardly! There are numerous plain and unambiguous verses in God’s Word to this effect. They are too abundant to examine all of them. The Lord Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

This shows that “many” (not a few) confess that Jesus is Lord, but only a few of these will actually enter the kingdom of heaven! When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?,” the Lord replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). Jesus said that His followers constituted a “little flock” and this hasn’t changed over the years. Keep this fact in mind as we continue through the following pages!

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Twenty-fifth, most people claiming to be “Christians” will not be accepted by the Lord on the great Day of Judgment! “Many” are on the “broad” way that “leads to destruction,” while only a “few” are on the “narrow” way that “leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). Please don’t be deceived into thinking that all professing “Christians” are God’s people and will go to heaven when they die! On the contrary, the majority have become “entangled” in the “defilements of the world” (2 Peter 2:20-22). The great majority of people claiming Christ have deceived themselves that they have been “born again,” and know God, and claim Christ, but they are very deceived. “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Corinthians 3:18a). Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Take the challenge of Paul the apostle: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a).

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Twenty-sixth, have you been born of God? Most people don’t know what this means; they’ve never heard of it or, if they have, they have a misunderstanding of it. Interestingly, millions of Americans claim to have been “born again” but their beliefs and lifestyle betrays their ignorance and deception about this utterly important subject. Simply said, unless a person is spiritually “born again,” he cannot enter God’s eternal presence and enjoy the delights of His kingdom!

The Lord Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Do you want to enter the kingdom of God? If so, it is essential that you be “born again.” This means “born of God” or “born of water and the Spirit,” or “born from above” (John 3:3, 5, 7; cf. 1:12-13). Many parents think that this means taking their baby to a priest who goes through a ceremony and then assures the unsuspecting and deceived parents into thinking that the infant becomes a child of God and will go to heaven! No, not at all! Billions of professing “Christians” in the present and in the past have held this confused and misleading teaching over the past 1,800 years! They have lived and died with the misconception that they became God’s children through this infant ritual that the priest or minister has called “baptism,” however being born of God and living as a child of God is vastly different from what this mistaken theology has affirmed. Deceived and deceiving priests and pastors will need to give an account before a Holy God for misleading vast numbers of people into thinking they were saved whereas they were not!

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Twenty-seventh, be assured that being part of a modern church or denomination that claims to be “Christian” doesn’t bring salvation. Multiple millions have been deceived by this nice-sounding idea, but it misunderstands the essence of salvation and the meaning of the body of Christ. This idea of “church salvation” has misled millions of people who mistakenly thought they were saved and safe because they were part of God’s “church,” whereas they knew little or nothing about salvation in Christ Jesus!

It is true that Christ “purchased” the assembly of God “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). However, this refers to the regenerated and saved body of believers and not a modern church or denomination. It is also true that Jesus is “the Savior of the body” of believers (Ephesians 5:23) but, again, this doesn’t refer to a modern man-made denomination. Rather, it refers to the people of God or the body of the Lord. Instead of people being saved by membership in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, the Anglican Church, or any other contemporary sacerdotal denomination, these groups often lead their members astray in countless ways!

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Twenty-eighth, many of these professing “Christian” churches along with their pastors, preachers, ministers, priests, teachers, and theologians, are confusing people into thinking that their defective and deceived church system is the way of salvation. Keep this in mind when you see official statistics on the world religions, and you notice that over two billion people on earth claim to be Christians! While they do take the name of “Christian” or “Christ,” they are very far from what Jesus and His apostles  believed and taught. Along with Jeremiah, we must say to these deceivers, “You have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God” (Jeremiah 23:36b).

Along with these mainstream churches and denominations, we must remember that there are others who belong to numerous cults (e.g., the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Way International, the Mormons, and others) who also blatantly lead people astray through their deceptive doctrines. “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). John also observed, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have done out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the words of our Lord, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:13-14).

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Twenty-ninth, God has made it clear how one must respond to the good news of Christ in order to be saved and forgiven of his or her sins. Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that He gave His own begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Lord went on, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Scriptures are speaking of principles here: we are saved by the principle of grace from God and we are saved by faith on the part of man. Thus, we “believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16b).

This is one of the greatest contrasts between the way of Christ set forth in the Word of God and the way of man found in the world religions. When one examines such religions as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism, or Sikhism, we notice a vain attempt for the person to work and achieve his own salvation by what He does.  Much of professing “Christianity” has the same perspective. In reality, we cannot achieve our own salvation, but we must “receive” salvation. And it is not based on what we do but on what God has done in the Person of Christ. How different! Thus, have you been willing to place all of your faith or trust in God to save you through Christ? Have you done this—personally?

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Thirtieth, we are not only forgiven or saved through faith, but we also must respond to Christ Jesus by repenting of our sins. We examined this at the beginning, but it bears repeating since it is so important. We must have a “change of mind or heart” that issues in a new perspective of life. A deep grief over our past sin and rebellion brings us to repentance that is a complete change of mind and this gives us a change of life. Scripture tells the sinner, “Repent . . . for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This change of mind will mean that God wipes away our sins (Acts 3:19) and will rescue us from perishing because of our sin (2 Peter 3:9).

Repentance is both negative and positive. We turn from all sin and we turn to God and His will. We renounce all sin and we accept by faith God and His solution to our sin problem—Jesus Christ. Our question must be: Have you come to the point in life in which you have been willing to repent of all of your sins?

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Thirty-first, you are to confess Jesus as Lord or Ruler. As we noticed earlier, Scripture teaches, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This “mouth confession” is an acknowledgement of the faith of our heart (v. 10). We confess with our mouth what we believe in our heart. Have you surrendered your will, humbled your spirit, and acknowledged your allegiance to Jesus the Lord?

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Thirty-second, have you been willing to renounce your past “baptism” and experienced the baptism of God’s Word? First, consider the subjects of baptism (who is to be baptized). Much more than fifty percent of professing Christians have only been “baptized” as a baby. Thus, a parent or guardian brings a child and even confesses for the child—for a proxy baptism. Some even think that the infant “baptism” depends on the response or commitment of the sponsor rather than the baby who is being “baptized”! Since an infant simply is unable to respond personally in baptism, we can see that true Biblical baptism requires a person mature enough to be able to actually be baptized according to the Scriptures. Baptism is motivated by repentance and expresses faith in Christ. It is called “a baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) just as was John’s baptism. One must repent before he is able to be Biblically baptized (Acts 2:38-41).

When one is baptized, he “dies” to sin and rises to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). Further, in baptism we express our faith in Jesus Christ, for Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). In the first century, people first believed in Christ and then were baptized, “men and women alike” (Acts 8:12; cf. 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12). This shows that “baby baptism” or “infant baptism” has no support in the Scriptures, thus we should turn from this unbiblical practice. If you only were “baptized” as a baby, you need to personally respond to Christ yourself.

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Thirty-third, have you actually experienced a “baptism” or have you been willing to accept the substitute of sprinkling, pouring, or moistening? We ask you to sincerely examine this question. Many have grown up and merely assumed that the action they had done to them was really a “baptism.” But, in reality, the Greek noun from which “baptism” is translated into English is baptisma, meaning the process of immersion or dipping. The verb, baptizo, means to dip, to sink, to immerse, to submerge, to overwhelm.

Thus, when Jesus says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved,” He is actually saying, “He who has believed and has been immersed shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). In the Matthew account of the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing [immersing] them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In other words, Jesus says that He wants the apostles to “immerse” disciples from all nations. In case you have only been poured or sprinkled in the past, can you see the extreme importance of being immersed (into water and the Spirit) now, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Don’t rely on a ceremony that merely uses a few drops of water, when Jesus said we should be immersed or dipped in the name of Jesus Christ.

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Thirty-fourth, besides being immersed, and doing this as a believer, do you understand the significance of Biblical baptism?  Most people have submitted to a ritual that the pastor or priest calls “baptism,” but the unsuspecting subject must have the right frame of mind and heart for the act to be true and valid baptism. In other words, true Christianity is not one of external rituals but it consists of outward actions that have inward significance. It is the inward meaning and the person’s motivation that gives validity to the outward act.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus follows His command to baptize with these words: “. . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a). Thus, baptism commits us to obey all of the Lord’s teachings as a disciple. Further, Scripture has this significant explanation about baptism: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4; cf. Colossians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:26-27). This shows that we die to sin (Romans 6:1-2), we are buried with Christ in baptism (immersion), and then we rise from the watery “grave” to live a new life. Baptism represents death and life—a burial and a resurrection!

Further, you are to be “baptized in[to] the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Thus, baptism is connected to salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12-13), washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), dying to sin and rising to new life (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12), and being added to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). We can see that baptism is extremely significant. Have you experienced a baptism like this? If not, can you see the defect in all unscriptural actions?

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Thirty-fifth, in summary, we have seen above some radical differences in the experience of most people and what people did in the first century. Today, many are sprinkled or poured instead of being baptized (immersed). Today, many people have had a ceremony called “baptism” even though this may have occurred when the person was two, four, or six months after birth, instead of coming to Christ in repentance and faith as mature people. Today, people are “baptized” to “testify to a presumed previous salvation,” or “to show people that you are already saved,” or “to become a church member,” or “to do a good deed for the Lord.” These ideas, actions, and motives are wide of the mark in regard to Biblical baptism. If you have fallen for any of these modern deceptions, I encourage you to repent and come to Christ just as revealed in Scripture.

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Thirty-sixth, beware of falling into the contemporary “sinner’s prayer” trap. Many preachers, pastors, teachers, and evangelists assume that God wants a person to “repeat a sinner’s prayer,” and “ask God into your heart,” and “invite Christ to take control,” or “sign a decision card for the Lord.” The so-called “sinner’s prayer” is a practice that has become popular during the past two centuries, since about 1830, but it differs from what we read in the New Testament. This is what counts, doesn’t it!

In the Scriptures, people did “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved (Romans 10:13), and this is what Paul did when he was told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). We do “call” on the name of the Lord Jesus when we come to Him in repentant faith expressed in baptism, just as we earlier noticed. If you thought that you became a Christian through “inviting Jesus into your heart,” you need to go back to Scripture and restudy the teaching of the Lord on how to be saved. Repeating a little “sinner’s prayer” in a perfunctory matter, using a stereotyped form, following a pastor’s lead, is far removed from New Testament conversion to Christ.

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Thirty-seventh, have you become part of a humanly-formed and founded denomination or sectarian group when you think you were saved? Sometimes people point out that there are at least 3,000 different religious organizations in the United States and perhaps 30,000 ones in the world. Whether these numbers are correct or not, we do know that there are organizations formed by men (and women) that are not pleasing to God and that differ from what we read in the Scriptures. People without a Biblical background may just assume that “church groups” and “church membership” are actually God’s will, thus they have been told that “joining the church of your choice” is the way they should go.

When we examine Scripture, we see that people automatically were added to the community of Christ at the point of their conversion or salvation experience (see Acts 2:41-42, 47). We read, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). We are “baptized into Christ” and thereby become a member of His spiritual body of believers (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27). Every person who has been Scripturally saved is a part of this body of Christ (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4).

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Thirty-eighth, have you devoted yourself to live a life of absolute obedience to God? This life of total obedience to the Lord is actually obedience of His divine Word. We demonstrate our love for Jesus when we obey Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15; cf. vv. 21-24). We also show our love for God when we obey Him: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2-3; cf. 2 John 6).

When the Lord Jesus left this earth and gave the so-called Great Commission to His followers, He said that they were to make disciples of all the nations, baptize them, and then were to be involved in “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to observe or obey all that Christ commanded us in the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament. You must express your commitment to the Lord by faithfully submitting to Him and His will in everything!

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Thirty-ninth, have you been willing to renounce all false doctrines and traditions of men? In nearly every writing of the New Testament (the new covenant writings), the Spirit gave us warnings against false teachings or aberrant doctrines, some of which were being circulated in the first century. We are in need of similar warnings in our own day. The warnings and teachings illustrating this are too numerous to give at this time. Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) and He said that many would seek to enter the kingdom but will be excluded (vv. 21-23). He referred to false Pharisaic teachers who “invalidated the word of God” for the sake of their traditions (15:6), then He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind” (v. 14). Much later, the apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).

Again and again, we are warned about false teachers who would “deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18). Paul said that some “will fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) and he even names some of them (1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18). Thus, we must diligently avoid false teachings that deviate from the words of Christ and the apostles’ teachings (1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1ff; 3:17; 1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-6). When we come to Christ, let us totally renounce all of the false denominational and sectarian teachings we have been taught, and let us pursue the pure teachings of the Word of God.

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Fortieth, have you come to the point where you diligently seek a holy and pure walk with God and turn from all unrighteousness?  “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19b). We who have been born into the family of God as His beloved children are to “purify” ourselves just as Christ is pure (1 John 3:1-3). The Hebrew writer also warns us: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [holiness, separation from sin to God] without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14).

There must be a distinction between what we were in the past and what God wants us to be now: “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8). We are to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (v. 10), and Paul warns, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (v. 11). Our walk is to be a holy one, separated from all evil and sin! Sadly, modern Christendom often seeks to blend in with the world around them—because they are part of the world!

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Be willing to make major changes in your lifestyle if you choose to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior. To many people, Christianity is merely a matter of church affiliation and minor theological differences. Instead, coming to Christ will necessarily involve key decisions that will influence nearly everything you to! Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). You must carry your cross daily if you want to be one of Christ’s true disciples. You must change (with the power of the Holy Spirit) the way you speak, the way you relate to people, the way you dress, the way you use your time, the way you use your money, what you do for entertainment, the music you listen to, the books you read, the education you pursue, and much more!

Paul wrote that you are to “present your bodies a living ad holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). He went on to say, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2a). Are you using your body to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)? Are you being “unconfirmed” to the world in your clothing, you speech, your entertainment, and your activities?

For instance, probably many (even most?) of you will need to make major changes in your employment for surely many jobs will require one to violate Scriptural principles.  Nearly everyone will need to change their clothing since most people wear worldly and immodest fashion. Most will need to completely change their speech since most people speak in a worldly way, talk about worldly things, use profanity or vulgarity, and use gossip or slander. Nearly everyone will need to change their music and throw away their CDs, their MP3 players, etc., for nearly everyone has worldly musical tastes. Friend, be willing to make these major changes for the Lord! God doesn’t ask too much of us—providing we truly love Him and want to renounce all that offends Him!

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Plan to make major changes in your life to reflect the way of Christ! If the Holy Spirit lives in your, this will mean that you will produce the Spirit’s fruit in your daily walk (Galatians 5:22-24).  You will seek to walk the way Christ walked (1 John 2:3-6). You will not only eliminate all that is negative and offensive to the Lord (see No. 41 above), but you will begin to practice all that delights Him. For example, since the Word of God will be your “food” (Matthew 4:4), you will want to daily examine the Scriptures to understand the mind of God and discover how to live (cf. Acts 17:11). You will want to understand more and more of the teachings of the Bible so you can obey God more completely (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

You will want to speak to or pray to God, and worship Him, so that you may seek His favor, request help from Him, and glorify Him in the name of Jesus and in the Holy Spirit (John 4:24; Ephesians 6:17-18). You will want to have close contact with other brothers and sisters in the family of God; and if this is not presently available, you will want to seek it as completely as you can (Hebrews 10:24-25; 3:13). Do all you can to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

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Forty-third, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul commands us, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b). We are not to “walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4b). We are to be “led by the Spirit of God” (v. 14; cf. Galatians 5:18) and “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We are also to produce “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23), the virtues that enable us to live a Christ-like life of love, holiness, faith, and devotion. We must renounce the flesh and submit ourselves to the Spirit in all things, thereby living a life that is pleasing to God (Romans 8:13). This will enable us to live a life radically different from what we used to be and the way the world around us lives!

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Forty-forth, remember that only those who persevere in faithfulness to the end will be saved. Not only is it vital that you come to God through Christ, through faith and repentance, it is also important that you endure in this commitment. Nearly every book of the New Testament offers encouragement for our continued loyalty to the Lord and warnings that we must not deny Christ. Our Lord said, “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13; cf. 10:22; Mark 13:13). Christ promises the Christians in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b). He continues, “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (v. 11b). Jesus warns that “if anyone does not abide” (continue, remain) in Him “is thrown away as a branch” and will be burned (John 15:1-7).

It is vital that we endure the suffering, hardship, persecution, and trials that will inevitably come when we serve the Lord with a true heart.  Scripture says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Again, Jesus shows the importance of confessing Jesus (even under difficult circumstances) and not denying Him: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

The Book of Hebrews warns, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (2:3a). The writer says that we must never “fall away” for this would bring disastrous effects (6:4-6). We must never go on “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (10:26; cf. 27-31). Peter likewise warns that we must not become “entangled” again in “the defilements of the world” lest our last state will be worse than it was in the past before coming to Christ (2 Peter 2:20-22). God wants you to be saved even more than you do, thus He will make provisions for your endurance in the faith, your holiness, and your perseverance through life’s trials!

This is the Only Way to God!

As we mentioned in the beginning, none of us is guaranteed another day or another year, thus it is essential that we be prepared to meet God right now. It would be the height of foolishness for a person to focus on this life, on the possessions he can amass now, on the money he can earn and spend, on the entertainment that surrounds him, on the marriage that he enjoys, and on the human relations that he may have—but then depart and be cut off from God eternally!

All of us must one day die—whether this will be before the age of 30, or maybe during our middle-aged years, or we may live to age 90 or 100. Maybe you have tried to live a life without God and without any divine guidance of the Word of God, the Bible. Maybe you have lived a “good” life as a devout Muslim, or a devoted Hindu, or a traditional Buddhist. Maybe you have been a professing “Christian” and a good church member, dutiful in all of your activities and relationships. Now you realize that the Mormons, the Witnesses, the Catholics, and the Protestants don’t have the answers either.

But now you realize that there is only one way to be prepared to meet God and go to heaven. All other ways are false. All other ways are misleading. All other ways will only take you to a Godless eternity away from all that is joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling. We must turn to God with all of our heart, and this is only possible when we come to Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). There is no other way!

Hopefully, you have been able to see that the life we’ve lived in the past will take us nowhere but down. Even if we strive to live a religious life, still we are spiritually lost unless we come to God through Christ in the way that the Word of God has revealed. Christ, according to His Word, is the only means by which we can be forgiven of all our sins and find eternal life, in this life and in the life to come.

Will you come to Jesus who offers life now and life everlasting? The Lord Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Will you live and believe in the Lord Jesus today! Will you renounce your past and come to God as Scripture has revealed?

When it comes time for you to die and meet God in judgment, you will wish you had taken the interest to prepare yourself beforehand. Please accept eternal life in Christ now so that you will have this life when you die! Be willing to humble yourself and admit that you have been seriously mistaken and even in error regarding many spiritual decisions you have taken in the past. Be willing to humbly change your ways in repentance and place all of your faith in Christ Jesus as the only way to God and heaven!

 

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