Have you ever been shocked and surprised by anything in life? We’ve all had this experience, but no shock or surprise will equal that experience of facing God unprepared at His supreme and august Judgment!
We have all been shocked and surprised to learn about some wonderful event, an unexpected benefit, and a pleasant visit of a friend. On the other hand, we may also have been shocked with news of a horrible accident, a disastrous turn of affairs, a loss of a job, or the death of a family member. We cant go through life without having these surprises and being shocked with unexpected and unwanted news.
Imagine along with me for a few moments. John Spencer is a decent neighbor, a responsible husband, and a good provider. He likes baseball, camping, golf, pizza, his dog, and his green, well-kept lawn. John is also a good church member and seldom misses a Sunday morning service at the church where he and his wife have been members for many years. He has even held a few church offices and is generous with his charitable and church giving. John is a friendly sort of person, well-liked by his fellow-workers at the plant where he works. He assumes that everything is fine, that he will age gracefully, then go to heaven when he dies.
Now consider Lori Standford, a young woman who seems to have everything going for her. She is considered good looking, has recently graduated from the university with good grades, has been working in a good position for some months, and enjoys good health. She likes TV, a good novel, fast food, football, and regularly plays tennis. Lori is also a professing Christian and loves to spend time with her other single friends in the young professional group in the church. Her life appears to be going fine and Lori assumes that she will eventually get married, bear a couple children, and live a pleasant and productive life on earth. She is confident that she will have a place in heaven when she dies.
Tom Baldwin is nearing graduation from high school and eagerly anticipates entering college in the fall. He wants to study hard and get a degree that will lead to a responsible position that will provide a good income one day. He would like to move to the suburbs, buy a large home, drive a fast sports car, and take semi-yearly vacations to Bermuda and Hawaii. Tom occasionally goes to church but he thinks that religion is a private matter. He definitely believes in God and thinks that he will go to heaven when he dies at a ripe old age.
Sarah Jones and her husband have raised several children but they have all left the nest by now and life is a little less complicated. Sarah has time to read her Bible and attends church services and Bible studies several times a week. She enjoys Christian television and likes to read womens devotional books. Sometimes she goes on womens retreats with her church friends and enjoys talking with them about how God is working in her life. When at home or even driving the car, Sarah likes to listen to Christian radio and enjoys the songs that praise God. Although she likes life, Sarah looks confidently to the future when she expects to go to heaven where she will be greeted by her parents and friends who have gone before.
John, Lori, Tom, and Sarah seem to have much going for them. They continue to have daily problems, just like others do. But all of them believe that they are sustained by God, they pray to God, and all of them confidently believe that they will be received by a merciful God when this life is over. They have lived a good, moral, religious, and devoted lifeand this is what they are depending on to take them to Gods eternal presence.
There is only one thing wrongone very big thing! What do I mean? All of these deeply religious people are lost and dead in their sins. All of them are separated from the God whom they think they have served. All of them are under Gods righteous wrath. As the Word of God says, There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12). John, Lori, Tom, and Sarah assumed that their ways were right and pleasing to Godbut they actually were following the way of death on the broad and respectable road to destruction. They were mistaken, dreadfully mistaken and tragically deceivedand they didn’t know it! What a shock and surprise it will be when they face God in judgment!
If we could have a long heart-to-heart talk with each of these friendly people and point out certain basic truths from Gods Word, surely they would be surprised to learn the truth! In fact, they would be shocked to learn the truth of their real condition before a holy and righteous God!
Jesus gives an account of what the Great Judgment will be like in Matthew 7:21-23. It is the judgment scene when Jesus Christ the King and Judge will sit on His glorious throne. He says that many people will cry out to Him, Lord, Lord, but they will not enter the kingdom of heaven! They will even claim a lot of religious, church, and Christian involvement and activity. But Jesus the Judge will sadly reply, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. These professing Christians will be shocked to learn that all of their church activity, religious involvement, prayers and songs, Bible reading, and other good deeds will count for nothing. They will be surprisedeven shockedto learn that they are being rejected by the Lord whom they thought they had served in life. And then it is too late! Forever too late!
Reader, I wonder if this may describe you? I know that it did describe me. I was religious all of my life. I was a regular church member. All of my family, including my ancestors, were relatively religious, church-going people. Eventually, I became a daily Bible reader, I prayed regularly, I avoided the sins that are so common to youth and adults (smoking, drinking, profanity, gambling, stealing, drugs, etc.). I didn’t hang around bad characters and even stopped watching television to avoid the evil on the screen. I was doing what I assumed was necessary to take me to heaven. But then God began a work in my heart, through the truth of His written Word and through His Holy Spirit. He opened my eyes to my lost, sinful, and guilty condition. I came to see that regardless of the good things I was doing and the bad things I avoided, I was yet separated from God. I was lost and dead in sin, I was under Gods righteous judgment, and I desperately needed the solution to this dreadful condition.
Thanks to God, His divine Word gave me the answer. That answer was there all along, but I had not seen it. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). We also read, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (v. 105). The light of Gods Word illuminated my heart and showed the path. I came to see that Jesus Christ is the only possible way of salvation (John 14:6), and that I could only be forgiven and born again spiritually through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 5:6-11). I came to see that I could not be saved by my own goodness or righteous deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
I humbly repented of my sins and self-life, confessed those sins, and turned from them with all of my heart. I placed all of my faith in God through Jesus Christ and acknowledged Jesus as Lord, then I was baptized into Jesus Christ and into His death (John 3:14-18, 36; Acts 2:38-41; 3:19; 22:16; Romans 6:1-5; Colossians 2:11-13). Finally God accepted me as His own child and I was prepared to go to be with Him when my stay on earth was finished (1 John 3:1-3; John 14:1-3). My entire life was changed inwardly as I became a new person in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What about you? Are you willing to search the Bible to find out about your own spiritual condition? You may be a good person, a good church member, a devoted and friendly person, an honest and committed person, a good friend and spouse, but you still need to find out the answers for yourself. You need to return to the Bible with a fresh commitment to read, to study, and to learn whether you truly belong to God and are prepared to heaven. I challenge you to do this todaywhile we still have time. Please dont go to the Great Judgment and be shocked and surprised about your spiritual condition before God!