Yes. God would never make it impossible to have a relationship with Him. The real question is how can I be good enough for God?
A relationship with God is based on who we are and not what we do. Just as we are born physically into a family, we must be born spiritually into God's family. A person is born into God's family by believing the truth.
The truth is that God sent Jesus to die for us so that we could have eternal life with Him. Jesus' death on the cross paid the price in full for all sins of all the world—including ours. When we believe in Christ, we become a new creation, and we are born into God's family as His children. We receive the perfect nature of God into our very being, yet not because of anything that we did to deserve life. Just like our physical life, our spiritual life is a gift. Our very nature or identity is changed within so that we become a new person in God's sight. Based on that new life, we become "good enough" for God on the basis of faith in Christ. Just as a child is loved for who he or she is, God loves and accepts us apart from our performance. It is by faith, not works, that we are "good enough" for God.
Getting saved means that we are exempt from eternal punishment in hell and that we will be with God for all of eternity. Even though we may not like to think about it, death is a fact of life. Beyond our own death, there is the loss of loved ones, little ones, and brave ones whose memories touch our hearts deeply. God promises to save us from eternal death by placing our faith in Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In God's sight, when we trust in Christ to save us from our sins, we become part of Christ so that we are in the Body of Christ. Just as a man and a woman are no longer two but one when they exchange vows, we are no longer alone but one with Christ by faith in Christ.
Salvation from death comes through receiving eternal life from God. Eternal means forever. We will live forever since God lives in us through faith in Christ. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us as well. That is the promise for us to receive.
To convert is to change from an old way to a new way. Every human being was born into a nature that was inherited from their parents, who inherited it from their parents. Our "natural" way is at odds with God's way. All of us have the natural tendency to run our own life—that happens as soon as we arrive as babies. This desire for independence conflicts with God because He wants to direct our lives. Typically a "tug of war" takes place within our hearts and sets up an internal struggle.
Many people keep control and never surrender to God. But others eventually realize that God is far more able to direct our lives so they give God control. When this happens, a convert goes from the old, natural way to a new, supernatural way. Specifically, we can make Jesus the Lord of our life. At the moment of conversion, we are "born again" from our old human nature into God's family with a new nature.
According to Jesus, the answer is "yes." Many people have difficulty with His answer because they see so many other religions besides Christianity producing good works. However, heaven is not the result of our good works.
Heaven cannot be earned by anyone, which is the conflict with religions based on human effort. Heaven is a gift; therefore works cannot be counted. This clearly taught truth in God's Word is offensive to many because mankind wants to see heaven as a reward for effort, but nothing could be more untrue. Heaven is a gift that we will never deserve, no matter how "good" we think we may be. The truth is that any imperfection will disqualify a person from heaven. That fact leaves us utterly dependent on the mercy of God. Fortunately for us, God wants to grant mercy to anyone who asks for it. God does not discriminate. He loves every single person the same—perfectly. But His love is a gift that can only be received by trusting in Christ.
Jesus Christ stated that He was the way, the truth and the life and that no one could come to God except through Him. Jesus was God, and He was the only human being who lived a sinless life. He gave his life over to death for our sins so that we could be forgiven and set free from all the punishment that was due us. We are given acceptance by faith in what Christ has done on our behalf. In other words, heaven is opened to those who receive the gift of Christ's forgiveness, which removes all imperfection, thereby making us fit for heaven.
Jesus said that He was God many times in the Scriptures. In one incident, He said He had lived even before Abraham was born. This statement infuriated His religious opponents because they knew that He was setting himself above time, therefore, claiming to be God. Jesus said that He was the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the promises of the Old Testament. In the end, Christ was crucified because He said He was equal to God. Many times, as He was teaching His followers, He directed them to worship Him above all others, including their mother, father, spouse, and children.Some additional signs besides His verbal claims to divinity were His miracles. Through eyewitness accounts written for our behalf in four gospels, Jesus asserts power over nature, sickness of all kinds, demonic spirits, and, ultimately, death itself. He multiplied the loaves and fishes, changed water to wine, and walked on water. All of these dramatic events were given to us to answer this very question.Finally, there is the sinless life of Jesus. There is no person in human history who was perfect, without any sin whatsoever. Jesus could never be the perfect sacrifice for our sins if He was just like any other man. He was fully human, but He was fully divine at the same time, born of a human mother impregnated by the Spirit of God.If he was not God, He would need a savior too. But, on the basis of His spotless, innocent life, He offered himself as the "lamb without defect" for the sake of the entire world. Because He was God, death could not hold Him captive; He rose victoriously three days after His death to prove His sovereignty over life and death.
No. Infant baptism is not only not necessary for salvation, it cannot provide salvation.Infant baptism is based on an assumption by human religious leaders. The assumption is that since we are born in original sin, a child will receive negative consequences for not having received cleansing of sin through baptism. Those consequences may include loss of salvation (inability to enter heaven) or limbo (residence in another destination other than heaven).God is very clear about the destination of all human souls. All of us regardless of age are going into one of only two places: heaven or hell. There is no biblical basis whatsoever for limbo. Therefore, the question is how does God see an infant with respect to consequences?The Bible indicates the answer clearly. God sees children as innocent. They will not be judged for sin since sin requires choice. An infant is not able to make a choice for good or evil therefore an infant is not guilty in God's eyes of any sin. Furthermore, since hell is the consequence for sin which is a conscious rejection of God's will (rebellion), the only place that is appropriate for an infant is heaven. We shall see shortly that we do not need to assume this to be true. It is true due to a number of verses that leave no doubt that God loves children and will not lose any to eternal separation.Let's go back to the issue of original sin. What is that? A fallen condition inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve. They committed the original sin and that sin is passed down to all future generations. But, to further clarify the matter, we must see the curse of sin in terms of the sinful nature. All of us are born with the inclination to sin; we are born into a fallen nature. Very simply, that nature is prone to sin. But, this sin nature which presides in every human being is not judged by God as sin until choice is possible. God will judge all sin but if no sin has been committed yet, God will not hold an infant accountable for sin.A word that could define what we are talking about is "culpability" which means worthy of blame or censure. An infant may have the nature of sin but until the child actually sins, the child is not culpable for sin. God does not judge a child for uncommitted sins. In fact, just the opposite is true. God uses children as examples of those who are going to heaven!At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5)If children were spiritually defective, they certainly would not have been used as a standard for entrance into heaven. It makes no sense that God would not welcome an infant into heaven if He describes children as the "greatest in the kingdom of heaven".There is no mention of "limbo" or "purgatory" in the Bible and we will take that fact as strong reason to believe that neither place exists. Revelation 22:18 warns us not to add to the word of God. Additions bring confusion and fear. God desires that we rely completely on His Word because it is perfect. You cannot improve on perfection. If God says that something is true, we should believe God and not man especially if man contradicts God!Where do infants and unborn children go if they die? 2 Samuel 12 sheds light on that question. David had sinned with Bathsheba and she became pregnant. God judged David by striking the baby with an illness. David fasted and prayed to God for healing but to no avail, the baby died. When told about the death, David washed, clothed and ate. His attendants were surprised by David's response.While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept.I thought "Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. But, now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting?Can I bring him back again?I will go to him but he will not return to me."Notice that David inspired by the Holy Spirit is telling us that the baby is in heaven. David was most certainly admitted into heaven and would be reunited with his child. This truth should bring great comfort to all who have lost little ones. We will see them in heaven!Are unbaptized infants marked as inferior by God? Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said that we are "not to look down on one of these little ones (Matthew 18:10)." All little ones are seen by Christ as precious. He goes on to say "I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." What a wonderful confirmation that there is certainly no doubt that little ones are children of God and residents of heaven.Yes, it may be true that infants and little children do not deserve to go to heaven. The fact is that all of us do not deserve heaven. But, God in His grace has opened the doors of heaven to those who would accept forgiveness of their sins through Christ. Grace is unmerited, undeserved and freely given. Grace is extended to all who accept Christ after they become culpable to sin. Grace is extended to all who are not culpable for sin and not yet able to choose Christ of their own free will. Such would be unborn babies, infants, little children before they reach the age of reason and the mentally challenged who are incapable of making moral choices. God has opened heaven to those under grace although He is not obligated. Hear the true heart of God on this matter in Matthew 18:14.Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.What is God's will toward little ones? If God has the power to save or punish sin and He chooses to grant full acceptance to "any of these little ones", how could we possibly conclude that God is going to allow even one little one to be lost? All the biblical evidence is powerfully supportive of the love of God transcending any tragedy with regard to little ones.Finally, one more illustration from the Old Testament should remove all doubt. You may recall that all the Israelites who sinned by not believing that God would take them into the Promised Land never entered. But, look at who did.And the little ones that you said would be taken captive,your children who do not yet know good from bad - they will enter the land. (Deuteronomy 1:39)The Promised Land prefigures heaven. God did not exclude innocent children who did not know right from wrong. All came under His grace.
This question has been asked by all of us sooner or later, for when tragedy strikes, we can easily wonder about God's character or capabilities. That God is less than good or He is insufficient in power are both potential conclusions that can lead a person to reject God. We might be tempted to think, "If you really loved me, you would not have let that happen."God has placed the desire for perfection in our hearts, and He is the one who will someday make all things new and the pain will go away. Death will be swallowed up in victory and suffering will cease to exist. The paradise that Adam and Eve forfeited will be restored to last forever. However, until that time comes, we live in imperfection, which means that there will be suffering.One of the major reasons for the imperfections in this world is "free will." God made us free to choose. This freedom is necessary because God wants people to choose to love Him. God loves us and has chosen to die for us that we might choose Him and have a personal relationship with Him. Love without choice ceases to be love.Unfortunately, free will opens the door for bad choices, too, and suffering is usually the result. This pain can be physical, emotional, relational, financial, or spiritual. God warned the first human beings He created not to use their free will to reject His authority. But they rebelled against God and the consequence was a fallen world. Everything in creation came under a curse. As a result, we see suffering in every part of life through foolish or evil choices. God is allowing all of this to continue on His time clock for reasons that we often cannot understand. God's Word tell us in many places that at times He allows suffering to refine our character. Unfortunately, most of us do not connect joy and growth with suffering and pain. But therein lies the mystery. God can produce good out of anything—even our tribulation.We also need to accept suffering and pain as an outcome of complete randomness. Sometimes, things go bad without any explanations. It's not because of anything we have done wrong or that others have done wrong. Sometimes, we suffer simply because we live in a world that has no guarantees. There is inherent risk in every part of life. We take a risk simply by going out the front door and driving our car. God has promised a world without any suffering, but it is a future reality that at the present time requires our faith.
Within Christianity, there are many different kinds of churches and denominations. In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed that all Christians would be unified in Him and that by their unity, others would come to know God. Unfortunately, over the years this message has been lost among Christians. We have focused too much on our differences of interpreting the Bible and not as much on our similarities—namely, the gospel, that Christ came to earth to die for our sins. These differences have caused churches to start to identify themselves by denominations so that newcomers may easily know what each specific church believes.
Wherever there is a group of people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and have committed to follow His direction as expressed in the Word of God, that group is a church. Every authentic church has Jesus Christ as the Head. The church is like the body, which follows the leading of the head. There are many diversified parts of the body, yet the parts work together in unity to serve the head. The wide variety of churches around the world are actually parts of only one church from God's point of view. No one can become a Christian simply by attending a church or observing church laws or being a good person. Church membership requires a relationship with Christ. Once a person becomes a Christian, there is great freedom in choosing what particular church he or she would like to attend.
To know an infinite God is a challenge for finite beings. We know God through what God reveals to us. We can see His design through creation. We can see His participation in history. But His clearest revelation comes through His Word, which is perfect and never changes. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, according to John 1:14. God has intervened in human history in order that we might know Him. We are told that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish. Jesus was sent on a rescue mission by God the Father because the human race needed a Savior.
Understanding God and all that He has done and is doing today in the world is only possible through the help of the Holy Spirit. When we place our faith in Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in our hearts to convince us that we need forgiveness and that Christ is more than willing to grant the forgiveness. When we confess our sins to God, God cleanses us completely, sets us free from guilt, accepts us as though we had never sinned, and names us as His sons and daughters.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
Christians have two very important guides to help us through life. First is a good Bible that is easy to understand. You can find many choices at an online retailer, or you may wish to visit a local Christian bookstore. Start in the Gospel of Mark and read a small portion every day. You can look at the table of contents to easily locate this book in the Bible. Mark is a short, fast-moving biography of Jesus Christ. The author was a man who witnessed most of Jesus' three year ministry and knew Jesus' disciples well. When you finish your reading, pray and ask God to help you to follow Him as He reveals the truth to you. The Bible says that the Word is like a lamp for our feet. Every day, God gives us light to guide us through life.
Second, try to find a church where all those who attend are committed to following the Bible as their authority for living. This may require some research and a few weeks of visiting different churches. There are many biblically sound churches for you to choose from. If possible, ask a good Christian friend or family member to help you. Click on this link to help you find a healthy church.
Would it surprise you to know that the correct answer to this question is the same for every person, in every culture, at every time past, present, and future? God's purpose for His creation has never changed. Yet most people miss the answer entirely. We need to know the answer, not only for our own sake, but for our children's sake and for all the people we know.
Why am I alive? In a word: Love. Jesus gave the answer when He told us that we are to love God and love our neighbor—if we do this we will fulfill all the other commandments. Christ came into the world to simplify our lives.
One of the curses of the 21st century is that there seems to be so much change and so much stress that life has become very complicated. But that is not what God desires for us. He wants us to have an abundant life, not based on things but based on relationship. God wants us to be close to Him and close to one another. When our life is over and we stand before God for the judgment of our life, what will God use as the criteria for a successful life?
1. Are we perfect?
How could anyone possibly think they are perfect? We all know we are not. All of us have sinned—fallen short of perfection. So the answer to this question is that we need to be made perfect through God's forgiveness. We are made perfect through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins. He will not count our sins against us if we ask for His forgiveness. The Bible says we are justified or made righteous in His sight through the removal of our sins. We are not perfect, but by faith in Christ, God sees us as perfect in Christ through our faith in Christ.
He who knew no sin became sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
Perfection through Christ has nothing to do with our performance. Our works can add nothing to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Our righteousness is a gift, and therefore no payment can be applied; otherwise, righteousness would be earned and cease to be a gift. Put no confidence whatsoever in your own ability to please God. Place all your confidence in Christ.
2. Are we doing what we believe God wants us to do?
Good works are the result of faith in God. All other works will be burned up at the judgment. We are not saved by good works—we are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). God has a plan for you. What a tragedy it would be if you missed your reason for living, missed His plan. When we are born again or saved, the Holy Spirit comes into our being and takes up residence. He will never leave us once He comes in. After we are saved, God wants to direct our lives in a very personal way. God wants a personal relationship with us. Imagine! The Creator of the universe, Maker of all things, wants to dwell in the depths of your being. He will give us the Light we need to walk in this dark world through the Holy Spirit and through His Word. God will reveal His plan for your life through your obedience to the Word of God.
Your obedience to God produces good fruit or good works. Your life becomes productive and useful in the hands of God. At the Judgment, God will reward all believers in Christ for their faithful stewardship. God wants us to love our spouse, our family, our church family, our community, our country, our world. The specifics of how that love is expressed is very personal but very real. True love is God working through you and me to touch the lives of others (defined in the Bible as our "neighbor").
How are we spending our lives? Wastefully following the idols of this world, deceived by religion, thinking we are okay in our own goodness, living without purpose in a survivor mode? Or, are we coming to Christ, trusting in Him to save us, and then following Him as the Lord of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit? We need to get the answer to this question right!
Does God favor one group of people over another? Does God’s love end for some people? Has God predetermined who will be saved and who will not be saved? These are some of the questions that influence our relationship with God and with other people. Certainly, God is beyond our understanding and is not obligated to us in any way (Romans 11:33-36). But God has revealed himself to us so that we can know Him. God’s Word is light, and we live in understanding as we enter that light and obey that light.
God does want all men to be saved. Let there be no doubt about any race, religion, gender, or age. God loves the world, and that is inclusive of all men who have been created in His image and likeness. Christ died for all sins, so there is no sinner who has crossed the line and cannot be forgiven. God’s mercy is desperately needed by every person. We have no moral high ground over one another. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All will die in their sin unless they are saved.
For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32)
God has done everything possible to make salvation available to everyone. God has done everything that is possible for our sins to be forgiven. We cannot add to Christ's perfect work on the cross. God simply calls us to believe in what Christ has done for us.
God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)
All around the world, we see prejudice and discrimination against people who are "different." Racial, religious, and political discrimination brings war and hatred around the globe. But God is not like that. He has made salvation available to all so that no one could ever accuse Him of partiality. God is just and He is loving. He makes salvation possible for all because He loves us all. No sin is so great that it places any person or group outside of God's love.
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
God's love is totally inclusive toward all mankind. Christians have no basis for not loving anyone. Matthew 5:43-48 makes this very clear. God loves the just and the unjust. If we discriminate and love only those who meet our conditions, we are not in God's perfect will. We are to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Our hearts are tainted by our sin and the sins of others. We are hurt because we are human. Christ was hurt with rejection that was unimaginable and yet He did not retaliate. He forgave from the cross and He calls us to do the same.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
God's love is universal. No one is not loved by God. God loves sinners and hates sin. We need to understand this distinction so that when we approach the lost, we can help them understand that they are loved by God in spite of whatever they may have done. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world (John 3:17). If God had wanted to condemn us, He could have since we all deserve condemnation. No, Christ came into the world to die for our sins so that the Holy Spirit could convict us of our sins. Christ made the payment and the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Christ's sacrifice so that we can escape condemnation.
God is not a respector of persons. He does not love Jews more than Gentiles, men more than women, Christians more than non-Christians. God revealed himself through the Jews and through the Law, but He used the Jews as an instrument of love to bring salvation to all of us. In the beginning of Acts, we see the apostles focused on the Jews alone as God's Chosen People. Throughout the Old Testament, God separated and distinguished His people from the foreigners who lived around and among them. It must have come as quite a shock when Peter was deep in sleep and he saw a sheet lowered from heaven filled with despicable animals. God told Peter to kill the animals and eat them. That thought was so disgusting that Peter replied "Surely not Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean" (Acts 10:14). Three times Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs in John 21. Now, God tells him three times to kill and eat animals that were previously forbidden under Jewish law. Clearly, a major shift in God's revelation to the world was taking place.
Christ said that He had come for the Jews, and a Gentile woman said in reply that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.
For such a reply, Christ met her need. He expanded his ministry beyond the Jews to all non-Jews (Gentiles) through specific acts of grace in the Gospels, but that expansion became unlimited through Peter and Paul and other apostles in Acts and the New Testament letters.
God's good news is that Christ has opened heaven to all people. You can be sure that any person, by virtue of the fact that they are huma,n is a candidate for salvation. Peter was stunned at first by the idea that God was so magnanimous that salvation was now available to everyone.
I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. This is the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:34)
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles and took the good news to the Jews and Gentiles in Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, and all over the known world. Some Jews took exception to what they saw Paul doing—he was branded as a radical leader of a fringe sect. But we know that Paul was called by God to go into all the world and preach the gospel. God knew he would be misunderstood and consequently suffer at the hands of men who were opposed to the graciousness of God.
Today, Christians are actually portrayed as narrow-minded bigots, as intolerant, as unloving and divisive. We represent God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to die for us all. We are God's messengers of love, not hatred. But, just as Jesus Christ came into the world but the world did not recognize him (John 1:10), we are in the world and the world is opposed to the message of salvation. What a mystery! Christ gave everything to save us, and yet most reject the love of God by refusing to believe in Christ. Don't be surprised, brothers and sisters, if you are caught in the crossfire just as Paul was. The world hated Christ without reason. He was the spotless, sinless, unblemished Lamb murdered by those for whom He came to save. We live in a depraved world (Romans 1:28).
Let there be no doubt that we live in a politically correct world that has gradually hardened its heart toward Christ. But that conflict has always existed. Jesus told us that we would experience the same rejection that He experienced if we follow in His path.
Go into all the world and share the good news that God wants all men to be saved. When you do, you will find some who are ready to receive, and others who will find the cross to be an offense (1 Corinthians 1:18). The good news is that God loves everyone. The bad news is that most reject that love.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men
who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what God has made,
so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Like it or not, we are living in a world system that is an enemy of God (John 15:18-27). But did not God tells us to love our enemies? Evangelism puts us between a rock and a hard place. That is where Jesus found himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what the future held for him if He did love his enemies. No wonder we find evangelism so uncomfortable. If we tell the truth, chances are the audience may not like the message or the messenger very well. If we don't tell the truth, we are not loving people like Jesus did. Christ died for telling the truth. Does any of this conflict surprise God? Of course not. He told us that we would be persecuted, insulted and slandered for following Him (Matthew 5:11). And yet, two verses later, Jesus tells us to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world."
Is the love of God so inclusive that all are going to heaven and we can do whatever we please? No, we are not free to live in sin and reject Christ and then be saved. Many people have great difficulty reconciling the wrath of God with the love of God. If God is so loving, how could He send anyone to hell? He doesn't. They reject His invitation to heaven by rejecting Christ. God gives them over to their own choices. God wants all men to be saved, but not all men want to be saved. Those who choose hell choose to rebel against the clearly expressed will of God.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. (John 3:36)
Our responsibility is to follow Christ. "As the Father has sent me I am sending you" (John 17:18). We are called to obey and leave the results of our obedience with God. That makes us vulnerable. That's risky. But we must do what we believe God has called us to do, and clearly He has called us to make Christ known wherever we go.
Just as we are born physically, we must be born spiritually. The process is the same—the seed unites with a receptive host to create new life. Spiritually, the seed is truth and the host is the human heart.
A person is born again by believing the truth—that’s the receptive part. That raises the all-important question...what is truth?
This famous question was once asked by Pontius Pilate. In hindsight, we know that Truth was standing right in front of him. Jesus said this about himself: “I am the way, the truth and the life” and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”.
We now understand that God the Father sent Jesus to die for us so that we could have eternal life.
Think of the human heart as “soil." The failures in our life tend to beat down on that soil and make it hard. Weeds can grow and make it very difficult for any seed to penetrate. Jesus invites us to confess our failures (the weeds of sin) and forgive others who have hurt us (those who have stepped on our hearts to help harden them) by believing that His death on the cross paid the price in full for all sins of all the world—including ours. Believing in Christ makes the soil fertile; prepared to receive the Seed into our hearts. When that happens, new life is created!
New life is always the result of seed dying to itself to create another life. We are so loved by God that He offers eternal life to all who believe in Christ. Acceptance of the Seed changes every believer forever. We are born again into God’s family as His children. We receive the perfect nature of God into our very being, not because of anything that we did to deserve life, but because just like our physical life, our spiritual life is a gift.
The denial of hell is a major problem. First and foremost, it is a lie since the Bible and Jesus himself warns about hell literally many times. Without hell, there are no consequences for sin. Without consequences, there is no need to be saved from consequences. Without the need to be saved, there is no need for a Savior. Without the need for a Savior, there is no need to evangelize. This thinking is accepted by millions and the spiritual fallout is catastrophic. Most false religions have explained away hell.
Imagine a doctor saying that a disease was not really going to cause death. How horrible would that be? Yet, we have the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, telling us that we need to repent or be lost in eternity, forever separated from God. Most ignore Him to their peril. What did Satan say to Adam and Eve? If you eat the fruit, "you will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). The original sin was based on believing the original lie. The belief that hell does not exist places Jesus against the devil again. Belief in a lie will kill us. Belief in the truth will save us. Understanding hell is foundational to bringing souls to salvation.
What is the critical issue with heaven vs. hell? It is belief or unbelief. What saves us from hell is not our good works. We are saved by believing that Jesus Christ is God and that He is telling us the truth. We accept Christ by accepting what He says. We are saved by believing.
If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Hell is a place for unbelievers. Believing in lies will naturally produce evil. Yes, there will be punishment for sin. But the chief sin in the root of our hearts is not trusting God. Unbelief brought death to Adam and Eve and disconnected them from God. Unbelief does the same for those who place no faith in God's Word.
Faith connects us to God; lack of faith disconnects. The branch has life as long as it is connected to the tree. The source of life is within the trunk, feeding and nourishing the life of the branch. Disconnect the branch and death is the result. The same is true in the spiritual world. If we are connected to Christ by faith (believing that He is God and that His Word is true), we will live forever. If we have no faith in Christ, death is inevitable. Such is the condition of all unbelievers.
I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:5-6)
All of us must trust, whether we like it or not. We trust that the food we buy is not harmful. We trust the bank to hold our money. We trust the pilot to fly the plane safely. We trust our leaders not to cheat. We trust continuously. But do we trust God? The nature of sin is rooted in rebellion. The rebellion grows up and leads to much evil. But the source of all the evil is the rejection of truth. Sin is like cancer. We have no toleration for cells in our body that will multiply and lead to destruction. God sees our sin that way. He looks into our heart and sees the ultimate outcome. Because He loves us, He has made a way for the cancer to be removed. He provides salvation. But if the patient does not trust the doctor and tells himself that there will not be any consequences, the denial will not change the facts of life. The depravity of man is that he rejects the life-saving help of God. As the saying goes, "he bites the hand that feeds him".
God says that all have sinned and fall short of God's standard of perfection. God says that the consequences of sin are death. We need to wake up and take God extremely seriously. The devil is a liar. He always contradicts God. He has always whitewashed sin, promoted sin, excused sin, and tempted us to sin. He knows that we will be under his power if we live in sin and treat Christ as if He was the liar. Adam and Eve were separated from God when they sinned. They were banished from the garden. God immediately set into motion a plan to bring mankind back to Paradise. That plan is called redemption, which means to restore back to original condition. If you did have a sickness in your body, the doctor's plan would be to find the problem; usually through an x-ray or a blood test or some other exam. Then he would treat the problem in order to restore you to original condition before the illness. Hell is the power of sin overtaking our souls and eventually producing death. We must deal with that sin correctly, or we will die in our sin. Christ has come to save our souls from eternal separation. Just as our first parents were banished under the penalty of sin, we will be banished from God if sin is not removed. Imagine being in a courtroom and your life is judged and your sins are presented to the jury and you are found guilty. The sentence is life imprisonment, banishment forever. Unthinkable to most of us.
But that is exactly what will happen to every person who has unforgiven sin at the last judgment. This truth is clearly taught in the Bible. All outside of Christ will be required to pay the penalty for their sins. God tells us that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). We will be required to pay with our very lives if sin is not removed. The possibility of spending eternal life in prison should make us extremely concerned about the future when we will die and go before God.
Jesus spoke of hell often but perhaps the most graphic description is found in Luke 16. A rich man lived in luxury but cared not for those in need around him. He was a self-centered sinner, not God-centered. He died and was buried. Was that the end of him? Did he just cease to exist? Was he annihilated? Were there no consequences? No, he woke up in hell and found himself living in torment and agony in fire. He begged for relief but was told that he was separated from heaven by a deep chasm. He was in a living death; much like a prisoner in jail today except that the pain was relentless. The rich man realized too late that his bad decisions while on earth had led to an eternity of grief. His remorse was so great that he asked if someone could go back to earth and warn his brothers about this awful place so that they would not fall into the same fate as he did. He felt sure that if they were told the truth, they would come to their senses and repent of their wicked ways. He was told that even if they were told the truth that Christ rose from the dead, they would not believe it.
Is this not our circumstance today? Hell is real. Christ has warned us clearly well in advance. We can tell people the truth in love and pray that they will respond. But most will not believe it. Does this mean that we should let others slide into eternal damnation? Of course not. Most people reject Christ. Most people rejected the good news as Paul shared the truth in the early church days. God says that the way is narrow and few find it, while the path to destruction is broad and most take that way (Matthew 7:13-14).
We are responsible to tell everyone the truth. We are not responsible for their response.
If we don't tell the truth, we are withholding life saving information.
When I say to the wicked, "O wicked man, you will surely die" and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sins, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But, if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin but you will have saved yourself. (Ezekiel 33:8-9)
Let's go back to Genesis again. What did God say to Adam and Eve? If you eat of the fruit, you will die. They did not believe God and they fell into sin. We are God's ambassadors, charged with the same responsibility to warn others that they will die unless they repent and place their faith in Christ. How we go about doing this is between us and God. But we can be sure that the Holy Spirit who leads us all into truth wants us to lovingly and gently help others understand that if they do not forsake sin, they will perish.
The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, of the things that are prepared for those who will inherit eternal life. Just because we cannot see something does not mean that it does not exist. In fact, we place our trust in the unseen all the time. We may not have seen the plant that generates the electricity, but we believe that it exists; we see the results when we plug something into the socket. Likewise, we see the results of heaven all around us. Goodness, kindness, patience, love, and joy are all the products of heaven. Although we do not see the full revelation of heaven, these products are the firstfruits of what life will be like in eternity for those who are living in heaven. To the degree that we are obedient to the will of God here on earth, we are agents of heaven when we produce the blessings of heaven. Some day, there will be complete understanding of heaven. All barriers will be removed and we will see it clearly once and for all. Just as the windshield washer cleans away the debris so that we can drive without hindrance, our sins will be removed and we will see God and heaven up close and personal. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that faith, hope, and love are vital to life here on earth. But when we are ushered into heaven, we will see God face to face and there will be no more need for faith and hope. We will see Love—and that is the greatest of all the virtues.
The reality of heaven, therefore, is found in love. God is love. Our greatest need is love. Heaven is not primarily about getting what I want or doing what I feel like doing. Heaven is experiencing the reality of the love of God to the deepest and fullest measure. Actually, we see a preview of heaven every time we go to a wedding. The bride and groom are in the closest thing to heaven as they exchange vows and promise to live together forever. The wedding launches them into a whole new way of life. In the same way, when a person accepts Christ and becomes a Christian, he or she enters into a covenant with Christ. All of us together as believers are members of the Body of Christ, the church. Our relationship with Christ is like an engagement to be married. We have a wedding date scheduled, whether we realize it or not. The church is the Bride of Christ and will be united to Christ for all eternity at the end of time as we know it. Heaven is literally a marriage made in heaven with Christ.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)
Yes, heaven is a place, but more than that, heaven is a relationship. Just as a bride and groom are in love and the place is secondary, we are in love with God and the place can be whatever. The reason there is no more pain or suffering is that we are swept up in the perfect love of God. Actually, we will see that happen when the Rapture occurs. Christ is coming again for His Bride and when He does, she will be lifted out of this world and into ecstasy.
The Bible is a love story that begins with Adam and Eve. They are in paradise, a place of perfection. But sin enters their world and pain is introduced. The rest of God's Word is all about the redemption of that original purpose of God. The new Adam is Christ. The new Eve is the church. Together, they are restored back to Paradise with a capital P! Sin is gone, the wages of sin is gone, the shame is gone, and all sorrow and sighs flee away! The marriage of the Lamb will truly be the Wedding of all weddings!
"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready." Then the angel said to me, "Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19:6-7,9)
Heaven is all about being in the Body of Christ. Ephesians 5 tells us that, as the husband is to the wife, so Christ is to the church. Marriage is the picture of love that defines heaven as we will know it. Ever wonder why marriage is under such attack? The liar who brought ruin to the first marriage knows that this intimate union is the perfect plan of God. Satan is like a jealous "lover" who wants to control that bride for himself. He seeks to separate us from God for himself, and that is a good description of hell—separation from God and affiliation with the devil. People do not realize how serious the decision to accept Christ is to their eternal destiny. Heaven is a choice to accept God's invitation of love now or stand outside heaven forever. We see this clearly in several illustrations provided by Christ. The ten virgins in Matthew 25 were waiting for the Bridegroom; five were ready, five were not. Once the Bridegroom had come, those who did not prepare for His arrival were shut out forever. In Matthew 22, all were invited to the Wedding Banquet, but most had more important things to do and they snubbed the invitation. The consequences were catastrophic in verse 7.
The entire Bible is a love story between God and His Bride, Israel. She constantly falls away and He constantly pursues her. Eventually, her Lover, the Messiah, arrives but she rejects Him! All are invited according to God's Word. All mankind must choose now to accept or reject the invitation. Heaven is not a reward for religious behavior. Heaven is a gift offered to all who would believe in the love of God and accept His invitation to marriage. Here is where so many misjudge God and consequently miss heaven. They see heaven as a reward for good behavior. That appeals to the human condition. It seems right, it seems fair, it seems just...but that is the problem!
There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Heaven is not granted on the basis of love that is earned or deserved on our part. Nothing whatsoever is done to merit heaven by anyone ever, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, lest anyone would have room to boast. God created heaven as a gift for His Bride, for those who said "I Do!" when invited to love Christ forever. Heaven is a relationship first and a place second. We are experiencing the taste of heaven now if we are united to Christ by faith. "The kingdom of God is within you" if you believe in Christ and belong to Christ. Just like a branch connected to the Tree, we are fruitful if we abide in the Lord. We show the evidence of heaven by our fruits, that God's glory may be seen in our lives. We are God's ambassadors, telling others of our new birth in Christ in order that others too may turn to Him and be saved. Receiving Christ is like placing down payment on a new home. We have become citizens of heaven when we become Christians. We are not home yet, but He has gone to prepare a place for us, that we might dwell with Him forever. Again, it is not the home that is most important—it is the Person with whom we will be living that is important. The Bride cares or should care more about the Groom than where she is going to live. She may live in many places, but as long as she is with her beloved, that is all that should matter.
Entrance into heaven requires perfection. Nothing imperfect will be allowed there.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:27)
We know that since we have all sinned and fallen into imperfection, we will not enter heaven unless that sin is removed. God has clearly shown that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). The cross and heaven are inextricable.
No one is going into heaven without the Blood of the cross in their being. The Blood of Jesus Christ is the atonement for our sin. He purchased His Bride with the Perfect Sacrifice, once and for all, for those who would accept His forgiveness. Our goodness or righteousness is not an achievement, and therefore heaven is not an achievement for good behavior. Heaven belongs to those who are born again by faith in the Blood; not by those who claim to have earned it. This distinction separates Christianity from all other religions, and this fact makes them all false. Only the cross can remove sin, because only Christ was God and therefore sinless. The Lamb had to be unblemished, perfect, spotless! If Christ had sinned, He would need a savior just like the rest of us. But no! Thank God! He was and is pure and holy, and His righteousness made Him uniquely qualified to sacrifice Himself as a Substitute in our place. His righteousness became our righteousness, not because of anything we had done, but because of what He had done for us! We were and are considered perfect in the sight of God because we are under the Blood, forgiven and therefore Christian in our very nature. Becoming a Christian is a result of a new birth that occurs within, not by obeying rules and keeping religious laws. Our very being is made new. We take on the nature of Christ by faith. We receive His DNA when we become children of God! Heaven is where God's people belong because they were born again to live in Perfection.
Genesis 24 provides a beautiful illustration of heaven. Abraham is the Father, Isaac is the Son, the Servant is the Holy Spirit, and Rebekah is the Bride. The father wanted a bride for his son, so he called his chief servant to go to his original country to find her and bring her back to what was the Promised Land. The servant is told that a bride from Canaan was not acceptable, so the servant left to fulfill his commission. When he arrived in the town where Abraham's family lived, he encountered Rebekah and invited her to return with him to marry Isaac, a man she had never even met. She agreed and traveled many miles back to where Isaac lived, marrying him and living with him for the rest of her life. She was created by God for Isaac.
Let's see how this parallels our understanding of heaven. God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world so that anyone who believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Christ died, was buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. His death represents a new way for us to appreciate Him. He lives (even though He died) in heaven, where we will travel many miles some day to join Him in marriage. Isaac prefigured Christ as our sacrifice for sin. Abraham was about to plunge a knife into him, but God stopped Him and a ram was provided instead. The Father did crucify the Son to be the Sacrifice for us. The Holy Spirit is the Servant who comes into this world to convince us that God loves us so much that He died for us. In fact, even though we have never seen Him, we are asked to believe that He wants us to come to be with Him as His Bride. We were created by God for Christ. By believing what the Holy Spirit says about Christ, we are led by the Holy Spirit through the desert of this world to meet Christ in heaven, which is the Promised Land. We are united with Christ in marriage to live with Him for the rest of our lives in heaven.
All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything, he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:16-20)
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7)
The covenant of marriage is all about love without limits. Covenants are sealed with an oath before God, because we are so serious about our vows. God loves us and He wants us to love one another with all the sacredness that marriage demands. The world’s attitude toward marriage often degrades the sanctity of marriage. God does not want this covenant broken, because He loves both man and woman and the family they will produce. He wants security through our faithfulness to Him and one another. Faith keeps that covenant together. Faith in our promises to one another is the essence of our marriage covenant.
In the same way, when we enter into relationship with God, it must be through faith in the promises of God. We trust Him, we believe Him, we place our faith in Him. Romans 1:17 says that the just shall live by faith from first to last. We do not enter into relationship with God by our good behavior, by our good works, or by keeping any laws. Under the Old Covenant, our relationship with God did depend on our behavior and it proved that we could never measure up to God's perfect standards. Keeping the law is not possible for any human being. If that is true, we need a new and better way to relate to God. That "Way" is through Christ. By placing our faith in Him and not in ourselves, we begin a new life with Him in a New Covenant, just like we do when we are married. Our relationship depends on His performance, His perfect work on the cross, and His perfect life. Look at it this way—the Old Covenant was a 50-50 proposition where we had to keep our end of the relationship to sustain it. But since we all fall short of God's perfection, we break relationship with God.
Consequently, we need a New Covenant by which we enter into a 100-0 proposition where we shift all our faith from self to Christ. That is a much more secure proposition!
Once we are married to Christ by faith in this New Covenant, we are married to Him forever. Our sins (bad behavior) are no longer the basis for our relationship. In fact, they are forgiven completely through faith in the payment of His blood shed on the cross. We cannot enter heaven on the basis of behavior—good or bad! We now understand that heaven is actually the consummation of our marriage to Christ. While here on earth, we are in a very real way engaged to be married. When Christ returns for His Bride, the Church, all believers will be united with Him in marriage forever. Christ is the New Adam and all Christians are the New Eve. All will be restored and redeemed at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9, 21:2).
Steps to Committing Your Life to Christ
that you have failed and have done wrong, against both God and others.
to following Christ and being in relationship with Him, and ask Him to lead you through the rest of your life.
that Christ came to set you free from sin. By dying on the cross, he suffered the penalty of sin on your behalf—the ultimate act of love.
a good church and easy-to-read Bible.
Next Steps Are Extremely Important
If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heartthat God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9
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