Once upon a time there young married couple that loved each other very much. They had a lot of love in their marriage but not much else. She had recently graduated with a degree in Celtic Arts (and we all know the booming job prospects open for Celtic Arts majors) and he was an artist. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a lot of money to go around and they struggled to make ends meet. However there came a time when the young man had enough quality paintings to have a gallery opening. On their way to the opening, the young couple was in a car accident. The young man came out without a scratch, however the young woman was severely injured. She was in a comma for months and eventually passed on. When next she opened her eyes she was standing before the pearly gates and St Peter was there.
“I guess this means I am dead,” she said.
“I am afraid so,” replies St Peter.
“I see you have the Book of Life open … is my name there?” she asks.
“Why of course it is!” replies St Peter. “However, before you may enter in there is a test.”
“Oh? What do I have to do?”
“All you have to do is spell the essence of God … you know … what God is.”
“That is easy” she said “L-O-V-E.”
“Correct you are,” smiles St Peter “Come on in.”
About 50 years later the young woman is walking by the pearly gates and notices that St Peter is looking a little weary.
“St Peter … you look a little tired … would you like to take a little break? I will gladly keep watch over the gates for a while.”
“Thank you very much,” replies St Peter. “I really would like a break.”
No sooner does St Peter leave than her husband appear at the pearly gates. She is overjoyed to see him and says “So what has been going on with you over the past 50 years?!”
“Well,” he says “things have really been going well. The tragic story of our accident and you dying on the way to my art opening brought national attention. A lot of the rich and famous came and bought my art and ordered pieces. I ended up marrying the nurse that looked after you while you were in a comma… she was a former Miss America. Queen Elizabeth and President Obama both commissioned paintings from me and I have paintings hanging in the Louvre. I guess I can truly say that the best thing that ever happened to me was your death.”
After a long awkward silence her husband says “So … ummm … I am at the pearly gates … does that mean I’ve made it to heaven.”
“Why of course!” she replies. “However, before you may enter there is a test.”
“Oh? What do I have to do?”
“All you have to do is spell the God’s favourite animal.”
“Geez … can you give me a hint.”
“Sure can,” she says smiling wickedly “Czechoslovakian hippopotamus.”
Today we are concluding our series on Where do you go when you Die? When we began this series we said that our world and our lives are made up of more than just physical realities, there are spiritual realities too. We said that this realities are that God made you to love you; you were made to last forever; God has prepared two eternal places – heaven and hell; we get to choose where you’ll spend eternity; and we have a lifetime to make this choice … but no longer. These are the spiritual realities that will shape the course of our lives in this world and the next.
Today we are going to touch on these last two realities -- we get to choose where you’ll spend eternity; and we have a lifetime to make this choice … but no longer.
When we start thinking about choosing where we’ll spend eternity the first place to start is John 3:16. This is the most famous verse in the Bible. When I was in Sunday School that was the first verse everyone had to memorize. In fact, Mrs. Kroft wouldn’t assign any more memory verses until EVERYONE in the class had it memorized. John 3:16 This is the verse you see the guy with colored hair standing in the end zone holding up at all the ball games. John 3:16. It’s the most important verse in the Bible. If you only memorize one verse in the entire Bible this is the one. This one is your ticket to heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Why is this verse so important? Because these 6 words: God’s – only – Son – perish – eternal – life. The first letters of these words spells gospel. This verse is the heart of the Gospel.
What is gospel? Gospel is the old English word for “good news.” Gospel is good news. When you hear about gospel music that means music that’s about what Jesus did for us. When you hear about gospel preaching it means somebody’s teaching what Jesus Christ did for us. When you read this verse you are reading the heart of the gospel … that God’s only Son came and gave His life for us so that we would not perish but have everlasting life.
Let me summarize what this verse teaches; Let me summarize how you can make you choice between Heaven and Hell. Let me summarize how you can walk through the door named Jesus to get into heaven … it is as easy as A, B, C, D.
A – Admit
The first thing we do is admit we need a savior to get to heaven. That means we admit we’re not perfect. Heaven’s perfect and we’re not. Admit we’ve blown it. We’ve made mistakes. We’re flawed. We’ve sinned. We just admit it. We own up to it.
This is a hard one for some people. Why? Because of pride. There’s one thing that will keep us out of heaven – our ego. Our pride. Our unwillingness to say, “I need God in my life.” I’ve heard people tell me countless times “I’m a self-made man.” But one thing I’ve noticed is that self-made men tend to worship their maker. That’s deep! We have to admit “God is God and I’m not. I need a savior. I can’t earn my way to heaven. I can’t pay my way to heaven. I can’t be good enough to get to heaven. I need a savior.”
Believe me. If you didn’t need a savior God wouldn’t have wasted the time sending Jesus to die on the cross. If there was any other way for you to get to heaven, don’t you think He would have done a less painful way than come Himself and die on the cross for you? There was no other way for you to get into heaven. So first I admit that I need a savior.
B – I Believe that Jesus died for me.
Believe means more than head knowledge. It means I trust in, I rely on, I surrender to, I commit myself to. It’s more than head knowledge. Romans 10:9 says this “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead [that’s what Easter is all about] you will be saved.”
What does it mean to confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord.” We don’t have lords and ladies today. We don’t have a feudal system. We’re a democracy. So what does it mean Jesus is Lord?
“Lord” is just the old English word for “boss, master, the guy in control.” It means making the things that are important to Jesus important to you. It means loving what Jesus loves. Valuing what Jesus values. Doing what Jesus did … using you time, talents, and gifts, and supporting what Jesus supported … using your finances. And you do that be getting to know Him and beginning and deepening your relationship with Him.
That’s what it means to make Jesus the Lord of your life. We spend a whole lot of time pursuing what this world says is important. This is how we start doing the things that God says is important.
So I admit I need a savior to get to heaven. I believe that Jesus died for me, I confess Him as Lord. And…
C – Commit yourself to Jesus.
I say “Lord I want to do Your plan for my life. I want to do the purpose You put me here on earth to do. Not my purpose. I’m going to go, not my way anymore. I’m going to go Jesus’ way. I’m going to go God’s way. I’m going to go the way God created me to go. I commit myself to You.”
That commitment, you need to do it publicly. Imagine if I said to Ruth, my wife “Honey, I’m committed to you. So let’s get married but let’s don’t tell anybody about it.” What kind of commitment would that be? Imagine what she would say, “Hey Buster! Are you ashamed of me? You won’t tell anybody about me? If you won’t tell anybody about me then you aren’t really committed to me.” A private commitment is no commitment at all. You’ve got to make it public
So I stood up one day in public and I said, “I do,” in front of a bunch of people. And I wear a ring everywhere I go. This wedding ring says the same thing MC Hammer used to say “Ladies, can’t touch this.” The point is, I wear this because I’m proud of my wife and I love her and I am committed to my wife. Till death do us part.
What is the wedding ring of the Christian life? There are two ways – baptism and joining the church.
Being baptized and joining a church doesn’t make you a believer. It shows that you are. It’s the wedding ring. This ring doesn’t make me married. It just shows that I am. Have you been baptized? If you haven’t been baptized what are you waiting on? Does anybody know that you’re a believer? If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Are you ashamed of Jesus Christ?
Jesus said this, “If anyone acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will openly acknowledge that person before My Father which is in heaven. But if anyone denies Me here on earth, I will deny that person before My Father in heaven.”
Baptism isn’t only for the infants, I was 30 when I was baptized. The minster needed back surgery after he picked me up and carried me around the sanctuary. Are you embarrassed or too proud to get baptized? If so remember my comment earlier about pride keeping us out of Heaven.
Another way you can stand up publicly is join a church. Friends, it doesn’t matter which church you join as long as it’s a good Bible teaching church. We shouldn’t be in competition with any church. We’re all on the same team. Whether it is here or elsewhere find a good Bible teaching church and join … don’t just attend … join. What does joining a church mean? It means supporting it financially. It means using it to deepen your faith. It means getting involved and using your gifts, talents, and time to do the church’s ministry.
One day you’re going to stand before God, you’re going to stand before Jesus Christ, your Savior, who died on the cross for you. And there will be nail prints in His hand. He’s going to say, “What did you do with your life?” He’s not going to be interested in hearing, “I joined the country club.” Yeah? “I joined the PTA.” Yeah? “I joined a sewing group.” Yeah “I joined Save the Whales.” Yeah? “I joined…” any other social or service organization. He’s going to say, “Did you join My family? Did you join the body of Christ, My body. Did you join My church, which I died for? You joined everything else and you didn’t join My body? My family that I’m going to take with Me forever? What were you thinking?”
I admit, I believe, I commit – my public expression of that commitment is baptism and being a part of the church. That doesn’t save you. It just shows that you are. It’s not the root, it’s the fruit.
D – I depend on God’s promise.
When I depend on God’s promise, what is the promise? That “Whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In order to remember that promise, God gave us two symbols – baptism and communion. He said I want you to remember this, what I’ve done for you, what it cost for Me to get you into heaven. You couldn’t get to heaven on your own so I came to earth, I loved you, I taught you, I inspired you, on the cross I died for you, and if you’ll put your trust in Me, you will walk through the valley of the shadow of death and into the presence of God, into heaven.
God gave us 2 symbols to remember His promise to us, Baptism and Communion. On the night Jesus was betrayed, before He went to the cross, the Bible says He gathered the people He loved the very best to His table. He invited Mary and Martha, two women whose devotion to him were unwavering, He invited Peter, James, and John, men of great faith but who let Him down in the crunch, He invited Judas, a man perhaps of great intentions but who would betray Him in the most intimate of ways, yet they were all invited inspite of their success, inspite of their failures, they were invited. When they had gathered He took bread and He broke it and He blessed it and He took the cup and He said, “This represents My body and My blood that will be shed for you.” Communion does not save us. These are the symbols of the reality that saves us. That Jesus Christ died for us, paid for all of our sins. On that day Jesus said, “I don’t want you to ever forget how much I love you. I don’t want you to ever forget what I am willing to do to bring you home. I am don’t want you to ever forget how much this costs. I don’t want you to ever forget my promise 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
And my friends that is the same promise that God is making to you today 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
It is through the belief in God’s Son, His mission, Ministry, and promise that we are able to choose our eternal destiny.
Finally I would like to end with the final spiritual reality that we first started talking about a month ago. We only have a lifetime to make this choice. But that raises a great problem As Paul says in Romans 1013 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
Where can we go to hear about God? The church. Where can we go to be surrounded by believers? The church. Where can we go to deepen our faith? The church. Where can we go to practice our faith? The church. Where can we go to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ? The church. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
This is why this church is so important. It is one of the very important tools that Jesus Christ uses to save us. It is one of the very important vehicles He uses to bring us home. That is why coming to this church is important. That is why getting involved in this church is important. That is why giving your gifts to this church is so important. That is why giving to this church financially is so important. Not just because God is using it as a vehicle for your salvation, but because God is using it as a vehicle for everyone’s salvation … for your children … your grandchildren … and everyone who comes. Our finance committee has asked us to increase our givings by 15%. Don’t you think it’s worth it? Just imagine, there are people in heaven because of what you have done and have given to this church. 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
My friends, as we seek to conclude this series, I just want to say this this series has not been about death and dying, it has been about how to live right here in this world ... and by the grace of God … in the next.