God so loved the world. He didn’t just love the world; He so loved the world. He so loved the world that He (Jesus) would die in our place before He would miss out on an eternal relationship with us. He knew that we would disappoint Him and hurt Him and fail Him, but He still so wanted a relationship with us that He made a way. He knew that there would be many, many people that would reject His gift of love and salvation, but an eternity spent with those who would choose Him was worth the price of dying on the cross. That is some amazing love!
You know, I have to ask: What kind of good, loving God would He be if He allowed something as important as the eternal home of our souls to be decided by a vague definition of “good enough”? If He left us to wonder if we made it in or not, not knowing until we die? I can’t think of a crueler cosmic joke. And yet, for some reason, humans seem to want that. We would rather try to work our way to Heaven than to simply accept God’s sure, easy way. Why is that?
Well, God did provide a red button, so to speak. We cannot work our way to Heaven or earn our way to Heaven. But if we will trust Him and just push the button, we can be sure that our eternal resting place will be with Him in Heaven. Because it’s not about earning enough points on His scoreboard; it’s about what He’s already done and made available to us.
In the beginning, God created us because He wanted a close, genuine relationship with us. And Adam and Eve had this with Him in the Garden of Eden.
(But why did God even provide the “temptation” in the first place, you may ask? Because if people didn’t have the right and the option to disobey - to rebel against God – then they wouldn’t have the choice to obey and to choose God. And God didn’t want robots, forced to love Him. He wanted people who wanted to be with Him. Isn’t that what we all want when it comes to love - to know that someone loves us because they want to, not because they have to?)
And that’s the most important truth we could share: We choose where we spend eternity! And we only have this lifetime to make that choice. And there are only two options: God’s Team and Not God’s Team.
But I fear that far more people will end up in Hell not by “choice”, but “accidentally.” Because they ignored the truth about God and decided to not make a decision about Him. And they thought that it would still be okay, that they would up in Heaven by default because they didn’t deliberately choose against God. These are the people who say, “I hope I’ve been good enough to get into Heaven” or “Sure, I’m spiritual; I believe in a God out there somewhere.” But they ignore what the Bible says about the only way to salvation. But even not making a choice about God is still not choosing God’s Team, and that automatically keeps them on Not God’s Team (the team we start out on).
When Adam and Eve disobeyed, they introduced a “sin nature” into all of mankind. And because God is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Because He is just, there had to be a penalty for disobedience. He couldn’t just ignore it or excuse it. There had to be a penalty. We would expect any judge worth his position to demand justice and the payment of the penalty for crimes committed. What would we think of a judge who turned a blind eye to someone who stole or murdered? That wouldn’t be right. There has to be a penalty that fits the crime. This is what justice is.
That’s the bad news. But this is the good news: God made a way. We can choose to get off that path of separation and into an eternal relationship with God (Heaven) because of what He has already done for us. Yes, God is holy and just, but God is also love. And in His love, He couldn’t bear to have us separated from Him. He so desires a relationship with us that He made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. And what He did was pay that penalty Himself.
And this is another crucial difference between religion/false religion and Christianity: Jesus Christ. What we decide about Jesus Christ determines if we have religion/false religion or Biblical Christianity. When it comes to religion (or a generalized spirituality), God can be anything to anyone. He can be found in us, in the trees, in unity, in music, etc. He can be Buddha, the universe, or a cow. He can be whatever the person wants Him to be. And we can get to God in any number of ways: meditation, drugs, good works, giving money, being sincere in whatever faith we have, sex, etc. And that is what makes it religion or false religion.
Romans 10:9 tells us what’s required to restore that relationship with God. “That 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.” It’s all about Jesus.
Now, maybe you are not ready yet to accept Jesus as Lord. Maybe you don’t really believe yet. But maybe you want to believe, or you want to want to believe. These are good, important steps. He will meet you wherever you are at. If you sincerely reach out to Him and open the door to Him - even a little bit - the truth will begin to be revealed to you. And the more you seek, the more you find.
“But I still have doubts! How can I be a Christian?” you might be asking. (Welcome to the club!) The way that I see it, we can choose to believe in God and Jesus . . . even with doubts. In fact, the only way that we can believe in God and Jesus is while we still have doubts. Because whether we admit it or not, we all have doubts and unanswered questions, all the time. (We are just more unaware of them when life is going peachy.)
And here’s a secret: Faith isn’t something that we have to drum up within ourselves or force ourselves to have. It is actually a gift from God. God wants us to choose Him. He wants us to accept Him. But He knows that we humans are full of doubts, questions, sin, rebellion, the need to be in control, and the need for absolute proof. And so, left to ourselves, we would never come to God.
Remember, our feelings follow our thoughts. Our thoughts follow where our mind goes. And our mind goes wherever we decide to let it go. If you will choose to put your faith in the Bible and in God even though you don’t “feel it” - if you let your will and your ability to decide lead you - your feelings will eventually get in line. And as you walk with God and watch Him work in your life and dig deeper into His Word, your faith in Him will be strengthened. But it takes a decision to believe first, instead of waiting until all your doubts are gone.
He says in Romans 1:20, “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 has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
No one will be able to say, “But I didn’t know that God was real.” Because God says that we will not have any excuses when we stand before Him and He asks, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?”
Now, to put some people at ease, I do believe the Bible teaches that there is an age of accountability, an age when we are old enough to choose or reject Jesus’ sacrifice. If a child dies before this age, they are under His grace and mercy and automatically end up with God in Heaven for eternity . . . because they never made it to the age where they became accountable for their choice. But after that age (I have no idea what age that is), we are held accountable for the choice we make or don’t make. But if you lost a baby or child, I believe that you can rest assured that they are already safe in His loving care and will be there to meet you when you get there.