I once heard an interesting ad on the radio. I don’t recall all the details (I was only half-listening at the time), but I recall the ad featured a Roman Catholic priest who was asked what people should do when they face difficult times in life. The “Father” in this ad answered something along these lines: “When I’m confronted with difficulties in life, I try to give myself a reality check. I try to remember that life is short. I try to see the ‘big picture’ and realize that what matters the most is getting to heaven when I die.” (These comments were followed by contact information for some organization or cause.)
If the priest in this radio ad happens to be a traditionalist Roman Catholic priest, then given that I am a confessional Protestant I am sure we would have radically different understandings of the Christian gospel and we would offer radically different answers to questions like, “How do I get to heaven?” and “What must I do to be saved?” Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hear someone on a secular radio station giving listeners a “reality check” and directing their attention to ultimate things, like matters of eternity.
Dear reader, consider the “reality check” that the Bible offers in passages such as the following:
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27, NIV; emphasis added) Notice that there is no “reincarnation” or second chance after death. We die once, and then face God’s judgment. We face God’s judgment in an initial way at death (as the Heb. 9:27 passage affirms), but we will also face a final, public judgment on the Judgment Day at the end of human history. The Bible teaches that there will be a Judgment Day (see Acts 17:31; Second Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15). Dear reader, are you ready for that Day? (And, if you think you are, what is the basis for your confidence?)
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”” (Jesus Christ, in Luke 9:23-25, NIV) Think about the implications of what the Lord Jesus is saying in this passage. If God enables you to live out your “natural” lifespan, then how long will you live? 70 years? 80 years? Maybe (if you are blessed with unusual longevity) 90 or more years. A few are able to live 100 years or slightly longer. But then what? The judgment! Eternal life in heaven or eternal damnation in hell! Where will you be 100 years from now? 200 years from now? One million years from now? Twenty trillion years from now? After multiple trillions of ages of trillions of years? Given that life is so very short, and that opportunities to seek God’s mercy are limited to this present life span (for the Scriptures make it clear that there is no opportunity for repentance after death), shouldn’t the things of eternity occupy more of your time and energy and concern than the things of this present life? (Please don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that the things of this present life — things like getting a good education, making a fair profit in your business, paying your bills, being a good employee, raising your children, planning for your retirement, leaving an inheritance to future generations, etc.– are unimportant. They are indeed important! But from the perspective of eternity they are not of ultimate importance!) What does it benefit you from the standpoint of eternity if you gain all that the fallen, sin-cursed world system has to offer you — pleasure, power, popularity, wealth, prestige, worldly acclaim, financial security, etc. — but end up losing your soul in the agonies of hell for an endless eternity?
Dear reader, do yourself a favor and give yourself a reality check. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (Second Corinthians 13:5, NIV) “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” (Second Peter 1:10, NIV) Realize that God is infinitely holy, and therefore you and I could never merit or earn a place in heaven by our good deeds or religious performances. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20, NIV) Our sin deserves God’s wrath (“death” – spiritual, physical, and eternal); but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV) This gift is possible because God the Father gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer death upon the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sin, and to rise from the dead for the justification of believers. Through trusting in Christ alone for salvation the sinner is justified (“declared righteous”) in the sight of God (on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness being imputed to the believing sinner) and given the gift of eternal life. “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.” (John 3:16, NIV)
Do you have the assurance that you are going to heaven when you die? If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation in accordance with the biblical gospel, then you can know that you are on your way to heaven. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31, NIV). “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (First John 5:13, NIV) If the gospel (“good news”) of Jesus Christ is unclear to you, then I would recommend that you read – prayerfully and carefully – the Gospel of John and the Epistle of Romans in the New Testament. Find a faithful church that preaches this biblical gospel, and sit under the faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Cry unto God for mercy, and pray that He might send the Holy Spirit upon you to give you the gift of saving faith and repentance unto life.
I hope this “reality check” has been encouraging to your heart and beneficial to your soul.