Sunday, September 13, 2020

I'm Dead Serious!

What did you do on your summer vacation? Remember back in the old days when teachers had you write about that at the beginning of each new school year?

In 7th grade, my best friend and I decided to concoct a fanciful story about our summer adventures. Although we spent the whole of our break at the site of the new school our dad's were building-- where walls needed painting, floors needed mopping, windows had to be washed, and a library had to be stocked, we managed to find moments of entertainment during that record setting, volunteer-crewed construction feat. 

When the septic tank was being dug, we named the gigantic pile of unearthed dirt SanTin mountain. Pronounced San-teen, so named using the first three letters of each of our names, we made a pact to report that we had scaled heights and cliffs of this majestic hill foraging for wild berries and excavating for archaeological treasures.

Highly imaginative or woefully dishonest, we agreed to embellish our summer break adventures with all sorts of made up escapades, and so we did. Or I did. I'm not sure she followed through with her report of mostly fabricated shenanigans.

As my husband and I traipsed through a historic graveyard during our summer vacation last week, I found myself reminiscing. Like seriously thinking back over my life, its ups, downs, twists, turns, highs and lows.

Every bend in life's road, every decision we make, every sin we justify, every thought we do or don't take captive, has a penalty or reward, either now or later. 

Ironically, it was remembering how I was not even slightly convicted for blatantly lying when I wrote that paper in seventh grade that prompted me to share some thoughts here. 

As I studied epitaphs on so many weathered tombstones, this final resting place of men, women, and children who lived and loved in another era, thoughts on eternity and this life's brevity, and the tragic lack of preparedness of too many precious souls I know for a date with the inevitable, wrecked me.

Mary Bell's tombstone reads: she was an affectionate companion and tender mother; though she is dead, she still lives and is fondly cherished in the recollection of surviving relations. For many years she was a devoted follower of the Lamb and closed her mortal career in full prospect of a glorious resurrection from the dead and those endless pleasures at God's right hand. 
Susan Lee's tombstone similarly records:Sacred to the memory of Susan Lee who departed this day July 19, 1818, aged 55 years, 4 months and 8 days. Who was equally distinguished for her exalted piety, benevolence and Christian virtue as she was for her amiable disposition and dignified manners.


Carrie Virginia who died July 8, 1899 is remembered with these words: aged 33 years, 2 months and 25 days, by nature she was kind and affectionate, by grace a Christian. Those who knew her best, loved her most. 

A "man on the street" video/interview I watched asked quite a few people what they thought happens when you die. An astonishing number of them said they'd never given it serious consideration. A few said they expected to go to heaven, but when asked what they based their expectation on, a whopping zero of them answered with absolute confidence.  Most who said that heaven was their expected "after death" destiny, based the assumption on the belief that they were good people and good people surely must go to heaven. They hoped. 

I started this post confessing that I was guilty of lying with a clear conscience. So where can a liar like me find any peace at all while walking alongside the very evidences of death's future reality when I read in the pages of the Bible that God's requirement for admission to heaven

is absolute perfection? 

People who lie are called sinners--and sinners are NOT perfect. And not just liars are called sinners, but those who are prideful, gluttonous, unloving, idolatrous, lustful, greedy, abusers of God's name, negligent in keeping holy the Lord's day, lazy, murderous, adulterous, sexually disobedient and deviant, thieves, slanderers, gossips, jealous lovers of pleasure or money (and on and on the list could go) are guilty, too, and are also imperfect sinners. So I wonder, where does that leave you? Maybe like me, you'll be forced to admit today that you are a sinner. 

Mary Bell, Susan Lee, and Carrie Virginia's gravestones expressed their anticipation of a future in heaven, but surely they were not perfect people since nobody is, right? And yet we read of their confidence of eternity spent with Christ in heaven.

It appears to me that prior generations grasped the brevity of life and the uncertainty of tomorrow's promise in ways we often don't, so many of them seem to have made personal preparedness a priority. They must have grasped the weight of the scripture that reads " do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14) 

How tragic it is when we, with all of our medical marvels and modern "miracles" think so little of our eternal destinies. The recent advent of a virus that in at risk populations has the potential to kill some who contract it, reminds me though, that we are actually terrified of the possibility that we might be among the unfortunate who meet our demise this way.

Even so, think of death's inevitability we must! 

Because we WILL all die someway, someday, somehow. 

So here's what I implore you to consider: just as I am not perfect (sinless) you aren't perfect (sinless) either, meaning according to scripture, your eternity hangs in the balance and you will find yourself face to face with the God of all creation one day. We are told that on that occasion, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:10-11)

Why? Because 

He (Jesus) WAS the PERFECT (sinless) Son of God.

And He gave His perfect life in place of our imperfect lives as payment for each and every one of our wretched sins...if we would but trust Him as our own Lord and forgiver after confessing that we are hopeless to save ourselves otherwise.

Here's what the scripture says about this:

..."there is no one righteous, not even one;" Romans 3:10

..."for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23

..."for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

..."But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

And because Christ did not stay dead but rose and conquered this most feared of all enemies, we CAN have hope for our eternities! (see 1 Peter 1:3)

If you are among those who think that because you are a good person you'll make it to heaven when you die, please allow my summer romp through a graveyard to give you pause. 

And if you dismiss the thought of a real, literal hell because God wouldn't send anyone there-- or worse, you joke about going there and enjoying it, be warned. It is a real place according to the Word of God where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of outer darkness. You can read about it in Matthew 25. It won't be fun, but it will be forever. God forbid we laugh at such a sorrowful destiny. 

Answer this if you're still a skeptic: Why would a loving God allow His only Son to die a cruel and heinous death for sinners if there wasn't a place prepared for those who rejected His free and matchless gift of pardon?

I'll close with this, the best, most decent person you know will not be in heaven apart from a transformed life and heart that has been surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord. But sinners like me who have been saved by grace after confessing, grieving and turning from sin, can have peace, assurance, and confident hope that heaven is her eternal destiny after she breathes her last earthly breath.

So, may I ask you, did you sin today? Yesterday? There is only one sure and certain remedy for its penalty, if so. In 1876, the hymn writer, Robert Lowry, said it best: 

What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus. O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know...

nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Thanks be to God that by His grace my grave marker could now read:

By the mercy of God Almighty, and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ her Lord, her sins are forgiven, her failures atoned for, her heart of stone transformed-- and she is basking in the glory of His goodness and grace for all eternity. 

What about you, friend? Is this your hope and peace? I pray it is. <3


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