Therefore Choose Life
According to the Biblical gospel, all people of the world who believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are granted eternal life as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NLT – New Living Translation). This Scripture emphasizes that we actually earn death through our inherent sinful nature but eternal life is given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why the gospel is such good news. Those people who believe and obey the gospel are transformed from darkness to light; from death to life (Acts 26:18; John 5:24).
In contrast, none of the world’s religions can speak of a real gospel; they merely provide rules and rituals by which people may attain to a higher state of life through their own good works – and without any guarantees. It is easy to see why this is so. These religions teach that man is basically good therefore he doesn’t need assistance outside of himself to be saved. He may make wrong choices and mistakes but he is capable of pleasing his god by his good deeds. Therefore, man can earn his salvation. On the other hand, Reformed Theology emphasizes the doctrine of man’s total depravity as it is found throughout the Bible. This doctrine affirms that ALL people are conceived and born in sin, which taints every aspect of their being. “As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous – not even one’” (Romans 3:10, NLT). If God didn’t take the initiative to save us, we would have remained spiritually dead and headed for hell.
What is so great about God’s gift of eternal life? Frequently used Biblical phrases can sometimes become cliché in the minds of believers if we are not diligent in our meditation of the Word. The Lord Jesus has provided clarity on “eternal life” in His high priestly prayer to God the Father: “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one You sent to earth” (John 17:3, NLT). Eternal means unending. God is infinite and incomprehensible in His being, so we can never fully know Him. That’s why we need eternal life for continual growth in our knowledge of Him. This fact should not be too difficult to appreciate. If we are honest, we would admit that even as we progress in our secular education we soon realize how much we don’t know about a particular subject.
But this statement of Jesus focuses also on the high quality of our existence as inheritors of eternal life. It’s about knowing God the Father and God the Son. It is through the knowledge of God that we are able to enjoy Him. The first item in the Westminster Larger Catechism states: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully enjoy Him forever.” The catechism is emphasizing not only the duration [forever] but also the quality [enjoy Him] of our life in the fellowship and worship of God. The Lord Jesus, who described Himself as the Good Shepherd of His sheep (John 10:11) said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT). We do not have all the details of our eternal existence but we can be assured that it will be far better than anything we can experience or imagine now.
In the opening chapter of his book, Knowing God, author J. I. Packer quoted extensively from a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon. The quote included the following excerpt: “There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity”. We begin to know God when He draws us to Himself. But that’s just the beginning of an endless and exciting journey of discovery of our Creator.
The Lord Jesus spoke often about eternal life for true believers. He also spoke often about eternal fire (Matthew 25:41) and eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46) for those who reject the gospel. As always, our sovereign Lord Jesus spoke with authority because it was He who created all things according to His purpose. He laid bare the infinite gulf between the two ultimate states of existence for the human race: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT). Those who do not receive eternal life will perish. The original Greek word that is here translated ‘perish’ does not imply extinction or annihilation but loss, not of being, but of well-being. There is no common grace in hell to make it bearable. It is a place of “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13, NLT).
In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the poor man (Luke 16:19-31) the rich man sought to justify himself before God based on his good works. After his death, this rich man referred to his existence “in this place of torment” (v. 28, NLT). Some people delude themselves into thinking that God will not be present in hell. However, the omnipresent God will be there in His full fiery judgement. The wrath of God will be finally satisfied in hell and there will no longer be any offer of His grace there (v. 26). Although the rich man showed concern for his living brothers to repent and turn to God (v. 30) he seemed to have accepted that the window of opportunity to receive God’s grace was shut to him (v. 27).
Therefore, the urgent question for anyone who has not yet trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for his/her salvation is: Why should you die? God had put that question to His old covenant people, Israel, in Ezekiel 18:31. The answer He gave to His own question may surprise many: “I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32, NLT). Many people have believed the devil’s lie that a stern God sits in the heavens watching down on everyone, eager to zap those who step out of line. The LORD Himself debunks this evil distortion of His goodness: “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23, NLT). “The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 145:8, NLT).
This year, the eldest member of my extended family died at the grand age of 101 years. And yet, I noticed that many people seemed surprised at her death. Although we know from experience that every living thing on earth eventually dies, we are never ready to accept death. We keep expecting more of life for ourselves and loved ones. There is good reason for such feelings. As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, God has “planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT). But sin has caused a major problem: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12, NLT). However, God’s grace is greater than our sin: “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one Man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17, NLT).
God has not only planted the seed of eternity in our hearts; He has also provided the Way to eternal life. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12, NLT). Just before God’s servant Moses died at age 120 years, he pleaded with the nation of Israel to make the right choice of life rather than death. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you and your descendants might live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT). I pray that you make the right choice.