First Things First

First Things First 2017-05-25T14:15:26+00:00

Our time on this earth is brief. If we are fortunate, we might have 80 or even 90 years of life, and we certainly want to make the most of it. And it’s clear that someday each of us will die. It could be 40 more years, or 40 more days. Still, most of us don’t live as if that’s true, and it’s easy to understand why. Who likes to ponder one’s own mortality?  

But we do know it will happen. That makes us pause to think a few moments about God, and wonder what happens after we die. The purpose of thinking about death now isn’t to scare us away from hell, but to let God pull us toward heaven and live a life with high purpose and impact. We should live our lives to bring glory to God, to make Him look as awesome as He is to others. The good news is that if we start from our last breath and work backwards to where we are today, it will not only change our eternity, but also the way we live our lives from this point forward, impacting our friends, family and coworkers!

Here’s the Big Picture

God loves you so much that He wants you to spend eternity in heaven with Him. John 3:16 says, “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.”

The Really Big Problem

All of us have thought, said, or done things unpleasing to God that are called “sins”. And we all continue to do so. The book of the Bible called Romans (3:23) says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

There is a consequence for our disobedience to God. He is perfectly holy and can’t stand sin.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” The consequence of our sin is death. We all will have a physical death. But there is a death much worse than physical death; it’s spiritual death – spiritual separation from God in a place called hell. This is the consequence for our sin. Not good. 

The Solution

The second part of Romans 6:23 has the solution: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God required a perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins in order to restore a right relationship between Him and us.  Fortunately for us, he provided the solution to our problem . . . he sent His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus lived a perfect life and had no sin. When He died on the cross, He took on all the sins of the world and died in our place for our sins. His death paid the price required by God the Father for our sins, and He did it on our behalf.

He loves us more than we can imagine. Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It is a common misconception that we “earn” our place in heaven by doing enough good things, so our good deeds outweigh our bad ones.

Eternal life with God is His free gift to us; it comes from faith in Him and there’s nothing we can do to earn it. We think if we avoid the “biggies” like murder, we’ll be in good shape. But this simply is not true.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear: “For it is by grace [God’s goodness] you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works [not by doing enough good things], so that no one can boast.” 

And contrary to the ever-changing ideas of our culture, the Bible makes it crystal clear that believing in Jesus is the only way God provides for us to be with Him in heaven.

John 3:36 says:  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”  And Acts 4:12 says:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

How Do We Receive This Gift?

Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I encourage you to get to know Jesus. His compassion, love, and example of how to live are incredible! The more you learn about him, the more you will realize how a relationship with him is the foundation for you to have an eternal impact with those you lead and love. Start out by reading about him in the Bible in the Book of Luke, then follow this by reading the amazing start of the church in the book of Acts. If you don’t own a Bible, buy a good life application bible, a study bible, in a modern translation (NIV or NLT for example) or read or listen to the book of Luke online.

Resources

1. Why the Death of Jesus Matters describes this message exceptionally well in a few pages, and the one page Bridge to Life provides an excellent visual explanation.

2. Here are responses to four common misconceptions about Christianity:
– Wasn’t Jesus just a great religious teacher? → Discussion
– How good do I have to be to get to heaven? → Discussion 
– Aren’t there are many ways to get to heaven? → Discussion
– Aren’t all religions the same? → Discussion 

3. The videos and links on the Explore – Your Next Steps page are excellent! 

4. The Search for the Spiritual – This book takes a look at real Christianity from the perspective of someone seeking to learn about God, answers common questions, and separates certain “mess-ups” you may have experienced in churches from what Jesus intends.

5. The Case for Christ – If you are a skeptic, a questioner, or a thinker like me, this book will be very beneficial. It is written by a former atheist and journalist who set out to disprove Jesus and the Bible. After 2 years of extensive research he found it took more faith NOT to believe than to believe.