I like to read the bottom line first. When I was president of a chain of Christian bookstores many years ago, I signed lots of contracts, examined estimates for projects, and hired companies to perform capital improvements for our stores. When handed the contract, I always had a habit of turning to the last page. I wanted to see the cost. Once I had the cost in mind, as I examined the agreement, I could decide along the way if I thought it was worth the cost. I still do that today. The car repair guy calls and tells me all that needs to be done to my car; I stop him and say, “What’s it all going to cost.” It may not be the best way to do business, but it puts me in a better frame of mind to evaluate the work.
Of even greater importance is our eternal destiny. What happens when we die? We are all going to die—it’s just a matter of time. You or I might die this year, three million people in the U.S. will. Some skeptics believe we die and that’s it. That is a dismal way to live a life. But what if these doubters are wrong? What if we don’t “just die” and there really is an afterlife?
Throughout the history of mankind, there has been talk about what happens when we die. The most popular view is we either go to heaven, or we go to hell. The first option sounds good, and we don’t like to talk about the latter. But what if it is true? What if there is a heaven and a hell?
There is a book that can help. This book has been handed down for six millennia. We call it the Bible. The Bible tells us what happens when we die. This one book tells us how to live forever with The Eternal God. It talks widely about eternal life and it tells us exactly what our cost is to gain it.
Before I get to the bottom line (or maybe you’ve already peeked?), let me tell you a little about this book called the Bible. Some do not put much credence in it. Pardon me if this offends, but those who think that way are only showing their ignorance of this valuable book.
The Bible is not a common book. There were over forty authors whose lives spanned over 1,500 years: prophets, farmers, physicians, pharisees, tax-collectors, fishermen; men who did not know each other. Nor did these men have access to the other’s writings. Yet throughout its sixty-six books there is a consistent message of redemption. It never contradicts itself. Coincidence?
The Bible is divided into two testaments (or covenants), the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other book in antiquity. And we’re not talking a few pieces of parchment. There are over 5,500 manuscripts or fragments of entire books of the New Testament or portions thereof. It is worth repeating, no other book has the abundance of manuscripts as the New Testament. It beats them all! For example, the works of Plato, studied and revered in the highest institutions of learning; only 7 ancient manuscripts. The Gospel of Thomas, 4. Homer’s Illiad appears to have the largest trove at 650 ancient manuscripts. But the most ancient classical Greek and Roman texts have fewer than 10 each: 5,500 vs. 10. That should make even the skeptic at least sit up and notice. The Bible is supernaturally preserved.
Skeptics are always, well, skeptical. They doubt. They are pessimists and they are agnostic or atheistic. They say, “There are no original manuscripts of the Bible.” If that alone is the criteria for disregarding the Bible then we must throw out all classical literature since there are no original copies available. But copies are important. The New Testament copies are much earlier and closer to the original writings than all the classical texts. Most of the New Testament is available from copies that are only 100-150 years after its completion, while a copy of the entire New Testament dates from about 100 years after that. In contrast, the classical counterparts date from 700 to 1400 years after their original compositions!
The Bible is reliable, and it tells us how to live forever. Jesus said,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
If true (and it is), what is the bottom line, what will it cost me to gain this everlasting life Jesus talks about?
Bottom line cost? (Here are a few synonyms to help you understand): Zero. Nothing. Nada. Scratch. Zilch. Zippo. Not anything. Gratis.
Everlasting life is free. It costs nothing for the person requesting it. The Bible says it this way,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
It is by God’s grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favor toward us. We deserve nothing; we give nothing (what could we possibly give to a Holy God?) and yet He stoops down to save us. Christianity is the only “religion” where man does not reach up to God, rather God reaches down to man.
So what must I do to be saved? Acts 16:31 gives one of the clearest answers,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household”
Everlasting life means salvation from everlasting death. To gain everlasting life, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said,
“Whoever believes in Me has everlasting life.”
But what do I believe about Jesus? Believe He is the only One who can provide you with everlasting life. Then what do I do? You believe it! But don’t I have to stop doing certain things? What if I smoke, drink, cuss, chew, and go around with girls that do? For everlasting life, you believe, He accepts you just as you are.
You’ve looked at the bottom line, and you like the cost! (If it’s free, it’s for me!). Once you believe in Jesus Christ who has now granted you everlasting life—It would seem you’d want to do something about it, like read more about this wonderful Savior. One way to do that is to get a Bible and start reading.
You can begin here: Roger’s Word in the World Bible Reading Plan.
Endnote: What about repentance? Don’t I have to repent? It depends on what is meant by repent. If by repent you mean make a list of all the bad things you have done, then no. List making is a work, not grace. If by repentance you mean, a change of mind from what you formerly believed, then you’ve done that. You once didn’t believe, you changed your mind and now do believe.
Do Christians need to confess their sin? If a Christian wants to have fellowship with God, he cannot live in sin. If you sin against your spouse, you are still married, but your relationship suffers until one or both repent and confess their transgression. Confession and repentance for sins is an act a believer does, but neither of them are required for everlasting life. No works are needed, only the gift of the grace of God which we accept by faith.
(c) 2019 Roger L. Feenstra