An open party
When you discuss religious matters and the seeking of God with people, there are usually two approaches people have. Some are open to God and Jesus Christ, but too often than not, you’ll be faced with an impenetrable wall. Your message will not evoke a response. People with such a wall might be so rejecting that they refuse to open up to the idea that their belief system might be wrong. They have already in their head decided how things are, and no amount of evidence can bring them to think otherwise. You cannot make them listen, because they are not interested, or they’ll come up with all kinds of excuses to reject God’s invitation.
We notice the same attitude being spoken about in the following words of Jesus and in other Bible verses. Jesus showed that God has prepared everything for us, and we can receive an eternal life as a gift, but we can also reject His invitation and love. This happens if we turn our backs on His gift of eternal life:
- (Luke 14:15-20) And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said to him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.
16 Then said he to him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said to him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray you have me excused.
19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray you have me excused.
20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
Why do people reject God and His salvation? There are a number of reasons, since everyone is different and dealing with various personal issues. But the following reasons might be common. We are going to look at them in more detail.
PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE IN JUDGEMENT AND DAMNATION. One reason, why people reject God’s invitation, is that they do not believe in judgement and that there is damnation after death. They might believe in heaven and that everyone will go to heaven, after they die, but consider judgement and damnation unlikely. When people believe this, they have a good reason not turn to God.
However, there are heavy reasons, why we should take the idea of damnation more seriously. We are going to look at a few of the most pressing reasons. Here are four of them:
• Secular judicial system as a symbol
• Universal presence of moral, i.e. is knowing right from wrong
• Sense of justice indicates that wrongdoers will be held accountable
• Guilt and the guilty feeling
Secular judicial system suggests the possible existence of an afterlife judgement. Generally, all societies have a judicial system, which’ purpose is to hold murderers, criminals, and other wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Physical and sexual violence, theft, fraud and embezzlement are common criminal offences people can be charged with. This has been a common practice in all societies throughout centuries. If the justice system works right – it hasn’t always served justice – it will stick to these guidelines.
On the other hand, if there is a secular judicial system, which’ aim is to bring murderers, criminals and other wrongdoers to justice, why is it so difficult to believe there could be judgement after death, as well? Judgement in the afterlife is not any stranger of a concept than people being held accountable for their actions in the secular judicial system. Both systems work by the same principles, which gives us our first good reason to seriously consider judgement after death as a likely possibility. God will hold everyone accountable for their actions, just like the secular justice system is trying to obtain justice here on earth. Everyone will have to answer to God for how they have lived and treated others. You reap what you sow.
- (Rom 14:12) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
- (Hebr 9:27) And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
- (Gal 6:7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
Moral. When people do not believe in judgment after death, they won’t consider the example of our secular judicial system, nor the sense of right and wrong, which is another indicator of judgment. Our sense of right and wrong means that we are moral beings who make choices in our everyday life. We feel that certain things are right and that we should act accordingly, but we often feel reluctant to do so. The principals of the Ten Commandments ”You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal or You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” are recognized by everyone, since we all seem to have an innate understanding of how to behave correctly and how others should be treated. This inner sense and understanding telling us to do the right thing, is often called our self-conscience.
Paul also talked about this. He taught that the law – understanding right from wrong – is written in our hearts. He connects this notion to judgement day, which is why this is not to be taken lightly. Our understanding of right and wrong gives us a logical reason to believe in judgement day after death:
- (Rom 2:14-16) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves:
15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
It should be noted that the sense of right and wrong is common among all nations. It shows that humans, by nature, know the difference between these two, although some might harden their hearts from this. Loren Cunningham, who has visited every country on earth, tells his observations regarding moral confirming the former words of Paul to be true:
Olen tavannut ihmisiä jokaisesta maailman maasta ja nähnyt sen, että ajatus rakkaudesta, vastuullisuudesta, oikeasta ja väärästä, omastatunnosta ja moraalista on olemassa kaikissa kulttuureissa. Jokaisessa kielessä on käsite oikealle ja väärälle. Näin on ollut jo ennen minkäänlaista kontaktia muun sivistyksen tai Raamatun kanssa. (1)
Sense of justice. Another reason to believe in judgement is the sense of justice within us. Many crimes and mischief might go unsolved here on earth, but the last judgement suggests that wrongdoers who treated others poorly, cannot run from justice. They will not go unpunished. These days many criticize judgement and damnation, but if wrongdoers were not held accountable, God would be accepting of injustice. He would accept the actions of dictators and other wrongdoers, and that kind of God would not be good. Many would like to believe that God is this nice fella who sits on a cloud and turns a blind eye to evil, when that kind of image is not right according to the Bible.
Therefore, the fact that Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and other inhumane dictators have once faced judgement indicates to the justice and goodness of God. He will hold these people accountable for their actions. Yet, “regular people” will also have to account for all their words and actions. According to the Bible the nature of judgement will be determined by the nature of one’s actions. That is why there must be condemnation of different degrees.
- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Guilt and the guilty feeling serve as the fourth indicators of judgement. We might carry guilt over the wrong things we’ve done, and rightly so. It means we have not completely hardened our hearts, and that there is a final judgement waiting for us. If we were not accountable for anyone, why are we feeling guilty for what we’ve done? Our conscience attests to the existence of God and judgement.
This can be seen in every culture, like the natural law of moral – these two are closely connected to each other. This is not something that was brought about by the Christian faith but a universal phenomenon. Our next example from Japan relates to this phenomenon:
Luodessaan naisen Jumala asetti häneen lapsen suojelemisen vaiston. Sitä ”ihmisen käyttöohjetta” vastaan ei voi rikkoa ilman vakavia seurauksia. Olen kuullut Japanissa monta synnintunnustusta abortin ottaneiden naisten suusta. Myös pakana voi tuntea syvää katumusta lapsensa surmaamisesta. Tämä syyllisyys ei näet ole kristinuskon sivutuotetta, vaan jokaiselle naiselle myötäsyntyinen omantunnon ääni. (2)
Secular indulgence and the fear of people. Following the narrative of why people reject the invitation of God, two other causes as to why can be put on secular indulgence and the fear of people.
When it comes to the former, indulgence, people can often be very short sighted. They seek instant gratification irrespective of long-term consequences. How many of us have filled our lives with desires and lust forgetting that we are eternal beings? People will love themselves more than God, as Paul wrote about the last generations (2 Tim 3:1-4: This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God). Or how many of us only seek profit, worldly goods and only have great plans for this life, while forgetting that ”we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim 6:7). Everything that we have so hard worked for will be left behind. It will be left for our heirs or for others, but a person’s soul will be estranged from God. This will be our fate if we have not taken care of the matters of the soul. Jesus taught:
- (Matt 16:25,26) For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
What about the fear of people and the need to be validated by others? This can also prevent some from answering the invitation of God. Every one of us yearns for acceptance and respect, and if we are afraid of losing that because of God, we won’t answer His call.
Seeking acceptance can be seen in almost every area of life. For instance, in criminal gangs it is common that others’ acceptance is sought after by being tough, by taking tattoos and by exaggerating and boasting off one’s criminal records. People do this, because they want to be respected by others. It is rather common in criminal circles but also present in other communities and areas of life. We want to be accepted and will do anything for it. We fail to see the former words of Jesus, when he said: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt 16:26)
Delaying is one of the major reasons why people reject God’s invitation. They say: “Not today but tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, next year, or when I’m old I’ll give my life to God. Now is not the time, I’ll delay my decision further.”
People do not consider, however, that we all have different windows of opportunity. If we delay the decision with one more day, it might have been our last chance, as God could take us in that moment when we delayed this crucial decision. You could even go on to live many years on this earth, but you might lose your pull towards God. You could become completely indifferent to spiritual matters and enter eternity unprepared. That is why it is so important to turn to God as soon as possible to save your life. Unnecessary delaying might cost you your eternity.
We can find an example giving a description of the afterlife in a book called “Visions of heaven and hell” by John Bunyan, a 17th century preacher (the same man also wrote the famous “Pilgrim’s Progress”, which is one of the most widespread books in the world.). This book mentions a lost person, who has repeatedly rejected God’s grace and salvation. Do not follow this person’s lead, instead, let God save you by turning to Him while you still can!
”Oh, damnable, nasty! Damned for ever! How foolishly have I done to myself! Of what stupid absurdity was I guilty as I chose the pleasure of sin for a short time at the price of high eternal torment? How often to me was said that it would happen like this? How often was I warned to give up the paths of sin that certainly would lead me to cells of eternal death! But I, like a deaf, did not listen to those warnings even though they warned so wisely. They said to me often that my short pleasure will soon change into eternal torment. And now my too sad experience says to me it, it really says, but it is too late to help because my eternal part has been determined for ever.
"Why was I given the chance? Why had I been equipped with an immortal soul? Why did I not care about it? Oh, how my own neglect pierces me so dreadfully and I still know that I cannot and will not die. But to live a deadly life is worse than ten thousand deaths, and I still could have been helped once but I did not want to! Oh, this is the gnawing worm that never dies. Once, I could have been happy; once I was offered salvation but I rejected it. If it had happened only once and I would have rejected it, even that would have been unforgivable foolishness, but it was offered to me a thousand times, and I resisted it as often (so lousy I was). Damn the sin, which with its deceitful enjoyment enchants mankind to eternal destruction! God called me often but I resisted Him as often. He reached out his hands but I did not care. How often did I go against His commands, how often I resisted His reprimands! But now, the situation has changed, for now He follows my accident and mocks the ruin that has come for my part. He could have helped me then, but I did not want His help. Therefore, these eternal pains are just a reward for my own deeds and I am condemned to suffer." (John Bunyan, Näkyjä taivaasta ja helvetistä [Visions of Heaven and Hell], p. 67)
People do not understand the severity of their state. One of the major reasons why people take an unconcerned approach towards God and Jesus Christ is that they don’t understand the severity of the matter. They do not see that they are under the wrath of God in their unrepentant state. They think God will look at them complacently, although in fact, He hates their hardened hearts and sinful life. You can find this addressed in the Romans:
- (Rom 2:4-6) Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5 But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds
It is important to realize that God is perfect and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.). He will not accept any sin in His kingdom and condemns every unrepentant sinner to damnation. That is why people who commit adultery; break a marriage; gossip; are greedy, drunkards, thieves (tax fraud etc.); live in homosexuality, or in other sins, will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is clearly stated in the Bible. According to some verses people will even have to account for every vain word if they have called someone crazy, looked at a woman lustfully, or neglected to do good. These passages illustrate how imperfect we are:
- (Matt 12:36) But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
- (Matt 5:21,22) You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
- (Matt 5:27,28) You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
- (1 John 3:15) Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
- (James 4:17) Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
- (1 Cor 6:9,10) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
What about decent sinners who have not committed any “great sins”? Some might think they are better than others and that God will be kind towards them based on their decent behavior.
This kind of person will only deceive themselves, because there is no benefit to not being as bad as the others in the eyes of God. It will not make anyone more worthy of heaven if they have been better than other people. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). That is, there might be lesser or bigger sinners, but in the end, we are all sinners and do not hold up to God’s measure:
- (Rom 3:9) What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
- (Gal 3:22) But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Thus, our superiority to others means nothing in terms of eternity. It is comparable to a situation of a bus derailing into a gorge. There would be both lesser and bigger sinners, but in the end, their fate would be the same and there is nothing they could do to change it at that point.
Similarly, if a ship sank, it would take sinners of different degrees with it, but all of their fate would be the same. Only if they manage to get on a lifeboat on time, they might escape that fate. Quite like in the fatal incident of Titanic, for example.
Salvation could also be symbolized with a bottomless abyss, which we must get across. Some might jump three meters, some six meters and some even nine meters. However, when the abyss is many hundred times wider, these jumps and their comparisons hold little significance. We would have to say that “none of you fulfill the law” and that we also were “under a curse” with our comparisons and actions:
- (John 7:19) ... and yet none of you keeps the law...
- (Gal 3:10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
The greatest commandment also suggests how we are guilty before God. That is, when the greatest Commandment is to love God and our neighbor with all our heart, soul, and mind, the greatest sin is to not follow this commandment. Anyone that doesn’t follow it has committed the worst sin, and God must condemn them to damnation. People who have not fully abided by this rule for every second in their lives, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Every one of us is in this state by nature. We are intrinsically lost and estranged from God.
- (Matt 22:35-40) Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Is there hope for people? If you have realized your current state of being estranged from God and that you are headed to damnation, you don’t need to accept this fate. Because God, who hates sin, is also a loving God. He wants you to be saved, you to repent your sins with your whole heart, and He also wants to forgive you. His goodwill towards you can be seen in the following verses, e.g.:
- (John 3:16) 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.
- (1 Tim 2:3,4) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
According to the Bible salvation is possible, because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, removed obstacles that were between God and people. He, Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life and in the end carried all sins to the cross. He became the mediator between people and God, so that everyone can be reunited with God, regardless of our flawed nature. He fulfilled the gap that exists between God and imperfect people:
- (Hebr 8:6) But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Salvation can be received as a gift without any merits. This is possible, because sins have already been atoned and removed through Jesus Christ. This is good news to those who have realized their flawed nature. You can receive all this as a gift without having to atone for your own sins. Moreover, after accepting the gift of salvation, you will be accepted and will be under the grace of God:
- (Rev 21:6) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.
- (Rev 22:17) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
- (Rom 5:1,2) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Therefore, if you wish to receive an eternal life and have your sins forgiven, take a note of the following important points:
Turn to God! If you have been estranged from God, it is vital for you to turn to Him. Do as the prodigal son in the allegory told by Jesus. The son did not stay away from his father but returned to him. When he returned, the father welcomed him with open arms:
- (Luke 15:13,17-20) And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you,
19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Confess your sins! You must have some sins on your conscience. It might be adultery, extramarital affairs (Hebr 13:4), bitterness, accusations and unforgiveness (Matt 6:14,15), occultism (Deut 18:10-12), indifference, selfishness, or some other kind of sin. Confess all your sins to God. You do not deserve salvation because of your confession, but it is good to come clean and have nothing burdening your mind:
- (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- (Prov 28:13) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Welcome Jesus into your life! The third important thing to understand is that salvation and eternal life are only in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the way, not only the compass to the way. No one can go to God but only through Jesus Christ. You cannot go to Him through Buddha, Mohammed, the Pope, the church – only through Jesus Christ who had been prophesied of, who lived a sinless life for us and took our sins to the cross. (Many understand these things in theory but have never surrendered themselves to God and put their faith in Jesus Christ alone. God exists in their lives as if in a closed box). That is why you must turn to Him and accept Him into your life, in order to receive an eternal life. Do not reject Him, but instead surrender yourself to Him and welcome Him into your life. The following has been written about the matter:
- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
- (Rev 3:20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
So, if you have turned to Jesus Christ and received Him in your life, you are a child of God and have eternal life. You have the eternal life regardless of what you feel right now. Do not base your assurance of salvation on your ever-changing emotions, but rest in the word of the Bible and on Jesus Christ, just like the anchor of a ship is never thrown inside the ship but always outside.
- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name
- (1 John 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.
13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
THE PRAYER OF SALVATION: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and to follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1. Loren Cunningham / Janice Rogers: Kirja joka muuttaa kansat (The Book that Transforms Nations), p. 133
2. Mailis Janatuinen: Ihmisen käyttöohjeet, p. 120
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!