Beauty, Fear, Logic, and The Ultimate Solution
Dear Patients and Parents,
For 24 years, you have given me the privilege of being physician to you or your children; you have allowed me to be a part of your family, and I am grateful. During that time, our practice has worked hard to give you the best medical care. We have tried to serve you well. We care about you and your family in every area of your lives.
I have learned that the most important thing in the world for each of us, even more important than physical health, is having a personal relationship with the God who made each one of us. This relationship makes life worthwhile.
The booklet you are about to read is written for you. It is a work of love. Please read it as thoughtfully and carefully as I have written it. In it, I have attempted to capitalize on three different ways a person might be drawn to God. Each person is different, but most of us are attracted to beauty, sobered by real fear, and stimulated to deep thought by serious questions regarding life.
My desire is that by taking the time to read this booklet, you will make (if you have not already done so) the most important discovery of your life: that you can know the God who made you. He is not a distant God, nor is he aloof. You were made to know him, and he offers himself to you. My desire is that you will want to know him and love him.
Each of the first three sections is independent of the others; by that, I mean that after you have read any of the first three sections, you may easily make the transition directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution. It is necessary to read section 4 at some point to bring closure to your thinking.
I would be grateful to you if you let me know how this booklet affects you and what you think of it.
Finally, there is really nothing new in this writing. It is all drawn from the Bible. I hope that my words give you a deep desire to go to God through Jesus His Son.
Jerry Miller, Jr. M.D.
January 1, 2005
I. Infinite Beauty / Running from God
“…In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
“Jonah rose up to flee …from the presence of the Lord” Jonah 1:3
A man of enormous wealth died without known heirs. He had searched the country for years prior to his dying for a surviving relative to whom he could bequeath his vast fortune; it was a futile search. His will provided instructions for his attorney to continue the search after he died.
A few months afterwards, a distant relative was discovered. He lived in poverty and squalor, and was eking out an existence doing odd jobs. He lived foolishly and handled his meager finances irresponsibly. His indebtedness grew daily, and he hopelessly attempted simply to survive each day.
The attorney wrote a letter to the relative with the good news that he was heir to an immense fortune. An inheritance was his for the taking. The attorney asked for a meeting with the young man to formalize the transaction which would instantly transform him into wealthy man.
By this time in his life, the young man had become cynical and suspicious. He did not believe in fairy godmothers or distant, wealthy relatives. As far as he knew, no one had ever cared what happened to him, and he had no vain hopes that life would ever be anything more for him than it was: a grim fight to make it each day, with no expectation of any change for the better or anything good to occur in his life. Life for him was merely survival. It was joyless and hopeless; it was futile and desperate. Based on his past experience with his selfish and untrustworthy companions, the offer contained in the attorney’s letter had to be, at best, a lie and a scam, and, at worst, a trap to bring him to justice for one of his past crimes. Why would anyone do anything good for him? He decided the best course of action was to ignore the letter and to trust no one. He retreated into the shabby, filthy parts of the city where no one knew him and he attempted to hide.
The lawyer was persistent in carrying out the dead man’s wishes. He followed a lead and found his man’s deserted apartment in disarray, with all the marks of a person who had left in a hurry; there were unpaid bills on the countertop and tepid milk and soggy cereal in a bowl on the kitchen table. The young man had left the city. Acting on a warning that the hunter was near, the hunted had fled to an area 300 miles to the west.
Not easily deterred, the attorney continued his search; finally, nine years after the old man’s death and four cities later, the lawyer saw his man coming out of a soup kitchen. The formerly young man was now graying and unkempt. He was gaunt, haggard and dressed in rags. He was tired of life and weary of running. He was destitute and did not care whether he lived or died.
The attorney, upon recognizing the man, immediately ordered his assistant to corner his prey, which was accomplished with hardly a whimper; the now not-so-young man was hardly in a position to run or resist. He was weak and sickly, and more importantly, he had lost any will to survive. He did not care anymore.
Imagine the captured man’s surprise when the attorney explained to him that the letter was a true and accurate representation of the facts, and that, indeed, the fugitive was now a rich man. He had been running from his riches for years, not even believing that they existed, or even in such a possibility. He had been running from a supposed enemy when all the time his pursuer was his benefactor, attempting to heap on him all manner of goodness. In the running, the man had deprived himself of years of wealth, comfort, and peace, and in exchange, had gained for himself a life of poverty, distress, and unrest. As he settled into his new position in life, he often reproached himself for his folly all those wasted years. Yet, time healed his wounds, and he lived many years in a state of happiness and gratitude, dying as an old man after a full life.
You and I are much like the young man in the story. We run from God until we realize how infinitely good and beautiful he is. We mistakenly think he is our enemy, when he pursues us with only the best intentions to bless us. God is the giver of every good gift and every good thing in life; we often prevent him from bestowing these gifts on us because we are running away from him as fast as we can, thinking he might harm us.
ATTRACTED TO GOD
Look at the two columns of words below. To which column are you attracted?
Truth (Absolute and Ultimate) Lies; Relative or No Truth
Absolute Faithfulness/Loyalty Faithlessness
Unending Pleasure Unending Pain
Most people are naturally drawn and attracted to the first column of words and the ideas they represent. Very few would honestly say that they desire the ideas represented by the right column.
If you say you are drawn to the left column of ideas, then you are attracted to God himself. He is a God of infinite beauty and absolute truth. His love for you and me is pure, untainted by selfishness, and always looking to our good; his love is sacrificial, and he proved it when he gave his only Son, Jesus, to die for sinful people on the cross. He loved first and took the initiative. He loves unconditionally and accepts those who place their trust in Jesus; we do not and cannot earn his love by our performance, but, instead, he gives it to us freely.
God is utterly and perfectly good and righteous. He is kind and forgiving. He is faithful and trustworthy. You can depend on him always. He gives life in every area; he is the creator of your life, and he knows what you need to live life well and to the fullest. He is light itself and by coming into a personal relationship with him, we no longer stumble and bounce around life aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He offers forgiveness of our sins and our failures. He gives unending and real pleasure; he gives true joy and peace which cannot be taken away. Life lived in the presence of God is full of pleasure beyond thought or words.
So, why do we think we need to run from God? God is what you and I have been looking for all our lives. He is the answer to our need for rest, peace, and fulfillment. He is better than we even dare to imagine; many have despaired that a God this good could not exist. He is better to us than we deserve. He is infinitely better to us than he needs to be. In the presence of God are pleasures and riches beyond our wildest imagination. Why do we run?
We are all children of Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us that God created them to live in a loving relationship with him. God gave them a life of infinite goodness; they lived in the garden of Eden, a garden of perfection and beauty. However, because they did not really trust God, and they thought he was holding back something good from them, they disobeyed God’s one law given to them. This breaking of God’s law offended God; it was rebellion against God, who loved them and made all things perfect for them. (When we disobey God and rebel against him, it shows we really do not believe that God is good, and we think he is keeping something good from us.) Any disobedience or rebellion against God’s standard or command is sin. After they sinned in the garden of Eden, they tried to hide from God because they realized they were guilty of offending him. They were now afraid of him. Their relationship with God was broken, and their paradise was ruined. The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in death at every level, for them and for us.
We, the descendants of Adam and Eve, have inherited sin and death from them. We are all born sinners, and we sin because we are sinners. The Bible tells us that all have sinned; in other words, every one of us has disobeyed God, rebelled against God, and offended God. Sin and death are pervasive, and they affect every aspect of our lives, including our bodies, our minds, our wills, our emotions, and our spirits. Sin and death ruin our relationships with God and people. Because of our distorted thinking and perverted hearts, our natural inclination is to hide or run from God, despite the deep-down knowledge that God is who we need. So, we would rather die than go to God. We are intent on self-destruction. We are afraid of him because we know we are guilty and unworthy of him. We are even afraid to think an infinitely good and forgiving God might exist, so we deceive ourselves with a web of intricate and incredible lies. We despair of finding what we need to really live.
WHO ARE YOU? WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Now, look at the following columns of words. Which column describes you best? Which column of words contains the qualities you would you like to see in yourself?
Joy Misery, cynicism, sorrow, sadness
Peace Restlessness, anxiety, worry
Kindness, gentleness Harshness
Self-control Uncontrolled outbursts of anger
Generosity, selflessness Selfishness
Freedom Bondage to habits, sin, or addictions
Forgiveness Bitterness, vengefulness
Courage Cowardice, Fear
Nobility Depravity, coarseness, crudeness, vulgarity
Truthfulness Deceit, lying
A clear conscience A guilty conscience
Acceptance, approval Rejection and judgment
Hope, expecting good Hopelessness, depression and despair
Almost everyone would love to possess the qualities listed on the left. Then, why do so few of us possess them? Many have given up. Many do not know how to have them. Some have rejected them.
Would you like to know the God who made you and knows you better than you know yourself? He is able to make you into the person you want to be, the person described by the character traits in the first column above. He will give you life; Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. He gives life that is real and better than you can imagine. It is life that is deep, solid and objective, rooted in eternal reality, and therefore, satisfying; there is nothing artificial or superficial about it. What would you give to know that you are accepted and approved by God, the maker of the universe? If that were true, you would not mind if you were rejected by others; some of you have known little but rejection all your lives. Would you like to know that God himself forgives you? Only his forgiveness can give you a clean conscience; he rids us of our guilt and our guilty feelings.
Do you want true freedom? Do you want purpose and direction in life? Don’t you really know that you were made for something great? Do you ever feel like you are spending your life on trivial pursuits? Life is not for wasting and time is not for killing. Filling our lives with empty pursuits or boredom-killing anesthetics is not living. God has not made you and me simply to survive, endure, and exist; God made humans for greatness and virtue. Would you like to live with purpose and significance? Do you want to live with courage and confidence? Do you want to be a person whose life is actually described by the words in the first column?
God is able and willing to make you new. He changes people, and he can and will change you.
STOP RUNNING–COME TO GOD
Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. Jonah tried to run from God. People have been hiding and running ever since. How about you? Are you tired of running and hiding? God offers you life. God is not your enemy; he offers to give you infinite goodness. He wants you to come running to him. He will not make you come, though he could; he wants you to come because you realize you need him and want him, and to come because you love him.
God offers you the free gift of life and forgiveness; he offers himself for intimate relationship as your Father and your God. He offers all this without cost to you. You cannot pay for it. Jesus has already paid the price to make this all possible, and you can add nothing to it. To attempt to do so would sully it and demean it; what would you think if you gave a gift to someone and he then pulled out his wallet to pay you for it? You must simply receive the gift as you would any gift.
Jesus is God’s Son and he came to die for sinners like you and me; he came to give life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is the only way to God and life, and he offers all to us as a free gift.
Run to God. You were made for him, and you were made to live with him now, day by day, and eternally with him in heaven. He is Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Life, and Light. He will forgive you and accept you. The emptiness in your life will never be filled until you allow God to fill it, and then you will wonder how you ever lived without him. Only he can satisfy your deepest thirst and longings for the life you have never found.
These verses from Revelation give a taste of what heaven will be like:
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb (Jesus) in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” Rev.7:16,17
“And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Jesus), in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads . And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.” Rev.22:1-5
Doesn’t this word picture reflect your deepest longing? Heaven is a place where people spend eternity in God’s presence, basking in his Infinite Beauty and Goodness. Preparation for heaven begins here on earth; people like you and me can know God and enjoy his presence now. Now, God will begin to give you the fullness of life and joy you were created for. Heaven will complete the process.
God is pursuing you for your good. He loves you. Stop hiding and running. Receive his goodness. You will be surprised.
God invites you. Yes, you.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Come to Jesus.
If you would like to know how to come to Jesus, you may go directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution.
II. Fear of Death
The passengers boarded the Ethiopian Air jet as they do anywhere. Parents with small children were clamoring aboard, excited at the prospect of seeing other family in Nairobi, Kenya. Others were diplomats or business people who were leaving Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to accomplish specific missions in Nairobi; still others were simply returning home. It was only a two-hour flight. Even for those who hated to fly, the trip would not be bad.
Half way to Nairobi, three men suddenly stood up brandishing fireaxes and broken whiskey bottles. They commandeered the jet and demanded safe passage to Australia. The pilot informed them that they could not possibly get there with the fuel they had on board, but the hijackers would not be deterred. The jet charted a course over the Indian Ocean, all the time the pilot warning that fuel was low and that they must head to Nairobi if the plane were to land safely. The crew prepared the passengers for a crash landing, and for a full twenty minutes all aboard faced possible impending death. Twenty minutes of uncertainty, anxiety, fear. Questions raced, then lingered hauntingly in their minds. “What will become of my family?” “Have I lived life to the fullest?” “Am I ready to die?” “Will it hurt?” “What if I really have to face a God? Will he accept me?” Twenty minutes is too long to have to think about impending doom.
Finally, the fuel was depleted. The pilot tried mightily to reach an island formation just in view, but the jet was plummeting like a skydiver in freefall. It was not a smooth descent. For four minutes they fell. For four minutes, they fell. Four minutes is too long to have to think about almost certain doom. People screamed. They shrieked as they looked death full in its hideous face. The jet’s wing tipped slightly, dipped into the water, and then the whole jet cartwheeled over and over again.
There were only twenty survivors. They told the stories of at least two men who were able to face death with serenity and equanimity. One of them spent the last twenty minutes of the flight telling the other pallid, sweating, fear-paralyzed passengers how to prepare to meet God. Another, a father with three small children, was calm and spent his time comforting his beloved little ones with words of hope and peace, and the assurance to them that they would meet God if they had to pass through death that day.
Consider another scene, this time closer to home. A routine day. She was a college student heading off to class. She stopped at the railroad crossing; the gates were down, the lights were flashing, and the bells were ringing. She heard the roar of the oncoming train. No big deal. But then she felt the bump from behind, and then the agonizing realization that she was being pushed forward; the guy in her mirror had just rear-ended her. Her forward motion quickly turned into lateral motion as the train caught the front of her car and began to drag her down the tracks. She thought fast and called 911 on her cell phone, but no one could understand her, much less help her. For the next four miles, the train dragged her. Four miles of panic and fear. Four miles of facing death. The train with its extra cargo then hit a bump and the car and driver were jolted free. She was safe, but not before a harrowing few minutes with death riding shot-gun.
Imagine yourself as a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, April, 1999. The two gunmen, armed to the teeth with weapons and armed in their hearts with bitter and sadistic hatred, march into school, shooting at will. Students are massacred without mercy and without reason. How would you have faced death?
Finally, remember September 11, 2001. The Twin Towers at the World Trade Center are destroyed by those hate the United States, and over 3000 perish. There are countless acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and compassion. But, over 3000 die. How would you or I have looked into the eyes of death? Think about those who faced the choices between death by fire, death by suffocation, death by the collapse of the structure, or death by a leap from the building to the streets hundreds of feet below. Think of the fear, no, the sheer terror many must have felt. How would you have felt? What would you have thought?
YOU WILL DIE
These scenarios are true. I present them to make the point that you could have been in any of these events. Life is strange. Things happen. Surprises often overtake us, but death is not one of them. You may be surprised at how you die or when you die, but you will die someday. You will die. Death may come to you after a long and chronic illness and thus provide you with much time for preparation. It may come as you sleep. It may come in old age after a full life. And it may come suddenly. But, it will come. The Bible tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment”(Hebrew 9:27). You have an appointment with death. Will you be ready? Are you ready now to face God and judgment?
The Bible is equally clear when it tells us that after death each of us has only one of two destinations: heaven or hell. Heaven is a real place God has prepared for his followers where they will experience the very Presence of God forever, and will live on in eternal pleasure and joy. Hell is just as real; Jesus warned of hell many times in his teachings. Many people relegate hell to being a concept held only by the unsophisticated; others joke about it, and say they look forward to it because they will be with all their friends. Rock groups sing about it (for example, “Highway to Hell”). Yet, hell is real and no one will enjoy it. It is a place of eternal, complete isolation from God and his goodness, of isolation from other humans, of conscious torment and agonizing memories of missed opportunities. The regretful lament repeating itself over and over in the mind of hell’s prisoner will be “if only I had listened to the voice and God”, but it will be too late forever, and there will be no escape forever. It is a place of absolute darkness and ultimate, unrestrained evil; its inhabitants will be forever without peace, rest, or joy. It is no joke, and you do not want to go there.
I mean to arouse your fear of death. My intention is to provoke your deepest anxiety and fear. Why? I’m not into horror movies or books. Fear is not for entertainment. I’m not being cruel and I don’t want to alarm you unnecessarily. I speak of death and fear of death because I care enough about you to tell you the truth. I’m a physician, and I want you to live, not just now, but forever. Fear of death is given to us by God as a motivation to see things as they are: the realities of the brevity of life, the sureness of death, and judgment by Almighty and Holy God.
We can respond to the fear of death in one of several ways. Many who are young believe they are invincible, invulnerable, and immortal. Nothing can or will hurt them, they think, at least not until they are in their 40’s or 50’s. That’s why we see so much risk taking in the teens and twenties. This attitude is false bravado and self-deceiving; it does not change the reality. Even babies, children, and teenagers can die; it’s obvious that those who make it through their teen years will die at some point in the future.
Others try to overcome fear of death by attempting to crowd out the idea of death by a breathless schedule of activity. They don’t have time to think about it, and they make certain that if there is any possibility of time for quiet thought, they drown the moment with noise via television, radio, music, books, magazines, etc. This is anesthesia of the thought life, a kind of numbing of the soul. The line of reasoning is that if they don’t think about it, maybe death will go away.
Still others attempt to sanitize the idea of death. In our advanced culture, they reason, people are not supposed to die. In fact, the cure for death must be waiting to be discovered in some scientist’s laboratory, and thus, we are on the threshold of human immortality. For this reason, many times, physicians are sued when in spite of their valiant, competent, and compassionate efforts, a person dies. “Death is not supposed to happen in America,” these people say to themselves. “It must be the doctor’s fault.” We are fairly good at dressing up death, keeping it away from our consciousness, and keeping it in the realm of only happening to someone else. It happens to others, not to us, we reason. In the United States, we have such a high standard of living that we don’t experience the daily struggle to survive that others face in developing countries, and thus, the reality of death is somehow softened in our thinking; yet, that doesn’t change the facts.
Finally, others glorify death. They convince themselves of one of several things. Some believe that if they die for some great and glorious cause, their death will be worth it; in part, they may be correct, but in full, they are only correct if they die ready to face God. Others have written of people with near-death experiences who relate feelings of warmth and light as they linger between life and death; these depictions are used to comfort those who are near death, but they do not give assurance of one’s readiness to see God. A fairly new (at least to the American scene) philosophy of life is really a philosophy of death, and here is the final stage of a person or people group which has turned its back on its Maker. By writing God out of the script, we have produced a “culture of death” where despair, cruelty, and hatred are the logical fruit. Death is presented as a great, desirable experience and life is seen as worthless, so suicide is rampant. The lives of others are also seen as without value, so we witness gratuitous violence and killing. The abortion industry has led the way here, but euthanasia cannot be far behind (witness the supporters of “Dr. Death”, Jack Kevorkian) and killing of students by other students is now a gruesome reminder of the terrible harvest we reap. The glorification of death in any of these ways is perversion.
We can ignore death, we can deceive ourselves into believing it will never come, we can anesthetize our lives to keep us from feeling the fear of death, or we can give ourselves over to it in the ultimate lie in convincing ourselves that it is our friend. These mental maneuvers do nothing to change the reality of death for each of us.
My intention is to violently rip the façade of lies and self-deception from our thinking and to bring each of us face to face with the reality deeply implanted in each of our hearts: each of us will die and each will face God for his judgment.
REALISTIC FEAR–NOT A NEUROTIC PHOBIA
Hebrews 2:14,15 tells us:
14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Death was the penalty Adam and Eve received for disobedience to God, and each of us as their descendant has inherited sin and death. Death has permeated every aspect of existence and sin has become our birthright. God’s mercy and love were shown in at least three ways when death came into the world.
1. Physical death itself is a gift from God. Would you want to live forever as you are, with all your limitations, sufferings, and failures? Would you really want to keep living life as it is, forever? Is this all there is? Physical death is the end of this very imperfect present life, which is only a faint shadow of the true life God intended and intends for those who trust Jesus. Death is their entrance into heaven. Thus, this present life is not ultimate, only preparatory.
2. God promised freedom from sin and death when the future Savior came; his name is Jesus.
3. God did not allow sin to numb our hearts to the fear of death. Fear of death is itself a gift from God which gives us motivation to seek the cure for death, and the ultimate cure is not to be found in any human solutions, medical or otherwise.
The verses from Hebrews above tell us that fear of death keeps us in slavery all our lives. If you strip away all the mental gymnastics and think honestly about death, it will strike the deepest fear into your heart, and the fear is debilitating. Fear of death keeps us from the performance of heroic, loving, and noble deeds. It causes us to preserve self at all costs, even if it means selfish destruction of others. It keeps us prisoner to anxiety, restlessness, cowardice, and hatred. We are slaves to anger and impatience, and we are petty. We are slaves to habits that we hate but cannot break. And because of our fear of death and the many vices that naturally accompany the fear, we are often disgusted with ourselves. Even those who are self-righteous know in their hearts that they are afraid to die, and their good deeds done to impress others and themselves will not take away the fear.
This is depressing stuff. Sorry, but it’s necessary. If you fear death, realize that everyone else does too, and that your fear is not unfounded. You must face God after death. Life at death does not dissolve into nothingness. God has made you eternal. His intention is for you to live forever with him. And he has provided the solution to your problem of death and, therefore, fear of death. If he were simply to take away your fear, what would that accomplish? Suppose a physician has a patient who fears a fatal disease; upon examination, the illness is discovered. If the physician simply reassures the patient that all is well, and relieves the fear of the patient, but does nothing to cure the disease, he has done his patient no service at all. God does not tell us all is well, yet he also provides the radical cure for our lives of sin, misery, fear, and death. We fear death because it is real, and God uses that fear to cause us to seek God himself.
THE CURE FOR FEAR
God provided the answer, the solution, the cure in Jesus Christ. He took on flesh and blood to enter death for us, as the verses in Hebrews above state. His purpose was to conquer the power of death and remove our fear of death. Jesus offers us life that begins now and will last forever. It is life with purpose and meaning. It is a life of fulfillment, for you and I are able to know the God who created us for himself. We were made to know and enjoy God. Jesus rendered death powerless so that when we know Jesus, our physical death is only the door to life with God forever. We do not need to fear it because Jesus overcame death when he rose from the dead. If he rose from the dead, and he promises to give us the same life, then he is not only able to give it but willing and trustworthy to deliver; after all, he died to purchase this life for us.
Imagine for a moment how you would be if you no longer feared death because you were free from death’s power over you? You would live with confidence, joy, and peace. Your heart would be at rest. You would be free of slavery to cowardice, self-preservation, and habits that you despise but cannot break. You would be free of the resulting self-hatred. Do you want to live a life of self-deception in which you must always lie to yourself about death or guard yourself from facing the prospect of death? Or do you want to be able to live with the certainty that no matter what happens or when death occurs, you will be ready to die and enter the presence of God? This certainty allows us to live with freedom and a certain abandon; we can do the right thing without worrying about the consequences. Jesus came to die for sins and misdeeds and to save people from them. He offers us life now and forever; it is free to us because he gives it to us. He has paid the price to deliver us from sin, death, and the fear of death. We cannot earn this life; we can only receive and accept his offer, the free gift.
Do you want to live in fear all your life? Do you enjoy running scared? Do you enjoy what this fear does to you? It doesn’t have to be this way. God provides a better way; he provides the only way. God has the solution and the cure that each of us needs. His name is Jesus.
You may go directly to section 4, The Ultimate Solution, if you are ready to discover how Jesus is the radical cure each of us needs.
1. Can you honestly think that the universe and you are the end-product of billions of years of randomness and chance?
You may choose from one of several explanations of the origin of the universe and of humankind. You may accept some mythological account of creation, primitive or more sophisticated; really, how convincing are these? You may accept the view of many in modern popular science which supposes that given enough time and randomness, eventually order and life will emerge; does this view have intellectual integrity? Or, you may accept the Biblical account of creation in which God, as all-powerful and all-wise creator of all, speaks the universe into being. To my mind, the account given in the Bible is the most intellectually satisfying, the most integrated, and the most credible. It seems to me that it takes much less faith to believe that an infinite God of order, power, and wisdom created an ordered universe than to think that it all just happened. This means that humans are not some accident of evolution, but specially created by God. It means that you are not just some product of chance. You were made and are known by God himself. You were made to know him, and made for his purpose. The universe is not directionless and rudderless; it is not chaotic, but is ruled and ordered by Almighty God. The God who created it also actively maintains it.
2. Is this all there is?
Are you content with the idea that you are on the earth as a speck of insignificant organic matter?…that you are here by chance, without purpose, and without direction? …that the best you can hope for is to last 70 or 80 years with a minimum of trouble?…and that then you pass into nothingness?
If that’s all there is to our time on this earth, then let me die now. You are not content with this vision of life because God has created you for much more than this, and he has implanted deep within you the desire for much more. You are longing and thirsting for deep reality and significance which only a relationship with your creator can provide.
3. Are you truly satisfied with your life as it is now?
Most of you are not, and this question is closely connected to #2. You were not made to be satisfied with anything other than God himself. This is why, no matter how good your life, no matter how rich, successful, famous, powerful, or attractive you are, you still find a deep emptiness in your life. Career, family, friends, fun, or travel will never fill the emptiness. In your quiet moments, when you really have time to think and take stock, you will find you realize that something is missing. Blaise Pascal said that in every human is a “God-shaped void”. Only God can fill your void. Eternal beings made in the image of God cannot be satisfied with the superficial and the artificial, with counterfeit substitutes, or with unreal and unlasting froth and fluff of life. You will never find true joy and fulfillment in life until you find God, who is all you need and much more than you need. Hi-tech gadgets, escape from reality, luxury, and temporary pleasure will never give you more than a short-term fix which will leave you more empty than before.
What have you found in life that really satisfies you deeply and long-term? God promises to fill your hungry soul, to satisfy you with good things, to quench your thirst, and to take away your emptiness.
4. Have you found anything in life you would lose all for?… that you would die for?
If you have nothing in life which you would lose all for, then I contend that you have not discovered much worth living for. Jesus Christ lost all for you; he alone is worthy of your absolute love and loyalty. Without a purpose in life, people get bored. They search for satisfaction but don’t find it, and they finally try to anesthetize the pain in their lives in all types of self-destructive and self-deceiving behavior. Jesus alone is reason to live. You will be happy to live for him, to lose all for him, and even to die for him.
5. What then?
If I were to ask you for your life plan, how would you answer? Here is a typical answer:
“I plan to go to school to get an education.”
“I’ll begin my career.”
“I’ll get married.”
“I’ll have children.”
“My children will grow up and do what I did.”
“I’ll retire. I’ll fill my life with golf, tennis, hunting, fishing, travel, etc (you fill in the blank) .”
What then? What then? Is there nothing more to life?
We were made to glorify God and enjoy him…forever.
Consider where you are going before it is too late.
6. What will you say to God when you die and he asks you to give an account of your life? What will you do? What will you say?
The Bible tells us that God will judge us after we die. What will you say when he asks you why he should let you into heaven? God’s standard is perfection. He does not weigh your good versus bad deeds and then make a decision based on which deeds outweigh the others. (Even if he did, how would you ever know now that you were good enough to get to heaven?) We cannot earn heaven. You and I will never be good enough. You and I don’t deserve heaven, and God doesn’t owe it to us. Church membership or affiliation won’t suffice. Being religious won’t get us into heaven. Being moral isn’t the answer. Having faith is not the key, unless it is in the right object. Sincerity won’t do it. We won’t talk our way in. And, the Bible is clear: not everyone goes to heaven. We have a problem; the Bible states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Below, you will find the only acceptable answer to God when he asks you on what basis you should be allowed to enter heaven
7. If you knew you were going to die next week, what would you do now?
Most of us would begin preparing for death and our meeting with God. The point is, we never know when we will die. We should always be ready. Are you ready to go now?
8. Does it make any sense to you that there can be multiple conflicting “truths”?
Ultimate truth is absolute and exclusive. It is not relative. If one thing is true, then other statements that conflict with it cannot be true also.
9. Can there be many ways to God and heaven?
We have all heard that there are many ways to God, and that as long as we are sincere in our beliefs, we will all see God and live with him in heaven. This notion is the product of our times in which we are told to be so tolerant that anything (even a lie) is accepted uncritically so as not to offend others.
Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me”. Notice, he did not say he is a way or one of many ways, but the way. He is also the truth and the life. He states clearly that he is the exclusive and only way to God the Father.
There is only one way to God, and the only way is Jesus. This is not my idea; it is God’s.
10. Who is Jesus?
This question keeps coming at us from the pages of the Gospel of John. This is the question everyone was asking when Jesus was on the earth, and has been a question of immeasurable importance ever since. It is important because it makes all the difference in the world to each of us, and each of us must come to some kind of conclusion in answer to this question. Neutrality is not an option. Jesus’ own words will not allow us to remain neutral.
Jesus said he was the Son of God, and that he came to save us from our sins, to forgive our sins, to give us new and abundant life, to change us, and to give us eternal life. He came to die for us, and he came to show us the very nature and heart of God.
Some people of his day argued that he was a good man, a prophet, or a good teacher of morality. Others hated him and said he was demon-possessed. Some said he was crazy. Others tried to catch him in lies or inconsistencies (and failed). Some agreed that he must be the Son of God as he claimed.
C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and others have shown that the only choices we have in deciding the identity of Jesus distill down to these: he was either Lord, or the world’s biggest liar, or a lunatic. You must choose for yourself on the basis of your search for truth. Who is Jesus? He claimed to be Lord. If he was not, then he had to be a liar, in fact, the world’s worst, or just plain crazy. You cannot simply say he was a good man or teacher and leave it at that. Jesus will not allow that type of “patronizing nonsense” (Lewis). Jesus stated plainly who he was, and to whittle him down into something else to suit us or our preferences is not honest. Jesus always went to the heart of things; he only gives us the three options discussed, and we cannot wiggle out of making a tough and critical decision which will alter the very course of our lives. Jesus does not play games with us; we must not play intellectual games with him because our very lives depend upon our correct response. This is life or death for you and me.
So, is he God, or was he a deceiver, or was he insane? You must make your choice and then act on it. But, please, none of this “good man, moral teacher, religious leader” stuff. He is either God or is not. If he is God, then you must follow him and commit your entire life to him. Look at what Jesus said about himself (read the Gospel of John for a full treatment of this question). Accept him or reject him on the basis of what he said about himself.
11. What is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection?
Who is Jesus? The correct answer depends upon the resurrection. If he really rose from the dead, this validates everything he said about himself, and proves he indeed is the Son of God. In all of history, who else claimed to be God and then rose from the dead as Jesus did? Of course, there is no one else who made such fantastic claims and then backed them up with a resurrection. The resurrection proves Jesus is God. The resurrection proves his power over sin and death, and proves he can give you power over sin and death in your own life. The resurrection is calculated to rivet our attention to Jesus as the Lord Christ; you and I cannot simply ignore this fact of history and hope it will go away. The resurrection proves all he said, and proves he is God.
Look at the evidence. The torture and punishment inflicted on him really killed him; he did not “swoon” on the cross and then come back to life in the coolness of the tomb; this theory insults our intelligence. His body was not stolen by the disciples; if that were true, why would so many of them later go on to die for the sake of their belief in Jesus if he really were not God the Son raised from the dead? Would they have died for a lie? There were many eyewitnesses who actually saw the risen Lord Jesus before his ascension to heaven. Believers endured unspeakable suffering in the early years following Jesus’ life on earth; would they have borne this for a lie? In addition, the number of early believers in Christ grew at an exponential rate because the growth was powered supernaturally with the Holy Spirit of Christ; this is further evidence of the resurrection power of Christ. They turned the world upside down, and it was not from human greatness, power, or resources. (For a fuller treatment of this evidence, see Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict).
If a person honestly examines the life of Jesus as seen in the Bible, studies his words, sees his actions, observes his exact fulfillment of prophecy, and realizes the certainty of his resurrection, the logical conclusion is that Jesus is who he said he was. At this point, you must at least intellectually acknowledge that he is really God’s Son. Will you give yourself to him to worship and serve him? You may elect not to follow him, but that is a question of your will, not your intellect. To the rational person, it only makes sense to realize that Jesus is God. Will you accept or reject his right to rule over your life?
12. If there were other ways to God, why would God have given his only Son, Jesus, to die a gruesome and horrible death on the cross? If another way would have sufficed to open the way to God, wouldn’t God have spared Jesus and have chosen the simplest, least costly way?
Jesus came to die for our sins in order to allow forgiveness of our sins. He did not die by accident. He did not die unwillingly. He offered himself up to die, and was in control of the sequence of events the whole time. The plan from ages past was for him to die so that we can be saved.
If there are really many ways to God, do you not think God could have chosen an easier and less costly way than the bloody, brutal, and agonizing death of his only Son? Jesus died for you and me because it was necessary. There is no other way to God.
Peter said it well, speaking of Jesus:
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NASB)
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.” (1 Tim 2:5,6 NASB)
Jesus is the only way to God; he is the unique, exclusive, absolute, and ultimate way to God. There is no other way.
13. “Which one of you can convict Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jesus speaking in John 8:46)
Who can convict Jesus of sin? Can you find anything wrong with him? Look hard. Scrutinize him well. And you will find nothing but perfection, goodness, and righteousness. Then, why not believe him?
14. Where else will you go for freedom from guilt?
Only Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and failures. The guilt you feel deep inside of you is not just some psychiatric problem which represents your maladjustment, poor self-esteem, or poor child-rearing practices by your parents. Your guilty feelings are the result of true moral guilt; you have offended a holy and righteous God. God is not like us. (Would you want to worship a god like you or me?) Our wrongs, failures, and shortcomings are sin. You and I sin and do wrong because we are born sinners. There is no cure for our sin except in Jesus Christ, who died and gave his blood to wash our sins away, to free us from our moral guilt before God, and to give us a clean and peaceful conscience.
Do you want to be forgiven by the God you have wronged? Do you want freedom from moral guilt? What would you give for freedom from guilty feelings?
Jesus gives forgiveness, and rids us of guilt and the accompanying guilty feelings. These are free gifts from Jesus. He can give them because he paid for them with his life and blood.
15. What is unique about following Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ died for us. He serves us. He carries our burdens. He frees us. No other “god” or head of any of the world’s religions does any of these things. Instead, they demand that their followers become their slaves.
• Jesus Christ is alive from the dead. He is a risen and living Savior. He is not some dead, great figure from history. Who would want to worship a dead man?
• Jesus calls us to a relationship with him, not to a religion. He knows us and loves us as individuals. We can know and love him.
• Jesus Christ, knowing that you and I cannot help ourselves: 1.loved and loves us 2. died for us and rose again from the dead for us 3. pursues us and freely offers life, freedom, and forgiveness (the free gift of salvation bought at his expense).
• The truth about Jesus is true in a universal, absolute, ultimate, practical way.
• We are not called upon to appease God; Jesus has handled the sin problem forever for those who have come to him. We cannot earn God’s favor; instead, he offers it for free through Jesus.
• Following Jesus is not an exercise in will-power in keeping rules and regulations; he changes us and transforms us to enable us to do what is good and right.
16. What more can God do for us?
He has given us life. He has been good to us and often we have not even realized it. He gave his Son Jesus as a sacrifice to allow people like you and me to know God.. He offers us freedom from sin and guilt. He offers us real life and eternal life with him. He offers freedom from fear of death and death’s curse. He offers it to us for free because he has paid the price. All you and I must do is to stop running and receive his free gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NASB)
What more can God do?
17. Before I come to Jesus, should I wait until I’m more presentable and worthy?
No. When will you ever be worthy to come to God? You and I can never be good enough; that is the whole reason Jesus came. If you wait until you are worthy or presentable, you will never come. Besides, what if you die first? Now is the time to come.
18. Why will you die?
Is there any reason that anyone would choose to die? Jesus offers life to you. Why not accept it? These verses from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy) express well the choice we have.
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity.” (Deu 30:15 NASB)
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deu 30:19 NASB)
19. What if you’re wrong?
What if after all your thought you decide that Jesus really is not God after all? Or, what if you decide that he is, but that you just don’t want him as your Lord; you would rather serve yourself, and will take your chances with God and his judgment when it comes, if it comes. You have done the mental calculations, and believe it is worth the risk. What if you are wrong? Do you really want to gamble your eternal soul away? You cannot win if you walk away from Jesus. God is real, and Jesus his Son died for you. The most serious offense against God is to reject His Son. Don’t do it.
20. “What must I do to be saved?”
This is the question asked of the apostle Paul in Acts 16:30. It is the same question each of us must ask and to which we need an answer. It means, “How can I know God?”, “How can I be delivered from my sins and guilt?” , and “How can I be rescued from my life apart from God?”
God is infinitely good and willing to give us all that is good. You and I must stop running from him. He is able to release us from the fear of death that keeps us in chains. He is the answer to the void we feel in our lives. There is no rational argument against the claims Jesus made about himself. It is time to receive him. Why not now? Why wait any longer? He offers us more than we can even know, and more than we will be able to fully appreciate in this lifetime. Why waste time? Why risk dying without him? Why would anyone want to live without him? Why postpone the happiness, joy, and peace he alone can give? The longer a person waits, the more difficulty there is in coming to him.
So, the question for each of us is, how can I be saved? The answer is given in the next verse: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved…” Acts 16:31
The next section, The Ultimate Solution, shows exactly what this means.
IV. The Ultimate Solution
… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23)
… the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
We have a problem. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and no one meets God’s standard of perfection. We have offended God and wronged him by violating his standard. God is holy and righteous. He cannot tolerate sin. You and I, because we have sinned, even if only once (and who has sinned only once?) cannot be good enough to see God and have a relationship with him; every human is a sinner. The guilt we all live with is not just some psychological feeling which we should attempt to rationalize away; we feel guilty because we areguilty of offending the God who created us. Each of us falls short of his mark, glory, and standard. And because of our failure to live perfectly, our just reward is eternal death. We cannot earn our way to heaven.
Imagine trying to jump the Grand Canyon; here, being close would not count, and failing to clear the chasm by one foot would leave us just as dead as if we failed by 100 feet. Because you and I are not perfect, which is God’s standard, we deserve death and separation from God forever.
But, God loves sinners. He offers sinners like you and me the opportunity to know him, love him and live each day with him now in a close relationship with him; he offers the opportunity to live with him forever in heaven eventually. He sent his only Son, Jesus, to open the way for us.
Jesus came to earth as God and man simultaneously. He was perfect. He never sinned, but he died on the cross to rescue sinners. His death on the cross had a purpose: to save people from their sins. His death was no unfortunate accident; he died by intention. Jesus took our sins upon himself on the cross and in exchange offers us his righteousness. Jesus took our place at the cross and offers us eternal life. Jesus took our “wages” (death) and, instead, gave us his “free gift” (eternal life).
Jesus is the only way to God. You and I will never know God or eternal life without Jesus. We will never be good enough. We cannot be moral or sincere enough. We will never even be religious enough. We will never pay our own way into God’s favor or presence by doing enough good deeds.
God does not ignore sin. You and I have a choice: either accept the wages each of us deserves for our sin, or accept the gift Jesus offers us. His shed blood on the cross pays the price for your sin and mine, and cancels it. His blood cleanses us from sin.
Notice that God offers eternal life through Jesus as a gift. How do we receive a gift? We reach out our hands and accept it. We receive the gift of eternal life from God by raising the “empty hands of faith” (Francis Schaeffer) and accepting it. This is known as faith, or believing in Jesus. God has promised us eternal life in Jesus; we believe him and ask for the free gift, trusting him to give it to us. He does.
“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved…”(Acts 16:30,31). This belief is based on facts and history, but is more than mere knowledge of facts about Jesus. It is an entrusting of yourself to him to save you. You stop trusting yourself and stop thinking you can be good enough to earn heaven. We must stop trusting in our good deeds, our morals, our religious duties, no matter how well carried out. We can add nothing to what Jesus has already done for us. You and I, individually, must trust in Jesus aloneto save us, to forgive our sins, and open the way to God.
Here’s how to receive this salvation:
1. Come to God in prayer and admit to him that you have sinned against him; tell him you are sorry.
2. Repent of your sins. Repentance is turning away from your sins. Turn your back on them and walk away from them. God will enable you to do this.
3. Ask God to forgive your sins because of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead for you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Believe in Jesus, what he did, and what he said. Trust in his promise to save you and his power to save you. Trust him alone; you and I can add nothing to the transaction. Ask him to give you freedom from the enslaving power of sin in your life.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NASB)
4. Ask Jesus to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20 NASB)
God promises eternal life to those who come to him through Jesus. Realize that Jesus did not come to simply save you from hell. He came to rule in your life now as King. He loves you too much to leave you as you are; he will save and rescue you from your sins, your guilt, and yourself. He came to give you real life now, and a relationship with God himself now.
Realize also that God will not fail you or lie to you. If you ask Jesus into your life in this way, he will come in and live there by his Holy Spirit.
If you have just received his gift, please let me know. There is nothing greater in the world than knowing God personally through Jesus. You will have fullness of life and joy; you will have life with God forever. And with God, life keeps getting better.
This booklet is copyrighted material, Jerry Miller, Jr., 2005. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute it as long as it remains unaltered in wording and there is no charge for the distribution.