The scripture lesson today comes from 1 Pet 3:15-18. A pastor named Tim and his wife had just finished a day of sailing and were about to leave the dock area when they got involved in a conversation with another couple that had also been sailing. After a pleasant exchange they were invited to join this couple aboard their boat for a party. They accepted and got into their little dingy and went on over to the other craft. They had a nice time and when one of their new friends asked what Tim did for a living, he didn’t even seem taken aback by the fact that Tim was a minister. Well, after a while Pastor Tim and his wife decided to leave. As they were climbing into their dingy, this same man asked Tim, “Say, I’ve always wanted to ask a Christian something. How is it that one becomes a Christian? Could you take a few moments to tell all of us?” It was right at this point that Tim thought of I Peter 3:15 - “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you possess.” Tell me, what would you have said? I know that at least part of giving an answer is to make it as clear and simple as possible. I was taught as a youth that when you are declaring God’s truth, you must strive for one thing above all others: CLARITY! Keep your message simple enough for anyone to understand.
Let me share some actual quotes taken from insurance-accident forms. These are the actual words of people who tried to summarize their encounters with trouble.
“Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
“I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my hand through it.”
“A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
“The guy was all over the road; I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
All kidding aside, we need to be careful as believers that we do not send out a confusing message—that those who hear our message are not confused. I am a scribbler….I take notes and draw pictures when I attend seminars. At one seminar I attended when I left, I looked at my note pad. It only had about four words on it. I asked myself, “What was his point? What exactly did he say?” I could not answer the two questions. I was not sure. It is good discipline for preachers to occasionally share their sermon thoughts with someone to check for clarification. I make use of Frank for this purpose. The Christian message is simple—straight-forward, and easy to grasp. God does not want us to be confused about His love and plan for us. Let me share it with you in five simple statements.
1. Life Is Short. James 4:14 “Life is like a vapor.”I Chronicles 29:15 “Life is like a shadow.” and…Job 7:6 “Life is like a swift messenger.” In other words, life is uncertain, fragile—here today, gone tomorrow! Psalm 139 tells us that our days on this planet are determined by God while we are still in our mother’s womb. Only He knows how long we will live—two weeks, two years, 40 years, 80 years. A minister was visiting one of his members in the hospital on Saturday. The patient was sitting up in a chair. He said to his pastor, “I’ve not felt this good in a long time. In fact, the doctor is going to release me tomorrow.” But he never left the hospital. He died that very night. Life is short!
2. Eternity Is Long. The Bible tells us that the souls of men and women will spend eternity in either heaven or hell. The description of heaven found in the bible is wonderful. The picture of hell is absolutely horrible. God has provided a way for us to be sure that we spend eternity with Him in heaven. That way is through faith in His one and only precious Son.
3. Sin Is Black - This world is full of sin, and it has entered your heart and mine. Ever since Adam and Eve allowed sin into their lives, everyone has been contaminated with it. Psalm 51:5 says that we are born in sin and conceived in iniquity. Isaiah tells us that “All have sinned and that we like sheep have gone astray.” What is sin? It is rebellion against God. It is breaking His law. It is unbelief. Unbelief is the worst kind of sin. If we could journey through the halls of hell and could talk to its inhabitants, we would find all kinds of people there: thieves, adulterers, liars, murderers, good people, moral people, respectable people—people who always obeyed the law. What are they doing there? Well, if we would ask them, they would say, “We are here because we did not repent and receive Christ into our lives. To ignore Christ is to choose the devil. The penalty of sin is severe. Ezek.18:20 says that “the souls that sins shall die.” Rom.6:23 tells us that “the wages if sin is death.” The remedy for sin is found in the atoning blood of Jesus. I John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
4. Hell Is Certain - Some years ago a man was preaching a revival in a large city church. A man in the church was a reporter and he would take sermon notes and then have them published each day in the paper. One night the sermon topic was on hell. When this was published, he received a scathing letter in which a man wrote, “Don’t you know that only backwoods fools would believe in hell? Don’t you know that thinking, educated people don’t believe in it anymore? Even theologians don’t believe in it.” The preacher wrote him back and said, “Yes, I know about what men say about hell. But I also know that they haven’t destroyed the place. Its fires are as hot as ever!” Did you know that the Bible speaks more about hell than it does about heaven. Why is that? I believe it is because God loves us and wants to warn us so that we can find a way of avoiding it. Yes, hell is certain and there is no escape except through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
5. Heaven Can Be Yours = A wealthy American made a trip to London. He was all taken up with Buckingham Palace, where the King lived. So one morning he went to the gates, expecting to go right in. But two soldiers stuck out their bayonets and stopped him. He took a $1,000 bill out of his pocket and said to them, “Take this money. I can pay my way in.” But they said, “You can’t buy your way into the King’s palace. You have to be invited. And if the King invites you, you can go in free.” It’s the same way with heaven. You can’t buy your way in or work your way in or do enough good deeds to get in. There’s only one way in—by accepting the invitation of Christ. His palace (heaven) is open to all who will trust Him for salvation.
What’s so great about heaven? I’ll tell you.
Jesus is there
Loved ones are there
Bible characters are there
Angels are there
The devil isn’t there
Sin isn’t there
Pain, suffering, disease, and death aren’t there
Let me remind you of these five things that make up the simple gospel story:
1. Life is short
2. Eternity is long
3. Sin is black
4. Hell is real
5. Heaven can be yours
Over in England, every day at noon a man by the name of Jim went to his church, sat down on the front row for five minutes, then slipped out. One day his pastor asked why he did this. Jim answered, “The world wears me down, and so I sit here in church and bow my head and say, ‘Jesus, this is Jim. I need your help today.’ And He always pours new strength into me. One day Jim’s pastor was called to the hospital. Jim was dying. When the pastor went into the room, Jim asked everyone else to go out. Then he said, “Pastor, when they brought me here they thought I was unconscious, but I heard them say that I was going to die. They left me alone for a few minutes. But I felt the presence of someone else in the room. I looked around but didn’t see anyone. Then I heard a sweet voice saying, ‘Jim, this is Jesus. I’ve come to take you home with Me. Don’t be afraid. I’ll go through the dark valley with you.’” Then Jim said to his pastor, “I’m not afraid. I’m ready to go.” And within minutes he was gone. Wouldn’t you like to live like that? Have that sense of Christ’s presence and be able to say along with the apostle Paul, “Whether I live, I am the Lord’s; whether I die, I am the Lord’s. So, whether I live or die, I am the Lord,s.”