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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Heaven - or hell?

It started with a Facebook post shared by one of my former pupils. The post gave a list of the good things that were apparently done by the late George Michael, but claimed "Yet today you read comments that he is damned because he was gay. I know in whose company I would rather spend eternity, and which behaviour I consider more "Christian"."

As some might expect, I responded to this! I pointed out that the person who originally penned the piece appeared not to understand what a Christian (better "disciple of Jesus") actually is. Biblically, being a disciple of Jesus means that one has been saved. That salvation, Paul reminds us, is solely and simply through the grace of God - "By grace you have been saved, through faith, not of works lest any man should boast."(Eph.2:8). Let's finish the year by unpicking those words a little.

"By grace ..." I give a full chapter in my book "Great Words of the Faith" (link at top of page: available as a paperback, or a Kindle e-book) to the word 'grace' (23 other important words are also dealt with!). At it's most simple, however, grace refers to my receiving that which I don't deserve; cannot earn; and could never purchase. In other words, grace has absolutely nothing to do with 'me' - what I have done for others; what I have given to others; how I have behaved. It has everything to do with the love of Almighty God, shown supremely in the willing sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, at Calvary. When Jesus hung on the cross, He was paying the penalty for you sins, and for mine. He was doing what we could never do. He was satisfying God's justice, by the greatest expression of love in the history of mankind.

"... you have been saved ..." Salvation is also dealt with, much more fully, in my book. It is, of course, a concept with which we are all too familiar in a physical sense. There is a fire in a house, or a place of entertainment, or wherever. The Fire Brigade arrives and rescues all who were trapped in the inferno - and the newspaper reports inform us that so many people were "saved".  They were saved from serious injury, or even from death. However, the salvation to which Paul refers is of inestimably greater significance - it is salvation from sin: it's power; it's penalty; and, ultimately, its presence.

"... through faith ..." 'Faith' is actually the first word dealt with in the book already cited. It's something that we exercise every time we board public transport - 'bus, aeroplane, or any other form. When I flew earlier this year, I didn't meet the pilot of the aeroplane; I didn't personally examine the aircraft; I wasn't provided with the opportunity to ensure that it had sufficient fuel in the tanks to make the planned flight. Yet I boarded that aircraft; settled into my seat; and enjoyed the short flight. I trusted that all of those concerned had attended to all of the necessary checks. The writer of the great Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus gave God's definition of the word: "... the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb.11:1). It is taking, on trust, God's own Word about anything and everything!

"... not of works lest any man should boast." You see, if salvation depended on my "works", then the late Mr Michael would be able to claim that he had done more to gain his salvation than I had done to gain mine! And he would be correct. I have never been in the position to give the vast amounts to others that the post that set me off on this claims that he did - and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the claim. I, of course, could then boast that I had given, and done, more than many other people. However, if salvation is NOT about what I have done, then we all stand at the same level. It;s not about me; it's all about Him!

I know very little about George Michael. I am certainly not in a position to state, emphatically, where he will spend eternity. However, I do know this much - if he had yielded his life to Almighty God, through the Lord Jesus, the Christ, and if God the Holy Spirit was living in and through him, then he is already in the presence of that same Jesus. Otherwise, he is not!

Whatever George Michael's eternal destiny, it is now too late to do anything about it. However, for you there is still time. If you wish to make a worthwhile "New Year Resolution", then I strongly urge you to consider your own eternal destiny. While you breathe, there is the opportunity to come before Father God, in repentance and faith, and receive the salvation that was gained for you at Calvary. God the Holy Spirit will then come into your life and help you to become more like Jesus, in the process that is known as 'sanctification' (yes - it is also dealt with in "Great Words"!!). If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me through the contact e-mail address at the top of the page.

May you have a great 2017 - and walk with Him through every day.

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