My father was the local mortician in our small town, so conversation in our home daily centered on the matter of life and death. The fear of dying consumed me. Sometimes I imagined myself lying in a casket in my father’s funeral home. Tearful mourners filed by to pay their final respects, all the while speculating as to whether or not I deserved entrance into heaven. You see, from an early age I understood that there were two possible places to spend eternity after death, either heaven or hell. But who could be certain of an eternal future in heaven? It appeared to me that it depended on the good life a person had lived, or at least whether others thought he or she had lived a life that merited heaven. Agonizing over these thoughts and mental images only confirmed my fear. I did not want to leave my eternal destiny to chance, to the flip of a coin as it were. The urgency of the matter overwhelmed me. I knew death could come without a moment’s notice. How could I prepare myself to face life’s final hour with confidence and certainty?
The Ladder of Good Works
Though basically a good person, I knew I often did bad things. Did my best efforts satisfy God? Did I measure up? If I died that very day, would my supposed good life permit my entrance into heaven?
As though climbing a never-ending ladder of good works, I hoped in vain that each rung of self-effort would take me one step closer to God and heaven – to be good enough for God. But another rung always awaited me on this elusive ladder. Then another. And another. Never an end. Always trying. Always striving. Never good enough.
Doubt haunted me. Futility and frustration plagued me. I longed for assurance that God accepted me and to have a relationship with Him.
The Cross Replaced the Ladder
One day my brother announced, “I now know I will go to heaven when I die!” I silently questioned his confidence. “You are my brother. I know you. You are good, but not THAT good.” He gently interrupted my thoughts by explaining that there IS a way to reach heaven, to have a relationship with God, but not on a ladder of good works. God’s Word, the Bible, held the answer.
I learned that my sin, the bad things I had done, separated me from a holy and righteous God. None of my best efforts could satisfy God or allow me into His Presence; I could not please Him through my good works, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I deserved death, or eternal separation from God, as the punishment for my sin.
I learned that God loves me. He wants me to have a relationship with Him and live with Him forever! For that reason, He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross in my place – to pay the debt I owed for my sin. And He rose again! Death was not the end! His death on the cross and His resurrection provide for entrance into heaven: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” So I ceased trusting in my useless self-efforts to earn God’s acceptance and placed my faith in the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection, accepting that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast.”
My ladder of good works was replaced by the Cross. Through faith in Christ I found the answer to the matter of life and death. Jesus lifted the heavy burden of doubt, as though removing a load of bricks from my shoulders. By God’s grace, or unmerited favor, He has accepted me. I have the long-awaited assurance. I know heaven awaits me!
What about You?
Do you fear dying? Do you long for assurance as to your eternal destiny? Are you striving to climb a ladder of good works to reach God? You can stop. God has given us the answer: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Accept God’s all-sufficient grace and let it settle the matter of life and death forever.
Pray this simple prayer:
“Dear God, I know my sins separate me from You and Your holy, righteous standard. I admit that I can do nothing to earn Your forgiveness and the promise of heaven. As of this moment, I cease trusting in my own good works in an attempt to please You. Instead, I place my complete faith and trust in Christ’s death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins. Thank You for accepting me and for giving me eternal life.”
If you have just accepted God’s gift of eternal life through this story, why not share it with someone else. You can also send us a message by clicking here, so we can encourage you on your next steps.
Harriet Bouchillon has served alongside her husband, Jim, as missionary with CAM International since 1972 in Spain, Mexico, and presently in Hispanic USA. She passionately shares the hope, joy, and abundant life she has in Christ with three awesome adult children and their spouses, six beautiful grandchildren, and the many women, children, and families to whom she ministers. Harriet and Jim make their home in El Cajon, California.
Click here for Spanish version.
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