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Eternal Life


by Gail Purath

An Angry Daughter
“My mother is free from sin!” the woman said angrily. She wanted these strangers to leave the hospital room so her eighty-two year old mother could die in peace.

Two of my friends and I were the unwanted strangers. We were in the hospital that day praying for people, and this woman had invited us to pray for her sick mother.

After praying, we visited with the old woman for a while and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel. When I told her that all of us are sinners in need of Christ’s salvation, she acknowledged her sin and said she’d like to pray to receive Christ.

That’s when her daughter interrupted me, insisting her mother was free from sin.

I was surprised by the daughter’s outburst, and I wondered what her mother would do. Would she change her mind? Would she ask us to leave her room? The next few seconds ticked by painfully slow.

In a culture that so often blames parents for more than their share of problems, this daughter’s view of her mother was unique. But the Bible tells us that no one is free from sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

Was Her Mother Good Enough for Heaven?
Maybe what the daughter was trying to say was that her mother had lived an unselfish life, serving and helping others. Perhaps she thought her mother’s goodness cancelled her sins. But the Bible says that “salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it” (Eph. 2:9, NLT). A lifetime of unselfish acts can’t cancel a single sin.

Was Her Mother Religious Enough for Heaven?
Perhaps this old woman’s daughter thought her mother was sinless because she had always been “religious.” The Pharisees were some of the most religious people who ever lived. They carefully tithed, fasted, gave to the poor, prayed, and participated in every religious activity. Yet, Christ said “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Religion doesn’t cancel any of our sins, and neither does knowledge. This old woman might have heard the Gospel many times. She may have known that whoever believes in Christ and His redemption has eternal life. But that wouldn’t have saved her. The Bible says that salvation comes through believing with our hearts (Romans 10:10), not simply knowing about Christ. 

My Own Misunderstandings
As I stood at this woman’s bedside, I remembered my own past misunderstandings about the Gospel. I had grown up hearing the Gospel and trying to be “good.” I even made a public profession of my faith in Christ and was baptized. But I wasn’t a genuine believer.

We use so many religious phrases to describe becoming a Christian—“committing our lives to Christ,” “asking Christ into our hearts,” “receiving Christ.” But we still may not understand that becoming a Christian means trusting Christ not only with our salvation, but trusting Him with our life. Becoming a Christian is life-changing and mind-altering, and it’s the beginning of an eternal journey.

When I finally committed my life to Christ, everything began to change. I had a hunger for God’s Word and the Holy Spirit began to convict me of sin.

Sometimes my relationship with Christ has led me to do things that make me uncomfortable. For example, I was nervous and fearful about sharing Christ with this complete stranger in her hospital room. When the woman’s daughter became annoyed, I was even more uncomfortable. I would have liked to be anywhere else at that moment.

Heaven or Hell--Her Decision
But I knew what we were doing was important. This woman was very likely dying and she would go to hell if she didn’t trust Christ. I’m sure God (who wants all men to be saved*) had designed this final divine appointment for her.

What would she decide? My companions and I prayed silently as the seconds ticked by. Then the daughter spoke again. “I’m not going to pray that prayer!” she said in one last attempt to dissuade her mother.

I’m sure the old woman was feeling weak and vulnerable, and her daughter’s objections were strong.

But belief had permeated her heart, and it gave her the strength to overcome these hindrances. She knew she was making the most important decision of her 82 years of life. When we left her bedside, there were choirs of angels rejoicing in heaven over the soul who was, for the first time, “sinless” through the work of Christ.

* 1Tim. 2:4

For another view of salvation read "Are There Many Ways to God?"

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