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 Who would not want to live forever? Who would not want to enjoy eternal bliss and abundant blessings without end? Who would not want to be in a place where everyone has a mansion, where streets are paved with gold, where a pure river flows from the throne of God and where the twelve gates of the eternal city are each made of one pearl? Who would not want to live in a place where there will be no more war, no more sickness, no more famine, no more fear and no more tears? (I Peter 1:3-5; Revelation Chapters 21 & 22).

Conversely, who would want to exist in a place of eternal torment, a place where flames of fire rage but do not consume its victims, a place where sorrow abounds and thirst is never quenched? Who would want to exist forever separated from God? (Matthew 13:36-43; Luke 16:19-31; II Peter 2:4-15).

Heaven is the eternal home for those who accept The Gift of God and hell is the eternal abode of those who reject God's gracious offer of salvation.

ETERNAL LIFE

The Gift of God is eternal life. Eternal life can be defined as living eternally in union with and in the presence of God. Eternal death, then, is the eternal state of existence separated from God. This definition is found in the experience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'" (Genesis 2:16-17)

Obviously, Adam did not die physically "in the day that" he ate from the forbidden tree, because Genesis 5:5 states that he died at the age of 930 years. Adam died spiritually the day that he disobeyed God's simple commandement. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and from the presence of God when they sinned. Simply put, sin separates us from God.

The Bible is the record of the fall and redemption of mankind. Man was separated from God when he sinned ("for the wages of sin is death") and was reconciled unto God when Jesus took the punishment for sin by dying in mankind's place on the Cross of Calvary. In other words, the reconciliation of mankind and God was effected by Jesus Christ and is given to those who accept The Gift of God by placing faith in what Jesus did for them at Calvary. The conditions of acceptance are that the individual must confess his sins to God, repent of his sins and give his life to Jesus Christ. Repentance implies that the person no longer wants sin in his life and that he wants the will of God to be done from that moment on.

Eternal life begins not when a person goes to Heaven, but at the moment the believer is reconciled to God. Heaven is the future home of all believers, but relationship with God is restored instantly when the person repents and accepts Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. When a person accepts God's way of salvation, his sins are washed away and anew life begins, thus the term Jesus used, "born again". In other words, the believer has no past in the eyes of God, only a future. Now that's Good News!! Hallelujah!!

THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

The Gift of God can only be received "through Jesus Christ". Therefore, all religions of the world are false ways to God except true, Biblical Christianity. Mankind attempts to reach God in various ways, but God can only be reached through His Son Jesus (John 14:6). The reason is simple. No one can approach the Pure and Holy God in a sinful state. Any attempt to approach God without first having all sin washed away will only result in a person receiving the penalty for sin, which is death (separation from God). God deals with mankind in mercy when they approach Him without sin, but He deals with mankind in judgment if they attempt to approach Him in sin. The only way to approach God without sin is to repent of sin and accept the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus that He shed at Calvary for the remission of sins. The cleansed person may then enter into God's presence and have a relationship with Him.

The Gift of God is just what it says, "a gift". A gift is freely given, without price. No one can earn salvation, otherwise it would not be a gift. Any attempt to earn favor with God will result in a continued separation from God. Salvation comes by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, not in any work of our own doing. Paul puts it this way, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is The Gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So if anyone believes that reading the Bible, praying, going to church, giving money to the church, witnessing to the lost or any other effort they perform is a means of salvation, then that person is not even saved or born again. This is known as self-righteousness, which God will not accept (Isaiah 64:6). They have not accepted The Gift of God, which is "Jesus and Him crucified", but have attempted to "live right" and be justified before God for their efforts. As an example, I experienced this attitude while ministering in a Sunday school class in a Frederick church. While under the convicting power of God's Spirit, a lady stood up and declared, "I know I'm saved, because I've lived a moral life." Unfortunately, that lady cannot be saved if she truly believes what she said.

Even though good works cannot save anyone, that does not mean good works should not be done. James said, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee faith by my works...But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-18, 20). Good works can be the evidence that one is saved, but it can never be the cause that one is saved. Good works that are a result of a person having a proper relationship with God and obeying God as the Holy Spirit leads them are acceptable to God. But good works cannot be the means of salvation.

When a person has a proper (meaning Biblically correct) relationship with God, that person desires greatly to serve God. To that person, reading the Bible is a means to know God and His will for his life, not a means to be saved. To him praying is a means to commune with God, be changed by God, petition God, seek for God's will and to worship God, but not a means to be saved. To him giving money to the church is a means to promote the work of God (as long as it is a work of God) and sustain the men and women of God while they minister the Word to the church, not a means to be saved. To him witnessing Jesus Christ to the lost, sinful, brokenhearted, hurting and hopeless, is a means to show God how much he appreciates and loves Him for what He did for him, but, once again, not a means to be saved. These things and more should be done in all Christians' lives.

Christians that do not consistently do these works are Christians who do not have a proper relationship with God, pure and simple. James said, "I will shew ye my faith by my works." Every Christian should be involved in the work of God in one form or the other. Even though finding a true work of God is often very difficult, anyone who desires to live as they should before God can seek His leading and find a place where they can grow and have the plan of God for their lives fulfilled.

OTHER SIGNS OF PROPER FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST

Those who accept The Gift of God will see an immediate change in their lives. They will begin to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6) and find great satisfaction in doing the will of God. In other words, they will want to be like Jesus more than anything else in the world. Sin will bother them greatly and God's righteousness in their lives will satisfy them completely.

The born again experience means that the believer begins to live a new life with a new start. Serving God is paramount and will remain paramount for eternity. Though trials, tribulations and persecutions may try to deter believers from serving God, those who have properly placed their faith in Jesus Christ and the victory He gave them at Calvary will continue to serve Him. Even though being saved is effortless, since it is by faith alone, serving God takes a great deal of effort. Those who have come to love God for sending His Son to die for them will joyfully suffer reproach, sacrificially promote the work of God and will unendingly give their lives in appreciation to Him. This new life in Jesus makes Bible study, church attendance, etc., natural, easy and joyful. This is true Christianity.

The born again experience also sees believers live victoriously over sin, thus maintaining and improving their relationship with God. This victorious lifestyle brings love, joy and peace as the world cannot know until they accept Jesus Christ. True Christians can smile in the face of adversity and overcome in the time of trial. This victorious lifestyle is realized by faith in the finished work that Jesus performed at Calvary. In other words, we receive salvation by faith alone AND victory over sin by faith alone. Our lives are sanctified, not by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Sin stops ruling over the Christian only when the Christian realizes that Jesus Christ took away sin AND took away the power of sin all by His death on the Cross. Gradually, the bad habits and sins begin to fade and are eventually eliminated as the Holy Spirit is allowed more and more control over our lives. We give Him control by believing and continuing to believe that Jesus defeated the power of sin at Calvary. As long as we trust in that daily, the Holy Spirit can renew us and empower us to live for God.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
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