A LETTER TO A DYING FRIEND

The following excerpt is from a letter that I wrote to a friend. He passed away today, but I sent him this note 3 weeks ago:

…What I am writing about concerns God’s promises and faith in Christ — it’s about God’s gift of eternal life. Understand that I feel compelled to say something at a time like this, and it would be shameful if I said nothing. If you’d rather not hear it then set this letter aside. Regardless, we will continue to pray for you along with many of our friends. Otherwise read on.

A little over a year ago a leader from a Lutheran church, and I went to visit with my friend Ivan. Ivan had attended the church from which my companion was a member and leader. Ivan had pancreatic cancer, and it had spread throughout his body. His time was short so their was urgency in our visit.

I told Ivan of a promise that is written in one of the final books in the New Testament. It is 1 John 5:13 and it states: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” That is a promise that God has given not only to Ivan but also to you. It means that a person can know that he has eternal life now and in the world to come. The promise is God’s contract with mankind so that we “may know” that we “have eternal life.” It’s not a hope so message. Since it is a promise that has been sealed in the blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

God saw our need and recognized that we were not able to do anything to deliver ourselves from condemnation and judgment. Because of His love for us, our heavenly Father devised a plan by which He determined to send His Son to do what men could not do for themselves. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

He sent Jesus to die for our sins. The next verse John 3:17 explains God’s purpose in sending His Son, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This means that God saw our need so He sent His Son to die and thereby to bear the punishment that we deserve.

It doesn’t matter how good or moral a man or a woman might be. It isn’t enough to be moral or good since we are all sinners. Romans 3:23 makes it abundantly clear, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Imagine a hospital room that has bacteria lurking about on the equipment and the room’s surfaces. The bacteria is invisible to the eye, but it will contaminate instruments and be introduced into a patient’s body. If untreated such a condition will lead to death. That is our situation. Our spiritual condition is, we have been contaminated by sin. All of our efforts to be moral and good have been tainted. Isaiah made this point when he wrote in Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags….” Our sin infects everything we do.

God’s requirement is absolute holiness. God is a holy God and requires that we be without any sin, “because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16). But like a patient recovering from his injuries is helpless against infection so it is with us. We are helpless without God’s intervention. We must recognize that our sin is an offense to God. We must change our minds about how we have been living with God and turn to Jesus. We must declare our allegiance to Christ.

Salvation and eternal life that goes with it are a gift. Romans 6:23 promises: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You don’t work to receive a gift. A gift is presented without any requirement. To benefit from a gift all a person must do is receive it. Again the Scripture gives us a promise: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:13). The promise here speaks of receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior. It isn’t talking about receiving a religion.

Also, we must become children of God. That isn’t something that happens because of the fact that our parents were followers of Christ. God doesn’t have any grand children He only has children. Each individual must choose to become His child.

Finally we do this by: “believing in His name.” Jesus said, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6). Jesus declared that He is the only way. You may think, “How can this be possible?” The words from Luke 18:27 give us the answer to that question: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

As they were dying the thief on the cross said to Jesus, “‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” The thief was a sinner like you and I. He hadn’t been attending synagogue or church. He couldn’t do any righteous deeds to save himself, and it wouldn’t have worked anyway. He recognized that Jesus was the “Lord,” and he recognized that Jesus was the only one that could save Him.

After I shared these same things with my friend Ivan. I asked him if he wanted to declare his faith in Jesus as his Savior. Ivan said, “Yes.” I then led him in a prayer. I ask you the same question: Do you want to receive Jesus as your Savior? You may do so by praying this simple prayer from your heart: “Lord, I know that I am guilty as a sinner, I turn from living for myself alone, I turn from trying to get to heaven by my own effort, and I turn to Jesus to deliver me. I now claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior and ask that you forgive me of all of my sin. Thank you for saving me. Amen,”

The day after I spoke with Ivan I made a plaque with the words of 1 John 5:13 on it: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” I took it out to Ivan’s the next day. Later when I visited again there was the plaque on the mantel where he could see it every minute that God gave to Him. It’s God’s promise sealed in the blood of Jesus.

….[We]…would be more than happy to come down to visit with you and…[your wife].

By God’s grace,

Keith Churilla

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