A couple weeks ago, I met an 80-year old fellow with a grey shaggy beard who shared a room at the hospital with my father for a couple days. He was quite an individual with no shortage of colorful vocabulary and interesting stories.
I walked into his hospital room about ten minutes after he had gotten the worst news of his life. Nearing the room, I could hear him apologizing profusely to the nurse for having exploded into a fit of rage just moments earlier. Apparently the staff was gently trying to break the news to this man that he was dying from liver cancer, but they didn't quite know how to make it palatable for him. The outlook for Skip was very grave, and they were beating around the bush which upset him exceedingly. "All I want is for people to be straight with me!", he exclaimed with passion. "I just want the truth!"
You gotta respect a man who just wants the truth, right? And so, being a 'truth' guy myself, I saw this as a wide open door to ask him some pointed questions about eternity. He had just gotten some really horrible news and he was all alone. No family, no friends. No one to walk with him upon hearing that his life probably was nearing the end. "Well, I guess this is it", he mumbled in defeat. "This is how it all ends".
I asked him if he ever gave thought to what’s next for him when he dies. “What about the after-life, Skip? You ever think about that?”. “Oh, yeah!”, he shot back, sort of excitedly.
In our discussion, he told me he had been sober for forty years. He didn’t really participate much in his ‘religion’, but tried to live a clean life. He was very hopeful that since he was a decent guy, maybe God would let him into heaven.
“Skip, you don’t have to wonder if you are going to heaven. You can actually know for sure. The Bible gives people assurance of eternal life”. I walked him through the gospel message, starting with the grim reality that all of us are sinners, separated from God and helpless to do anything about it on our own (Isa. 59:2, Rom. 3:23). “Because of our sin”, I told him, “we are all condemned to spend an eternal, conscious punishment in a real place called hell. God is a just and righteous judge, requiring payment for sins. He wouldn’t be much of a judge if He just winked at sin and let people off the hook, would He? Consequently, God’s justice demands that our sin be paid for (Rom. 6:23)”.
“God, in his infinite love and grace however, provided a way of escape, sending Jesus Christ to the cross as the all-sufficient payment for every one of the sins of those who surrender their lives to God’s Son”. I told him that this is called ‘salvation’, which is really just another term for ‘deliverance’. I continued: “Skip, deliverance means that you were once in a position of danger, and now you have been moved to a position of safety... you have been saved! Jesus Christ provides deliverance to those who put their faith, hope and trust in His finished work on the cross. Skip, you and I both belonged on that cross, but Jesus took our place - he was our substitute. Christ’s work on the cross is His offer to take ALL your sins upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21). The free gift of eternal life is there for your taking. He offers to make you completely clean, just as if you never sinned. And even so much more than that, He offers to place His righteousness upon you. Do you know what that means Skip? That means that you become an adopted and forgiven child of God (Eph. 1:5). When God looks at you, He sees you as He sees His own Son, completely blameless! That is amazing!”
“But Skip, this requires a response on your part. To receive this amazing gift of forgiveness and eternal life, you must reach out to God in faith and accept the gift of His Son, and renounce all your own efforts and so-called good works (Eph. 2:8-9). You must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10)”.
“You see Skip, Christians don’t have a flimsy ‘hope-so’ outlook. We don’t have a nervous ‘think-so’ attitude. We don’t have a questionable ‘maybe-so’ thought process. Because of God’s special promises in His Word, we have an unshakable ‘know-so’ faith. And that faith can be yours!”
I followed up with Skip the next day by giving him a gospel tract that reinforced everything I had told him. We prayed together a couple times, and he thanked me for talking with him, but only the Lord knows where Skip’s heart really is. Pray for his salvation!
Blessings to you as you share the hope of the gospel in your area of influence,