One day a retired pastor told me a sad story. Years earlier, when he had just arrived at a new congregation, he decided to visit the elderly members of the church, many of whom were close to death. During his visits, he asked them a vital question: “If today was the day God ended your life, are you sure you’d go to heaven?”
The answers were almost entirely, “Yes!” But when the pastor asked them to explain their confidence, his smile faded at their replies. “Because I’ve paid my dues, Pastor.” “Because I went to church all my life, Pastor.” “Because I helped build the church where you preach, Pastor.” Time after time, these “Christians” thought they could cover up a lifetime’s worth of sins with the good works written on their spiritual resumes.
That simply isn’t true. So before your day of judgment comes, let me remind you of the foundation of the Christian faith: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). We are saved (rescued from the danger of hell), not by our works so that we can make some deathbed boast but rather by grace. By the wonderful gift of God’s undeserved, promised love for us. By Jesus—crucified and risen. Because only Jesus saves.
So if someone asks you about the day you die, please don’t start your answer with, “Because I . . .” Remember grace and begin with, “Because Jesus . . .”