An open letter to my children, my brothers, my sisters, my nieces, my nephews, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and my in-laws:
A few of you know Jesus Christ in a personal way. In other words, you have not merely attained historical information about Jesus, but you walk in His ways. You are in fact followers of Christ. You believe that His word, the Bible, is inerrant, and His testimony is true. Jesus is in actuality your Lord God and your Savior, you are submitted to His will, and your lives are a living testimony to your Creator. You have received His free gift of grace. Please know Michelle and I pray for you daily, and that God will continue to bless and protect you, and grow you in your faith. Our bond is deeper than genetic; it is Holy and eternal, as it has been purchased for a great price through the suffering, the blood, and the crucifixion of Jesus.
I have much joy knowing that you know Jesus, and that when we leave this life for the next, there will be a grand reunion in Heaven. At the same time, I am saddened that not all of us will be there. When I dwell on the notion, that as of today, most of our family will not be with us, my heart aches. They will be living for eternity, but not in Heaven. The rest of this letter is to those of our family that we may never see again.
What I am about to write, you may have seen or heard before, but my prayer is that you will read it until the end.
First, I love you.
The love I speak of is not the same kind of love that I have for my wife, or my children, or even chocolate ice cream. This kind of love is called ‘agape’ in the Bible, and it’s the kind of love that compelled Christ Jesus to go to the cross. It goes beyond mere affection, although it certainly includes that. It’s a kind of love that is driven by God the Father, and not of emotion, despite the fact that deep emotion is often a part of it. When Jesus Christ came and took-up residence in my heart, He brought this love along with Him. Today, it is the very thing that compels me to do things that I would not have otherwise ever done, such as write this letter. From this point forward, if I am bold in what I write, please recall that it’s written in love. I must risk driving you away in order that you hear this message.
I will be sharing some portions of the Bible (in blue). It’s important to remember that what I’m going to share is not an opinion, but it’s borne out of the Word of God. For those of you who are closest to me [know] that I am not the same person I used to be, to God’s glory. That is to say that I’m no longer a scoundrel, a drunk, a villain, or a worthless fellow. You can plainly see that something has changed for the better. You only see the outside, but I’m here to tell you I’m changed on the inside as well. I’m not perfect and it could best be said that I am a work-in-progress.
If you have witnessed any of these changes in me, please read on.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
This is not where I tell you that you’re a sinner and that you’re going to hell. This is where God does. Please look at the second word in the sentence. ‘All’ means every single person who ever was or ever will be. We all have sinned and it only takes one sin to separate us from God. Don’t let that anger you. It’s been said that God is so perfectly good, He cannot have any sin around Him; darkness (sin) cannot share the same space with light. Based on this portion of Bible scripture (and there are many others), we can know that no person can be good enough to get into Heaven on their own merit. Just one sin will exclude you. In other words, if Mother Teresa did not know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, she too would be excluded.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Everybody dies, but the death spoken of here is often referred to as hell and it is eternal (it’s forever). It’s a place that God did not make for human beings, but for satan and his minions. If a person ends up in hell, God is not responsible because He has given everyone a free-way to avoid it. This might sound a little moronic, but God’s free gift is free. It cannot be earned or worked for by us. It’s just to be received.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
What Christ Jesus did on the cross encompasses the free gift. This sacrifice Jesus made paid the penalty of our sin. Somebody had to pay; that’s the way God laid it all out, and Jesus was sent to earth in the flesh to be a perfect sacrifice. There was never a perfect sacrifice before Jesus and there will never be another one. Jesus is the only solution to our sin and separation problem. Don’t be angry that God only gave us One way — be grateful that He provided a way.
One problem, one solution — God kept it incredibly simple for us, because He loves us.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
What do you have to do to receive the free gift? Accept it! Acknowledge that you are the rightful recipient! Agree with God and say:
“Yes Father, I am a sinner. Jesus Christ is exactly who You have said He is. Jesus is the Only solution to my sin and separation problem. Somehow, in a way I cannot fully understand, Jesus took all my sin upon Himself and paid the penalty in full so I don’t have to. He willingly went to the cross, was crucified, He died, and He rose from the dead, and now lives forever!”
Nowhere does the Bible say that we need to understand how Jesus did these things, but only by faith that we believe He did. When you do this, your life will change miraculously as you follow His ways, and your life will be a living testimony that Christ Jesus is alive!
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)
Repent means to ‘turn away from,’ but in the case of a Christian, it means more. It means that we have agreed to turn our backs on our sinful pasts and turn towards Jesus in order to follow His ways. It may sound difficult, but because you’ve demonstrated your commitment to Jesus, He will (freely) provide you the power to stop any sin you struggle with. As I shared earlier, I was once a drunk and I turned away from drinking many times on my own, but was never able to stop being a drunk, that is until I came to Jesus. When I repented; that is, turned away and turned towards Jesus, He lifted the addiction away entirely in one moment.
My last drunk was in 1997.
Does this mean you will never sin again? No, it does not, but what it means is you’ve rejected the notion of being an habitual sinner; the kind of person who purposely sets out each day to do what is wrong. Repentance in many ways is the sign to the world and to God that your faith is true. You cannot accept the free gift of salvation from God and willfully live in habitual sin, believing that God doesn’t care. God does care. He will accept you in any condition that you come to Him, but He surely does not want you to stay in that condition; God wants to refine you into the best you can be, for His glory and not ours.
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
No one is exempt. God’s free offer is available to everyone. Call on His name by faith and be saved. You have not committed a sin so great (or sins so great), that God will not forgive you.
“We have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
What does ‘justified by faith,‘ mean? Simply put, the word justified means, just-as-if you never sinned. That’s right! If you believe in Jesus and have received His free gift of salvation, God the Father looks at you as if you were spotless and without sin. The Bible tells us this is so because we are robed in Christ’s righteousness; Jesus has essentially given us a clean garment to put on!
Faith is the same as belief, but it’s more than just having knowledge about something. Everyone has the knowledge that a parachute has the capacity to save a person, but it only works if you put it on. So it is with Christ Jesus. I have had conversations with many of you, and most of you have knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done, but you have not put Him on by faith. Faith says we will also do what Jesus says to do.
Knowledge alone will not save you.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Plain and simple, if you believe these things and do them, you will not suffer the second death, condemnation.
At this point, you have a decision to make.
If you decide to become a follower of Jesus Christ, God will recognize your sincerity, and there is nothing more you have to do to acquire salvation! Jesus proclaimed on the cross that the work He came to do was finished!
If however you have decided to wait, you need to examine your motives. Is the sin that your holding onto truly that much better than living in Heaven eternally? No one, not even God denies that sin is pleasurable for a season, but that season is always short, especially when compared to eternity. And of course, we have no idea when our lives on earth will end. The youngest person reading this must know that people younger than you die unexpectedly every single day. You are not guaranteed a long life. And do not be fooled into believing that you can live any kind of life that you desire and then make a last second commitment of faith on your death-bed. Can you possibly guarantee that your death-bed commitment would even be sincere in God’s eyes? Who has guaranteed you that you will even have a death-bed experience?
Dear family, don’t be foolish. If you have read this far, Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart and He wants to rescue you. You might not see it, but He sees that you are drowning and He’s come along side of you to pull you into he lifeboat. No longer reject His free gift. Do you have questions? I know it’s a bit awkward, but please let me know. I’ll answer your questions or can get together and talk more in-depth. Truly, your eternal life depends upon it.
If I didn’t love you, I would have not written to you. Michelle and I pray for you daily.
In Christ’s love,
Dave — your father, your brother, your cousin, your nephew, your uncle, your in-law