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The joy, the celebration, the security and the supreme serenity of the Christian life rest in our response to the questions:
'Is it possible to know absolutely and with certainty that I will go to heaven and live with God forever after death?'
'Will it depend on whether or not I have done sufficient good works, or lived my life in a certain way'
The response of God to these questions for all of us Roman Catholics, and indeed, for every Christian, is of critical importance. Let us go together then to God's Word, the Bible, asking, seeking and knocking, that we might find the treasure in the field.
We will not only find the answer to these and other questions, but we will discover four basic principles involved in redemption and personal salvation. We will discover that Jesus did not merely give us the answers; He is the answer. He did not only bring a message; He is the message.
Yes, "God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Let us seek out these four vital principles given to us by God that we might be sure of our personal salvation:
God loves you and has a plan for your life, based on His one desire for you: that you come to know, love and serve Him here on earth and be with Him forever in heaven."I know the plans I have in mind for you - it is Yahweh Who speaks - plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then when you call to Me, and come to plead with Me, I will listen to you. When you seek Me you shall find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
God does not want any of us to be separated from Him:
"... God our Saviour ... wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Any church or denomination that does not teach that we are saved and justified by God's grace, through faith is not truly Christian. Not only does He love all men and women, but the ecstacy is in the conviction that He loves me personally so much that He sent His only Son into my world to save me.
Can a Roman Catholic be saved and know it with absolute conviction? Of course, just as clearly as a member of any other denomination.
God proved His love for us by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our sin-offering.
I cannot know that I am saved unless I am convinced from God's Word about the love of Jesus and the Father for me personally. He will go to any limit to prove His love for you. Simply contemplate the Cross and the price paid for your redemption. It is in Him and through Him that we can be at peace in the midst of the world's chaos; a peace that the world cannot give:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
And yet far too many of us in Ireland do not seem to experience or manifest this peace or this life to the full which God has planned for each one of us personally.
We are separated from God's love and God's will. We are all sinful."Both Jew and pagan sinned and forfeited God's glory." (Romans 3:23)
We may consider ourselves to be upright and moral, yet however "good" we may be, each of us is a sinner:
"To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar and to show that His Word is not in us." (1 John 1:10)
God's gift to us is our free will. By our very defiant and proud natures men and women have rebelled , falling short of His perfect love.
Death, war, injustice, poverty and all other adversities which affect men and women are not God's will. Separated and sinful mankind is the author of these and other evils.
God does not and will not interfere with our free will. And we have a horrendous, terrifying price to pay for our separation and sin. Make no mistake about it: Hell is for real!
"For the wage paid by sin is death; the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
While in a state of sinfulness a person lives life for his own ends or purposes, not in the Father's perfect will.
This brings us to:
Jesus died on Calvary as a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all our sins. God accepted this perfect sacrifice and raised Jesus from the dead.Jesus did what we absolutely cannot do. He bridged the unholy gap. All good works, tithes, religious activities, training, study, etc. will not of themselves do it. Salvation is a FREE gift from our Father in heaven.
"Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The Lord reached out to us in love, before we ever reached out to Him!
"But what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8)
"And there is only one Mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5)
Jesus is the reconciler, the bridge:
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
One does not roll up one's sleeve to work at salvation. We yield. If we earned salvation we would be mighty proud of what we had accomplished.
That is pride. Pride is the basis and root of all sin. No, salvation through Jesus is the free gift of our Creator! Praise the Lord!
That truth, of course, brings us to the most pressing step of all:
Believing these God-inspired and spoken words with our minds only is not sufficient. God`s gift of faith carries us much deeper than mere mental acceptance of certain statements about Him. God`s gift of faith is given to all who acknowledge and turn away from sin.His gift of faith calls upon us to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour and surrender the very control of our lives to Him. All of us, who have reached the age of reason, must exercise our free will and decide for ourselves whether or not to accept eternal life in Jesus Christ. Mental assent on its own is not sufficient.
"You believe in the one God - that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear." (James 2:19)
We must act on our belief. We must allow Jesus to be our personal Lord and Saviour, giving us a whole new life. This is what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). A repentant and contrite heart He cannot resist (Psalm 51:7). Jesus said that we must repent and believe in the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
"Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort." (Acts 3:19)
God longs to draw us to Himself in love and to cleanse us by forgiving us all our sins.
"If we acknowledge our sins, then God Who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong." (1 John 1:9)
Through Jesus, we become children of God! Here is a promise we can depend on:
"But to all who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the Name of Him Who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God Himself." (John 1:12-13)
Jesus calls to each one of us, giving us this invitation to eternal life:
"Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears Me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with Him." (Revelation 3:20)
In conclusion, it must be stressed that no matter how much God your Father wants you with Him forever in heaven, He will not violate your free will. You must choose. Not your parents, not your priest and not your church - not anyone can make that decision for you. It is a vital decision and I urge you to hear God's call upon you.
We must yield to God so that He can deeply activate the grace and favour into which we were committed at our baptism. It is indeed a life or death matter - eternal life.
We Catholics have had difficulty comprehending rebirth and responding openly to God's persuasive love in altar calls or decision times, but we must each come to a point of decision. Am I willing to surrender my will and my life totally and completely to Christ? Will I trust and obey Him?
"You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Although we may have been baptised as infants at the behest of our parents or god-parents; nevertheless, everyone of us must make the decision to surrender his or her life totally and completely to Jesus. Many are abandoning the Catholic faith because they have not known of the decision that they must make to experience Jesus as Saviour.
Let us re-phrase the questions posed at the beginning:
If you are unsure, here are four things for you to do immediately:
You may be attacked by doubts about the reality and purpose of the decision you have made. If this occurs, above all, remember this:"God has called you and He will not fail you." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
God is faithful and He can indeed be trusted to finish the work which He has begun in you. If you have now made this momentous decision, please write to us and let us know. We want to share in your joy.
We pray that you too can now answer the question in your heart: "Will I go to heaven when I die?" with a resolute, "Absolutely - no doubt about it."
The same Jesus Who said: " ..whoever comes to Me I shall not turn him away" (John 6:37) also promised ".. I will not fail you or desert you" (Hebrews 13:5). May you grow in knowledge and love of Him evermore.
Quotations are from 'The Jerusalem Bible'
Now that you have committed your life to Christ,