Ray Ortlund, the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, shared a passage from J.C. Ryle’s book Holiness on his blog today.
“Today,” says our Lord to the penitent thief, “today you will be with me in paradise.” He names no distant period. He does not talk of his entering into a state of happiness as a thing far away. He speaks of today, “this very day in which you are hanging on the cross.”
How near that seems! How awfully near that word brings our everlasting dwelling-place! Happiness or misery, sorrow or joy, the presence of Christ or the company of devils — all are close to us. “There is but a step,” says David, “between me and death.” There is but a step, we may say, between ourselves and either paradise or hell, (pg. 193).
One step between ourselves and heaven and hell. We are all just one breath away from eternity at any moment. That isn’t meant to scare anyone, but it is true. Our next moment, our next morning, is not guaranteed. Are you ready? I’m reminded of the parable of the rich fool that Jesus told in Luke 12. This farmer thought he was going to build a few barns and live the high life, but God had something else in mind.
And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:18-20, ESV).
It is but the grace of God that we have breath for “in Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28). All of our days are numbered. There are two things that are certain in this life – death and taxes. So why is it that so many of us live our lives as though we can cheat death somehow.
Likely because they don’t realize (or don’t want to recognize) that we are accountable for this life we have been given. We will face a judge. And we will find that what we thought were good works won’t be good enough.
Only one question matters to God our Judge: what have we done with his Son Jesus. The thief on the cross repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ even while he was dying next to him on the cross. How is it that so many of us can’t believe even when Jesus came off that cross and conquered the grave.
We are all one step away. Are you ready? If you are you don’t have to worry about death. When Jesus rose from the grave he provides us from deliverence from the fear of death that we are all at least at one time (if we are honest with ourselves) were enslaved to, (Hebrews 2:15). Having the attitude of the Apostle Paul is liberating. With Christ we too can say, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Philippians 1:21, ESV).
But it all hinges on what we have done with Jesus. Do we have a personal relationship with Him or do we continue to live in unbelief. With Jesus being a step away from death doesn’t matter.
If you’d like to discuss this more please feel free to contact me.