(continuing with Nathan from last week)
We both lick our ice cream cones trying to outpace the sweltering summer’s attack on our yummy treats. The ice cream truck had come at just the right time. We sit on the patio now, ready to continue our conversation.
“So, Nathan. You’re wondering what all you have to do to go to Heaven, right?” I begin.
“Yea. How much does it take?” He is ready to go on the offensive.
“You remind me of a young man Jesus talked to one time. The Bible says Jesus really liked him when He saw him. The young man asked Jesus, ‘What good thing do I have to do to live forever?’”
Leaning forward eagerly, Nathan says, “What did Jesus say?”
“He said, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’”
Nathan quickly objects, “But nobody does that! Do we have to do that to go to Heaven?”
“Well, the young man felt that way, too. His things were more important to him than Jesus was, so he walked away, sad. Now I’m going to tell you something else Jesus said that most people don’t know. Are you ready?”
Nodding soberly, Nathan braces himself, not sure of what’s coming,
“Jesus told his friends that even if they did everything He told them to do, they’d only done their job and He didn’t owe them anything extra. Then the Bible says that everybody insults God (that is, sins), and the only way to pay for your sins is with your life. Also, one of Jesus’ most important apostles said ‘I can’t stop sinning! What am I going to do?’”
Not moving, not speaking, Nathan’s eyes held mine.
I put my hand on his shoulder. “Nathan, it sounds like we’re all in a pickle, doesn’t it?”
Nodding his head slowly, he quietly agrees, “I guess.”
“There’s one verse I want you to read, and then I want to tell you what the good news is. Okay?” I let him read the thought in Romans 6:23 from my iPhone:
“The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
“So, Nathan, what does the Bible say we have to pay to go to Heaven and live with Jesus forever?”
Opening his eyes wide, a smile lighting them, he whispers, “Nothing. The Bible says it’s free!”
“Yes, it is free. Did it say it’s free to everyone who has ever lived? Look at that verse again. Who does God give it to?”
Peering again at the verse, he repeats, “But God gives us the free gift…”
I need to explain. “Okay. Romans is a letter written by one of Jesus’ apostles. His name was Paul. He wrote it to the Christians living in Rome, Italy. God had him write this letter. Let’s look at the first part of this chapter and see what Paul is telling them.”
“So do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more grace? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life.” Rom 6:1-4 CEV
“Do you remember how we have to pay for our sins?”
“We have to die.”
“Nathan! You remembered what the Bible said! Do you see anything about dying in verses 2 and 3?”
He takes my phone, holding it closer to his face to study the words again. After a minute he slowly says, “We died to our old sinful lives. We shared His death in our baptism. Jesus was raised from the dead.” Wondering if he answered correctly, he looks at me for confirmation.
“Yes. Now, do you see how it works? We sin. We owe our lives. Jesus died to pay for our sins but came alive again. When we die to sin, that means we decide not to be our old sinful selves anymore. Then we are baptized–like being buried–like Jesus died and was buried. That’s how we share in his death.” As I speak, I use hand motions to demonstrate burial and being raised new again. “But Nathan, being baptized isn’t like buying a ticket to Heaven. Jesus paid for our ticket, and we just show Him we want to go with Him.”
Whether confused or hopeful I can’t tell, but Nathan asks the obvious. “So you don’t have to do anything to get to Heaven?”
“Jesus says we can’t do enough, even if we tried. But what He says we can do is show Him how much we love and trust Him by doing what He says. And by letting Him use everything we have and making Him more important to us than even our friends and family. And by living for Him from now on.”
“Ooooohhhhhh,” he responds. The lights are coming on. It’s making sense to him.
“But there’s more good stuff!” Our ice cream was gone, but he still seemed interested, so I wanted to make sure he heard ALL the Good News. “You want to go to the park and take a walk?”
“Sure!” Nathan, bounding from the patio, motions for me to follow. We head for the park.
(continued next week)