Friend, do you see eternity from where you are standing?
The Lord knows I have no desire to make your condition worse than it is by asking this question, nor to bring you any unnecessary fear or trouble. But you would call me a treacherous enemy, and not a good neighbor, if I should flatter you and not tell you the truth. If you visit a doctor when you’re sick, you expect him to tell you the truth, even if the diagnosis is grim. Sure, the knowledge of your disease may increase your fears; but you must know it or else you can never recover from it.
It is the same way with the spiritual sickness that brings eternal condemnation. I’m concerned that you are a stranger to God. For if you were a believer in Jesus Christ, your very heart would be set on God and His purpose for your life and the life to come. You would make it your chief concern to follow Christ now and prepare for everlasting happiness. You would not live in any willful sin, or neglect any known duty. You would joyfully live for Christ, knowing that He has prepared a place for you in heaven.
But what have you done? How have you spent your time till now? Didn’t you know that you had a soul to be saved or lost; and that you must live in heaven or in hell forever; and that you had your life and time in this world to understand your eternal purpose in the afterlife? What have you been doing all your life that you are so ignorant and unprepared for death, if your time has come? If you had as much thought of heaven as of earth, you would have known more about it, and done more for it, and inquired of it more diligently than you have. You certainly know how to pursue pleasures and transact business in this world; so why couldn’t you learn more of the will of God for your life?
Do you think heaven is not worth your time? Or that you can obtain it without any concern, when you can’t even obtain the trivial things of this world without actively pursuing them? Shouldn’t you be listening to God when He tells you to seek first His kingdom and the righteousness it contains? My friend, what if you had died before now, unbelieving? What would have become of you, and where would you be right now? Do you care so little for yourself as to jeopardize your eternity as recklessly as you have? What were you thinking? Surely you must have known that you would eventually die and be judged in your present state? Was there any greater focus to have, or any greater business to attend to, than the issue of your everlasting salvation? Do you really think that material things will comfort you as you lay dying, or purchase your salvation, or ease the pains of hell?
My friend, I am truly sorry to find you in such a confused state, but to leave you in it would be much worse. Therefore I beg you, for the Lord’s sake and for your own sake, to listen to what I say to you regarding the time to come. It is of the Lord’s great mercy that He did not cut you off in your sinful and rebellious state, and that you still have life and time, and that Christ has provided a remedy for you in His blood, and that He offers pardon, sanctification, and everlasting life to you as well as to others. God did not leave every sinful man to utter destruction, as He did the devils; nor has He kept hidden the offer of pardon and eternal life for you and other poor souls.
If you realized the sin in your heart, and came to Christ in true repentance, and submitted yourself to Him as your Savior and Lord, and would be a new person for the remainder of your life, the Lord would have mercy on you in the pardon of your sins, and the everlasting salvation of your soul. And I must tell you it is the great work of God’s grace to give you such a heart, so if He intends to pardon and save you, He will make this change in you. Count on it!
He will make you feel your sin as the heaviest burden in the world, and make you feel deserving of His wrath and curse. He will make you see that you are a lost person, and that there is nothing for you but eternal damnation unless you are pardoned by the blood of Christ and reborn by His Spirit. He will make you see your need of Christ, and how all your hope and life is in Him. He will make you see the emptiness of this world and all that it yields, and that all your happiness is with God in that everlasting life in heaven where you may behold His glory along with the angels, and live in His love and be content to praise Him forever.
Let me tell you that, until this new desire for God is awakened in you, you are a miserable person; and if you die before it’s done, you are lost forever. Right now, however, you have hope and help before you, but soon there may be none.
Therefore, if you love your soul I ask you: first, not to rest in your present condition. Do not allow your mind to be at ease until a saving change happens in your heart. Think when you rise in the morning, “Oh, what if this day was my last, and I died before my salvation was confirmed?” Think as you are working, “Oh, how much more there is to do, to get my soul reconciled to God, and reborn by his Spirit!” Think, when you are eating, or drinking, or looking at your possessions, “What good will all this garbage do me, if I live and die an enemy to God, and a stranger to Christ and His Spirit, and perish forever?” Let these thoughts be on your mind day and night until your soul is changed.
Secondly, I entreat you to seriously consider what a hollow world this is, and how shortly it will leave you in a cold grave and to everlasting misery if you continue to treasure it. And imagine what it is to live in the presence of God and to reign with Christ, and be like the angels. This is the life that Christ purchased for His people, and is preparing for His people, and offers to those who come to Him in faith. Just think, wouldn’t it be madness to disregard such an endless glory and to prefer the things of earthly sin and pleasure? When you are alone, give yourself over to these thoughts and let them occupy your mind.
Thirdly, I ask that you will come to the Savior without any more delay. Trust in the Lord Jesus who brings eternal life: joyfully and thankfully acknowledging Him as the only way to happiness. Believe that all your sins will be forgiven by Him.
Fourthly, reject your former sins; find out what has corrupted your heart and life, and throw it into the trash, just like you would vomit out poison from your stomach, detesting the thought of swallowing it down again.
My last request to you is that you actively make use of the means of grace until this change has come about, and then continue to use these means until you are changed and finally made a true child of God by His amazing grace. Actively pursue the following acts of faith and humility before God:
(1) Since you are unable of yourself to bring about this change upon your heart and life, take yourself daily to God in prayer, and earnestly beg, as for your life, that He will pardon all your sins and change your heart, and show you the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ and the glory of His kingdom. Follow God day and night with these requests.
(2) Run from temptations and occasions of sin, and give up your former evil friendships, seeking instead the company of those that fear God, and those who will help you in the way to heaven.
(3) Study the Bible, God’s inspired word, both publicly in Christian fellowship and privately, losing not even fifteen minutes of that most precious time which God has given you, that you may meditate on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and be instructed by Him, preparing yourself for eternal life with Him.
That’s all I have to say. But what do you think about these things I’ve suggested? Will you do this immediately, or at least do as much as you can? Will you make yourself a promise to this effect, and from now on try to keep that promise with the help of God’s grace and mercy? Do you see that any delay might have deadly consequences? Do you see that I sincerely care for you and don’t want to see you lost forever?
In speaking freely to you, I hope I haven’t turned you away. I find no pleasure in confronting you with this issue, and I know it isn’t pleasurable for you either. If I didn’t know these things to be true and necessary, I would have spared us both this trouble; but I know our time together is short: We are almost at the world to come already. Both of us stand at the edge of eternity. It is urgent, therefore, for us all to search our hearts, and make sure we are ready when God calls.
Friend, do you see eternity from where you are standing? Go to Jesus Christ now.
— Based on the writing of Richard Baxter