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By my bed is a photo of my parents, all my brothers and me gathered around my sister, who is sitting up in a hospital bed a week before she died. I look at it almost every day and think, "These are the little boys that I grew up with when I was a little boy. But we're old men now. And our parents... well, it's a surprise that they're still alive."

Together, we represent the foolish world, with its refusal to face the fact that we are all marching toward the grave -- a time when everything that we know of as life now will cease to exist.

On her deathbed, my sister was more concerned about telling us that we should have taken her more seriously when she had complained of being sick in her high school days. The rest of the family was divided over various trivial disputes, some of which have kept them from talking to each other for many years.

I wanted to say, "Gloria, how can you be so foolish? You're about to die, and all you can think of are petty grievances! What about your soul? What about God?"

Of course, Gloria had taken care of all that years ago. She had said the sinner's prayer and taught her daughter to do the same; and she had attended church regularly. What more did she need? And others in the family could make the same boast.

But they dare not open their Bibles in our presence, or discuss the teachings of Jesus. They run away from all mention of what Jesus expects his followers to do, and they condemn us for trying to obey him ourselves.

They do what they do because we teach obedience to the only begotten Son of God, but the bottom line of all bottom lines is that they will still have to answer to God for it.

And this same family that is moving closer every day to that final judgment is representative of the whole human family. God, the Creator of the universe, has sent his only Son to tell us how he expects us to spend our short existence on this planet; and they have rejected him. Some have taken his name in vain, saying, "Lord, Lord!" at the same time that they refuse to obey him. Some have even pretended to cast out devils and to do other mighty works in his name; but they still fight against every one of the demands that he has made of his true followers.

They tell themselves that if they can shut us up, get away from us, destroy our writings, and keep their children from hearing what we are saying, then they will silence their consciences. But Judgment Day is still coming. And no amount of argument will stop it.

You who are reading this right now will have to answer to God when he says, "What have you done with the teachings of my Son?"

He won't be impressed with your explanations for why we don't have to obey Jesus today. He will keep coming back to your rejection of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And those who claim to have received Jesus as their Saviour without at least trying to obey his teachings will be punished more severely than those who never knew Jesus at all.

If this sounds too harsh, then we will for a moment consider that the rest of you are right and we are wrong... that God doesn't really expect us to obey Jesus, that his death on Calvary did it all, and that any attempt by us to obey Jesus after that realisation amounts to a return to the "law" (i.e. an effort to work our way to heaven), and that we will be sent to hell for eternity because we tried to obey Jesus.

If you're right, and God tries to send us to hell for taking Jesus too literally, we will have the strongest grounds for winning an argument against God that any human being has ever had. We are going to argue that it was precisely because of our faith in him and his Son that we took Jesus so literally in the first place. And we are going to say that if the blood of Jesus is good enough to cover the sins of those who have rejected his teachings, then we believe his blood is good enough to cover us in our sin of having taken him too seriously. What do you think? Will we win the argument?

But now it is time (before you die) to consider the possibility that you could be wrong. How will you look trying to argue your rejection of what Jesus taught on the basis of a few spurious quotes from St. Paul, or on the basis of an impressive Bible Commentary by some eminent theologian? You can argue that everything Paul said is equal to what Jesus said, but you'll have one hell of a time (literally!) trying to convince Jesus' Dad of that.

It is time for some genuine repentance before you die. If you refuse to do it now, you will have eternity to wish that you had.

(See also The Judgement.)

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