THE FINAL ANSWER
"LWML" is our church's designation for "Lutheran Women's Missionary League," and we have traditionally done a special worship service every first Sunday of October to celebrate the organization's missionary and social service to God and the church and world. Materials that were sent to our Pastors with a pre-printed Order of Service some years ago suggested the following theme and text for an LWML Sunday, although preachers essentially had to edit the materials to come up with their own message. Following is presented a basically good summary of what I believe should be the essential focus of any Pastor's whole life work. Please be sure to closely check out the inserted Bible passage references if you will and are not already tho roughly familiar with them! The passages themselves do a better job of conveying my intent than my own words can.
2 Corinthians 1:20
20For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.
When the end of a school term draws near, those in the upper grades and college generally face the dreaded prospect of final exams. Some students maintain good study habits all the time and are usually pretty well prepared, therefore. Others put off preparing till near the end, and they may or may not pass, depending on whether they can cram and retain in their minds enough of the right material. Some then walk in to take their tests with a fearful sense of certain doom, because they know they're not fully ready. It's also possible, though, to feel confident yet still fail.
Much of America was quickly caught up with the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? TV Show hosted by Regis Philbin when it first began to air. As contestants went through a series of increasingly difficult trivia questions, he would regularly ask, "Is that your final answer?" If they were wrong, they lost of course. If they answered correctly, the prize could reach a fabulous amount up to a million dollars.
We may never win a contest or be on a TV Game Show, but the time is still approaching when each of us will face God in the encounter we call the Judgment. It could be today! - Will you make it through and clinch the fabulous prize of Heaven and its still unimaginable glories? What will God be looking for? What final answer can a person give that will make the grade? How can we be sure of what the final expected answer will be? --- Listen up, because right now may be your final review!
WILL YOUR FINAL ANSWER AT DEATH AND JUDGMENT BE CORRECT?
Millions of people walk this earth who have some vague impression that God is smiling on them and all will be well for them in the end because they feel that they're basically meek, humble and good-hearted. They honestly try to live by the guideline of treating others in the manner they would like to be treated in return. They really might give the shirts off their own backs to someone else in need. They support various charities. They're not aware of having any substantial enemies. They may even be regular church-attenders. - They've never killed anyone, or committed adultery or robbery. They're not drunken drug and child abusers. They're not "speed demons" out on the road. - YOU may actually be just such a person! -- Others perhaps kind of haphazardly try to do good in an effort to "make up" for constant, nagging pangs of guilt - for often falling short of even th eir own ideals, and they may actually put on a pretty good "show" for the rest of us. (God knows the truth, however.)
Time and time again, the answer many such people typically give to their expectations for their own afterlife generally centers on how good they feel they've been, and often, how well they judge themselves next to others by comparison, too. - Let's hope it doesn't end up being their final answer.
There's a fundamental problem here, and many just pay it no real attention. That problem is sin, and all are "shot through and through" with it no matter how good they may appear to be! (See Romans 3:10, 3:20 & 3:23, for example.) - If we are to be judged by our deeds, every one of us is lost! The standard plainly presented to us in the Bible a number of times over is not how well we have done in comparison to others or by our own notions, but whether or not we are perfect. (e.g., Matthew 5:48) - Are you? No. Is any of us? Emphatically not!
The Bible clearly says that the sin of Adam by which he became a spiritually blind and dead enemy of God (e.g., I Corinthians 2:14 & Ephesians 2:1&5) has been passed on down through the entire human race (genetically as it were?) to you and me as well. (See Romans 6, etc., where Adam's sin is given as the reason for which we all must die.) Not only is our disposition sinful by nature, though, but in thought, word and deed we have committed actual transgressions against God and His Word and Will. Even if we were to maintain perfection from this point on, it's too late because we've already missed the mark! (But of course in this life we never will be perfect in the future, either!) - Even the "righteous" things we've done or ever might do amount to no more than a pile of filthy rags, God says (e.g., Isaiah 64:6), - that is, if we are to be judged on the basis of our own works. Not one of us is good enough, you see, because we are definitely not perfect. We're just as liable for the words we sometimes speak and, yes, even the thoughts of our hearts, as for our unrighteous actions. If the final answer is for us to be judged according to our conformity with God's Laws, we all might as well simply "eat, drink and be merry" while we can here - for afterwards we can only expect the everlasting damnation of hell.
It was quite moving for me once years ago to hear the answer of a teenage girl when I personally asked her, "What do you think you might say to God if He asked you why He should let you into Heaven?" She burst into tears and said, "I'd probably start crying, because I'd feel so unworthy." - Her answer was honest, sincere and courageous. She was definitely on the right track, too. I always guessed her response to be a spontaneous expression of real repentance, and yet even she had not yet fully grasped the final answer!
GOD'S FINAL ANSWER IS IN, AND IS, CHRIST
What we need to see in the first place is that God's question isn't whether or not people have been "good enough." The final answer to that is clearly that they're not - not even someone so charitable as Mother Teresa, who from any human standpoint must certainly be at or at least very near the head of the human pack. - But God's question, rather, is whether we have His Son(?)!
These following Bible passages explicitly confirm that:
"...he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name
of the only-begotten Son of God."
"...he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
"...the Lord Jesus (will)..in flaming fire take vengeance on those who do not..(believe) the
Gospel..." (The "Gospel" being that we receive God's forgiveness for the sake of Christ's own
perfect life and sin-atoning death alone and not for anything within ourselves)
"...he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."
The same passages (primarily from John's Gospel chapter 3 and the epistle of I John chapter 5, and backed up by passages like Romans 8:1 and Ephesians 2:8-10) likewise make perfectly clear, though, that:
"He who (does) believe in Him is not condemned..."
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life."
"...this is (God's) testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
He who has the Son has life..."
Such things are quite consistently written for us all over the place in the Bible that we might know and have the secure, final assurance that we have this eternal life!!!
God has given the final answer He's looking for as an out-and-out gift, and it's in (and is) His Son, Jesus Christ! - His is no trick question, and the answer definitely isn't found in astrology or drugs, other gods, new philosophies, or even in ourselves. It always was, is, and will be Jesus!
The culture of Corinth where the Apostle Paul visited centuries ago was about as secular as could be for those times. He came with the message of salvation being found only through faith in Christ as our Substitute Good Deed Doer and Sin Payer. Paul said in the Bible text for this message that Christ was God's "Yes" and "Amen" to the Corinthians' search for meaning, peace of mind, forgiveness and assurance of eternal life. Paul was quite specific. He didn't preach an ambiguous message. He proclaimed the dynamic power of Christ as the very Son of God who was sent to be the only Savior of the world. - The Holy Spirit worked through that message bringing people to real and true faith. They became convinced that God's final answer to the problem of sin and its consequences of death and separation from God and eternal damnation - is Jesus! And it's still His final answer for us today, too!
God's answer gives real HOPE, that's built on nothing less than Jesus' very own blood and righteousness. It's in Christ that we live and move and even have our very being! HE is the Be All and End All, Alpha and Omega, Initiator, Source, Perfecter and Finisher of our gift of eternal life from God and even of any true faith itself! (Please SEE Acts 17:28 and the chapter's previous verses, Colossians 1:13-23, Hebrews 5:9 & 12:2 and Revelation 1:8. The words written in these places are thrilling eye-openers!) Jesus exchanged places with us in fully taking on the punishment for our sins while on the Cross, resulting in God "crediting" us with His own perfect righteousness! (Romans 4:22-25 and 2 Corinthi ans 5:21.) Jesus is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God and Man. He lived and died and rose back to life for the express purpose that God would forgive our sins and grant us new life. <--And that and all His promises assuredly become ours through continual repentance and faith in Him. (See 1 John 1:9.) - Certainly we're to be about the business of doing good at all times, but the reason is clearly not to try to earn points with God or make our own way into His Heaven - but because Heaven's assurance is His sheer undeserved gift to all who believe and trust Him for it -- through the perfect merits of Christ alone!!! Good and loving works simply MUST flow from hearts and consciences so radically set free! Truly heartfelt worship with awe (no matter how humble the setting or surrounding trappings) and things like sacrificial giving likewise naturally follow. All who finally wake up to the Gospel's full realization have found the "pearl of great price" of which Jesus once spoke in a parable (Matthew 13:45-46).
Moses once identified God as "the Amen God," meaning that God means exactly what He says and that He speaks with finality! And Moses meant it in regard to both God's Law and Gospel (i.e., Commands and Gift!). By God's direction he wrote, "Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of God's Law." God likewise announced concerning the certainty of His judgment, "I make known what is Amen." - He just as surely announces through the words of St. Paul, though, that "All the promises of God in (Christ) are Yes, and in Him Amen." Jesus is identified in His ascended glory in St. John's Revelation as "the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" and He also promises, "Surely I am coming quickly, Amen." --- For us ther efore (as a world-renowned radio preacher named Oswald Hoffmann liked to say), What more is there to say but AMEN!" (See the Text Verse, 2 Corinthians 1:20.)