"Have you ever done that?" Jerry tried to hide the fact that his mouth was dry and his heart was pounding in his chest. He rubbed his chin self‑consciously and said,
"Yes . . . once or twice." The minister then looked even more intently at him and said,
"Jerry, by your own admission, you are a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart, and you have to face God on Judgment Day . . . and we have only looked at three of the Ten Commandments. There are another seven you have to answer to, about blasphemy, greed, hatred, murder, honoring your parents and giving to God what is rightly His in the area of worship, etc. On Judgment Day, if God was to judge you by the standard of His Law, do you think you would be innocent or guilty?"
He didn't hesitate to answer,
"Well, do you think you will go to Heaven or Hell?" The answer was quick and positive:
"Why? Is it because you think God is 'good' and therefore will overlook your sins?"
Jerry nodded in agreement with such a thought. He was pleased that Edwin had been able to articulate as to why he thought that he should go to Heaven. His only hope was that God would understand his mistakes, but it seemed that the Reverend didn’t want to leave the conversation there.
"If a rapist and murderer expects a judge to overlook his crimes because he thinks that the judge is a 'good' man, he will probably hear him answer such a presumption with, 'You are right about one thing. I am a good man, and it is because of my goodness that I am going to see that you are punished, and brought to justice.'
"Those who are hoping that God's goodness will overlook their sins, will find that the very thing they are trusting in to save them will be the thing that will condemn them and send them to Hell."
Edwin then closed his Bible as if to say, I rest my case. He stood to his feet and walked around his desk as if to close the conversation. Jerry felt like saying, "Don't leave me like this," but instead, he too rose to his feet and as they walked toward the door he asked the minister,
"What do you think I should do?" As they stood at the doorway he said,
"Jerry, you know the Gospel; that Christ died to save us. You know that He took the punishment for our sins. We broke the Law; He paid the fine. That means that God can now legally dismiss our case. He can commute our death sentence and let us live. You also know that He rose from the dead. But you need to ask God to give you understanding as to what that means, and you need to repent and put your faith in the Savior."
Then he stopped speaking as though he had thought of some better way to illustrate what he had just said.
"Jerry . . . it's like a man who found himself deeply in debt. He was utterly without hope. There was no way that he could pay his creditors. The law was about to take its fearful course, when a rich friend extended grace toward him and paid his debt in full. It was actually the law that drove him to grace. If the law hadn't pressured him, he wouldn't have sought help from his friend. Can you understand that?" The old minister smiled gently, then quoted a hymn that he loved to sing,
"‘It was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.’ Those are the words of a hymn the world sings—Amazing Grace, but it seems they have no depth of understanding as to what the words actually mean.
"When the Christian looks at the terrible price that the Law demanded--the suffering death of the Messiah, it horrifies him. Grace provided the payment, and it was at terrible cost. The Bible puts it this way: ‘Pass the sojourning here in fear; forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ."
Jerry thought about the day the officers of the law drove him to Theodore’s house and how Grace welcomed him, and took him to Theodore who paid his debt in full. He could understand what the Bible was saying, more than the minister knew.
"Jeremiah, God's wrath abides upon every person who has transgressed His Commandments. If the Law is allowed to take its fearful course on the Day of Judgment, its sentence will be eternal Hell. It's the knowledge of our true state--that we are in big trouble, that drives us to the Gospel of grace.
"Our salvation was no small thing. When Jesus suffered on the Cross, He paid the fine with His own life's blood. Just as the friend showed that his love was more than mere lip service by paying the debt, so the Cross is an evident expression of God's love and grace toward you and me. But these are just empty words until God reveals the truth of them to you."
To be continued...