In the Image of Christ
Colossians 3:8-11



    A friend of mine went to Italy as a tourist. While there he decided to see the ruins at Pompeii. He went to the train station at Rome and carefully checked the train number and time of departure, and purchased his ticket. The next day he arrived at the station early, found the right track, the train with the sign "Pompeii" on the front of it, and entered one of the passenger cars. He was early, so only a few people were there and there were lots of seats available. He chose one and sat down to wait.

    An hour went by, nothing happened. No more people were getting on the train either, at least not in his car. "Hmmm," he thought, "I'd better go check this out and see what is happening." He left his seat and walked outside. To his surprise there was no train there any longer. His car and a couple of others were sitting there on an empty track by themselves... no engine train!

    He was shocked and confused. He began to question people and found that there had been a mistake that day. There were too many cars for the train to Pompeii, so the last ones, where he was sitting, had been unhooked from the train and left behind. Where was the train? Gone! Even though he'd been right there it left without him. My friend never got to Pompeii.

    What a shock! He was in the right place, at the right time, had a seat, had his ticket, and was waiting to go, but he got left behind and never made it! Even though he'd tried to be careful he'd ended up in the wrong car. All that preparation, for nothing. Left behind!

    This could happen to you, too. Not on a train to Pompeii, but concerning your hope to go to heaven when you die. You may think you're going to heaven, and then not get there after all! You may do what you think is making all the right preparations, and think you're in a good spot, and be just waiting, only to be left behind and shocked to find it out!

    What a shock it would be to go through your whole life thinking you're o.k., thinking you're going to heaven, sincerely expecting to make it there, and then to get left behind with those who are not going to heaven. Is it possible?

    Yes, and it is possible for it to happen to religious people and church-goers, too. Jesus said, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me..." (Matthew 7:22-23).

    You may say, "This has nothing to do with me, I don't claim to do the things those people claimed to do, prophesying, exorcizing, and doing many wonderful works." You need to know two things. First, if you have claimed to be a Christian because of doing or being a part of some miraculous thing, this verse is for you, to show you the danger of being deceived. And if you haven't ever done or said things like that, the second thing you need to know is that if devoutly religious people, people who seem to even be leaders in the church, can be deceived, then you can, too! Are you sure you're really on the "right train?" Don't be like my friend and wait too late to check. Don't sit there telling yourself everything is ok and taking comfort because others are there with you. You may not be going where you think you are!

    Think of the shock of it all, realizing you've been left behind and you will never make it to heaven. All you're hopes are dashed forever! You'll wish you had checked to make sure before the train left without you! All that time you thought you were on "the right track." You went to church meetings, joined, were a loyal church member, tried to do good, prayed and read your Bible occasionally. You weren't a "fanatic" about it like some people, but you weren't a pagan or a criminal either. You may have even thought, "Surely God will let me in heaven, if anyone is going there I am, I'm as good as the next person, and better than some!"

    That, my friend, is exactly what the people you read about in Matthew 7:22-23 thought and said. Reread the verses. Did these people make it to heaven? No. They were shocked to find themselves left behind shocked that they didn't make it to heaven. Listen to them pleading with the Lord for their lives, they're smart enough to know where all this means they're going! They say "Lord, Lord!", begging Him to reconsider. They feel there's been some mistake. They certainly wanted to go to heaven. They certainly thought they were going to heaven. They point to their good works, their religious conversation, hoping to convince the Lord to let them in. Do they get a second chance? Does God make an exception for them? No. If God would ever make an exception for anyone it would have been these people, but no exceptions are made. Hear His words to them, "I never knew you; depart from me." They were like my friend, in the wrong car all that time, and it's too late.

    Why? Could a God of love actually do that to people? Sincere people? Yes, the Bible says so. He will do it. These are the words of Jesus Christ. You can believe Him, it is really going to happen. If God didn't love you He wouldn't tell you the future and warn you about the danger of being deceived. The God of love warns you not to be fooled.

    Why? How could He do such a thing to people? Isn't it unfair? No, it isn't unfair. Think about it a minute. No one on the face of the earth has greater opportunity to know and to take the way to eternal life than these people who were religious, who did everything in Jesus' name and called themselves good Christians. No one had greater light on the path to God than they, but what did they do? At the end did they mention at all being forgiven from sin by the blood of Christ? Did they present themselves as people who had repented from sin and trusted Jesus Christ alone to save them? Did they mention His dying on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins? Did they mention submitting themselves to Him as Lord and Savior? Well ...did they? Read verse 22 again.

    The answer is "No, they didn't mention any of those things." Not one! What did they mention? Notice this carefully. Themselves and their works. They did a lot of good deeds. They went to a lot of church meetings. They prayed a lot of prayers. But good deeds, church meetings, and praying prayers, none of these things can get a person to heaven.

    To get to heaven you have to be linked to Jesus Christ. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the father but by me" (John 14:6). That is the plain truth that these religious people in Matthew 7 never paid any attention to. Have you paid attention? They were religious, but not converted followers of Christ. They did good works, but for the wrong reasons. Some people, like them, think God expects them to do them to get to heaven. They think these things will make God overlook their sins. But they're wrong.

    Good works cannot get you to heaven. Here's the simple reason why. Because they cannot pay for your sins. According to God your sins require death. They are a crime for which the penalty is death,  death in the lake of fire forever. Ezekiel 18:4 says, "The soul that sins, it shall surely die." Now, think about it, to get out of that will require more than a few, or a lot of good deeds. Only death will pay for sin. If you want to get to heaven you must have some way of getting rid of your obligation to pay the penalty for your sins. You can't work it off, but you can have a Substitute. There is One.

    But you can have a Substitute. That's what Jesus Christ is, He came to earth as the perfect man, God incarnate. He never sinned at all. Not even once. When He died on the cross at Calvary it was a willing death. He did it to substitute for you and pay your death penalty. His blood was shed so that you could have a pardon from your sins, if you want it! Therefore, only Jesus Christ can save, because He alone paid the penalty for your sins, the things that keep you out of heaven.

    Until you are forgiven for your sins and given eternal life through Jesus Christ you are still on the train to hell matter how many good works you do or what church you belong to. There are cars on that train for nice, religious, church-going people, and people who join civic clubs, who keep nice yards, who are good neighbors, who give to charity. They are filled with people like those in Matthew 7:22, people who think they're going to heaven when all the time they're bound for hell. How do you know you're not one of them, and about to be left behind forever?

    Check it out for yourself, don't be like my friend who sat there until it was too late. Check now. Believe the gospel. Do you know what it is? The gospel is, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures"
(1 Cor.15:3-4). Get that into your head and heart, this is how God deals with sin, not by works but by the death of a Substitute. Your sins require death, but Christ died for your sins, then rose again. Do you believe it?

    As true as this is, the gospel, you must do more than know what it is or believe that it is a true fact to be on your way to heaven. You must trust the Christ of the gospel to pardon you and give you new life, save you from going to hell to pay for your own sins. Information doesn't save people. Jesus Christ saves. He is the way to the Father, remember? Knowing the right train isn't the same thing as being on it!

    When you believe that you are a sinful person in need of forgiveness, that God the Son died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, that He rose again and is waiting to forgive you and give you new life right now, then you can trust Him. Then, knowing what you're doing, and why, you can truly commit yourself to Him to save you and thus you become one of His true followers, He becomes your personal Lord and Savior. Instantly Jesus Christ will cleanse you and give you eternal life, you'll be born again, and you'll be bound for heaven, guaranteed! What guarantee? The Word of God says, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Now, that's the right train!

    Don't be left behind. Don't assume you're ok, because the assumption could be fatal! Check now, do you understand the gospel? Have you turned from your sins to trust Jesus Christ as your only hope for heaven? Have you committed yourself to Him? Do you have a changed life that show's He's your Lord now? Or are you simply religious? Don't be left behind!

By Carl Knott

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