The Open Manhole
Suppose you saw someone crossing the street, not particularly noticing where he was going. Now suppose that he is about to step into an open manhole. How would you respond? Some people, not the kind we would want to know, might remain silent hoping to enjoy the spectacle of someone falling in and breaking his leg at the bottom of the city sewer. Others might wish to help, but are too timid, afraid that they may be wrong, or that they will offend the careless pedestrian. After all, nobody likes to be told that they are making a mistake.
Yet, I hope that you would be the kind of person who would recognize the danger and think enough of a fellow citizen’s welfare that you would shout out a warning and point out the danger. If he stubbornly refused to listen and fell in anyway, at least you could sleep that night. It is in this spirit of kindly warning that I have written this pamphlet. I hope that you will take just a minute or two to read on with an open mind.
There is an all too common condition which has eluded the best efforts of medical science to find a cure. Billions of tax dollars have been spent by university and medical researchers in vain. Those suffering from the advanced stages of this condition are condemned to suffer the most excruciating pain day after day for many years. Past a certain point, there is no treatment, no cure, and not even any way to alleviate the incredible torment. This condition kills more victims than AIDS, cancer, heart disease, stroke and auto accidents combined.
The truly sad thing is that this condition is treatable if detected early and the patient is willing to make some lifestyle changes. Even more sad is that the lifestyle changes will usually make a person’s life happier - not always, but usually. More tragic yet is the fact that the method of preventing this condition is well documented and proven. The prevention methods have been published many times over the years. Why then do so many people allow themselves to be trapped by such horror?
One reason may be that many people are so consumed by their present lifestyle that they refuse to consider any lifestyle alternative with an open mind. What about you? Another reason may be personal pride, an unwillingness to admit that they have been wrong all along. But consider - what pride is there in the sickbed or grave? Yet another reason may be that those who publish the prevention techniques are generally outside of the medical and other “establishments” and thus not “respectable.” This last problem is hardly new; those who first developed the germ theory of disease were mocked, ridiculed and even persecuted. Will you consider your situation with an open mind? Or are you content to live for the present, choosing to blindly ignore the great danger which you may face? Please read on with an open mind. You have only a couple of minutes to lose and much to gain.
What is this terrible condition? It is called GUILT. Not guilt feelings, mind you, but an actual legal guilt which deserves the punishment of eternal Hellfire. OK, go ahead and laugh. This has just turned out to be another tract by some Bible thumping fundamentalist, right? But, are you sure that you are right and that I am wrong? If you are right, you have only wasted a couple of minutes reading this. But if you are wrong, the consequences are unspeakably awful. Have you ever burned yourself? Think of that pain all over your entire body day after day, year after year, for all eternity. This is not the pain of having burned yourself and then quickly yanking your finger away. This is the pain of being trapped in a raging fire. There is NO ESCAPE. If you are wrong, the consequences of being wrong are so horrible that you owe it to yourself to carefully consider this tract with an open mind.
The Cure Explained
The problem is basically simple. God made the entire universe, creating it from nothing. He also made you. This gives Him the right to specify how you will live and to punish you if you do not obey. God is perfectly Holy, and no sin (violation of God’s commands) can come into His presence or remain unpunished. This may sound harsh to modern ears, but the Holiness of God is no small matter. God is perfectly Holy, and it is God’s own Glory which is His standard for holiness in men. Anything less is sin.
Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Have you sinned? Measure yourself against God’s standard in Exodus 20:3-17. God commanded you:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.
How do you measure up? Have you ever disobeyed God? God also said:
Isaiah 59: 2 - But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
God is Holy. God is also perfectly just. Now no judge can be just who lets criminals go unpunished. Many criminals think that they do not deserve to be punished. This is part of human nature - we think we are not as bad as we really are. The fact of the matter is, however, that we are truly guilty before God and richly deserve the fires of Hell.
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Revelation 21:8 - But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Now someone will say that, “God is Love” and thus He would not throw anyone into Hell. Another will say that for God to torment a person in Hell on account of, “just a little sin” would be cruel. But, God is also Holy and Just. If you think that you do not deserve Hellfire, then you either do not understand the Holiness and Perfection of God, do not realize the seriousness of your sin, or more probably, both. Indeed, it is His holiness and justice which shows the magnitude of His love for us. Would you give your life for that of a cockroach? Or would you send your only son to die so that a cockroach might live? Cockroaches, being part of God’s natural creation are neither unholy, nor sinners. Sinners are infinitely more disgusting and revolting to God than cockroaches are to us.
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What makes the difference between the “us” for whom Christ died and the “them” for whom Christ did not die? The answer is God’s grace, wherein Christ takes upon Himself the punishment due for sins and turns away the Just and Holy Wrath of God by giving perfect satisfaction to God’s Holy Justice. The Bible speaks clearly regarding those who have been saved from the fires of Hell into eternal life. God said,
Eph 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Notice that good works (going to church, helping the poor or whatever) do not save anyone, but are the result of God’s free gift of salvation. This matter deserves some discussion on two points. First, people realize instinctively that they cannot serve God and go on sinning willfully. “Getting religion” involves a change of lifestyle. In short, there is a cost involved in following Jesus Christ. It is tragic that all too many people love their sin or their present lifestyle so much that they willfully turn a blind eye to the dangers of Hell and the glories of being with God in Heaven. In order to be saved, you must repent of (turn away from) your sins. You cannot pretend. God who sees and hears all will not be fooled.
Mk 12: 30-31 - 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
The second point is that many people think that their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds and so they will go to Heaven and escape Hell. Not only is this not true, but it would not work even if it were true because God’s standard of holiness is His Own Glory - absolute perfection, which is beyond human reach. Be honest with yourself. Do you truly love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Do you really love others as yourself? An analogy might help. No doubt any basketball player can jump a lot higher than I can and shoot far better - but it would make no difference if the hoop were on the moon. Against such a high standard (the moon), the basketball player is no better than I am. Only Jesus Christ ever lived a perfect life. Jesus Christ is the only person in history to ever earn the right to go to Heaven by living a perfect life - a right He earned for those who repent and believe in Him.
Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Romans 4:5-7 - But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
Only the Righteousness of Christ will get anyone into Heaven. Only the Righteousness of Christ will deliver anyone from the fires of Hell. Christ’s righteousness covers the sins of anyone who receives His righteousness through faith.
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Psalm 34:22 - The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
Isaiah 12:2 - Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.
In the modern world, there is the prevalent error that faith (or belief) is a matter of intellectual conviction or emotional assurance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Faith is not confidence in yourself, but in Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness.
James 2:19 - You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble!
Faith or belief in God is an act of the will, a choice which you must make. True faith expresses itself in acts of obedience to God. True intellectual conviction and emotional assurance come from a personal relationship with the Living God.
John 14:21 - He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.
One final point. You have no doubt heard many “experts” say things such as:
The Bible is fiction.
The Bible is a matter of human interpretation.
God is love and would never send anyone to Hell.
All religions lead to God.
Truth is relative.
The important thing is to be sincere.
Science “proves” man evolved from slime and Genesis is mere fable.
These “experts” are only rationalizing away the truth. For God said,
Romans 1: 20 - For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools …
Will You Take the Cure and Inherit Eternal Life?
Now then friend, what will you do? I urge you to carefully consider where you will spend eternity. The issue is very simple:
1. God made you.
2. God told you how you must live and put this knowledge in your conscience.
3. You have rebelled and sinned against God instead of obeying Him.
4. You deserve to be punished for your rebellion against God and you deserve to go to Hell.
5. Yet, in His awesome lovingkindness, God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever repents and trusts in Jesus will be forgiven and will inherit eternal life.
You may say, “It can’t be that simple.” It is that simple. It is simple enough for children.
Luke 18: 16 - But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Jesus has not restricted His grace to philosophers and engineers, but to those who trust in His mercy with a simple childlike trust. He commands you to repent and trust Christ for your salvation from your sins. Will you obey God or not? This is a simple yes or no question.
You may still have doubts. You may still have questions. You can definitely trust your questions and doubts to God. My friend, this is more than the difference between life and death; it is the difference between eternal death and eternal life: Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ?
If your answer is no, be assured that you can always change your mind - until you die. If your answer is yes, then consider the following prayer. Such prayers are neither mechanical nor magical. They can neither save you nor magically compel God to save you. But if the prayer reflects the desire of your heart, it is a way to acknowledge to Jesus your new faith in Him and your repentance from sin.
Oh, most Merciful and Gracious Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that you have created me. I know that I have, of my own fault sinned against you. I know that I deserve to be punished. I repent and turn away from my sins. I believe that you have sent your only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Have mercy on me and forgive my sins, not because I deserve your mercy and lovingkindness, but because You are merciful and gracious. I know that you have sent Jesus Christ to pay for my sins and appease your just anger against me. Thank you for your great mercy and for your wonderful gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for coming into my life. Have mercy on me and teach me how to live as one of your disciples ought to live. By your grace and help, I promise to seek you, learn from you, obey you and glorify you, in this life and forever.
If this prayer reflects what is on your heart, then welcome to the Eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ! There are two things you will need to do right away. The first is get a Bible. You would do well to start reading the Gospel of John. The second thing you need to do is find a good church whose members and pastor believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that the Bible is the only inerrant and infallible rule for faith and life. Make sure that they believe that Jesus Christ is both God and Man and the only Way to eternal life. If they don’t believe these things, run for your life. Ask God to help you find the right church. A good church will right away help you get started in the basics of how to walk with God and arrange for you to be baptized. Praise the Lord!
Tract by: Tom Sullivan
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette
Pastor: Keith Evans
1723 S. 9th Street
Lafayette, IN 47905
Copyright 1998, General permission to duplicate and distribute granted providing that the text of this tract is unaltered, Scripture passages are in larger type than other text and this copyright notice is included. All Scripture text from the New King James Bible.