It's Christmas Day on a beautiful farm. It hasn't snowed yet this season, and the grass around the farm is still mostly green. Eight year-old Johnny, after opening his gifts, looks out the big picture window and wishes for a white Christmas. As he looks out, he sees one of his dad's white sheep up against the green background of the pasture. He thinks to himself, "It may not snow this Christmas, but that sheep is so white, it's good enough. It can be my white Christmas." Suddenly, it begins to snow. Johnny's eyes light up and he shouts, "It's going to be a white Christmas!" Then the snow really starts coming down, and quickly covers the whole landscape. It stops as suddenly as it began, and Johnny runs outside to play. He glances over at the white sheep, and stops in disbelief, his mouth wide open. Instead of looking brilliantly white, the sheep now looks filthy against the glistening white background of the new-fallen snow.

This Christmas, people will do kind acts, volunteer, give to charity, and exchange gifts. Most of us try to do good things for relatives, friends, and strangers, especially during Christmas. It's called the "Christmas spirit." We are like the sheep standing out in the green pasture. Compared to a human standard of kindness and goodness, we are radiantly white and glistening.

Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Most of us do. To see what we really look like in God's eyes, He gave us the snowy white background of His moral law - the Ten Commandments. Take a few moments, read the following questions, and listen carefully to the voice of your conscience. It will always speak the truth. How many times have you lied in your lifetime? 100 times? 100,000 times? What does that make you? Have you ever stolen anything? What does that make you? How many times do you have to lie or steal to be a liar or a thief? Only once. Have you ever taken God's name in vain, using it as a curse word? That's called blasphemy. Even Hitler's name wasn't despised enough to be used as a curse word. If you've so much as looked with lust at another person (in person, on the internet, etc.), you've committed adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28), and if you've ever had feelings of anger or hatred toward another person, God sees you as a murderer-at-heart (1 John 3:15). Have you done those things? If you've ever said "My god is a god of love and would never create hell," or "all paths lead to the same god," you've fashioned a false god in your mind that you're more comfortable with, which breaks the second commandment (idolatry). And if you keep all of God's law and break just one law one time, you are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). It's like breaking one link in a chain - the whole chain breaks. But we haven't sinned just once; each of us has likely sinned millions of times. So, will you be innocent or guilty when you stand before God? Will you end up in heaven or hell? No matter what you currently believe, all that will matter the day you die is whether that belief was actually true or not.

In a court of law, a good judge sees that justice is done. Many people think that because God is good, He will just forgive them and let them go. But He would be corrupt if He did that, like a judge that lets a convicted killer go free. It is God's goodness that will make sure that all liars, thieves, adulterers, etc., receive justice. He will judge everything you have ever done: thought, word, and deed. Imagine if someone recorded your secret thought life on a DVD and played it back for your friends and family to see. God sees all your thoughts every day. You see, we tend to create very low standards in our minds to justify our sin, so that we can view ourselves as "good people." But even a bank robber thinks he's a "good person" if he hasn't robbed a bank in a few months. It's true that you or I may not be as bad as Osama bin Laden, but the standard we will be measured by is God's holy, righteous, perfect standard, not other people. The Bible says "there's not one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).

All of us will face God and give Him an account when we die, whether we believe in Him or not. At that point, none of our accomplishments, money, or possessions will matter one bit. Truth is narrow, just as 2+2=4. There can be many wrong answers for what happens after you die, but there is only one right answer. What will happen to you when you die?

Here's the good news. God made a way for His goodness and justice to meet. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to be born, to live the perfect life that met God's perfect standard, and then to die on a cross in your place, as your substitute, taking your punishment. Then Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. Simply put, you broke the law, and Jesus is the only one who can pay your fine. If you repent (turn from sin), humble yourself before God, and trust in Christ like you would trust in a parachute to save you from a deadly drop out of a plane, God promises this: that He will consider your fine paid once and for all, forgive you, grant you the free gift of eternal life, change your heart, and make you a new person with new desires to serve Him. Remember, you don't just believe in a parachute, you put it on. The Bible says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14). One day, whether it be fifty years from now, next week, or tonight, every one of us will have to jump out of an airplane called life through a door called death into a place called eternity, and if your parachute isn't on, you will perish. At any moment, each one of us is just one heartbeat away from going through that door.

This Christmas, ponder the question that Jesus asked His disciples in Mark 8:27: "Who do people say that I am?" Who do you say Jesus Christ is? The modern world says that all roads lead to heaven and that all religions are equally valid. However, there are actually just two world religions, and they are mutually exclusive. The first one, the religion of human achievement, says that you must work your way to God by doing "good works" such as attending church, doing charity work, following religious rituals, etc. The second says that God accomplished salvation for you, and that you must reach out and take the free gift that is offered to you. Jesus Himself claimed to be God (John 5:18, 8:58, 10:30, etc.), and He is the promised Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6, 53; Psalm 22, etc.). The Bible says that His death and resurrection are completely sufficient to save you (Romans 8:1, 10:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:21). To say that we need to add to or ignore His sacrifice by "working" our way to heaven is the ultimate insult to God, because on the cross Jesus said, "It is finished." If Christ is truly in you, you will do good works from a thankful heart because you are forgiven, not as an attempt to be forgiven. True Christianity is a relationship with Christ, not "religion." Remember, Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and L. Ron Hubbard are all dead, but Jesus Christ is alive.

The Bible says that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). When you die, there is no second chance, only judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible reveals that Jesus Himself will be the Judge (John 5:22). If you reject the gift of God's Son and die in your sins, God will give you justice and you will end up in hell forever. Hell will be a place of eternal punishment for sin, because you have sinned against an eternal Being. Think of all God has blessed you with here on earth - the ability to see, to breathe, to eat, etc. In hell, even the smallest blessings and mercies from God you enjoy here on earth will be gone. It's not God's will that you go there (2 Peter 3:9). Think about this: would you sell one of your eyes for a million dollars? How about both for fifty million? I'm sure you wouldn't, because your eyes are precious to you. Yet your eyes are merely the windows of your soul. If you wouldn't sell your eyes at any price, what must your soul be worth? It is utterly without price.

The reason Christ came in a manger was so you could come to the foot of a blood-stained cross and find grace, mercy, and eternal life instead. That is the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), His name is the only name that can save us (Acts 4:12), and He is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). If you aren't trusting the Savior, you are condemned already (John 3:18) and God's wrath abides on you (John 3:36). So, if you have any unfinished business with God, take care of it in the privacy of your own heart tonight before your head hits the pillow. This isn't an attempt to get you to join a church, it's the gospel truth, and it's written out of genuine concern for where you will spend eternity. Ten out of ten people die, and there is nothing more important than your eternal salvation. Thanks for reading this, and have a Merry Christmas!

Eric Johnson

Acts 4:12