What is your Answer?
By Urie Kanagy
The Lord has a word for us. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”
Yesterday I met a brother. We shook hands, and we looked at each other, and we said, “What is there to say?” And in a sense that’s how we feel today. What is there to say? But friends, there’s a lot to say. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. You know, we can say Thy will be done. And we can say though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me.
I thought back to that Friday morning, that early morning, and we look at some of those pictures, and we look at these bodies, and we can hardly fathom what has happened. But as I look into the Scriptures and into the words of God, we see God’s word saying that He was there. Jesus was there. I believe the angels were there. In fact we read in Luke 16:22 where Lazarus the poor beggar died, and he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. I believe there was a lot of angelic activity there at the moment of the accident.
I enjoy reading testimonies of people that died. I would like to share just a few. Here’s one. This person was dying, and he said, “Oh, glory, hallelujah to Jesus, He shed his blood for poor me. Oh, how I wish I had the strength to tell everybody that I am happier in this moment than I ever was in all my life put together. I see two angels; they have come for me.”
As we look back to that tragic morning, we grieve, and rightly so. But I trust that we’re not sorrowing as those that have no hope. Yes, maybe in a sense we cannot understand, but it must have been a glorious thing for them, because we have the confidence that Jesus was there. Oh, hallelujah, glory to Jesus, He shed his blood for poor me.
But at the same time, we read in the same chapter, “And the rich man died and being in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
As I get older and as I read the Scriptures, they become more precious and more simple to me. I see only two places in this particular portion of Scripture. We believe there is a heaven and a hell. What would it be if you and I would have to decide a half a dozen different things? What if God made five different places, and we’d have to somehow decide which place to go?
But, no, the Scripture is very simple, and there’s only two places. And we have to make that choice. Where do we want to go? And we’re here together and God has spoken to us again. I believe many of us will go home and never be the same again. I trust it will be that way. God is continuing to call us every day.
I like to think of heaven, and I thought about this and it seems that at a time like this, heaven becomes more real and nearer than at other times. But there is another place. These are a few testimonies of people that were not prepared when God called them.
This man was dying, and he cried out, “The devils are come, the devils are come! Hell and damnation!” Another man said, “I can see the old devil right here in the bedroom.” A.T. Edmonson the unbeliever, as he passed away, said, “Oh! The devil is come to drag my soul to hell. I am lost forever.” Friends, there is activity when man leaves this life. God is calling us to prepare today, for the day when we hear the voice of Jesus calling our name. Will I be prepared to meet Him.
And friends, this is not something that just happens. It’s something that we need to make preparations for. And would to God that we would be making these preparations. I have a little title for my message, “What is your answer?” Some time ago in our congregation, there was a older brother that was there, and he had a devotional meditation on a Sunday morning. And he said that he had a dream that he had died, and he came before that throne where God was, that great judgment throne. And this older man, recounted how that he had came up to that throne, and was meeting God face to face, and the question that God asked him was, “Why do you think you can go to heaven?”
And that is the question that God is asking us today. Why do I think I can go to heaven? He said as quick as a flash, it came to his mind, and he said it’s because of Jesus! And God smiled at him and said, “Enter into the Kingdom.” Friends, why do you think you can go to heaven? That’s the question that needs to be answered. And that’s the question that we need to face.
In 2 Cor. 5:10 he tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
You know, every one of us is going to face God some day. And there’s a simplicity of the Scripture; there’s only two places. Why do you think that you can go to heaven? What is your answer to this question? We are all going to stand before God Almighty some day, and the Bible tells us in Romans 2:16 “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel.”
You see, my dear friends, God knows everything. When these people passed from this life, they met God. The ministry here did not get a visit from God. The authorities, the police station, didn’t get a visit to check out the records of these people; they didn’t come here to ask how their church life was and so on. The Bible tells us that God knows everything. In fact, He tells us that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the good and the evil.
He says in Psalms that the presence of the Lord fills the whole earth. I believe the presence of God is here this morning, and He is filling this whole place. He knows every thought, and He knows everything that is going on in your minds. God knows everything, and He will judge the secrets of man.
My friends, what is your answer? Why do you think you can go to heaven? You know, there’s different people. You’ll get different answers. I want you to honestly answer that question in your heart this very moment. Why do you think that you can go to heaven?
There’s people that tell me, “Well, if I join church, I can go to heaven. Oh, I hope I can go to heaven.” There’s others that think if they’re obedient to the Bible, they hope they can go to heaven. Or if I help in the community, or if I do good deeds, I can somehow get to heaven. But the burning question is, why do you think you can go to heaven? What is your answer? This question must be answered!
The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:22 “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? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
What is the answer? How will we get to heaven? Friends, turn with me to Hebrews 9:22 It’s within this book that we must find the answers. There is no other answer to be found outside the word of God. It must be in here. And this is what tells us what the answer is.
In Hebrews 9:22 “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” We’re talking of the blood of Jesus Christ. My friends, church membership will never take care of the sins we’ve committed in the past! Doing good deeds will never take care of them! Trying to earn our way to have our sins forgiven will never work!
It says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. There needs to be a faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ! That blood, when He hung there on the cross, there on that lonely hill of Golgotha. And when those soldiers came and they pierced His side, and out of His side came blood and water, and it stained the soil there. And it’s only as we have faith in that, that we can have our sins under the blood.
But what are we saying? It’s simply this way. God calls us to repentance. Those things that we’ve done in the past, those things that we know that have been sin and have been wrong, there is nothing that will take care of it but the blood of Jesus Christ. Oh friends, do you believe in Jesus today? Do you trust in the blood? Are you convinced that your sins are under the blood?
It’s when we come to him, and we tell him, “I’m sorry for that terrible sin that I’ve done; I’m sorry for those things that have taken place in my life”, and I’m weeping and praying before him, and I’ve confessed them to him. And then in faith I look to the cross, to His bleeding side, that atonement. It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
And He died on that cross to make atonement for our sins. And as we look at that blood and we say, “Yes, Lord, oh, I believe in the blood, I want my sins covered, I want to be your child,” Friends, at that moment, the blood of Jesus covers our past sins, and the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:17 “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
Friends, why do we have hope for these people that are lying in these caskets? Is it because they were good people? As I understand the Scriptures, the only reason we have hope is because they have given testimony that they believed in Jesus and in His blood to cleanse them from their sins. What are you depending upon for your sins? We need to repent, we need to be sorry, and we need to bring them to God. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
My dear Friend, I don’t know who is in this audience. Are you struggling? Have you confessed your sins? Is the devil trying to tell you that it’s still there? I’d like to encourage you. Yes, I believe we need to weep about our sins. But, I can hardly fathom that some of the things that have gone on in my past life, and I’ve confessed them, and I believe that the blood of Jesus covers them, that He does not remember them anymore. Praise God!
We believe that God is a holy God, and we’re going to stand before God some day. And we’re going to give an account. Friends, if we’ve got sin in our life, known sin, it will separate us from God, yes, it will keep us out of heaven. God is a Holy God and he will get the glory. What will your answer be? Our answer is found in Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” And in verse 27, “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto him that look….when you stand before the throne and God asks you, “Why do you think you can go to heaven?” Where are you going to? Friends, we need to look to Jesus! And unto them that look for Him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith. We need to look to Jesus. Looking unto Jesus. We read in 1 Peter 1:17 “And if ye call on the Father, who judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
You know, it’s sobering when we think of these people laying here in these caskets. They went before an Almighty God. The Bible tells us, “If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” As these people met Jesus, and as they left this life, they met God, and there was no respect of persons.
It didn’t matter if they were an Esh. It didn’t matter if they were a Peight, or a Gingrich. Every one of us is going to stand before God, and there will be no strings pulled. No one is going to be a favorite. The only chance that we have, is to have Jesus as our Advocate on that day, and if we have our sins under the blood, and if we believe in Jesus and what He has done for us.
The Bible says in Acts 4 that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. It is in the name of Jesus. You know, we are getting close to Good Friday, and Easter, and would to God that Jesus and what He means to us would become more and more precious to us with each passing year. And may we prepare our hearts for the time when He comes for us.
Again the question is, what is going to be your answer when you stand before the Throne of God, and you will give account to the Almighty God. There will not be any respect of persons? Friends, we appreciate the Mennonite church and the Mennonite heritage; the Amish church and the Amish heritage and those things. But just saying that you’re a part of a Mennonite church or the Baptist church or the Amish church is not going to get you into heaven. We must have an advocate; Jesus is truly our only hope.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter “And to them that believe, He is precious.” May Jesus be very precious to us. I thought of a very interesting account that I read some time ago of a man, an ungodly sea captain. He was out on the sea, getting to the end of his life, it is called
“Put Your Captain’s Name In It”
Captain Coutts sent for his first mate, and said: “Williams, please get down on your knees and pray for a fellow. I have been very wicked, as you know, and I expect I shall go this time”.
“I am not a praying man, Captain; so I can’t pray. I would if I could”.
“Well, then, bring a Bible and read me a bit, for my rope is about run out”.
“I have no Bible, Captain, you know, I am not a religious man”.
“Then send for Thomas, the second mate”, said the Captain – perhaps he can pray a bit”.
The second mate was soon in the presence of his dying Captain, who said to Him: “I say, Thomas, I am afraid I am bound for Eternity this trip; get down and pray for me. Ask God to have mercy on my poor soul”.
“I would gladly do it to oblige you, Captain – if I could; but I have not prayed since I was a lad”.
“Have you a Bible, then, to read to me”?
“No, Captain, I have no Bible”.
Alas! for the poor Captain. How awful his condition – on the brink of Eternity and without Christ. They searched the ship over for a man who could pray, but they searched in vain: and for a Bible, but one could not be found until one of the sailors told the Captain he had seen a book that looked like a Bible in the hands of the cook’s boy, a little fellow named Willie Platt.
“Send at once”, said the Captain, “and see if the boy has a Bible”.
The sailor hurried off to find Willie, and said to him – “Sonny, have you a Bible”?
“Yes, sir, but I only read it in my own time”.
“Oh, that’s all right, my lad; take the Bible and go to the Captain’s cabin. He is very sick and wants a Bible – thinks he is going to die”.
Away went Willie with his Bible to the Captain’s cabin.
“Have you a Bible, my boy”?
“Then sit down, and find something in it that will help me, for I am afraid I am going to die. Find something about God having mercy on a sinner like me – and read it to me”.
Well, there was one chapter he and his mother loved – Isaiah 53 – and often had they read it together. So Willie turned to that blessed chapter that so fully sets forth the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, in dying for such as John Coutts; and began to read.
When he got to the fifth verse – “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed” – the Captain, who was listening intently, said, “Stop, my boy, that sounds like it; read it again”.
Once more, the boy read over the blessed words, “He was wounded for our transgressions”.
“Ay, my lad, that’s good – that’s it for sure”.
These words from the Captain encouraged Willie, and he said, “Captain, when I was reading that verse at home, mother made me put my name in it. May I put it in now”?
“Certainly, sonny; put your name in it just as your mother told you, and read it again”.
Reverently and slowly, the boy read the verse: “He – Jesus – was wounded for Willie Platt’s transgressions – He was bruised for Willie Platt’s iniquities” – and so on.
When Willie had finished, the Captain was half-way over the side of the bed, and reaching toward the lad he said, “My boy, put your Captain’s name in the verse and read it again”.
Then the lad slowly read the verse again: “He was wounded for John Coutts’ transgressions”; “He was bruised for John Coutts’ iniquities”, “The chastisement of John Coutts’ peace was upon Him”, “and by His stripes John Coutts is healed”.
When Willie had finished, the Captain said, “That will do, my lad, you may go now”. Then the Captain lay back on his pillow and repeated over and over again those precious words of Isaiah 53:5, putting in his own name each time, and as he did so, the joy of heaven filled his soul – he was saved! Yes, praise the Lord, he was saved! Another poor sinner saved, for whom Jesus died.
The soul of Captain Coutts soon passed away. His body was rolled in canvas, placed upon a plank, and allowed to slide overboard into the water, to be seen no more until Jesus comes and the sea gives up its dead.
Before John Coutts fell asleep in Jesus, he had witnessed to every one on his vessel that the Christ of God – the Man of Calvary – was wounded for his transgressions, was bruised for his iniquities, and the chastisement that he so rrightfully deserved had fallen on his Blessed Substitute – and by His stripes – the stripes that fell on Jesus – he, John Coutts, had been healed. Can you, my reader, say the same?
Friends, that’s why we have hope for the Esh Family. They put their name in there. That is the only thing that we have to hope for today, that is, if we put our name in there. Friends, yes, we sorrow for the passing of loved ones, but isn’t it glory to know that our sins can be forgiven? And that we can come before God and be righteous before him?
There are some beautiful verses that I’d like to read. John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” This is a powerful scripture, a scripture that gives hope! Oh yes, friends, we find ourselves failing; we find ourselves falling short. But the Bible has something to tell us about that even then.
Hebrews 9: 24 “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:” Friends, when get to meet Jesus, in that great white throne judgment, we need someone to represent us. If we don’t have Jesus, if we don’t believe in Jesus, if we don’t have our sins covered by the blood, there’s going to be a fearful and a horrible thing happen to us.
Again the Bible tells us in John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” You read that verse, and read it again, and read it again, until it becomes real to you. We are on a journey to eternity, and it is such a fearful and a horrible thing for an unbeliever to fall into the hands of a living God. God has made all the provisions necessary, and His call is loud and clear to us today, that we prepare our hearts.
We need to get down in brokenness and humbleness before the Almighty God. We need to confess our sins. We need to believe in the blood of Jesus, and we need to look unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. He needs to be everything to us.
He says, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:” He is there for us. In Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save to them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
There’s a beautiful quote that Menno Simons made. “For Christ’s sake we are in grace; for His sake we are heard; and for his sake our failings and transgressions which are committed involuntarily, are remitted.” Do you have someone that is interceding for you at this very time? Do you trust in Jesus even though we come short sometimes, that there is a Jesus in heaven and because of Him, God will accept us?
I don’t believe that these people were perfect when they left this life. There were some faults and failures. But if they trusted in Jesus, if they were looking to Jesus, Jesus was able to present them faultless before the throne!And it’s because of Him that we have this hope. It is He that stands between his Father and his imperfect children. The question is, do we know this Jesus?
With his perfect righteousness and his innocent blood and death, and intercedes for all who believe on him, who strive by faith in his divine word to turn from evil. Today there are people who think their works will get them to heaven; and there are other people who think they are saved and eternally secure so they think they can do whatever they want to.
But my friends, there is nothing that will save us from our sins but the blood of Jesus Christ. But then God calls us to walk in humbleness, brokenness and obedience before him. The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:21 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
And so as we think of this, how do we relate – how do we deal with this thing? What if this would have been me, would everything be okay? Friends, we need to look to Jesus; He is the one that covers our imperfections and our shortcomings and our failures. Now, I would hasten to say, we find this in Hebrews 10:26 “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
If there is known sin in my life, and I do not want to repent of it, I do not want to acknowledge it, and I still say, “I’m born again, I’m a church member”, that sin will stand against you. There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. God is calling us today to examine our life. Yes, we can say we’re a church member. We can say we’ve been born again.
But if there is sin that is hidden in our life, we need to get rid of it! We need to bring it under the blood! Oh yes, we make our mistakes; we have our failings, but as Menno Simons says, “For Christ’s sake we are in grace. Because of Him our failings are remitted.” Do we understand the preciousness of Jesus to the believer?
It’s because of Him that we can be righteous before Him. In 2 Cor. 5:21 he tell us, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
It is absolutely impossible for us to get to God without Jesus Christ representing us. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
As we think of sin, the Bible tells us that we know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. Friends, is there anyone in this audience that is holding a grudge against another brother, and yet we say we’re Christians? God wants us to clean house; he wants us to get rid of those things. He wants us to fall in brokenness before him and allow that brother, or that sister that’s giving us a problem, to be a tool and an instrument in bringing us to a further brokenness before Him.
There’s no such things as happens in the Christian life. We know that all things work together for the good to them that love God. Are you a person that is struggling, and you have not forgiven someone? Friends, God is calling you to get rid of it! We need to give up everything, bring it under the blood, and then we can have that confidence.
There’s one more point that I’d just like to leave with you, and this is the best part of it all. In Jude 24, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
You know, I thought about that. I tried to imagine last Friday morning, early, Jesus standing on the threshold of heaven, looking down, waiting for these people; the Bible tells us, “to present you faultless before His presence with exceeding joy.” I believe he’s talking about the joy of Christ. I believe Jesus was just so joyful. He is excited!
I believe that’s kind of an earthly term. But I believe he can hardly wait to take His children there, to that throne, and say, “Here’s someone that I died for, and who has trusted in Me.” And because of Jesus we can be faultless! Do you believe in Jesus today? Do we have that confidence, looking unto Jesus? What will your answer be when you stand before that throne?
The Bible tells us we’re all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And I get the picture that some will come to the judgment and there’s going to be no one there for them. And here we have the picture that Jesus is going to be there for his children that trusted Him. To present us faultless before the throne.
We’re all going to meet God someday, aren’t we? But will we do it with Jesus, or all by ourselves? Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints–valuable. I think sometimes that God can hardly wait to take His children. I thought about this a little bit. That morning, when our brethren, our friends, met death; Jesus was there to meet them. I can just imagine Him, taking their hand through glory land, coming over there to that throne, and there they met God. I believe it’s going to be a glorious thing for those that believe in Jesus. I believe it was glory for them.
And may we prepare our hearts, that we might experience that. If God were to ask us, “Why do you think you can go to heaven?” What is your answer going to be?
I’d like to close with Rev. 7:9 “after this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
Friends, family, I’d just like to leave this picture with you. To the church, and to each one of us. You know, we see their bodies, but oh, friends, we trust and hope that they are before the throne: “And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
We can only imagine, can’t we? May God bless each one of you as a family. I certainly have enjoyed and appreciated getting to know each one of these that have passed on. I have pleasant memories of your parents. I have appreciated the influence of those who have passed on. May God bless you richly.