A distinguished-looking man stood before the jury, pleading his case, saying, "Your Honor, up to this time I have lived a clean life. My record as a respected citizen, a good husband and father, and a regular churchgoer has already been established by many witnesses of excellent character. This, your Honor, is my first and only crime."
The judge, in his instructions to the jury said, "It is true that up to this time the defendant has been a good, religious, respectable citizen, but all this must not sway you, for the crime which he has committed is a very serious one. You must bear in mind that it takes only one crime to make a criminal, and that this one crime wipes out any good of the past. You may retire."
After a long deliberation, the jury filed back into the courtroom and took their seats. The judge asked them, "What is your verdict?"
Trembling, the defendant got to his feet to receive the sentence. What would it be?
The foreman arose and said, "Your Honor, we find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree!'
The day of his execution was set, and the condemned man was put into the death cell. The days spent there seemed like eternity to him, but at last the fatal day arrived. The last meal was served and the last visitor had departed. Then, just before the death march began, the warden received a stay of execution notice for this man, and later a pardon from the President of the United States.
This pardon, coming from the highest authority in the country, enabled the guilty man to walk out of prison, free from the claims of the law, as though he had never committed a terrible crime.
Just as the judge instructed the jury that one crime wipes out all past merits, so God, the Judge of judges, the highest authority in heaven and the earth, has ruled that one sin wipes out any claim or merit based on past religious, moral, social, or ethical goodness. Just as one crime makes a criminal, so one sin makes a sinner; just as one crime must be paid for or pardoned, so also one sin must be paid for or pardoned.
The criminal in his death cell knew he was condemned to die but did not know until the last minute that he had been given a pardon. But there are millions roaming this world today who are unaware or indifferent to the truth that they are already under God's sentence of death. The scriptures tell us that, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," "For the wages of sin is death . . . ."
For about twenty centuries, God has offered a pardon to those who are sinners , but these so-called respectable sinners compare themselves with others and thus have a different opinion of themselves than God. For one sin levels down all mankind, regardless of race, religion, or culture, to sinners condemned to die. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth of God is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him (God) a liar, and his word is not in us." This word from the Bible does away once for all with the false conception of doing the best you can or comparing yourself favorably with another.
Would you like to have people see your past sins or sin thrown onto a screen? According to God's plan it takes only one sin to condemn us to eternal separation from God in hell. What a terrible condition would be ours if Romans 6:23, quoted above, stopped at the word, death. But it does not stop there. The rest of the verse goes on, ". . . but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
Mental assent to God's plan of salvation is of no value unless you do something about it. God's gift or pardon to a sinner is conditioned on the sinner's acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Redeemer from sin and hell. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
The vital difference between those who are redeemed and those who are lost is that when a born-again redeemed one stands before the judgment throne and all the past associates or the devil brings up past sins, the redeemed sinner can say, "Yes, all your accusations are true; but I have received, while living, a pardon from the King of kings."
But those who stand before the judgment throne of God, never having accepted God's pardon and, for one reason or another, never having received Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord from sin and hell, will hear this from the lips of the Lord of Glory, ". . . I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." God makes it very clear that, "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." No influence, religious, political, or otherwise, can set aside the verdict of God that one sin will send a soul to hell.
God has placed the Cross squarely across your path to hell. It will be no fault on God's part if you go to hell, but it will be the result of your deliberate choice or neglect. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"