How can I be sure I’ll avoid outer darkness?

Some people will say that they are physically healthy because they feel good. But a doctor wouldn’t base his answer just on how a person felt. He would give them a thorough check-up.

Some people will say that they are physically healthy because they feel good. But a doctor wouldn’t base his answer just on how a person felt. He would give them a thorough check-up.

A professional football team would not rely on the feelings of a player to determine if he was healthy or not. Before offering a multi-million dollar contract, the team would require an extensive battery of tests be run before inking the deal. The higher the stakes, the more thorough the exam.

If physical health is important, then being spiritually healthy is much more important. Because the stakes are so much higher.

Therefore, it isn’t wise to determine our spiritual health on how we feel. We need a thorough spiritual check-up. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave us some tools so we can provide an honest self-examination.

Four Tests to Examine your Spiritual Health

Test #1 – Have You Ever Been Unjustly Angry?

“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

See also 1 John 3:15.

Have you ever been unjustly angry at anybody? Some possible examples: at the driver who cuts you off in traffic; when you are having a bad day and you take your frustration out on the most convenient person; anger fueled by jealousy or when you are competing in sports.

Have you ever spoken an unkind word to anybody? Some possible examples: unintentionally wounding a person while kidding around; snapping at a friend, spouse, or child; speaking disrespectfully about a politician or a superior.

Have you ever had hateful thoughts about anybody? Some possible examples: people who criticize your beliefs; enemies of your nation; an irritating or obnoxious co-worker.

Test #2 – Have You Ever Felt Lust For Another?

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28

See also Ephesians 5:3-4.

Have you ever daydreamed or had unclean thoughts about another person?

Have you ever caught yourself rationalizing away your lust by saying that what you are doing is not really lust?

Have you ever looked at a picture or watched a movie that gave you unclean thoughts?

Have you ever told, repeated, or enjoyed an off-color joke?

Test #3 – Do You Always Love Difficult People?

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

Matthew 5:43-44

Here we see that we sin not only by doing what God forbids but also by not doing what he commands. God commands us to love everybody including our enemies. That means that being apathetic or remaining neutral about anybody is a sin because these attitudes fall short of love.

Do you love everybody, including people who hate your nation or your church? Do you love the people who make your life miserable?

Do you always put that love into practice by doing good to everybody you met? (See Romans 12:20)

Do you speak well of everybody including an inconsiderate neighbor, a domineering boss, an annoying acquaintance?

Do you pray for people who are mean to you, who criticize your church?

Test #4 – Do You Worry?

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

Matthew 6:25

Do you worry about how you will provide for your family? Do you worry about making ends meet? Do you lose sleep worrying about the future?

Are you completely content with what you have? (See also 1 Timothy 6:8)

How did you do?

Do you ever fail to do what Jesus commanded? Is there any evidence of sin in your life?

Everybody Sins

The Bible says that everybody sins. And people don’t just sin occasionally. Read carefully God’s sobering summary of the human race, first given in the Old Testament, and then repeated in the New Testament:

“There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good; no, not one.”

Romans 3:10-12

Look at the litany of all-inclusive terms. “None, none, none, all, none, not one.” The Bible leaves no doubt. Everybody – without exception – has a massive spiritual health problem.

All Sin is Deadly

Some illnesses are minor and non-life threatening. But others, like Ebola, are deadly. It’s so deadly that people are terrified of coming into even the slightest contact with it. Scripture clearly states that sin, in all its manifestations, is more deadly than Ebola:

“The wages of sin is death”

Romans 6:23

Sin kills. Every time.

It brings not only physical death, but also spiritual death.

Spiritual death is what Scripture is referring to in Ephesians:

“Even when we were dead in sins.”

Ephesians 2:5

Note the “we” in this verse. Paul, who wrote these words, is not just talking about really bad people. He includes himself. That is significant because he was one of the strictest of religious Jews. He zealously observed all the laws. In spite of that, he confessed that he had been dead in his sins.

That even a zealous person like Paul was spiritually dead underscores that sin kills all the time.

Even Ebola doesn’t kill everybody it affects. But sin does. Every sin does.

James emphasized that every sin kills when he wrote:

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”

James 2:10

The word “offend” literally means to stumble. It describes an action that is unintentional. Who plans on stumbling? But even stumbling over one law – accidentally not obeying just one of God’s commands – makes a person guilty of breaking it all. One slip of the tongue, one lustful thought, one apathetic response, one moment of worry brings on spiritual death. Immediately.

Spiritual death is not something to fear and avoid only in the future. It is something that occurs as soon as a person sins.

Sin Brings Eternal Death

This is the hardest truth of all. It is such a hard truth that many deny it. But rejecting a hard truth doesn’t make it go away. In fact, denying it, when there is time to be cured, is the worst response imaginable. Even though this is very grim news, you need to confront it – before it is too late.

There will be people who will go to hell for all eternity. All who are not perfect with the perfection of Heavenly Father will suffer this fate. Perfection now is God’s standard. (Matthew 5:48) No unclean or imperfect person can survive in his presence. (Ephesians 5:5)

Even more sobering is the fact that many people will suffer eternally. Jesus said:

“Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”

Matthew 7:13

He then emphasizes the many by contrasting them with the few who receive eternal life:

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Matthew 7:14

Jesus is crystal clear: The outer darkness of hell is real.

There is no way we can imagine the horrors of hell. To impress us with its severity, the Bible paints various pictures of its eternal punishment. One such picture is Isaiah:

“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”

Isaiah 66:24

As one person remarked, “The most important thing about hell is not understanding it or explaining it. It’s avoiding it.”

Avoiding Hell

Thank God that he has given us a way to avoid hell. He did that not by lowering his standard of absolute perfection. Neither was it by giving us ample time to become perfect ourselves. His way is vastly more wonderful. It is the way called Jesus.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

Jesus is the way because he supplies the perfection we so desperately need. He didn’t show us how to be perfect. He was perfect in our place.

Sometimes people fail to see this because Scripture commonly talks about righteousness rather than perfection. But they are synonyms.

“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.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

What a wonderful exchange! Jesus took our sin on himself and in exchange, gave us his righteousness – perfection! Clothing yourself with Jesus’ perfection is the only way to not only avoid hell, but also spend eternity in Heavenly Father’s presence.

Jesus did it all!

Rest all your hopes of heaven on him.

Don’t mix your imperfect attempts at doing good with Jesus’ perfection. When you do that – when you think that you have to believe in Jesus and do good in order to live in Heavenly Father’s presence – you are ruining the absolute perfection you need.

Scripture is clear: God’s grace and human works don’t mix.

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise it is no more work.”

Romans 11:6

Just like oil and water don’t mix – so grace and works don’t mix. Just as one drop of oil pollutes the bucket of water so one work pollutes and ruins the perfection Christ gives us. It is true that believers strive to do good works. But they do them not to be saved but because they are already saved.

The way to eternal life – the only way to eternal life – is placing your complete trust in what Jesus has done for you. On Judgment Day, it means basing your entire case on his work.

How Can We Be Sure We Will Live Eternally With Heavenly Father?

Everybody needs to regularly examine themselves in the light of God’s commandments. Otherwise we can become expert spin doctors when it comes to our own sin. We can quickly become proficient at minimizing our sin. We can become adept at rationalizing it away by comparing ourselves with others rather than with Heavenly Father. We can quickly learn the skill of hiding our sins – not only from others but even from ourselves. We can think we are pretty good when in reality sin is raging in us.

Satan helps that along by doing the unexpected. He likes to make people outwardly better. C.S. Lewis captured this well in his classic, The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape, the experienced demon, counsels his young apprentice, Wormwood, not to be too blatant in his temptations:

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one and the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 50

Satan doesn’t need to bind people with the large, bulky ropes of gross sins. He can control them with the delicate threads of sins like pride, envy, and lovelessness. During the fall of Cambodia, the Communists used an effective way of keeping their prisoners in line. They threaded a long needle with a string and then passed that needle through the palm of each prisoner. Whenever a prisoner tried to escape all would feel excruciating pain. In the same way people who are bound with the almost invisible threads of hypocrisy or pride or similar such sins will feel the excruciating pain of hell.

That is why it is critical for you to see both the seriousness and extent of your sinfulness. Only then will you be convinced that Jesus had to do it all for you. Only then will you see that the best thing to do is abandon all efforts at helping in your salvation and completely trust in his work.


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