Usually when someone has received a death sentence for their crimes, you can count on it years of legal appeals to try to stay alive. That's what makes the true story of a prisoner named George Wilson so amazing. He was convicted of killing a Federal guard during a robbery. But public sentiment at that time was so strong against capital punishment that he eventually received a full pardon from the President of the United States. But, unbelievably, when the pardon was brought to him in his prison cell, he refused it! The Supreme Court was actually called upon to decide how this very strange case should be handled. And they ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper whose only value must be determined by the one receiving the pardon. George Wilson died for what he had done - because he refused to accept his pardon.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Choosing Life."
It's hard to believe that anyone would reject a pardon when it would save them from a death penalty. But people do it every day, when they refuse to open their life to Jesus Christ.
Maybe you've never really realized that spiritually you're on Death Row. We all are. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) - and that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Because God is perfect, our sins keep us from being able to enter His presence and to go to His heaven when we die. We've run our own lives, and that rebellion carries the death sentence of being alone and without our Creator and His love forever.
But the same verse that says the wages of sin is death also says, "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." When Jesus Christ was dying on that awful cross, He wasn't just dying for the sins of the world - He was carrying the death penalty for every sin, every mistake, you've ever done. So He could offer you a pardon. But remember - the value of the pardon for you is determined by the one receiving the pardon. If you don't take it, you will pay the eternal death penalty Jesus died to deliver you from.
Our word for today from the Word of God spells it out very plainly. John 3:36 says, "Whoever believes in the Son (that's Jesus) has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." You have no hope of pardon outside of putting your total trust in the One who died to make it possible. It won't be God who sends you to hell - He paid the price for your pardon. It will be you - by failing to reach out in total faith to receive from Jesus the pardon for your sins.
If you're trusting in anything else to get you to heaven - your goodness, your religion, your reputation, your knowledge about Jesus - you will never go there. It's all about Jesus and whether or not you've abandoned all other hopes and made Him your only hope.
So this very moment, Jesus is holding out to you the pardon for your sins, the removal of your death penalty. The question is, are you going to reach out and take it? If you want to belong to Jesus Christ, beginning today, tell Him that.
This can be the day you trade in the death penalty you deserve for the heaven you could never deserve. It's a life-or-death choice. Please - choose life.