A. Sometimes in life you only get one shot...
1. Like the well-known statement, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
2. Sometimes you only get one shot when a grizzly bear is running right at you.
3. Sometimes you only get one shot to hit the buzzer-beating 3 point shot.
4. Sometimes you only get one shot when you are trying to ask a girl for a date.
5. Sometimes you only get one shot when you are making a sales pitch.
B. There is a story told of an airman who was assigned to the induction center, where he advised new recruits about their government benefits, especially their GI insurance.
1. It wasn't long before a higher-up noticed that the airman had almost a 100% record for insurance sales, which had never happened before.
2. Rather than ask the airman about this, the superior stood in the back of the room and listened to the airman’s sales pitch.
3. The airman explained the basics of the GI Insurance to the new recruits, and then said, “If you have GI Insurance and go into battle and are killed, the government has to pay $200,000 to your beneficiaries. If you don't have GI insurance, and you go into battle and are killed, the government only has to pay a maximum of $6000.”
4. Then the airman concluded, “Now, which guys do you think the government is going to send into battle first? Not the ones who bought the insurance!”
C. Today I want us to realize that this is a unique moment in time and that this may be the only opportunity you and I may have to be here in this place.
1. For you see, none of us know what the future holds.
2. We may never pass this way again (like the Seals and Crofts song from the 1970s).
3. Life as we know it can change in an instant.
4. We see that every day in the news.
a. There are super-storms, like the typhoon in the Philippines that permanently change life.
b. Every day we hear about shootings in the streets of our cities, and now they even occur regularly in schools and shopping malls and movie theaters.
c. Every time we get into a car, there is a chance that we will be in an accident – they occur on every major highway every single day.
d. And then of course, there is the frailty of life – our bodies don’t last forever – and sometimes the end of life comes much sooner than we would think.
e. In reality, no one is too young to die of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer.
5. Please understand that I’m not trying to be morbid - I’m just pointing out how life really is.
6. We are being presumptuous if we think that we can guarantee that all of us will be back here next year, or even next week, for that matter!
7. And then, of course, there is the promised return of Jesus, which could happen at any moment.
D. And so, with all of this in mind, today…this moment, may be our one shot.
1. If I knew that this is the only chance you would ever have to hear a message that could make a difference in your life, then what should I share?
2. If I knew that is the only shot I would have to share with you what I believe are the most important things, then what would I talk about?
3. This sermon is my attempt to tell you what I think are the most important things for everyone to know, and the most important things for everyone to do. The first important thing to know is…
I. There is a God
A. I believe with all my heart that there is a God who is the creator of everything we see and know.
1. I know that it takes faith to believe there is a God, but I believe that it takes more faith to believe there isn’t a God, than to believe there is a God.
2. When I look at the vastness, and the complexity, and obvious design of the universe and of all living beings, I don’t know how someone can conclude that it all happened by accident.
3. Atheistic scientists tell us that the entire universe just happened spontaneously from mysterious power and particles – Known as the Big Bang Theory.
4. Every living thing, plant and animal, is made up from six basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, nitrogen and oxygen.
a. Scientists and others, who reject the possibility of a God, suggest that these elements collided with one another under proper conditions.
b. As a result, amino acids were formed and life began.
c. Evolutionists theorize that this piece of living material programmed and reproduced itself.
d. Then, over thousands of years, it developed into the multitude of living and extinct species we know of today.
B. I just can’t understand how anyone can believe that it happened that way.
1. Consider this analogy – if you have a computer that is missing a hard drive, and you install a new hard drive, do you expect that your computer will be able to start up and run?
2. Day after day, you wait as nothing happens with that computer, even though all the physical materials are present for it to work.
3. But why won’t it work? Answer: It can’t work because it doesn’t have an operating system.
4. Why hasn’t the computer created its own operating system? It can’t, right?
5. Why then should we believe that the primordial soup was able to create its own operating system?
6. If DNA and its programs for life appeared when those six elements collided, then why can’t our computer do something similar?
C. We could look at almost every detail of life and the universe and realize that it could not have just happened by chance.
1. Take for example the earth we live on.
2. The Earth’s size is perfect and the corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases that extend only about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface.
a. If Earth were smaller, our atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury.
b. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.
c. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
3. Add to that the fact that the Earth is located the right distance from the sun.
a. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze.
b. Any closer and we would burn up.
c. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position would make life on Earth impossible.
4. Isn’t it amazing that the Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67 thousand miles per hour.
a. And it is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.
5. Can you believe this is all coincidental?
6. There are millions of details just like these I have mentioned that have to be perfectly in place for life to exist on this planet.
D. I prefer to believe what the Bible says about where all this came from.
1. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
a. And the Genesis record goes on to describe God’s creation of plants, and animals, and then God’s crowning creation: human beings made in the image of God.
2. The Bible tells us that we can know that God exists just from looking at the universe.
3. Psalm 19:1-4 declares: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
4. When we turn to the New Testament of the Bible, we read: since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom. 1:19-20).
E. I could go on forever with this first point, but I better move on to the next one.
1. So if I only had one shot to tell you about what is most important, the first thing I would tell you is that there is a God, but there is something else you need to know about God.
II. God Loves You.
A. The Bible declares that God not only loves us but that God is love (1 John 4:8).
1. Here is the way God is described over and over again in the Bible: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Ps. 103:8).
2. Is that the way you picture the God who made the heavens and the earth?
3. You need to know that that is what the God who made us is like.
B. And what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us?
1. Jesus explains it this way in the best known verse in the whole Bible, Jesus said: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
a. God loves all of us so much, and He doesn’t want any of us to perish in our sins, so God allowed Jesus to die in our place.
2. The apostle John explained it this way: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn. 4:9-10).
C. Look at what 1 John 3:1 says: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1. How about that? We are the children of God. God made us and loves us!
2. He has done everything needed to save us, including allowing His one and only Son to take our punishment upon Himself.
3. As our perfect, loving, heavenly Father, God’s love for each of us never changes.
4. We can’t do anything to make Him love us more, nor do anything to make Him love us less.
5. God is love, and He loves us. Period!
D. So these are two of the most important things I would want you to know if this was my only chance to tell you so.
1. Number 1 – There is a God, and Number 2 – God loves you.
2. What is a third most important thing that everyone needs to know?
III. Jesus is the Only Savior
A. Earlier we saw in John 3:16 that God sent his one and only son that we might be saved through him.
1. Jesus said this about Himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)
a. Do you see that? Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. No one can come into relationship with God except through Jesus.
2. This makes complete sense when we understand that we all need a Savior.
a. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
b. Our sins separate us from being able to have a saving relationship with God.
c. There is nothing we can do to pay for our sins and get rid of our sins.
d. That’s why God sent Jesus, and that’s why Jesus died for our sins.
e. That’s why it makes sense that there is no other way to get to God and to heaven except through Jesus, because He is the only Savior.
B. Jesus said, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).
1. That’s why when the apostles taught people about Jesus they said things like: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
2. Salvation is not found in anyone other than Jesus.
3. Salvation is not found in Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed.
4. Salvation can’t be found in Scientology, or Islam, Hinduism, Buddhaism, or any other ism.
5. Jesus is the only Savior, He proved it by His crucifixion and resurrection, and therefore, Christianity is the only way to be made right with God.
6. That is one of the most important things that everyone must know.
7. The final thing you need to know is…
IV. Your Eternal Destiny is Your Choice
A. So what have we learned today? There is a God, and He loves us. We have learned that God has provided a Savior for us, but we have a choice to make about all of this.
1. Some people believe that God has already decided who would be saved and who would be lost.
a. They call it the doctrine of predestination.
b. I believe that God has predestined the “way” of salvation, but not the “who” of salvation.
c. Every single person has the same chance and the same choice to be saved.
2. Another popular doctrine says that because God is love, He is going to save everyone no matter what they think, believe or do.
a. This doctrine of universalism is popularized in a recent book Love Wins, by Ron Bell.
b. But that doctrine doesn’t jive with what the Bible says.
B. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Cor. 5:10-11)
1. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21)
2. Both of those verses reveal that there will be a judgment and not everyone will be rewarded; not everyone will go to heaven.
C. Fifty days after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, the apostle Peter preached the very first gospel sermon and called people to make a choice.
1. Peter said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
2. The people Peter preached to had a decision to make. They had to decide if they believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and therefore was Lord and Savior.
a. Once they decided they believed, they expressed their faith by asking the question, “What shall we do?”
b. Peter told them that they had to repent and be immersed (that’s what baptism is – immersion in water).
c. Notice the purpose of the immersion – it was for the forgiveness of sins.
3. This is the progression we see with every single person who became a Christian in the book of Acts, which is the record of the early church.
a. First, the people believe and express their belief by confession.
b. Second, they repent and are immersed for the forgiveness of their sins.
c. When their faith, repentance, confession and baptism come together, then they saved and rejoice in their new relationship with God.
4. What is repentance, you might ask? It is a turning away from sin and selfishness.
a. It is giving your life to God and agreeing to live under the Lordship of Jesus.
D. I hope and pray that every person here today either has or will make a decision to be a Christian.
1. Your eternal destiny depends on that decision.
2. You might ask, “Do you expect me to make a decision this quickly after just one sermon?”
3. In Acts 26, the apostle Paul was brought before Festus, a Roman Governor, and King Agrippa.
a. Paul gave his defense, preached about Jesus and called for them to put their faith in Jesus.
b. King Agrippa asked, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
c. Paul replied, “Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29)
E. In the book of Acts, we notice that people often became Christians the first time they were taught the good news about Jesus.
1. In Acts 2, the passage that we looked at earlier, 3000 believed and were baptized on the Day of Pentecost – the first time they heard the good news about Jesus.
F. In Acts 8, we are told about a time when Philip the evangelist was told by the Spirit to go down a certain desert road, so he went down that road.
1. As Philip went down that road he saw an important man from Ethiopia sitting in his chariot reading from a scroll.
2. The Spirit told Philip to go to that chariot and stay near it, and so he did.
3. The man was reading from Isaiah, so Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
4. The man said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” So the man invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
5. The man happened to be reading the section in Isaiah 53 that talks about the suffering servant, the Messiah.
6. The Bible says, Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?” 37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:35-39).
7. Notice that this Ethiopian became a Christian the first time he heard the good news about Jesus.
8. Once he learned that in order to be saved he had to believe in Jesus, repent, confess and be baptized, the second he saw enough water for a baptism he asked to be baptized.
9. He didn’t want to put it off for a second.
G. In Acts 16, we learn that Paul and Silas went and preached the good news of Jesus in Philippi.
1. They found a group of women worshiping beside a river, and after Paul preached to them they responded to his message and were baptized.
2. When Paul and Silas left the riverside, they met a slave girl with an evil spirit who could predict the future, and when they cast the demon from her, her owner had them put in jail because they had cost him money and therefore were causing trouble.
3. So Paul and Silas were severely flogged and put in prison.
4. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and everyone was listening. Then God sent an earthquake that shook the prison and caused the doors to open.
5. The jailer was afraid because he thought everyone had escaped.
6. The Bible says the jailer asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family (Acts 16:30-34).
7. Notice how important being baptized was – they did it at that very hour of the night (it was probably 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning).
8. What did they know? They knew they were lost in sin. They knew that they had to put their faith in Jesus the Savior. And they knew that they had to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of their sins. The Jailer and his family didn’t’ want to wait another minute, so they were baptized at that very hour of the night.
H. After Saul of Tarsus, who had persecuted the church, was blinded by a vision of the risen Christ, he went into Damascus and fasted and prayed as he waited for God to tell him what to do.
1. God sent a man named Ananias with a message that included: “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16).
2. To those who are here today who are not Christians, I ask the same question: “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
I. Evangelist D.L. Moody said that his “greatest mistake” occurred October 8, 1871.
1. On that night in Chicago, he addressed one of the largest crowds of his career. His message was about the Lord’s trial and was based on Pilate’s question, “What shall I do with Jesus?”
2. Moody concluded, “I wish you would seriously consider this subject, because next Sunday I will speak about the cross, and at that time I will inquire, “What will YOU do with Jesus?”
3. The closing hymn contained the lines, “Today the Savior calls; for refuge fly. The storm of justice falls, and death is neigh.”
4. The hymn was never finished, because while they were singing, there was the rush and roar of fire engines on the street outside.
5. The great Chicago fire which almost destroyed the whole city had begun.
6. Moody said, “I have never since dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation.”
J. Maybe this sermon is both my one shot and your one shot.
1. Maybe this is the last sermon I will ever preach or the last sermon you will ever hear.
2. If so, at least now you know the most important things you need to know to be saved.
3. There is a God…God loves you…Jesus is the only Savior…your eternal destiny is your choice.
4. Will you choose to allow Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? This may be your only chance.
5. So what should you do? Believe, Repent, Confess and be Baptized…right now.
6. I beg you, don’t let this moment and this opportunity pass.
7. Don’t leave here today with your eternal destiny in question.
8. The water is ready, and we have baptismal garments you can change into for baptism.
9. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16).