When I was a brand new pastor I had the opportunity to go and conduct weekly worship services in a nursing home facility. And it was an honor and a privilege to be able to go and share God’s Word with those people many of whom were infirm or in hospice care. Those who were suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
There was one memorable lady who every week would come up and reintroduce herself to me. She would tell me her whole church background, explain to me how she was a longtime organist for her home church, and then she would always finish by saying “you know Pastor, I sure hope that God will let me into heaven. Do you think God will let me into heaven?” And every week I told that woman the exact same thing. I said “absolutely he will. He’s promised it to you. Do you believe in Jesus?” I would ask and she would say “Oh, yes absolutely.” I would respond by saying “well, then you have nothing to worry about. Your salvation is sure and certain. It’s guaranteed by God himself. It’s been taken care of in full.”
The bill of our guilt, the debt of our sin, it has been paid for. It has been accomplished 100% by our Savior Jesus. There’s nothing more that we need to do. After all, can Jesus go back now and commit some sort of sin and not earn righteousness? No! It’s an accomplished fact. He already earned that righteousness. It’s free and it’s coming to all who believe in him.
Can Jesus now choose that maybe he doesn’t want to go to the cross to pay for our sins? No! How absurd! It’s already happened. He’s gone to the cross. He’s paid for it all.
Can God the Father now say “well, there needs to be something more that you have to do in order to get into heaven.” Absolutely not. He will never say that because Easter has happened. Our Lord Jesus is resurrected from the grave. He’s risen from the dead and that is the assurance to us that everything that is needed for our salvation has been won.
And this work of Jesus it is now shared with you and me in God’s Word and in God’s gifts of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And we hold to these things. In these places God himself comes to us and he brings us everything that Jesus has done. He makes it our own so that we can have absolute comfort and assurance and certainty. We don’t have to wonder “Is God going to let me into heaven?” He’s absolutely promised it. We can’t change anything that Jesus has done.
Do remember the comfort that Jesus offered the thief on the cross next him? That thief on the cross who by his own admission said we deserved to die. I deserve to be here. I don’t deserve anything from God. If it was left up to him to do something for his salvation to be in heaven he knew that he would be hopelessly lost. He would be doomed. But he turns to Jesus in faith and he says
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
And Jesus, he doesn’t respond with “Well, I hope to see you there.” No. Jesus says “amen, I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) And this is what Jesus still tells us today. This is the comfort and assurance the certainty that we have. Because it’s out of our hands. Heaven is in Jesus hands and he has won it for us. He comes to us now through his Word, through his sacraments, and he assures us that we can be absolutely certain. He speaks those beautiful comforting words to us. You will be with me in paradise. So as we face the prospect of our own death we have comfort and assurance from God. We get to hear the wonderful message of his Word that says your sins are forgiven. You will be with me in paradise. And we pray.
Thank you Lord Jesus for the comfort, the assurance, and certainty that you have given to us of our salvation. Amen. God’s peace be with you.