The father seated in the minister’s study was quite irate. “Preacher,” he said, “You’re not doing your job. My two children have been coming here for two months and they are not any better. How long is it going to take?”
“The church doesn’t do this by itself,” the minister replied, “The family works with the church. In fact, the Bible says that you as the father are accountable for your children’s spiritual life.”
“No,” the father contended, “You’re the minister; that’s your job, not mine!”
“No, it’s really our job together,” said the minister, “And if we are to talk, I need to know where you are coming from. Tell me, if your kids came to you and asked, ‘Dad, how do I go to heaven?’ what would you say?” Thinking for a second the father said, “I’d say, ‘If you do more good than bad, you go up. If you do more bad than good, you go down.’”
“Well,” said the minister, “Let’s think about that.” Handing him a sheet of paper, he said, “I got this from Dr. Bill Hybel. At the top of the page put GOD, PERFECT GOODNESS. Then at the bottom put SATAN, HELL. Now, I want you to put your name where you are between those two.
“But first, tell me, who is the best person you know?” The father answered, “Mother Teresa.” At the time, Mother Teresa was working with the lepers of Calcutta. “I agree,” the minister said, “But do you know where Mother Teresa put her name on this chart? She put herself two-thirds of the way down. She said, ‘I have discovered that the closer I draw to God the more aware I became of my sin.’ And when Billy Graham was shown the chart, he put his name below Mother Teresa’s. Now, where would you put your name?” Well, what could the poor father do? He put his name below the name of Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. The minister continued, “I would put my name right about where you put yours. But look at the paper. If we have to measure up to God—not ax murderers and the like, but God, we’re in big trouble, aren’t we?”
Looking at the chart the man exclaimed, “Yeah, but so are Mother Teresa and Billy Graham!” “You’re right,” the minister said, “The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’.” Rubbing his hands, the father said, “Pastor, I came for guidance and encouragement and you’re telling me we’re all going to hell!”
“Almost,” said the minister, “You are catching on. All of us deserve hell. The Bible says, ‘Sin leads to death.’ But Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. God has done something we could never do on our own. He sent his Son to die on the cross and take on himself the consequences of our sins so that all who live in him might be set free and given life.”
“There is one other thing— you’ve got to personalize the deal. What God has done must be made your own by making him the Lord of your life. Doing that, on the other side of death you will face, not judgment but a glad homecoming. But if you don’t, you will stand in your own goodness and it will not be enough. No matter how good you may be, it will not be enough.”
What about you? Where would YOU put YOUR name?
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.