Charles Finney, lawyer and evangelist, was speaking in a New York church in the 1830s. At the end of each evening, he gave people the opportunity to come to the front of the room and commit their life to Jesus. A great many lawyers came to hear him. One night, the Chief Justice of New York was sitting way up in the gallery. As he listened to Finney proclaiming the gospel he became convinced it was true.
Then this question came into his mind: ‘Will you go forward like the other ordinary people?’ Something within him made him think that it would be inappropriate to do so, because of his prestigious social position (at the top of the legal hierarchy of New York State). He sat there pondering the choice he had to make. Then he thought, ‘Why not? I am convinced of the truth… why should I not do it like any other person?’
He got up from his seat in the gallery, went down the staircase and came up the stairs at the back to where Finney was preaching. Finney, in the middle of his sermon, felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around. The Chief Justice said, ‘Mr Finney, if you will call people forward I will come.’ Finney stopped his talk and said, ‘The Chief Justice says that if I call people forward he will come. I ask you to come forward now.’
The Chief Justice went forward. Almost every lawyer in Rochester, New York, followed him! It is said that 100,000 people were converted in the next twelve months in that area. One person’s choice affected the lives of numerous others.
Life is full of choices. We make choices every day of our lives. You can make bad choices or you can make good choices. Your choices matter. Some choices have life-changing consequences.
For example, suppose tonight, in my physical weariness, the remaining corruption in my born-again, Christian heart were to get the upper hand, and pride and self-pity and anger were to lash out verbally at my wife. And then suppose that in a great self-justifying huff, I stormed out of the door, got in the car, bolted carelessly through the stop sign on 18th Avenue and was broadsided by a truck and killed in an instant? Would I go to heaven?
Unless I have been a hypocrite through all these last fifty-five years of my Christian life, the answer is yes. For these reasons: 1) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for my sins and bore the wrath of God in my place so that all my sins might be forgiven. 2) Jesus Christ lived a perfect life of obedience so that by his obedience many sinners could be counted righteous, including me. 3) This sacrifice and this righteousness become mine by faith alone when I trust Jesus as the Lord and Savior and Treasure of my life. 4) This trust is embattled till the day I die, with seasons of strength and seasons of weakness, seasons of darkness and seasons of light. 5) If the last season is so dark that I die by my own sin, that season is not the only season that God takes into account when he presents the evidence that my faith was real.
There is nothing unique or peculiar about the final act of life that makes it determinative in validating or nullifying our salvation. Or let me say it another way: The final season of faith with all its battles and failures is not the only season of faith that will bear witness in the Last Day that we were born again.