By Felichi Pangilinan-Buizon

There is a season in every woman’s life when she seems to be attending one bridal shower after another or one wedding after another or one baby shower after another. Well, I now find myself attending one funeral wake after another, and it is sobering. I cannot help but face the brevity of life and ponder life after death.

I did not always believe in life after death and how it is longer than many lifetimes. Rationalizing that there was just too many more pressing things to do to dwell on it, I decided to simply cross the bridge when I get there.

Gratefully, God loves us too much that He moved heaven and earth to let us know that He wants us to enjoy

Illustration by Felichi’s father, Engr. Dony Pangilinan, 1973

Illustration by Felichi’s father, Engr. Dony Pangilinan, 1973

eternal life with Him—today.

I used to think that if I played my cards right, did more good than bad, when I die and face my Creator, He would simply put my life on a heavenly scale. I was confident that the good would outweigh the bad and our merciful Father would usher me into His heavenly home. Seems like a good plan. It never occurred to me that my good plan was not God’s best plan!

His ways are not ours, his thoughts are not ours. God’s plan of salvation was hidden from me then. I read once that God loves us so much that He does not want us to stay the way we are, or continue believing the way we sometimes believe. Thankfully, He made a way for me to realize that I could be sincere, but sincerely wrong.

Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 to 9 opened my eyes: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

“You have been saved…” Salvation is not a future event that will happen when I “face the bridge.” It is offered today to each one by grace.

Grace is unmerited favor. I cannot hope to negotiate with God and enumerate the good deeds I have done to convince Him of my worthiness. Besides, how much good will suffice? Salvation is a gift. We work for compensation but not for gifts. Gifts are given and one can only receive or reject it.

Pastor Bill Hybels in his book Who You Are When No One’s Looking  wrote, “No matter how wonderful your character is, it will never be wonderful enough to earn God’s approval… Salvation cannot be earned. It is a gift from the Heavenly Father to us. It cost Him everything. It cost us nothing.”

It costs us nothing? For someone who grew up being rewarded for the good things I do, thriving in a home of achievers, I put a premium on independence and self-reliance. Initially, I had problems with accepting that I cannot do a thing to merit salvation. But when I learned what God required, I saw my unworthiness and the futility of trying and realized my need for Jesus. It shocks me how the very values I prize can master me, put God in a box, and keep me from what the Master desires. How the good can indeed be the enemy of the best.

How did it cost Him everything? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” As far as I can remember, I knew of Jesus as the Savior of the world and this truth is echoed many times in the Bible. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I acknowledged Jesus as Savior but I did not understand why. Save me from what? My sins. Why do I need saving from my sins? Because of the wages of sin, the penalty for it is death. Not physical death, otherwise Adam and Eve would have died instantly and none of us would be around, but rather, spiritual death—eternal separation from God.

For disobedience, Adam and Eve were banished by a holy God. That’s the penalty: a life on earth and an afterlife, independent of God! No wonder He went to great lengths to solve our sin problem.

Death was the penalty required by a just God. However, our own deaths would not qualify. Only a sinless sacrifice would be acceptable to a holy God. Only through Christ’s blood can we receive forgiveness. This is the gospel. This is the good news. This is what prepares us for the eventuality of physical death. John Piper wrote, “His suffering absorbed all the judgment that guilty sinners deserved and purchased all the good that forgiven sinners enjoy.”

“Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I recall my daughter asking me once, “Will you cry if I die?” I responded, “Of course, anak. I will terribly miss you.” Then she replied, “You don’t have to cry. (With a huge smile) You know where I’m going and I will wait for you there.” The power of childlike faith.

I definitely cannot add anything to what Jesus has already done. His sacrifice was complete, but in Ephesians 2:10, the Lord reveals what happens when we trust Jesus for our salvation: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Have you thought about the brevity of life and life after death? Have you always known about Jesus as Savior, or salvation being a gift but have not had the opportunity to acknowledge Christ’s work on the cross nor receive salvation by faith? Are you open to doing so in prayer? I was when I was 18. Eternal life began for me then, forgiven and set free to love and serve Him in His way and in His terms.

Lord Jesus, thank you for suffering a criminal’s death to pay for my sins. Forgive me, Lord, for my sins and thank you for going through all that so that I can be reconciled to God. I accept your gift of salvation. Help me turn away from sin. Help me know and serve you in the way that pleases You. Amen.