God gave us the gift of eternal life because He loves us and wants us to live forever with Him in heaven. However, when God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, they rebelled against God's instructions and committed sin. Sin separates man from God because God is holy, perfect, and without sin. As a result, Adam and Eve's sinful nature was passed throughout the entire human race. Adam and Eve's actions resulted in them being cast out of the Garden of Eden, the home that God provided them.
Although God loves each and every one of us, He cannot condone sin because it is in complete contrast with his holiness. Just as Adam and Eve were banished from their home, God cannot allow us to forever be in His presence as long as we live in our sinful nature. God also knew that we, in our imperfect human nature, would never be able to eliminate our sin by ourselves, so He made a plan so that He could forgive us of our sins (past, present, and future) and permit us to live eternally with Him. This is also known as salvation, or "being saved".
Is the gift really free?
Yes...the gift is free, at least in the sense that we don't have to pay for it. However, just as with any gift, there is always a price involved. The giver always incurs some sort of expense in obtaining the gift so he/she can give it to the recipient. Some gifts we receive might not necessarily involve a monetary cost. Sometimes it's only the cost of the giver's time, abilities, etc. Nevertheless, there is always a price involved in furnishing the gift.
Who paid for the gift?
God paid for the gift. There is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to God for our sin, so He paid the price so that He could give us the gift of eternal life.
How did God pay for the gift?
God exists in three persons: God, the Father; God, the Son (Jesus Christ); and God, the Holy Spirit. God paid for the gift by sending His son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for our sins. God became a man in order to pay for our sin debt and give us the gift of eternal life. God could not send just a man to pay for our sins and give us the gift of eternal life because all mankind has a sinful nature. God is without sin, so He is able and sufficient to atone for our sins. Three days after His death on the cross, Jesus was raised from the dead.
Although Jesus Christ was fully God, he was also fully man. God's son endured physical and emotional abuse as He was hung upon a cross to die. We should have paid for the penalty of our sins, but God chose to endure the physical and emotional abuse, taking the penalties upon Himself. It's difficult to understand why God, who created all things including you and me, would subject Himself to being publicly humiliated, insulted, and crucified when we deserved to pay the price for sin. Our best explanation: God loves us more than we could ever know!
What must I do to receive the gift?
Although God offers us the gift of eternal life, it is our responsibility to receive the gift. God will not force it upon us because He has given us a free will, allowing us to make decisions for ourselves. Therefore, it is our choice of whether we wish to receive the gift or not.
In order to receive the gift, we must:
1. Believe that Jesus Christ is God's son, and ask for forgiveness of our sins, acknowledging Jesus as our savior, or rescuer, from our sins.
2. We must commit our lives to Jesus Christ, giving Him complete authority over our life, and repent (turn away from our sin).
3. We must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
In order for us to truly receive the gift, we must do the things that God requires of us, and of course, they have to be done with sincere honesty. God cannot and will not give someone eternal life because he/she makes a few statements with no meaning associated with them. God judges the heart, so He knows whether or not we are sincere of wanting to reconcile with Him.
If you want to receive God's free gift offer, ask God in prayer in your own words to save you and that you accept His gift of eternal life based upon His word. You don't have to be in church or in any particular place for God to save you and give you eternal life. It doesn't matter if you're reading this in the wee hours of the morning either. God will meet you anywhere and anytime if you want to truly come to Him. If you're unable to ask God in your own words and you want to live eternally with Him, pray the following prayer:
"Dear God, I know that Jesus is Your Son and that He died on the cross and was raised from the dead. Because I have sinned and need forgiveness, I ask Jesus to come into my heart. I am willing to change the direction of my life by acknowledging Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and by turning away from my sins. Thank you for giving me forgiveness, eternal life, and hope. In Jesus' name, amen."
Are there any other options of receiving eternal life apart from God's gift?
No. The Bible clearly tells us that apart from faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot receive eternal life.
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:11-13)
There are so many different ideas people have about how one attains eternal life. Some believe that we will all go to heaven one day. Others believe only those who "live good lives" will go to heaven. In order to understand the truth of how we can attain eternal life, we have to read God's word, the Bible. The Bible says that there is "no other name (except Jesus Christ) given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:9)
What happens if I decide not to redeem my gift?
Ever win something in a contest? Most of the time when we win a prize in a contest, we have to redeem our gift by a certain date, otherwise we forfeit that gift. God's free gift offer is only available for a limited time also. We must receive the gift as soon as possible. If we choose to delay receiving the gift, our time will eventually expire too. When we die and we have chosen not to receive God's gift, we forfeit our eternal life with God, and we will be eternally separated from Him. After we die, we will no longer be afforded the opportunity to reconcile with God. THERE ARE NO SECOND CHANCES! God tells us in His word that if we die without accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be eternally separated from God. Like Adam and Eve's banishment from their home, God will separate those from Himself who did not accept Jesus Christ and who insisted on living their earthly lives in sin.
If you're reading this and you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, please don't wait in accepting God's gift! It is the most important gift you will ever receive!