(continued…) The next day one of the nurses saw her pastor who was visiting one of his parishioners in the same hospital. She asked if he would stop in to see the woman, and he agreed to do so. He went into her room and introduced himself and asked if she wanted to talk. “It’s no use,” she said, “It is too late. I have been a terrible sinner and I am going to hell and I deserve it. But I am afraid.”
“Well,” said the pastor, “the Bible says we are all terrible sinners, and you are right, you do deserve to go to hell, and so do I. But Jesus died to save us from our sins. Can I tell you about Jesus?” The woman nodded, and the pastor continued. He said, “The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, ‘While we were yet sinners, and enemies of God, Christ Jesus died for us.’ And do you know what Paul did before he became an apostle? He hunted down and persecuted the early believers in Jesus, even standing by and approving as one named Stephen was executed by a mob. But then Paul was saved. And the Bible says that if you confess your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus, you too can be saved. Do you want to confess your sins?”
The woman listened attentively, but was confused. “Confess?” she asked, “Now? To you?”
“No,” said the pastor, “Not to me, but to Jesus. But I will stay here to help you. Are you sorry for your sins, and do you truly repent of them?”
“Sorry, yes, I am sorry, nothing but sorry,” she said, “I am filled with regret; fear and regret and dread– I am feeling all of that right now.”
“Well, that’s a good start,” the pastor said. “The Bible says that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that if are sorry for your sins you can be forgiven. You are fearing God’s judgment and you have deep sorrow for your sins, and so you are ready to repent. Shall we begin in prayer?”
The woman bowed her head, and the pastor began. He invited Jesus into the room, he told Jesus that this woman was a terrible sinner, and that she now wanted to confess her sins. He asked her to pray a simple prayer from the Bible: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Sobbing, she repeated the words. The pastor then encouraged her to begin to confess, and begin she did. She started with how even as a child she was so mean to her parents, and then how, as a teenager she ran away from home. She let them worry about her for months, not letting them know where she was or even if she was alive. To support herself, she had gotten into a life of prostitution, which she was involved in on and off for years. It was the only steady work she ever had. Along with that she lied, cheated, betrayed her friends, and stole, doing whatever she could to stay alive and support her drug habit. She had settled down a bit for a couple years, got married, and even had a child. But the marriage ended and the child had long ago been taken away from her, and she made no effort to keep in touch. Her parents were dead, her siblings had quit trying to contact her, and her few friends were all either dead or too full of their own troubles to come and see her. She was alone with her regrets. Her confession was filled with such crying that the nurses came in a couple times to make sure everything was all right. Finally, she laid her head back on the pillow, exhausted and silent.
The pastor said nothing for a long time, and then finally said, “You have indeed been a terrible sinner, and God hates sin. But having confessed your sin, and being truly sorry for them, I can say to you, that in the mercy of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for his sake, God forgives you all your sins. The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, and that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’ Do you believe in Jesus and are you willing to invite him into your heart?”, the pastor asked.
She replied, “I am not even sure what that all means, but yes, I want to believe. I want to be forgiven and I want to go to heaven and not to hell.”
“Just look to Jesus,” the pastor said, “just keep telling him that you want to believe, and he will take care of the rest. When Jesus was on earth people came to him with even the smallest seed of faith, and he received them and blessed them. When Jesus was dying on the cross, a thief was dying on a cross next to him. And that thief came to Jesus then, just like you now, in the last hours of a miserable life. And all that thief said was, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus said some wonderful words to him. Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Let that be your simple prayer now and for whatever is left of your life; “Jesus, remember me.” And then, when you fall asleep here, you will wake up not in hell, but in heaven with Jesus. You have God’s word on it. ‘Today,’ Jesus said, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”
The nurse who invited that pastor in told him later that the woman died peacefully a few days after that visit. And instead of hearing her constant crying, the nurses would hear her praying over and over again, “Jesus, remember me.” It was the only prayer she knew, but she had heard the story of how Jesus received and honored even such a simple plea for mercy as that.
The love of God isn’t just an idea or a principal, like the first chaplain presented it, but it is to be found in a Person. And the love of God isn’t just an ointment that you can smear over everything that moves, like the first chaplain did, without any reference to that woman’s sinful life or her complete absence of faith. The love of God is received by faith and confession and repentance and prayer. That woman knew her sin needed to be taken seriously and dealt with; and that is what the second pastor helped her do, along with calling her to faith in Christ Jesus. We know the love of God by knowing Jesus, and we come to faith in God through Jesus, who forgives our sins.
Faith isn’t just whatever you want it to be. Faith has a specific object and content, it is faith in something solid, in Someone who was here, and who had some specific things to say, both promises and commands. That Someone is Jesus Christ, the way and the truth and the life. Confess your sins, repent, and believe in Jesus, and you will be saved.
Proverbs 9:10 — The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
I John 1:8-9 — If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God, have mercy on me, a sinner. — Luke 18:13b
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. –Luke 23:42