It happened decades ago, but it’s one of those events I’ll never really forget. It happened in Chicago where I grew up. It was the most devastating tragedy most of us would remember from that time. It was December 1, 1958, and a fire broke out at the foot of a stairway in the Our Lady of the Angels School. That fire raged out of control very quickly; it cut off all normal escape routes. Ninety grade school children died in that fire. But there’s one I remember vividly from a news account that I read at the time and I still have not forgotten it. This little boy was in a second story window-they actually had a photo of him. The boy’s father was down below, yelling to him to jump into his arms. That boy could see the fire racing toward him from behind, but he refused to jump. Then, one awful moment, the boy disappeared from the window. He was one of those victims.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “When It’s Too Late to Jump.”
Over all these years, I’ve never been able to get the picture of that little boy out of my mind. He did not have to die. If only he had jumped into the arms that were waiting to save him. Tragically, so many people have made that same awful mistake when it comes to Jesus Christ.
Let’s go to our word for today from the Word of God. It’s from Ezekiel 18 beginning at verse 31. In it God poses an impassioned question that might be for you today. In calling people to get right with God, He says, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die? …repent and live.” God says, “I’m offering you life if you’ll just turn to Me from a self-run life. Jump into My arms!” And then His question, “Why will you die?”
Dying-in the spiritual sense-is the penalty that we all face for doing it “my way” instead of God’s way. Speaking of an eternal separation from God in a place that the Bible calls hell, God says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We hope we can earn a place in heaven by being a good person, but the Bible says the only thing we can earn – the wages – is the death penalty for our sins. No amount of religion, no amount of decency can pay a death penalty.
But then the Bible introduces the hope-the waiting arms beyond the reach of the fire. It says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). What do we know about a gift? It can’t be earned; it can only be received. Someone else paid for it. Well, Jesus bought the gift of eternal life for you and me. He paid for it with His life when He paid our death penalty on the cross, and now He offers to give you heaven when you reach out, when you put your trust in Him, when you begin a relationship with Him.
The fire of God’s judgment – it’s real. And if we die without a relationship with Jesus Christ, that’s our destination. Now, someone says, “Well, I don’t believe God will send anyone to hell.” That’s actually right. God doesn’t send anyone to hell; we send ourselves by refusing to jump into the arms that are waiting to save us.
And there is no way to be forgiven, there’s no way to belong to God, no way to go to heaven without a leap of faith into the arms of Jesus. You can’t think your way to Jesus. You can’t earn your way to Jesus. There has to be that moment when you jump by faith into your Savior’s arms. Has there ever been a moment like that in your life? Thank God there’s still time. I don’t know how much time.
Like the tragedy of that little boy in the window, there comes a time when it’s too late to jump, or when your heart is too hard, or when your life is suddenly over. Listen to Jesus as He calls to you, “Jump! Why will you die? Repent and live.”
Would you tell Him now, “Jesus, what you did on the cross is my only hope. You walking out of your grave under your own power. You are alive, and I invite you to walk into my life today. I am Yours. You are my hope and I’m pinning all my hopes on you.” We have a website called ANewStory.com. I want to invite you to go there, because it has the information you need to secure this relationship with Jesus once and for all.
Every day the fire gets closer. But the arms of Jesus, they’re wide open. He’s waiting for you.