Since none in our family was able to make it for Christmas this year, and since we like to do jigsaw puzzles, we decided to get some new ones to work on over the holidays. We were a bit discouraged by the price of new ones and didn’t find many we were interested in doing, so went to the community store and picked out three “new to us” puzzles to work on. The first one was a beautiful scene of a harbor and boats. But, we encountered a very frustrating problem: only 99.3% of the pieces were there! Out of the one-thousand-piece puzzle, seven pieces were missing. Of course, not knowing that until we finished, we spent quite a bit of time looking for pieces that weren’t there! The second puzzle had only 500 pieces and 99.2% of them were there! If you do your math you will find that we were missing 4 of the 500 (and three of them were edge pieces!) We are currently doing the third puzzle and at least the frame pieces are all there.
Now if you are taking an exam, 99.2% or 99.3% would mean you got an almost perfect score. If you were a baseball player and had a .993 on-base-percentage, it would mean you only failed to get on base 7 out of 1,000 at bats or about 7 times in two seasons! A batting average of .993 would be totally amazing. But when it comes to having nearly all of the puzzle pieces it is rather frustrating. You expect all the pieces to be there. One new jigsaw puzzle we bought one year actually had pieces from a number of puzzles in it. Now that too was rather challenging!
There’s another area of life, far more consequential than puzzle making or baseball where 99.3% or even 99.999% doesn’t make it and that is with regard to our assurance of eternal life in heaven. It seems that some are always looking for, but never finding, that piece that is missing from their lives. Many are trying to put in pieces that don’t fit. As someone said, “We were created with a God-shaped vacuum in our heart, which only Jesus Christ can fill.” He is the missing piece in many a life. So many are searching for purpose and significance in all the wrong places, trying to fill in that void in their life with pieces that don’t fit, like trying to put a square peg in a round hole!
One individual who came to Jesus asked, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus answered, “…If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments,” and went on to list six of them. The young man responded by saying, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus answered, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property” (Mt. 19:16-22). Now, Jesus wasn’t saying the Law was given as a way of salvation, but to convict one of his sins, to show the need for Christ (see Ro. 3:19,20,28; Gal. 2:16,19-26). This man had made riches his god and wasn’t willing to give them up. We have a picture of those who think it is necessary to do something to be saved rather than to believe the Gospel that Christ has done everything for them. Jesus didn’t promise him eternal life by doing, but told him to perform an act that would reveal to him his lack of saving faith and his self-deception of his claim of keeping the Law.
There will be many who think they have eternal life because they have been “doing” things for God, even calling Him ‘”Lord” or “Savior.” Jesus said to such, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day (day of judgment), ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'” (Mt. 7:21-23). So, just what did Jesus mean by “he who does the will of My Father”? Jesus answers that for us in a later statement, recorded by the Apostle John: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:40).
There are also those who think that if they attend and join a church, read and study their Bibles and even memorize verses, that that will provide eternal life for them. But Jesus said to folks who think that way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me, and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39,40).
In all these accounts, the common factor, the one “missing piece” is Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). He didn’t say He was “a” way, but “the” way. Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” said to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8,12). The Apostle John wrote this in his first epistle: “And the witness is this, that 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 the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12).
Many are “looking for missing pieces” spiritually, for they are trying to fill that void in their lives with religion and good works, with doing instead of believing. They can have no real assurance of eternal life for they do not have Christ living in them. They have never acknowledged their sin and that Jesus died for it and rose again and is the only means of their salvation. Only when we put our total trust in Christ as “the way, the truth and the life,” can we be assured of eternal life. Then we can be 100% sure! John also wrote this: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:13). Are you 100% sure of heaven? If not, I encourage you to personally ask Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord (see Jn. 1:12). Then you won’t just “hope” you are going to heaven, but you will “know.”