Saturday, December 15, 2007

Where Will Your Name Be Written?

I wrote the following story twelve years ago. Since then, people have shared with me that reading this story has become an annual, family tradition. Others have said that they've used the story as a means of presenting the gospel to lost friends and family members, during the Christmas season.

I hope it is an encouragement to you. Merry Christmas!

Not long ago, a very wealthy man hosted a large Christmas party. The man had many friends. Some were genuine. Others hoped the man’s wealth would rub off on them. The party was lavish, and the guests were dressed for the occasion.

As the evening wore on, the time came to give the man his Christmas presents. He sat on a chair in the middle of the room, with his guests surrounding him. One by one, he opened his presents. The man politely smiled as he opened each gift. Realizing that his friends had gone to a good deal of trouble and expense to give him the gifts, he took great pains not to let the bored look of a man who had everything show on his face.

He worked his way down through the pile of brightly colored, foil-wrapped gifts until only one gift remained. With a look of both confusion and disdain, the man stared at the object on the floor. The sound of embarrassed murmuring spread quickly among the guests.

Sensing the uneasiness filling the room, the man reached down to pick up the object. He tried to lift it with one hand, but it was too thick and bulky. A layer of dust covering the object made it slippery and all the more difficult to handle. With two hands, and a bit of effort, the man finally picked up the object. The crowd in the room already tense now fell silent.

It was clear that the object the man had strained to place on his lap was a book. It was older than any he had ever seen. Its worn leather cover was tattered, yet it protected the pages with an air of dignity. The man noticed it was scratched—as if thorns had been raked over its surface. It was held closed by a purple ribbon that unmistakably had been torn from a larger piece of cloth. Upon closer inspection, the man thought he could see drops of blood sprinkled on the purple ribbon; but he quickly dismissed this as insignificant and determined it to be just another quirk among an already strange set of circumstances.

The man untied the ribbon. Although badly frayed, it did not unravel further with the man’s nervous manipulation. As he slowly opened the book, it dawned on him that it had no title.

To the man’s noticeable surprise, the condition of the pages within the book was not consistent with its cover. The paper was the purest white and felt like the most costly satin. On the pages—all of the pages—names were written in ink that was a deep, scarlet red.

The man read some of the names, none of which he recognized. He noticed that many were written in foreign languages, recognizing the romantic languages of France, Italy, and Mexico, and the artistic characters of the many Asian languages. Yet, there were just as many names written in languages he had never seen.

Slowly, the man turned page after page, noticing that the book was filled exclusively with names. More unusual than that, however, was the way the names were written. The ink was the same color and consistency for each name, and every entry took up the same amount of space on the page. It was as if each name carried no more, and certainly no less, importance than any other. The man flipped through the pages for several silent moments, before he carefully closed the book and looked up at his bewildered guests.

“Who gave me this book?” He asked.

The crowd of smartly dressed people parted slowly. A small boy emerged from the crowd and stood in front of the man.

“I brought the book, sir,” said the boy. “But the gift is not from me. If you will open the book to the last page, there you will find your gift.”

The man opened the book, keeping a wary eye on the plainly dressed little boy. He flipped to the last page and, just as before, saw lists of names. “If you will look beneath the last name, I believe it is Terry Brown, you will see your gift,” explained the boy.

The man ran his finger down the page until he found, Terry Brown. As his eyes moved below the name, he saw only a blank space. His puzzlement turned to frustration.

“What’s going on? Where’s the gift?” He demanded.

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” replied the boy. “I think you misunderstand the gift. The gift is not the book, nor is it anything you may have been looking for in the book. The gift is the opportunity to have your name written in the book.” The boy explained.

Becoming angry, the man stood up from his chair. He gripped the book so tightly that his fingers turned white.

“Who are you?” he roared. “I don’t know you, son, but by looking at you, I can tell you’re not here with your parents.”

“Look around you,” the host continued. “I have more money than I could ever possibly spend. I have a house full of people, some of whom I even like. I have spent the better part of the evening opening beautiful, expensive gifts, and you expect me to be impressed with a blank space in a book of names.”

The man reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen.

“You have an unusual way of getting autographs, kid”, he said. “As soon as I sign your book, I think you should go.”

He tried to scribble his name on the page. To his surprise, the pen would not write. He asked his guests if anyone had a pen that worked. Time after time he tried to write his name on the page, but no pen worked on the regal and pristine pages.

“You don’t understand, sir,” the boy said, confidently. “The opportunity is not to write your own name in the book, but to have your name written in the book. You see, there is nothing you can do on your own to earn your name’s place in the book. To have your name written in the book is a free gift that can only be given by the Owner of the book. Having your name in this book will secure you a room in a mansion far greater than yours, for all eternity.”

“Who is the Owner of this book?” The man asked. “I’m sure I could afford whatever price he is asking.”

With a look of pure joy on his face, the boy said, “The Owner of the book has already paid the price for you. The Owner is my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

“So this is about religion. Interesting approach, kid.” The man said. “Look, you’re entitled to your beliefs, and I’m sorry I was rude, but nothing is free in this world. I’m a good person. I give to charities. Everything I have, I’ve earned. Except for the occasional hostile takeover, I’ve never stolen anything from anyone. When my time comes, I’m not worried about where I’ll end up. Like I said, I’m a good person.”

The man closed the book and handed it to the boy. “Thanks, son. I’m not interested. Since it looks like the party is over, I’m going to bed. You all can show yourselves out. Thanks for coming. Someone make sure the kid gets home.”

As he walked up the majestic spiral staircase, he turned to see his guests huddled around the little boy. He could hear them questioning the boy about the Owner of the mysterious book. He shrugged his shoulders, stepped into his dark bedroom, and closed the door behind him.

Many years after that unusual party, the man became very ill. Neither his money, nor his possessions could save his life. Sadly, the once wealthy man passed away, and at the moment he breathed his last, he found himself standing before a Great White Throne. Seated on the throne was One who could only be described as Holy, and standing right next to the throne was a small figure. The man quickly recognized the person as the child who brought the book to the party, all those years ago.

Both curious and fearful, the man asked the One on the throne, “Are you..........God?”

“I Am,” He said. After a brief moment, He continued:

“Why didn’t you accept my gift of eternal life that the boy presented to you? The book he showed you was the Book of Life. There is no greater gift you could have received and no greater gift you could have rejected. You threw a Christmas party to glorify yourself, instead of remembering the precious gift I gave you through the birth of My Son—a gift the prophets foretold and My angels heralded. ‘For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:12).”

The man’s jaw dropped and his eyes filled with great sorrow as the Lord pulled the old tattered book from within His spotless, majestic robe. The Lord gently caressed the book’s cover and said, “The leather cover is made from the sandals that my Son—God in the flesh—wore as He shared My gospel throughout Judea. My Son told the people, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose’” (Luke 4:43).

“The scratches in the leather are from the crown of thorns He bore for you. The purple ribbon is from the robe He wore as He was publicly mocked, much the same way you mocked Him at the party. The drops of blood on the ribbon are His blood, which He shed as the payment for your sins. ‘They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head’” (Matthew 27:30).

“The pages are whiter than snow because all the names written in the book are of people who were washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, My Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. These people were forgiven their sins because they confessed and turned away from their sins and, by faith, put their trust in My Son alone for their salvation. They received the gift of eternal life that only I can give.”

The man began to sob for he knew how this conversation would end.

“But Lord!” He cried. “I’ve been a good person! Please don’t send me away!”

“How can you say that you were good?” God asked. You broke My Law and mocked My commandments every day of your life. You lied, stole, blasphemed My holy name, and committed adultery in your heart every time you looked at a woman inappropriately. Your hatred for your fellow man amounted to murder in My eyes. I certainly wasn’t first in your life, and you worshipped the false god of your money and possessions.

“I’m sorry,” said the Lord, with a tear in His eye. “I am the God of mercy, but I am also Holy, Righteous, and Just. Your deeds cannot save you. They condemn you. I do not know you. You are not one of my children, so you must depart from Me.”

The man walked to an open door with his face in his hands. The doorway was as black as coal. In the distance he could see roaring flames. The man, weeping bitterly, stepped through the door, never to be seen again.

The boy standing next to the throne was also weeping. His tear-stained face glistened as the glory of the Holy One shined upon him. “I’m sorry, Lord,” he said through quiet sobs. “I tried to share You with that man. I couldn’t make him listen.”

The Lord softly cradled the boy’s chin in His hand and lifted his head. “One never fails when one shares My gospel with others. The failure is when one does not take up his cross and follow me. Your work at the party was not in vain, my little one.”

The Lord pointed to a group of people that were now standing in front of the throne. The boy wiped his eyes and saw that the group of people had all been guests, all those years ago, at the man’s Christmas party. They saw the book for what it really was. They came to know the Lord for who He really is and received Him as their Lord and Savior. Like the boy, they received the perfect gift, paid for by the ultimate sacrifice, and given by the only One who could give it.

One by one the members of the group stepped up to the throne, bowed humbly, confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and spoke his or her name. The Lord reached down and helped each one to his or her feet. With tears of joy now streaming down His face, He embraced each one as if he or she were His only child. “You may enter into Heaven,” He said, “for your name is written in the Book of Life.”

One day, everyone will stand before the Lord. Will your name be written on the pages of His Book?


Although the narrative you just read is fictitious, it contains a great deal of truth. The Bible says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Heaven and hell are real places, and there is but one-way to heaven, through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

You cannot earn or deserve entrance into heaven. None of the things you do, which you may perceive to be “good works,” will purchase your way to heaven. Because God’s standards for living are perfect, even on our “best days,” this is how He sees our good works. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If you are trusting in yourself to get to heaven, in any way, you will not get there.

God is holy and, by your very nature, you are sinful. Like the rich man in the story, you have broken God’s Law. See for yourself. Honestly answer the following questions. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? The value doesn’t matter. Have you ever used God’s name to express disgust or excitement, or use His name as a filthy word? Then by your own admission you are a lying, thieving, blasphemer at heart.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The just penalty for your sins against God is death—eternal separation from God, in hell.

But there is good news! “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The good news is the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus the Lord. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

God—so good, so loving, and so kind—has provided you with the only means of escape from His wrath to come. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to die on the cross to take upon Himself the full and just punishment you deserve for your sins against God. He then defeated death when He rose from the dead. He is alive, today!

Your only hope is to repent—to turn away from your sin. Ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior today.

The promise is not merely eternity in a better place; and it is not merely a promise of something as shallow, limited, and fleeting as a better life here, on earth. The promise is an eternal relationship with the one, true God who created you and who alone has the power to extend to you the free gift of eternal life—eternal life in a place called heaven.

But heaven would not be heaven if God were not there. Heaven would not be heaven without the indescribable, unending joy of a perfect and eternal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater gift you could ever receive—this Christmas or any other—than to have God, the only God who has the power to both save and destroy, welcome you into His family as one of His beloved children.

So, where will your name be written? My Christmas wish for you is that it is, or will be, written in the Book of Life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great story with a ton of truth!