“Red Letters”

I recently watched David Crowder’s testimony about writing the popular song, “Red Letters.” He said when he was a little boy, he was sitting in a church service with his grandmother, and he was fiddling with the envelopes or whatever — but he looked over and saw his grandmother’s Bible open, and it was one of those “red letter” edition Bibles, in which all the words of Jesus are printed in red. And he asked his grandmother: “Why are those words in red?” And she told him the story: that God Himself came down to earth in Jesus Christ, and those were the words that He Himself spoke while He was here. He said it made such an impression on him: these were the words of God! Words that ended up changing his life.

But he said when he was older, he began to research those “red letter Bibles” some more. They were the invention of a man named Louis Klopsch, who lived in the late 1800’s. He wanted the message of the Bible and what Jesus had done for us, to be as clear as it could be to every man, but he didn’t know the best way to do it. One day, he was reading where Jesus said in Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you” — then he had this idea: it was the blood of Jesus, that He DID indeed “pour out” on the cross, that was the price for our salvation. What if everything that Jesus said, was printed in the Bible in red, as a reminder that He had paid for our sins with His blood? And so they began to print those “red letter” Bibles.

In fact, in some later versions, they took it even further. They went back into the Old Testament, and whenever there was a passage that predicted the coming of Jesus, or what He would do for us, they would print that in red also. So in those Bibles, if you started in Genesis and read through to Revelation, all through the Bible as you read, you could see this “scarlet thread” that ran all through the Bible: all these “red” verses that point to the blood of Christ that was the price for our salvation.

Well, the Bible tells us that “ALL scripture is inspired by God.” In a very real sense, you could print EVERY word in the Bible in red, because ALL the words of the Bible are from the Lord, and every single verse in it points to to Jesus. And we need to make sure we remember that.

But the point that Louis Klopsch was making is true: it IS the blood of Jesus that saves us, and we need to make really sure that we realize that.

See, this is where a lot of people really miss the point of the Bible and Christianity. They think that Christianity teaches: “If you’ll be good, then you will get to heaven.” (Kind of like Santa Claus: “Be a good boy, and Santa will bring you a present.” And they think God is like that: “Be good and I might let you into heaven.”)

But the problem is, NONE OF US ARE GOOD! The Bible says in Romans 3, “There is none good, not even one”! It says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are not good, and we can’t do anything to save ourselves. We needed God to save us — and that is just what He came to earth to do. God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth, lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, and died on the cross and paid for our sins with His blood. He rose from the dead and will save whoever repents of their sins and puts their trust in Him as their Lord & Savior. But you have to realize, it is ONLY the blood of Jesus and what HE did that saves us. We can’t save ourselves.

Back in the 1800’s, Mark Twain wrote about a real-life incident that happened on the Mississippi River. A steamboat, carrying 200 passengers caught fire. The pilot of the ship told the captain that if they stayed there by the bluff bank (there was basically a cliff on that side of the river) they would all die; but if he just had enough time to run the ship into the sand bar, some distance away, then perhaps everyone could climb out and be saved. The captain told him, you need to abandon ship; if you stay there and try to take the ship to the sand bar, the fire will be up here by then and you will die. But the pilot told the captain: ‘If I abandon this post, nobody will be saved; if I stay here, no one will be lost but me.” He said, “I will stay.” And he did stay at his post, and took that steamboat to the sand bar. Two hundred passengers were on board that steamboat that day — but not a single life was lost — except that pilot’s. He did die in the fire, staying at his post, that the others might be saved.

Those 200 people on that boat on the Mississippi that day, lived. But it wasn’t because of anything THEY did, was it? They didn’t do anything at all. The only reason they lived, was because of what the pilot did for them.

And that is how it is with you and me, and heaven, too. We’ve all sinned; every one of us. And like the people on that boat that day, there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves from the punishment of our sins. The Bible says “By the works of the Law, NO flesh shall be justified in His sight.” It says salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. But Jesus died on the cross, and poured out His blood to pay for our sins, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

But we need to make sure we understand: we are NOT going to go to heaven because of any good things we have done for God:
— going to church doesn’t save us
— giving money doesn’t save us
— trying to be good doesn’t save us.

There’s nothing “good” that we can do for God that saves us. The only thing that saves us is what GOD did for US, when Jesus died on the cross for us and paid for our sins with His blood.

There’s an old hymn that says it so well: “What can wash away my sin? NOTHING — but the blood of Jesus.”

You’ve got to put your trust in HIM, and in HIM only. If someone asks you “How are you going to get to heaven?” DO NOT say: “I’m gonna try to be good” or “I’ll try to keep the 10 Commandments”, or whatever. NONE of those things are enough to save you. You won’t be good enough; you can’t keep all the 10 Commandments. You’ve got to trust what JESUS did to save you.

You’ve gotta be like a pastor I know, who, when someone asked him, “Why should God let you into His heaven?”, said, “HE SHOUDN’T! But Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood for me, and THAT is my only hope of salvation.”

That’s the answer we all need to have. Put your trust in Jesus, and Jesus alone for your salvation. In those old “red letter” Bibles, John 3:16 is one of those verses that is in red: “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.”

The promise of that “red letter” verse, was bought with the blood of Jesus. If you’ve never done it before, ask Jesus to save you today, give you a home in heaven, and help you to follow Him from this day forward.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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1 Response to “Red Letters”

  1. Karen Lynn Hirsch says:

    Thank-you! Good word!

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