“If you were to die today, are you certain of your salvation? Do you know for sure that you’d go to heaven?”
That question and many variations of it have been uttered throughout my life in church services, at revival meetings, summer camp, and even at funerals I’ve attended. While it is an important one, there’s always been a part of me that was left feeling a bit put off by the idea. Salvation by scare tactic. Fearvangelism (my made up word…). I’ve always wondered how that question or approach sounded to someone who has never before heard about Jesus. Who has never experienced or felt the pull of grace and faith and love and hope on their lives. Close your eyes and raise your hands if you’ve just ‘prayed the prayer’.
Then I heard a sermon from my pastor that turned that tactic completely around. He spoke of salvation, yes. Of our need for Jesus, absolutely. And instead of giving the scenario of walking out of the church and getting run over by a Mac truck and going straight to hell, he asked this important question instead, “What if you live?”
What if you live?
Wow. This simple shift of the thought of salvation has made it easier for me to be bold about my faith. To share my own victories and struggles with those that I have the chance to see each day.
To share life.
I’ve been a Christian since I was a child and yet I’ve still had struggles. Big struggles.
Being saved didn’t protect me from me.
I still have dark days. I still do things that are not Godly. I still sin. I still get hurt.
Having a relationship with Jesus hasn’t protected me from the pain and grief that comes from the death of a loved one or friend. It didn’t keep me from losing a baby. It didn’t stop me from doing careless things or being reckless with my own life. It didn’t stop loved ones from going to jail or suffering from cancer or losing their job.
Even as a Christian there are so many times when I still feel alone, afraid, confused, anxious, and overwhelmed. Those moments are the moments where the faith that has been nourished and cultivated in my life since I learned of Jesus and his saving grace and love for me have saved me.
I find that I am not alone in this world. I don’t have to be afraid or confused. I don’t have to be anxious or overwhelmed. I am not in this life without a Savior. I am not without a friend.
So many of us are struggling with life. We’re stressed out at the sheer pace of it. As a mom, I’m doing the best I can do to stay ahead of the laundry and dishes, remain productive and creative at work, be present and available for my husband and children, and still find a tiny little fraction of time for myself.
In life, we are grieved at the hard things that come our way. We see the hot topics in the news and get discouraged. There also seems to be such a great division in what a Christian should look like and act like. There is such anger and resentment and disdain because of bad experiences that people have had with others who were supposedly Christian. For every point, there’s a counterpoint. For every opinion had there is someone who gets offended.
What if I live?
If I am alive, I feel things. I feel happiness, joy, excitement, love, fear, despair, sorrow.
I can keep all of the rules, or decide to break them.
I can pray the prayer or choose not to.
I can live a righteous life or make poor choices.
I can live life feeling alone or I can have fellowship.
Jesus wanted us to follow him, spend time with him. He wanted us to love others the way that he loved us. He commanded that we do just that.
He didn’t want to be alone, either.
I think what people are really looking for is love. The kind of love that only Jesus can give. Love lived out loud and unconditionally. Intentional and deliberate love. Love given freely by example.
What if you live?
Yes, what happens when you die is absolutely important. Where you go after your last breath is between you and God.
Without Jesus I’d be looking for something to make me feel complete. I would still be seeking affirmation and coming up empty-handed. I would lose hope when I need it most. I would be weak when I need strength. I would be anxious when I need to be patient. I’d be lost.
With Jesus, life will still be life. It will still be hard sometimes. It will still be unpredictable. You will still sin. You will still have bad days. You will still be hurt.
But with Jesus, you’ll have what you need to make it through. You won’t be alone.
You will have life.
You will have an abundant life.