“If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” They asked the question with a paper and pen ready to check my answer as either yes or no. I knew this question was coming…I’ve done this before too…probably most Christian young people have at one time or another; gathering all the strength you can muster to ask intimidating peers the ultimate question of our existence.
I remember the first time I was asked this was in catechism class when I was about 14 years old. Sitting nervously around a fold up table in the church fellowship hall, we were asked to write down a response, which the pastor would then look over and hand back to us the following week. He really liked my answer I remember. I think I made sure to specify that I would go to heaven but not because of anything I have done, but only because of Christ’s mercy in saving me from my sins through His death on the cross.
The scary part in all of this is that now, as then, I know how to answer the question but with only 90% assurance in my heart. There is always this twinge of fear and basically guilt that holds me back from being able to acknowledge a bold, unwavering “yes!” within my heart. I think what holds me back are these things:
(a) Though life on this earth can be so difficult so much of the time, death and the unknowns of the process of death still seem so intimdating despite the hope I know is promised in eternity for those who believe in Jesus Christ. I forget the beauty, hope, total awe inspiring presence of God that will totally radiate every where, etc in heaven.
(b) I can believe and have hope for other people but I think it is very difficult for me to own up to my own birthright to hope. Someone once told me that I need to own my faith and I think this is still something I struggle with doing…believing it is for me as much as for anyone who is a believer through hope and faith in Jesus Christ.
(c) As I was reminded of today through the very wise, bold words of one of the students who asked me the “if you died tonight” question, salvation is not about feeling something all the time but rather it has to be based in belief that no matter what, God’s words are true and can be trusted.
Believe. Trust. This is so difficult for me to do…I am always expecting to be hurt or lied to when I really trust in someone. Especially when believing in God, through the blood of His son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit requires total abandonment to my fear of trusting. I can not hold back anymore and live a life of full service to Him. What a paradox though…when there is nothing I can do to find Him or earn salvation, there is still so much that I must do to really live the life.
To sum it all up, one of my favorite songs-by the group Caedmon’s Call- speaks of Jesus being our only hope for heaven. It says, “You’re my only hope (referring to Jesus Christ), it’s my only hope (referring to Christ’s grace and mercy), You’re my only hope of heaven, on the cross forgiven!”