I just lost a good friend. As they say, “He went on to be with the Lord.”
Or did he?
Ken had been around church forever. When I got to know him, he and his family were kinda’ sorta’… mostly not. A preacher blow-up had killed his energy for church. Miriam and I were engaged with what would become North Point Community Church, so we ‘invested and invited’. Ken and Jenny came and got involved. After a few months of great worship and teaching, Ken called one day and asked “Hey, can I get a private baptism?” He didn’t want to call attention to the fact that he’d been unsure of his status with God. But he now wanted certainty. He wanted to be absolutely sure he and his family were “in”. Forgiven. Going to heaven when they died.
So he ‘prayed the prayer’ with our pastor, was baptized, joined our small group and started learning what walking with God was all about. But it got hard. He was a control freak. He was so concerned about what people thought (see the idea of a private baptism above), he struggled to let go of his fear, pray out loud, seek God’s voice in decisions, and integrate his faith into his daily thinking and decision making. When he died on August 19th, I knew he believed in Jesus. But I also knew he didn’t turn to Him when things were tough. He tried to ‘man up’ and handle it on his own.
Which brings this huge question front and center….is believing enough? On one hand, there’s John 3:16 which says all you have to do is believe….
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
On the other hand, there are these haunting verses (in red ink) where Jesus says scary things. Like John 10:27…
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
And Matthew 7:12-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
So I decided to ask God directly. “Is he there Lord?”
Here’s what I got….
“Oh yes, he’s here. Seeing guys like Ken come in here is one of my greatest joys. They’re so tentative…so unsure. When they see My Glory, they’re overwhelmed. I love it when they see My Glory. Giddy. Tears of joy. Excitement about a future full of My Glory….and Me”.
Isn’t that just like our perfect Father? How He loves to surprise us with Grace when we’re swimming in fear and doubt. Jesus often used the words “so much more.” That’s what my friend is overwhelmed with today. Heaven is “so much more” than He ever imagined.
And our God is “so much more” in love with us right here and now. Why wait ‘til heaven to be overwhelmed with His Glory? What holds us back from total surrender? From embracing His unconditional love, forgiveness, and friendship?
Will people think you’re nuts…talking to God, absorbing His Word, listening to His voice, committing to a church, giving money, helping the least of these, choosing gratitude over anxiety?
But last time I checked, all those people will be dead someday. The only One whose opinion matters in the big picture scheme of things is the One who created everything. Created this life and the next. Gave us the way to live forever with Him through His son Jesus Christ, and who’s got my friend Ken sitting today at His right hand.
That’s the only opinion that really matters.
Question: Does the Creator of the universe know your name? If you’re not sure, call the most ‘sold out’ Christ-follower you know and ask him to come over and help you be sure. Then tell us what happened here.
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