I grew up in a very fundamentalist denomination. There, while we were taught that Jesus is the only route to salvation, we were also taught that our sins "count" and that we must be on our best behavior to be saved. We believed that people who didn't believe in Jesus would not be saved, but we also learned that people in other Christian denominations - those with different Biblical interpretations or religious traditions - were less likely to go to Heaven too.
During my childhood, we often sang the old hymn, Blessed Assurance (F.j. Crosby / J.f. Knapp). This song holds a beautiful picture of our assurance of salvation in Jesus. When we were singing it, I felt my soul lifted up and my fear washed away. It bore a stark contrast to what we were actually taught when I was young. You may know it; it goes like this:
Verse 1 -
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Verse 2 -
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Verse 3 -
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love. 
Chorus -
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
I now know that belief in Jesus is the only route to Heaven, and that I can be sure of my destiny.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).
One of my dearest friends grew up in the same denomination I did. She goes to a church that is grace-filled now - one that teaches that if you admit that you're a sinner, believe that Jesus is your Savior, and confess your belief in him, you are going to Heaven. Period. No strings attached. Yet when I actually talk with her about the afterlife, assurance of salvation, and the joy that comes from living a guilt-free life, she looks at me with sadness and fear.
"I just don't feel it," she says. "I still fear death; I'm not as sure as you about what's going to happen there. I don't feel that peace you have."
When you hear conversations about the afterlife, Heaven, or near-death experiences, do you feel the way my friend does? Maybe it seems too good to be true. Maybe your sin weighs heavily on you, and it's hard to believe that Jesus has taken (or can take) all that sin away - wash it clean. Maybe you think that people who say they've been there and seen what's to come (either in the Bible or in more recent accounts of those who have flatlined) are telling stories for personal gain or are deluded.
Here is a profound but seemingly-obvious statement: Whether or not something is true does not depend on whether or not you understand it, know it, feel it, or believe it. Take a moment. Pause and think about that. In our culture, we sometimes hear, "Well, that may be true for you, but it's not my truth." But that statement makes no sense. It twists the meaning of the word "truth."
If you're on the International Space Station and cannot feel the gravitational pull of Earth, the truth of Earth's gravity has not changed. It's not "less true;" you are just too far away to experience it. Furthermore, what the scientific community has discovered about gravity is so complex and rooted in higher-order math, only a small percentage of the population of the world can claim to understand gravity. Yet when someone drops an object while standing on Earth, the object falls toward the ground, regardless of their understanding.
The One who knows everything and who cannot lie has told us that we can rest in the blessed assurance that we are co-heirs of Heaven with Him. Regardless of how guilty you feel, how skeptical you are of reports from beyond, or how difficult it is for you to intellectually accept the idea of grace, "...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 (John 3:16, NIV)."
Take comfort in knowing that God is steady - he's constant, solid, The Truth. Rest, knowing that even when you don't understand, He knows what's to come, and He holds your salvation and destiny in His hands.

No Comments