I am not a morbid person.
But I think about my own funeral. Each time we have been between moves and churches I have contemplated who would preach if I were to die then. Sometimes I evaluate new songs as to if they’d make the cut onto the “funeral-worthy” list. Or someone else’s loss has me considering what I would want people to know.
Several recent losses left me pondering all of the above points as I sat folding laundry on the bedroom floor the other day. I knew with certainty I would not want whoever preached to hold back at all, but to literally “Preach the Hell out of them.” I smirked at the thought of leaving this instruction.
But then I considered specifically what I’d want said, as people listen more earnestly at funerals instead of brushing off the hope of faith as they would a “normal day.” I considered if I were to write a letter for the preacher to read from me, knowing I could speak with more force and lack of offense at those moments.
Then, I realized, “Why wait?” Am I so cowardly as to hide behind death as an excuse to speak truth?
That moments was three weeks ago, and it will not turn me loose. So here’s what I want you to know.
We are broken, shattered people, and we did it to ourselves. Sin broke us. It broke our relationship with God, others, and even ourselves. Since then, we’ve tried to look into a shattered mirror for a clear picture of our lives without understanding how distorted that picture is. You’ve always seen the image in the broken glass, so it doesn’t look wrong to you.
We see God all wrong. His “rules” look like ropes to ensnare and strangle, when they are actually the gifts of freedom. It’s sin that strangles us. We question the bad like a petulant child who got the blue toy instead of the red one.
In our relationships, we are selfish and self-seeking, seeing our own grievances and ignoring our behaviors. We receive the consequences of our actions and label them “persecution.” We gossip about others gossiping, blind hypocrites.
And seeing myself in that mirror? Broken, worthless, shameful. Depression, instead of fleeting as we look to the Creator and Healer, settles into the crevices of our souls. I’m too proud to admit I’m wrong yet too worthless to believe I’m worthy of love.
Broken view of a broken girl of a broken world — and without God, that’s how I stay.
But God didn’t leave me there. He loved me beyond my comprehension.
See God doesn’t just show love, He IS love. Without Him, there’s no such thing as love. Not the cute valentine’s kind or the marriage vow kind. Nope. He is the creator of love.
And love flows from everything He does. The death of His son was done in love for me. Christ loved me and willingly gave HIs life. God loved me and took the life of His son for me — for the payment of my sin debt — to restore the relationship I broke.
“But how can a loving God send people to Hell?”
Well EVERYTHING God does is done in love, right? including judging our sin?
Imagine sitting through a homicide trial, or even an assault trial, where you see and hear the brutality toward a victim, leaving no doubt of the offender’s guilt, but at the end, the judge says, “I love you, do better next time!” Is that judge loving to the victim? Is that judge loving to society? No! Love and justice go hand in hand. He cannot lovingly ignore sin. Sin hurts us and it hurts others, To ignore sin is to allow the mistreatment without consequence of those God loves.
How does it happen? How do we get there? Its both simpler than it seems and more complicated.
Now the desire to ask comes from God, but that’s not where I’m headed. Remember: this is what I want you to know.
And what I want you to know is that you may have “prayed a prayer” years ago or even yesterday without changing one bit. You may have repeated words a pastor said, thinking saying what he said would save you. They aren’t magic. It’s not the content of the prayer but the content of your heart.
Don’t hear me saying you have to have the right heart and think that means you have to be good. You can’t be perfect or even good enough. You have to ask, trusting in God. That’s the right heart.
Me, My, I
If I ask why God should let you into heaven when you die, and one of the following is your natural response, you misunderstood the Gospel or are trusting in yourself instead of Jesus:
- I’m a good person.
- My good outweighs my bad.
- I have gone to church my whole life..
- I go on mission trips.
- I give lots of money to the church and missions.
- I have taught Sunday School for 20 years.
- I spend hours each week studying scripture.
Paper Wings on a Catapillar
Remember that scripture verse that says,
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’“Matthew 7:21-23
If we believe scripture, we have to believe scripture. There will be people whose salvation we’d never question who are in hell for eternity. Sunday School teachers. Deacons. Pastors. It has taken me years to digest this truth. I was so skeptical the first time I heard it, but scripture says it,
Who is saved isn’t happenstance. Salvation is change. No change, no salvation. It’s like a caterpillar never entering a cocoon, only donning some pretty paper wings and claiming to be a butterfly, “Dressing up” like a Christian is not the equivalent of faith.
That you May Know
We have so many pretending Christians – and the terrifying part of the scripture above is that they don’t even know it. They have fooled the outside and fooled themselves.
But don’t be scared. You can know. Jesus isn’t a magic eight ball — shake and see what you get. You can know. The Bible was given to us so that you may know. The book of 1 John specifically tells us that it was written so “that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
In five “digestible” chapters, John walks through verses for self-examination. (See for example, 1 John 1:6, 2:3) That sounds crazy but fits with other scripture. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5)
. . .
Friend, my worst nightmare is that someone I know and love would walk into death trusting in a Sinner’s Prayer that she repeated and trusted, but didn’t mean – like a raincoat in a flood or a bucket of water in the face of a raging forest fire.
If you’ve ever wondered – if you are wondering know, I’d love to talk to you about it.
This may be the funeral post, but the truth is alive.
I want you to know the truth.