I just finished reading a book by Mitch Albom about his journey back to faith in God called “have a little faith.” He writes about two men who influenced his decision to return to his Jewish roots over a period of many years. And yet one of the men was Christian, and his testimony about how Jesus saved him compelled Mr. Albom in the direction back to God.
So where did Mr. Albom end up? Belief in Jesus, or not?
Then he talked about the Rabbi’s death, and how he’s now with his Creator God.
What did you do with My Son?
This question keeps coming to my mind. Jesus is the central person in my Christian faith. And yet…someone who is devoted to God, loves people with all their heart, what about them?
I also read something recently – I think from a Facebook post, or maybe from the book – about how people from other faiths who are really moving toward Jesus will be those who live out the most Christian parts of their faith, and who keep seeking more of God. God is outside time, and while life is about the journey, in the end it’s about the final destination: the person we become, inside and out.
What did you do with My Son?
So can a Buddhist monk who has never heard of Jesus somehow know Him through his focused pursuit of God and truth?
I’ve also been thinking about someone I once knew who died this past summer. I hadn’t seen her for a long time, found out about her death after dreaming about her for a few weeks and searching for what she was doing. Big-hearted and always thinking of others, she was honest, caring, and lived life to the full. So many tributes to her on Facebook, from people who knew her from work, college, and longer.
She openly claimed to be an agnostic when I knew her. She did not have a place in her life for Jesus. She believed in someone or something bigger than us, and maybe that was God. But not Jesus. I’m not sure if that ever changed.
If it didn’t?
OK, so I know good deeds don’t get a person into heaven. We can never do enough good deeds to make a dent in offsetting the pile of sins we commit on a daily basis. Little, big, everthing in between. That’s why Jesus died.
What did you do with My Son?
Thinking we have no need for a Savior. Striving to be the best person we can be, doing for others, being the best person we can be, to whatever standard we believe. Even in our giving to others, it’s often about us and how we measure up to our own expectations and standards of what we think a good person should look like.
OK, so back to the Rabbi. What he did, he did to honor God. He prayed, talked to God all the time, shared God with his people. He preached on forgiveness, being grateful to God for what you have, free will, and honoring God with your life. He preached on loving your neighbor as yourself, no matter what religion, social status, or background. He practiced turning the other cheek. He loved God and thanked Him regularly for all he had, and even praised God through the death of his 4 year old daughter.
What did he do with My Son?
He did not confess belief in Jesus – at least not in the book. He acknowledged others’ rights to believe, and said that since from one man, Adam, came all people, then all religions point back to the same God. He humbly admitted that since he’s a man, he can’t know everything – only God can. So who is he to say anyone else’s religion is not right?
According to the Bible I read and believe in, there is only one way to God and that’s through Jesus. I know from my own experience how Jesus transforms lives, and how my faith in Him gives my life meaning and purpose. My goal (some days better than others) is not to live for what I can get or to be appreciated by others. I’m living to the best of my ability to honor and please God, and to take Jesus to people who are hurting.
And here’s the thing. I don’t have to get it right, always be “on”, life a mistake-free life so that people see how good God is. It’s the opposite – in my messed up days, faulty thinking, selfishness, and judgmental thoughts, I know for sure I am still loved and valued and safe. Because, to quote the song Who Am I by Casting Crowns (listen on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C53GgUJ6y-Y:
Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are
It’s not about me at all.
It’s about Jesus.
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17 AMP)
…because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 AMP)
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I ponder as I write. Sobering truth. And yet no one knows another person’s heart. God is the final judge, and He is merciful. And yet He is also just. He gives everyone the opportunity to know Jesus in some way (even the rocks cry out), and, in the end, whether or not they do is a mystery to the rest of us.
So this person I knew who loved others and generously gave to them, and Mr. Albom’s Rabbi – are they (and others I know like them) in heaven? Or despite all they did for others, and to honor God in the Rabbi’s case, are they eternally condemned?
What did they do with God’s Son?
Yes, it all comes back to that. And that’s something no other person can ever know for sure. Because of what I chose to do with God’s son – receive what He did for me on the Cross, and make Him Lord of my life – I am 100% certain I will be in heaven with God when I die.
I can’t make or refute that claim for anyone but myself.
Lord, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Him to earth to redeem my life. Thank you for the Bible that overflows with the truth of your love for us, and the truth of who Jesus is for all who really want to know.
I am still unsettled, even after all this writing and pondering. No, I’m sad, grieving for those who think being a good person is enough. My heart is heavy for people I know who, if I take God at His word, will not be in heaven because they refuse to believe in Jesus.
Wonderful truth: hope in Jesus! I have such joyful hope that all things are possible with God. I pray for them, and I believe God answers prayer. I love them best that I can, and put them in God’s hands. If they choose to follow Him, awesome! If they don’t, that’s between them and God. He is well able to reach anyone with even the tiniest amount of faith inside them.
Enough pondering for today. I’m going focus on this day in front of me, and do the best I can to honor and obey God in all I do. And entrust other people's lives to Him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. (Romans 15:13 AMP)