Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where bad guys go when they die



Today Eva Rose was sent to her room, for about the 80th time this week. Oh, I exaggerate. It was probably only the 70th.

After justice had been restored (ahem) we discussed how she had sinned, and how as her mommy who loved her, I could and would not allow her to sin without receiving discipline. To which she responded, "But I'm so bad! I sin all the time!"

"Me too!" I said. "Oh, I do too, Sister! I'm so glad Jesus forgives us!"

And then she said, "I sin so much, I'm afraid I'll never get to heaven!"

I need you to imagine that sound of the record being stopped. You know: "errrrrROP!"

"What did you say?" I asked.

"I'm afraid I'll never go to Heaven!"

"Eva Rose, who gets to go to Heaven?"

And then my child, my Reformed raised, covenantal, catechised, sermonized, biblized since she was infant baptized child said, "The people who go to Heaven are the people who are good! And I sin so much I'll never get in!"

Shocked, I set her straight.

A few minutes later, I asked my son, "Shepherd, who gets to go to Heaven when they die?"

"Good guys. Not bad guys. Just good guys."

Sigh.

I was raised going to church. I was there every Sunday morning. Youth group, Sunday school, ski trips, bible studies, blah, blah blah, blah blah.

After graduation I moved in with a girlfriend and became friends with a guy named Mike. Mike had just become a Christian and boy, was he excited about Jesus. I liked Mike, but his new Christian t-shirt wearin' bible thumpin' self was truly annoying. He listened to Christian radio and everything. (Insert eye roll.)

People like me, the ones who grew up going to youth group and Sunday school and church camp and ski trips, we were far too cool to listen to Christian radio. Or talk about Jesus, just, out of the blue. Much less get excited about Jesus, if we were to start talking about him, out of the blue, which we would never do.

Mike was over for dinner one night, and told how he had experienced some major turbulence on a flight that day. As his plane rolled and his stomach with it, he reported that he had looked at the friend seated next to him and said, "Well, at least we know that if we die today, we're going to Heaven!"

I put down my fork and looked at him, incredulously. "Well (tsk) you don't know that."

Mike looked back at me even more incredulously, "Well, yeah, I do know that."

The conversation moved on.
But I couldn't stop thinking about what he said.
How could he know that?

A few weeks later, my life fell apart. Really fell apart. A whiny, wounded, blubbering mess, Jesus Lovin' Mike invited me to Metro Bible Study. And there, sitting in the red chairs - amidst the distraction of hundreds of the cutest, un-nerdiest Christian guys I had ever seen and some of the coolest music I had ever heard - the little girl who had been in church every Sunday her entire life heard the Gospel for the very first time.

Here is what I learned:

I get to go to Heaven.
Not because I'm good.
Not because I try to be good. I can never, ever be good enough to get into Heaven.
But the good news is that Jesus Christ died on the cross, putting to death all my sins.
So that whosoever believeth in him - whosoever ONLY believeth in him - whoseover do NOTHING BUT believeth in him - whosoever be a BIG FAT SINNER LIKE YOU, MISSY JO, but just believeth in him - shall not perish but have life everlasting.

DID YOU HEAR ME???
I'M GOING TO HEAVEN WHEN I DIE.


It was right there in my bible and everything!

Holy cute Christian boys, Mike was right!! So that's why he was all excited!!

And then my life did a 180 (a painful, slow 180) and I grew up and got married and had four kids and told them this very, very good news every single day of their life and our church has told them this every Sunday aaaaand they still don't believe it.

Walker and I discussed this tonight, and he said, "It's just so hard to believe that you can't earn your way in, that grace is a free gift from God. It goes against everything we believe in our hearts."

Then he added, "Our kids weren't born a blank slate; they were born a corrupted slate. We don't just have to tell them the Truth, we have to erase what they already believe."

I was 25 or 26 years old before I believed the Gospel.

My kids are 5 and 6. I'm not sure when they'll believe it.

How old are you?

You might be like me, and never really heard it before. It's true, my friend, it's true. Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose again, ascended into Heaven, sits at the right hand of God, and now, for those who believe that he alone is the way and the truth and the life, there is no condemnation. You didn't choose it and you can't lose it. Because it's so not about you. AMEN!

Or you might be like Shepherd and Eva Rose. You may have heard it over and over, you've studied it, you can even recite it and you have the AWANA patches to prove it. But do you believe it? Has the corrupted slate of your heart, the slate that says you don't deserve it, that it's not right, that it's not possible, that it's not even acceptable that God could love you, really love and really forgive you, as false and sinful and messed up and gross and filthy as you are?

Oh, it's a bitter pill to swallow. It's so hard to believe that Jesus Christ died for the bad guys. That God wants us, the bad guys, to be with him forever. It goes against everything we know, against everything we feel, everything we think is right and true. It's an utterly ridiculous message.

That's why it's such Good News.

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19, The Message

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