So there was this news story a while ago about a man who had bought a supposedly bullet-proof vest and asked a friend to help him test it. By shooting at him while he was wearing it. (Yes, really.) He’s dead now – because it turns out that no, that thing he was sold was not up to the task of defending him against gunshots.
It made me think of those people who say things like: how nice for you that you have faith – those who talk as though it doesn’t matter if what I believe in is true or not, it’s all about whatever makes you happy, whatever helps you cope with life, religion as some kind of crutch for here and now and different ones work for different people, a bit like ice cream flavours or what games you like playing or what books you enjoy reading or what tv show you prefer.
Now, before I carry on I should pause and say: I’m not knocking the “here and now” effects of following Jesus! There’s a lot to be said for that – in fact, I believe that following Jesus is the way we were designed to live and it’s what’s best for us. But if you are only concerned about the here and now then you’re missing the point. Jesus came to bring us life in all its fullness – yes, but that’s only a small part of the package deal. Jesus is the ultimate flak jacket, he is the one through whom I am protected from death and from hell, and the main benefit of following him is not for now but for later – there will come a point for each of us when we die, and it’s at that point that my Jesus insurance kicks in: because I’ve put my faith in him, in his death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice on my behalf, because of that I will escape hell when I die.
A religion that is nice and comforting for now – what use would that be when that moment comes, when the flak jacket is put to the test?
When the Isis people round up a bunch of Christians and give them the choice between converting to Islam or being decapitated, if those people’s religion was just a nice comfortable crutch then it would make zero sense for them to go for the beheading option. These brothers and sisters of mine who were recently murdered – I trust they went to their deaths knowing that Jesus has their eternal souls in his safe hands, much like that early martyr, Stephen, who was killed by stoning but knew full well where he was going.
I haven’t faced such a gruesome fate, but whether it’s by axe or by gun or by car accident or disease or just old age, I know that one day my time will come to face my Maker.
When that time comes, I will have nothing to fear – and no, not because I’ve been good. I am human and no better than anyone else, I’ve done my share of evil, just as you have, just as each and every human being who has ever lived has – all except for Jesus, who lived on this earth as one of us and was tempted like us but never sinned, and died as the perfect atoning sacrifice, so that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And that’s why I will have nothing to fear when my time comes to die. I have put my faith in the one and only sacrifice that really works, the one and only atoning sacrifice that is acceptable to God. All the other religions and ideologies and philosophies on offer in this world – they are all as useless as that not-really bullet-proof jacket that that guy had bought. They might keep you warm for a while, they might even give you an illusion of safety, a sense of security which brings nice warm fuzzy feelings – but when put to the ultimate test, they can’t save you. Only Jesus can.
About a year ago I started writing a series of blog posts about the question of “how can you know” – I had lots of ideas for different angles to try and address, resulting from a conversation I’d had with someone online. But as so often happens with me, I never got round to finishing that series…
I still might get back to it some day – who knows. There are so many different questions I could try to address, different issues that different people wrestle with. But ultimately this is what it boils down to, for each person individually: God himself communicating with you and imparting his truth to you. He did it for me, he has done it for a whole load of other people I know and a whole load more people I’ve never met, and he can do it for you too. If you are reading this and feel: I want to know! then ask him. God will not turn away someone who sincerely desires to know him.
Just ask God to show you the truth, and then open the Bible and start reading it. Start reading it with your mind open to what God wants to show you.
Do it. And then you will be able to confidently sing with me this Scripture-based song: