A very wise pastor told me a long time ago that when we talk about Christ to someone all we have to do is stick to what we know. I know that the Christmas of 2004 was very significant for my family. This was the last Christmas that my dad was going to experience here on planet earth, but at the time none of us knew this.
I know that by next Christmas some of you reading this will lose loved ones and I know how terribly sad that is. I know that too many of us just assume that everyone dies and goes to Heaven, while other make jokes about being in Hell with all our friends. None-the-less, I don’t think any of us can deny that we long to be with our loved ones forever. I also know that there is a tremendous peace of mind in knowing that our loved ones are truly in a better place for all eternity and our separation is only temporary.
I know that when I decided to leave the religion I was brought up practicing, there was much anger in the family about my decision. I know I made the right decision because I now had three kids of my own to raise and I didn’t want to confuse them with an unclear message about how to get to Heaven. I know that my dad understood this because he and I talked about it. He completely understood what I told him.
My message was, “Dad there is a difference. In order to get to Heaven, we have to trust in Christ alone and nothing else. We have to know we are born sinners and we need a Savior. We can’t add anything else to it. Nobody is good enough.” I told him that the religion we were brought up with adds stuff to the way we get to Heaven and that makes the message altogether different. It’s the wrong message! There is a difference. We have to trust Christ alone. That’s not what we were taught and as a result we won’t go to Heaven if we believe that message! I told him, “I don’t want my kids confused. I’m responsible for them.” That’s the extent of the conversation and he never expressed anger to me. I was a very new Christian at the time.
Fast forward to April of 2005. My dad passed away on a ventilator pumping at 100%. All I could think about as we watched him lie there and slowly fade away was … I hope you remember the difference. It’s the difference that will determine your eternal destination.
My Christian sister and I were the first ones to arrive at the funeral home the day of his wake. The two of us approached the coffin and, for the first time in my life, I didn’t cry and all. I looked at my sister and she wasn’t crying either. I remember saying to her, “I think it’s okay,” and she said, “Me too.” We knew what the other meant. We both thought he was in Heaven because the peace we felt at that moment was truly incomprehensible, but it was real.
My other siblings and my mother came in shortly after and one of my other sisters said, “I can’t believe you two aren’t crying.” She was just as surprised at our peace of mind as we were. Three of us were in awe about the sense of peace that was clearly demonstrated by my Christian sister and me. None of us understood it. We just knew it was there.
As time went on and I ponder that moment at times, I can’t help but think of the fact that I don’t exactly know if my dad is in Heaven or not. He never told me. What I do know is that I did give him a clear message. I truly planted seeds for him and I know my sister did too. I hope he did trust Christ alone and nothing else before he drew his last breath, but I know that my Savior gave my sister and me Peace beyond all understanding regardless.
We can live the most moral lives and participate in every religious ritual we want, but until we know that we are all human beings, born sinners, in need of a Savior and we can’t save ourselves we aren’t going to Heaven. We can’t make any excuses because there are none. God’s creation (which we are all a part of) and our consciences scream to us that God is real and we need a Savior. All of us do. How many of us will be spending Christmas with a family member or friend for the last time this year?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
“And the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7