Series: Reflections From John
“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (John 2: 23-25)
Are you a Christian? Do you believe? Are you saved? Have you accepted Christ as your personal Savior? Have you asked Jesus into your heart? If you died today, do you know where you would spend eternity? All of these are versions of the eternal question.
Posing the eternal question can make us uncomfortable. If we have doubts about someone’s salvation, failure to ask it makes us unloving. But failing to resolve the question in our own hearts can make us eternally condemned. And that makes it the most important question any of us will ever face.
My first encounter with the eternal question occurred in my teenage years during revival week at Jenkinsburg Baptist Church in my hometown of Jenkinsburg, Georgia. Like so many of the old-time preachers, Reverend Price’s pitch to me was high-pressure. He tried his best to scare me out of hell and into heaven, a technique that some have characterized as terror evangelism. I just couldn’t reconcile the Jesus he was proclaiming with the Jesus my Granny Wells was always talking about- the Jesus who was her constant companion.
But a seed was planted – a seed that would germinate ten years later. Upon reexamining the Gospel from a rational and intellectual perspective, I eventually came to the conclusion that the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and Jesus’ declarations about himself were indeed true. Claiming the promise of John 3:16 that I had recited so many times in the Vacation Bible Schools of my youth that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV), I was baptized at Florence Baptist Church in Forest City, North Carolina at the age of 24.
For the next twenty years, very little changed in my relationship with the Lord. I was content that those questions Reverend Price had pounded into me during that revival had been resolved. Secure in my salvation, I was confident that should my life meet an early end, my eternal destination was assured. But I was trying to live the Christian life as best I knew how in my own strength and wisdom – resources which proved woefully inadequate for the inevitable storms and temptations of life.
Thankfully, the Lord did not leave me in that condition. As he drew me to His Word, I began to pray as I had witnessed Granny Wells pray, speaking with the Lord as a personal friend, rather than a distant Deity. One morning while driving to work in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart in a way I had never before experienced, saying “When are you going to stop trying to do this on your own and learn to trust in me?” I was so overwhelmed by the presence of God that I pulled off the road and surrendered my life right then and there, confessing Christ once and for all as my Lord.
The year was 1994 – the same year that Granny Wells went home to be with the Lord. Coincidence? … I don’t think so. She was a tremendous prayer warrior and I believe her prayers for me became all the more powerful the day she entered heaven. God only knows how many loved ones I will be reunited with one day in Glory because of her Godly influence and her faithful intercessory prayers.
After languishing in a nursing home for several years, she told me in one of our last conversations, “Julian, I don’t know why the Lord leaves me here.” I didn’t have an answer for her then, but I have one now. I look forward to sharing it with her when the Lord calls me home.
As far as I can recall, she never asked me any version of the eternal question. But having lived on a farm all her life, she knew the importance of preparing the soil of my heart so that one day the truth of the Gospel would take root there.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul says “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” It is not my place or the purpose of this post to judge the authenticity of anyone’s relationship with the Lord. But it is my responsibility as a faithful witness to share my gospel story and the truths of God’s Word to help others examine themselves.
2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ one day and our eternity will hang in the balance. The eternal question, however we choose to express it, will be supremely relevant then. But there will be no pleading our case, no opening or closing statements, no testimony from eyewitnesses, no presentation of physical evidence, and no character witnesses. Because the One sitting on that judgment seat does not need man’s testimony – he already knows our hearts.
How tragic it would be to rest in a false sense of security concerning our answer to the eternal question, only to be reminded when it is everlasting too late of perhaps the most sobering passage in all of Scripture:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil-doers!'” (Matt. 7:21-23)
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV)