What if you weren’t going to die tonight…

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Imagine coming up to a suicide bomber and saying, “If you were to die tonight, do you know you would go to heaven?” He or she would most likely respond, “Yes, of course, why do you think I have these bombs strapped to my chest!”

Can I tell you that our Western evangelistic model is broken? It is. Why? Because, as Steve Gray put it (“My Absurd Religion“), we’re asking the wrong questions.

And if these kinds of questions were actually biblical, I would defend them to the death.

Did Jesus. Peter, or Paul, or anyone in the New Testament, ever ask the lost if they were to die tonight, would they know they’re going to heaven? Of course not. This question was made up much more recently.

Here’s the problem. With all our evangelistic efforts, studies have shown that there’s been no real net growth in evangelical Christianity (in America) since 1965 (a lot of church-swapping, though). Could it be, we’re asking the wrong questions?

As Gray points out, “The Protestant reformation was a Post-Medieval humanistic movement…the whole protestant reformation is based on one subject…it has one root…and that subject is sin and not participation in Christ.”

In other words, the Reformer’s evangelistic paradigm was one based in Roman Jurisprudence–sin and punishment, sinners in the hands of an angry God, going to heaven and not hell—not so much about intimately connecting with Christ and walking by His Spirit.  And this focus worked very well…500 years ago…when everyone was obsessed with sin and going to hell.

But, today, we’re posing questions people just aren’t asking anymore.

And why is it humanistic? Because, primarily, this salvation message starts and ends with “me” instead of God. It’s about looking inward…self-knowledge, self-loathing: I’m a sinner going to hell, I need to fix my future.” 

People aren’t going to the altar to know Jesus, they’re coming because they don’t want to be punished. And they’re not concerned so much with Who is there…and why (other than He’s very angry and can’t wait to punish them).

It’s very hard to connect with the God who is Love when you’ve come into the Kingdom through fear. Fear is the opposite of Love (1 Jn.4:18), and there is no fear in God’s Kingdom. It’s a very foreign place to Christians who see themselves as worthless sinners instead of redeemed and beloved saints, sons and daughters of their Abba Father.

Oh, you will get a few guilty “churched” souls to respond, but not most. Especially, not many young people. They’re leaving this church in droves. That kind of manipulation doesn’t work on them. Actually, the ones I’ve talked to just make a joke out of it.

Now, before you dismiss our current culture as rebellious and “what’s wrong with this world,” these same people would probably love to know the real Jesus…if they saw Him lived out in us, and could know this Love for themselves.

One serious problem with an “expiation” (payment for sin) message instead of a “participation” message is this: if I am responding so that I can escape hell, I really don’t care who’s there! Lady Gaga or Dr. Phil could be the Savior as far as I’m concerned, just as long as I escape the flames. “Jesus? Cool, as long as I’ll be okay.” Maybe that’s a bit over the top. But seriously, if I’m going to a place instead of a Person, do I deeply care who’s there?

Can anyone see the absurdity of this religious paradigm?

You see, orphan-hearted Christians don’t generally think about Christianity as a relationship with a Father (Jn.14:6). They don’t see themselves seated in heavenly places (Eph.2:6), as current heirs of His Kingdom (Gal.4:6-7), part of a family connected in both heaven and on the earth (Eph.3:14-15). They don’t see their relationship with God and with each other based on mutual love, honor, and devotion.

Don’t think this is so? Okay, let me pose a scenario for you.

Just go into the average church and call for a special worship and prayer night where intimacy with God will be the goal. And, by the way, there won’t be any music. And afterward, we will spend time expressing our mutual devotion for each other.  How many do you think will show up?

This is why you have a lot of “Christians” who responded to the altar call but don’t really care much about personally and intimately knowing Jesus. They’ve already punched their “go to heaven” card, so now all that’s left is get others to avoid hell and wait for the rapture.  And it’s our fault. We’ve made evangelism about a place instead of a Person.

We need a Reformation upgrade.

The good news is, that isn’t the main point of salvation. Having our sins forgiven is a means to a much greater end. Salvation is knowing and connecting with a Father who is the Source of all love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. And everyone wants that. It’s just a matter of showing it to them.

So, I think better, more biblical, questions to pose are… “What if you didn’t die today, tonight, or tomorrow…do you know unconditional and everlasting Love? Do you know my Father, in whose presence is always fullness of joy? Who loves you so much He sent His Son to die for you so you could live with Him? Who heals the sick, who touches the most wounded human heart, who sets the captives free? Do you know this God of all hope who makes you feel like you’re living for the very first time? Whose desire is for you to live the fullest life of purpose you could ever imagine…today, tomorrow, and forever?”

And this is not found in going to heaven or escaping hell. For heaven would be hell without this God. It’s about knowing Him and living in connection with Love.

My Bible says “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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11 Responses to What if you weren’t going to die tonight…

  1. THIS IS AN AWESOME POST! You nailed it, Mel. True that the fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but the fear starts with understanding how great and wondrous and awesome our God is! Yes, He is dangerous, but He is very good…. ( taken from the Chronicles of Narnia).

    • melwild says:

      Yes, amen. Godly fear is awe and deep respect and honor for this amazing God of love. When we encounter Him we are forever changed. And I’m not saying there isn’t a hell. But that’s not why Jesus came to save us. He came so that we could enter into the same amazing relationship He’s had with the Father and the Spirit in eternity. The truth is, people don’t want God and end up choosing eternity apart from Him because they don’t know Him. Unfortunately, they aren’t seeing this Father of Love in Christians today, like people did with Jesus when He walked the earth. What they get is a lot of vitriolic anger and self-righteous judgment. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn, He came to restore us back to the Father. This is why we need a reformation. The world needs to see Jesus…in us! The same way the Father sent Him, He’s sending us! (Jn.20:21)

      Thanks for your encouraging comments, as always. 🙂

  2. Pingback: What if you weren’t going to die tonight… | authorjodiwoody

  3. jodiwoody says:

    Turn or burn, and “get out of jail free” messages aren’t working. God says that it is His goodness that will turn hearts to repentance. It’s all about a loving Father, who wants to bless his children. Those who haven’t joined the family yet, just haven’t learned who He is and His ultimate purpose for their lives. A very good word. I hope you don’t mind that I shared. Thanks.

  4. I enjoy your posts. I love how they speak about the root of true Christianity ie it’s about having an intimate relationship with God and living and reflecting that relationship to others.

    • melwild says:

      Thanks for your encouraging comments. Yes, it’s a recurring theme for me because God flipped my religious world on its pointy head. 🙂 What I found out is that we have gotten this “Christian” thing backwards, putting the cart before the horse, if you will. We’ve turned it into going to church, singing songs, hearing a message, studying about God and serving Him, blah blah blah…instead of everything flowing out of an intimate relationship in constant connection with Him as His beloved son or daughter. Intimacy with God is not meant to be some option for the romantics, the mystics, or prayer warriors. I was more like Spock than a romantic before encountering His love. Now, I know that this IS Christianity. This is everything. Otherwise, we just become religious, like a dutiful but unloved housewife for God. That’s not what is intended for us. We are to minister from this place of rest and acceptance in the beloved, not for it. And it’s from this place where the real freedom comes that God promises us.

      • Can really relate to being in an intimate constant connection with God – the realisation of this transformed my life! “We are to minister from this place of rest and acceptance in the beloved, not for it. And it’s from this place where the real freedom comes that God promises us.” Amen!!

  5. Lisa says:

    I’m really enjoying perusing your blog, this post included. Glad you found my blog so it gave me a way to find yours!

    • melwild says:

      Thanks. I’m glad too. I think I originally found yours from a Bill Johnson quote and really liked your post “Rising to the Top.” I will be back over to check out your other posts when I get a chance. Thanks for perusing and welcome!. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Keep it simple… | In My Father's House

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