…(continued) The college professor was having a discussion with the campus pastor. The professor said, “You Christians are so hung up on telling everybody about Jesus. Can’t you just believe what you want to believe and let everyone else have their own beliefs?”
“Well no, I can’t” said the campus pastor. “I believe that believing in Jesus makes for a better life now, and it is in Jesus that we have the promise of eternal life, and so I think it is important to let others know about Him, so that they can have that too.”
The professor said, “But I don’t believe in Jesus, and I have a good life now, and I am not worried about dying because I believe life will go on in some form even after death.”
The campus pastor replied, “I believe that life will go on after death, but I get that from Jesus. I believe in life after death because I believe Jesus rose from the dead. But I am wondering where you get that belief since you do not believe in Jesus. Where in your experience or belief system is there any indication or evidence that we will live again?”
The professor thought a minute, and replied, “Well I don’t know, it just seems that our spirits will go on.”
“What spirits?” asked the pastor, “and go on how? And it just ‘seems that way’ to you? Well, it doesn’t seem that way or look that way to me at all. I’ve never seen any ‘spirits,’ and by every indication of everything I ever have seen, dead is dead, and they put you in the ground, and that’s it. I have never seen any evidence of anything more to hope for– except in Jesus, who I am convinced really did rise from the dead. Only in Jesus do I see anything more, and so I want to tell people about Jesus. That’s why we Christians are so hung up on Jesus. It is Jesus who gives us the reason for our hope. You do not seem to have any reason for your hope.”
That professor, though perhaps brilliant in his own field, built his life like the first two little pigs built their houses. Everything was looking okay for the day, so the little pigs gave little thought to the future, and so it is with the professor. The professor’s hope for the after-life was without any foundation. I have had similar conversations with people who will declare a firm belief in the life to come without that belief being connected to Jesus in any way. It is easy to point out that such a belief, if unconnected to Jesus, is not connected to anything at all. Where else can you point to a foundation for such an outrageous belief that the dead will live again, other than to the one who died and rose from the dead, Jesus Christ? Who else has managed that? And yet, there are all kinds of people, who, like the foolish builder, will live day to day, any one of which could be their last, without giving the least bit of thought to what comes next.
Is believing in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead a reasonable belief? That is certainly a question worth asking and looking into and discussing. I enjoy talk to people about how I came to believe in the truth of the resurrection. But there are many who will not bother with that, content to live in a house of straw on a foundation of sand. But the storm is coming, the big bad wolf is coming; and that storm, that wolf, is death.
A lady who I visited in a previous parish told me about her daughter Linda who lived in California and never went to church. Linda had done well in California and became quite wealthy, but she had not gone to church for over 40 years. In time, Linda retired and moved back to her home town to take care of her mother. She continued her practice of not going to church. One day Linda brought her mother to church, and then, after that, Linda never missed church. I visited her to invite her to join the congregation, and she said that yes, she did want to become a member.
“What brought about this change?,” I asked her. “For 40 years you never went to church, and now you never miss a Sunday.”
Linda replied; “That one Sunday my mother finally talked me into bringing her to church, you said something that really hit me. You said some people spend a great deal of time and energy preparing for their retirement which they may or may not enjoy; but they spend little or no time preparing for their death and what will come next, which they most certainly will have to face. Well, that was me. I have planned well, and have plenty of money piled up for retirement, but I’ve never given much thought to what comes after that. It is time now that I do that. I need to be trusting in something bigger than my retirement funds. I’m not going to live forever.”
Not long after that, Linda died suddenly of a heart attack. She therefore did not get to enjoy much the retirement she had prepared for so carefully. But she died with something far better; she died with faith in the promises of that home prepared for her by her Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, at the end, she had put her life on that firm foundation.
Job 14:14a — If a man dies, will he live again?…
Acts 4:12 — Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
James 4:13-15 — Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
I Peter 3:15 — But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
A prayer by Martin Luther on the 1st commandment:
Eternal God, you ask that I rely on you alone with all my heart in all things. It is your earnest desire to be my God, and I must believe in you as my Lord, or, suffer the loss of eternal salvation. My heart shall neither build on nor rely on anything else, whether it be property, honor, wisdom, power, purity, or any person. Amen.