“Because I trust concerning this, that he who has begun good work in you will accomplish that until the day of our Lord Yeshua The Messiah.” Philippians 1:6
Years ago I was on business travel and ran into an old friend in the bathroom of Chicago O’Hare airport. It had been many moons since I had seen her; we used to go to college together and later worked for the same company. That was ancient history, so it was much to my surprise when in the midst of fixing my lipstick in the bathroom mirror I heard her very enthusiastic voice (read annoying) say to me, ” Oh, my GOSH!” It’s you!!!! I cringed as I turned to the voice I recognized. Don’t get me wrong, Sue is a nice person. It’s just that I was in a hurry, not in the mood to socialize and to be honest, a bit cranky.
But not my friend. She was genuinely glad to see me and gushed on and on. “Are you staying in the Chicago area? How long? We must get together for dinner tonight…” I will be honest. I just wanted to go check in to my hotel and pass out. I reluctantly gave her my hotel name and she promised to call me to arrange a meeting. I hoped not. So, after a busy and stressful business day, I did go back to my hotel and check in, ready for a shower and room service.
What you need to know at this point is that I was not a follower of Jesus Christ. I was a follower of my ego, what would help my career and oh, did I mention – I was all about me? At the time, you could have hit me over the head with the “Good News” of the Gospel and I would have looked at you like a deer in the headlights. I mean like, “Really? No one really believed in all that stuff did they?” So when my friend called me and pushed and prodded for me to meet her for dinner, I was really of the mind to beg off. But something was bugging me, I felt a nagging pull in my heart but could not even understand why. Before I knew it, I acquiesced and we made plans to meet for dinner.
When I got to the “fern bar” a typical americana, fried food and fat restaurant, I thought about backing out of the parking lot and sending my regards. But there she was, waiting at the front door waiving me in. I was stuck. So, we settled in for dinner and my friend started telling me all that was going on with her. I will say right here, she seemed to have changed. She had always been the energizer bunny, but in the past she was bossy, a little-foul mouthed and could be sarcastic. This was not the woman sitting in front of me. She HAD changed, and her words and actions were full of grace and love. I thought to myself, “what gives?”
Then as the evening dinner started to wind down and we were chatting over coffee, she looked at me and said, “I want to tell you that I have met someone.” Ok, I was at this gals wedding a few years earlier, so hmmm….I wondered what was she talking about. Then she told me she had met Jesus Christ and had fallen in love with Him.
If I had’t wanted to dash and dine before, let me tell you I was squirming in my seat. I can’t imagine what my face showed at this point. She didn’t seem to care. My friend went on to tell me the changes in her (I could see that) and that it all started with her reading the book Left Behind, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Then she hit me with this.
“If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?”
Blink Blink….deer in the headlights moment. I puffed up a little bit and rebuffed her. “We are all God’s children and I am a good person, I would go to heaven of course.”
“Really?” She asked. “Why do you think so”? I went on a short litany of all the things I haven’t done (Killed, stole, adultery…blah blah blah). She smiled and said, “I used to think that as well.” Then she went on to tell me that none of the things I could “do” could give me a place in heaven. How could I ever know that I was “doing” enough? She explained that apart from the grace of God I will be going a different direction some day; that when He came to gather His that I would be left behind.
She then told me that my “works” were no better than dirty rags. That the only chance I had was to get a good “lawyer” to be kept from being condemned and that came in the form of believing in Jesus Christ and confessing my inadequacy to Him. She told me that He died for me, for us all, to pay for our sins. She said that I could have life in Him if I submitted to His sovereignty in my life and let myself be born again…to die to myself and ask for forgiveness of all my sins. I know at the time her speech hit me like “religiosity.”
I was never comfortable with the Jesus thing and really viewed God as some gentle giant Grandfather who could also have fits of temper….I was sort of scared of him to be honest. So, I suffered through the end of Sue’s diatribe, paid my bill and dashed. She had ticked me off. She had irritated me. She had offended me. She had also told me that I MUST read the same book she did…Left Behind.
I decided then and there I would not…and that was the end of it.
Fast forward several months later and I was in the same airport, waiting for my very late flight and decided to troll the airport book store for a good mystery novel. I was in the Mary Higgins Clark author section when I heard a loud noise to my right. A book had fallen to the floor. I am not kidding when I say I was shocked to see the title of the book that had fallen…remember I was in “C” for Clark… On the floor, to my right about 5-feet away was a hard copy book of Left Behind. “L for LaHaye” so it should have been nowhere near my “C” book stack. But there it was. Laying there by itself…and no, to my knowledge my friend Sue was nowhere near… I guffawed and went over and picked it up. I spoke out loud and said, “Ok God, I will read the darn thing….”
Well, you may find this hard to believe, but I read that book all the way from Chicago to Newark. (Coincidentally, the opening chapter begins in Chicago O’Hare airport – God has such a funny sense of humour). When my car picked me up at the airport, it was getting dark so I continued to read it with the passenger light and then once settled in my hotel I read until 2:00am. When I finished reading I understood what my friend had been telling me that night at dinner. All my “good person stuff” really was nothing more than filth in God’s eyes. Indeed, had I died that very night I would have been going to hell and not heaven. I could literally feel the heat in my face at that moment.
I got out of my bed and opened the hotel window to cool off. I could smell the tulip trees in the courtyard outside my window. I saw the stillness of the night and the warm glimmering windows of the buildings of historic Princeton University. Everything looked so peaceful but my heart was torn up and I was wrecked….and I knew that it was time for me change. I went to my bedside and kneeled and began a long, emotional and heart- felt conversation with a new love. Jesus Christ.
It took hours for me to tell Him everything, but Jesus heard it all.
When I was finished, I was exhausted but at total peace. When I heard the birds outside my window welcoming dawn I realized for the first time in my life – that just as the day was new, I was too. So on May 18, 1999 in a hotel room in Princeton, New Jersey I was born…or shall I say reborn.
I am no longer a “good person,” but I am a saved person and God has a lot of work to do in me yet… But now I am certain that when my time to leave this earth comes, Jesus will not leave me behind – as I am no longer only His creation – but now I am His daughter. A member of God’s family.
So ask yourself now…are you a “good person” or a saved one? If you don’t really know – you have a life and death decision to make, but God can help you make it. Know that I will pray for you – and I can’t wait to meet YOU at God’s family reunion one day…so please – don’t be left behind.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”