One tactic preachers use to get their listeners to think about eternity (and their life in the here and now) is to capture their imaginations with the reality of their death.
“If you were to die tonight, do you know, that you know, that you know, that you would spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven?” is a go-to question certain pastors love to ask their listeners.
Growing up in the church, I heard this question posed at least 1,000 times. Each time, I certainly took the question seriously. However, I also felt that the question was a little misguided.
Is death the most compelling concept to get someone to consider eternal things? Is asking someone to imagine their last breath on earth the most gripping question to spark someone to consider their eternity? Do we have to “live like we are dying” (thanks Tim McGraw) to get the most out of our life and be prepared for the next?
Bottom line: “Does the reality of death produce the life we desire to live in the hear and now and in eternity?”
I would argue there is a greater force alive in the world today (and in eternity) that is more compelling than death. This force has WAY more capacity to change hearts and capture imaginations at the end of a message. This force actually takes AWAY the fear of death.
What is this force?
If we come to faith because we are afraid of dying without Jesus and not going to Heaven, then our faith is built on a foundation of fear–and God is not the author of fear. No wonder so many converts spend most of their days worried and anxious about their “eternal status” and having a “right relationship” with Jesus.
If fear of death and missing out on eternity with Jesus is the foundation of our faith commitment, then what makes us think this will produce a life of joy, peace, and love in the here and now?
I think the better question is:
“If you knew that you knew how deeply you are LOVED by Jesus NOW, how would that change your life in the present and in the life to come?”
I’m not saying we should not think about eternity or death, but I suspect many will get there only to realize that death has nothing to do with spending eternity with Jesus.
…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Eph. 3:17b-19