Philip Yancey authored an award-winning book in 1995 with the intriguing title, The Jesus I Never Knew. It became widely known "for its personal approach to the figure of Jesus." Yancey said, "No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same."
Sadly, multitudes of people go through life missing out on the Christianity they never knew. It is impossible to fully comprehend such an enormous loss, especially when compared to the deep peace and joy of knowing Christ as your Savior.
After all, believers freely receive the forgiveness of sins, and the assurance of everlasting life in Heaven (1 John 5:13). Christianity fills your heart, soul and mind with God's love through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Jesus described the breathtaking scene of His return to the Earth one day. "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left" (Matthew 25:31-33).
No pronouncement could be more horrifying than what Jesus will say to those on His left:
"Depart from me. I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23).
The Christianity you never knew will be interwoven with the Jesus who never knew you. Why didn't He know you, and why didn't you know Him? Because you rejected His grace and forgiveness, and you declined His kind invitation to come to Him for an abundant life (John 10:10).
If you persist in your unbelief, my friend, you are at risk of losing everything. No relationship with Christ. No forgiveness of sins. No experience of God's amazing grace. No friendship with the King of kings, who would have gladly been the best friend you could have ever known. No love of God being poured into your heart. No fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). No "eternal pleasures" in Heaven (Psalm 16:11), but only unrelenting "torment" and "agony" in Hell (Luke 16:19-31).
When Christ returns, unbelievers will no longer be distracted by the shortcomings of others. Instead, they will become instantly aware of their own sin, guilt and shame, and why their looming punishment is completely deserved. They will be overwhelmed by hopelessness, and this despair will never end. Perhaps worst of all, they will realize that it didn't have to turn out this way for them.
God threw them a lifeline by sending His only Son to die on the cross for sinners, but they refused to grab ahold and be forgiven. It will be too late to take the hand of the Savior, who would have rescued them from eternal darkness (Matthew 8:12), eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46), and unending suffering (Mark 9:48-49).
I wrote an op-ed for CP in 2014 that I hope you will take time to read. It's titled, "Would You Forsake Unbelief to Avoid Hell?" And another piece from 2013 could also help facilitate your spiritual breakthrough: "Rejecting Jesus for All the Wrong Reasons."
If you are oblivious to the Christianity you have never known, here is something I hope you will be willing to sincerely say to your Creator:
"God, if you are real, I would like to know it. Please reveal yourself to me. Give me a sign that you are there. I have been wrong about plenty of things in the past, but I definitely don't want to be wrong about you, or about Heaven and Hell. Please show me if you are real, and if Christ died for my sins on the cross, and rose from the grave on the third day. I want to know the truth. And if you Jesus are indeed the way, the truth, and the life, as you claim to be, then I am humbly asking your Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin, and grant me faith in Jesus."
Those words, when spoken from your heart, can be a big step toward you coming to faith in Christ. I wrote another piece for CP along this same line 10 years ago: "Five Prayers Open-Minded Skeptics Can Pray."
What will be written in the remaining chapters of your life story? Will you be the sole author of a story that has a terrible ending? You can still be the co-author with God of your personal story. Do you want to experience a joy-filled future in a place of eternal perfection? (1 Cor. 2:10). There are only two destinations in eternity, and both of them are extreme. Which road are you on today? (Matthew 7:13,14).
God wants you to be saved, redeemed, justified, born again and forgiven (1 John 2;2; 2 Peter 3:9). God wants you to spend eternity in Heaven (1 Timothy 2:4). Are you willing to take God's hand that is being extended to you at this very moment? Will you say, "Yes Jesus. I need you. Forgive my sins, and save my soul" (John 3:16). If you will accept Christ as your Savior, a whole new world will instantly open up to you.
And be sure to check out my recent piece in CP, "How to Know Christianity is True." That is, if you are serious about wanting to know the truth.
On Judgment Day, will you be among the sheep or among the goats? Will you be on Christ's right or on His left? Will the King welcome you into Heaven or tell you to depart from Him? It is not too late for you to be rescued from eternal suffering and delivered into God's loving arms of "grace, mercy and peace" (2 John 1:3).
You have a small window in time to trust Jesus and receive Him as your Savior (John 1:12). You could begin your journey with Christ right now, but your window of opportunity is getting a little smaller every day. No such windows exist for the lost souls in Hell (2 Thess. 1:9), including those unbelievers who died in the last few minutes while you were reading this article. Some of them laughed off the notion of Heaven and Hell when they were still here on Earth. There is no laughter, however, in Hell, and the eternal doom of those who reside there is dreadful.
You don't have to go that route. You can still avoid the prison where the lost souls of the departed exist today. Jesus took the punishment you and I deserve when He died for our sins on the cross (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). Satan blinds minds to the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), but the Lord opens blind eyes! (Acts 26:18). I addressed this issue last year in the piece, "7 Symptoms When Satan Blinds Your Mind."
Now is the time, my friend, to be set free in your heart and in your mind. Freedom in Christ today delivers from bondage in Hell forever. Do you want to be free today, tomorrow and forever? Will you join the long list of those who have become followers of Christ?
The thief on the cross said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42,43).
You can say the same thing to Jesus right now. Will you humble yourself before God and call on the name of the Lord? "Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame" (Romans 10:11).
The moment you enter God's family through faith in Jesus, the Christianity you never knew will become the most precious thing you have ever known. You have God's Word on it!
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.