Sue sits in the front pew every Sunday. She wears a dress, has a nice designer jacket on to match her designer purse. She has shoes that match her outfit and her hair is nearly perfectly groomed. She has her Bible with her and it is open to the page the pastor has referenced for his sermon and follows along intently, taking copious notes as he preaches and has her highlighter handy. She is in the church choir and also goes to the Bible studies for women on Wednesday nights. She knows the answer to the questions asked at the Bible study, and can reference a verse when appropriate without looking it up. She participates in the food kitchen, volunteers in all church events. She is a real go-getter and is looked upon as a true believer by the congregation.
Tom sits in the back of the church. He is rag-tag; disheveled clothing, wearing shorts, a t-shirt, has messy hair, is not shaven and is unemployed. He does not have a Bible but listens to the pastor and tries to follow along as best he can. He has a hard time grasping everything that is said. Some of it is confusing to him and he doesn’t really understand the lessons, but he still comes every Sunday to listen and to learn. He doesn’t go to any Bible studies and doesn’t participate in any activities at church. He shows up on Sunday and leaves after the service. When the food kitchen is open he goes for a free hot meal and is given some groceries to get by for the time being.
When the pastor does an altar call for prayer, Sue sits and watches and leaves when it seems appropriate (when no one is really noticing). Tom is always the first to the altar. Sue doesn’t feel she needs prayer but Tom wants all he can get. He is saved and she is not.
Sure, Sue was baptized when she was younger but she did it because it was expected of her; her parents told her she had to do it to go to heaven. She didn’t know what it meant and honestly, she still doesn’t know Jesus. Sue doesn’t know His love and His grace. She goes through the motions, but she has never accepted Christ in her life. It seems like it on the outside but inside, she is missing something. She has an emptiness that she doesn’t know how to fill.
Sue does feel blessed. She has nice clothes, a great job, a big house with well-behaved children, and a husband of twenty years. She figures she is doing well and God must be blessing her. She works hard for the church, goes every Sunday and participates and helps out as much as she can. Surely she is working for the Lord and feels the more she does the better it is for her salvation but she is not saved; she doesn’t really know Jesus, she is trying to fulfill her emptiness by works.
Tom may not have a job, any nice clothes, sleeps on couches or the street at times—or is in jail on occasion. He may not understand all the Bible lessons at church but that one time after he last got out of jail (his first visit to the church), when the pastor called out to the congregation for those that want to be saved, to be forgiven for their sins, to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, Tom went to the altar and received Christ. He is still poor, unmarried, no house, no car; pretty much nothing, but he is happy because he has Christ in his heart and knows and feels in his heart that Jesus loves him. Since accepting Christ, he hasn’t been drinking and hasn’t been in jail. He is looking for work while living in a shelter. His life is hard, but he has Christ in his life. That is really all he needs.
Who are you? Are you the pious person sitting in the front of church, looking and acting like you are saved, but haven’t accepted Christ? Or, are you the poor sinful man that has nothing of this world but has Jesus in your heart?
Who has it better, Tom or Sue? Tom has it better for he has grace and salvation and he asks for it every day, even more so at the altar on Sunday’s. Sue doesn’t really think she is a sinner because of her works; she puts on a pretty good act of what she and the world think that Christians should be like. Tom understands and lives the hard life and yet still loves Jesus. Sue thinks she has it good but doesn’t have Jesus in her heart. She is doomed to hell. Tom is destined for heaven.
I want a heart like Tom’s. Sue and Tom aren’t real people, but I’ve seen people like them in church and outside of church. You want to see how real a person is? Observe them outside of church, how they interact with others, how they live the example of Christ, how they treat others. I have been surprised at the number of those I thought those who are “pious” Christians are just the opposite. For example, when I run across them at the store yelling at a store worker or cutting people off in traffic while driving giving the finger, etc. You get the point.
My pastor says that the church parking lot is a gateway to salvation because the moment you park and get out of your car, you are the best Christian the world has to offer. He is joking of course, but he knows that there are a lot of Christian actors in the congregation who turn on their Christian persona the moment they hit the parking lot, and lose their Christian attitude the moment they race out of the parking lot.
Who are you like? Are you a “parking lot” saved person or are you truly, a Christian? Do you act the part better than you live the part? Do you put on a mask to hide who and what you really are, to others? It doesn’t matter because Jesus knows. Jesus knows our heart, regardless of what face you put on in front of others. You can’t hide or fake Jesus in your life; he can’t be fooled.
What Tom understands and what Sue doesn’t realize is that they are both sinners, just like the rest of us. The only difference is that Tom asked for salvation and accepted Christ and Sue is working for salvation but has never asked for Christ into her heart and life and for forgiveness of her sins. Sue hasn’t grasped the implications of being saved for forgiveness of her sins, to have Jesus in her life. She thinks that if she “goes through the motions” she will be heaven bound. What she doesn’t know is she really just needs Jesus in her heart.
There is hope for you if you are a “Sue.” I’m not saying that everyone who dresses or acts like Sue is not saved, but I’m using this as an example of what some people like to portray to others so they appear to be saved. And Tom, not every rag-tag church member is saved, but I used him as a contrast to get the point across that no matter what you look like, how you dress, or what you carry from your past, it doesn’t portray your salvation status. It’s what is in your heart that matters—whether or not you have Jesus.
Sin is what separates us from God: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
What the Sue’s of this world don’t understand is that it is by Jesus that they are saved, not of works, but by grace through faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. It is through the blood of Christ that we have the promise of eternity with Him if we simply believe in Him and His promises.
Sue doesn’t get this, but you can. If you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you too can be saved. Quit playing church and start living Jesus. Stop pretending you are saved and get saved. Never mind what others may think of you, but live for Jesus. Don’t be saved by the church parking lot on Sunday’s; get saved for eternity by believing and having faith in Jesus.
One of my favorite verses is Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
If I have Jesus in my heart, I know he lives in me and directs me in my daily life. He is there when I need to talk, when I need to cry, and He is there to comfort me in times of trouble. He is my Lord and my Savior who I look to everyday for hope. He is what I live for so I can see Him in eternity. I am His.
If you’re playing church or don’t go to church or don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, now is the time to get serious about this situation. In terms of eternity our lives are but a drop of water in the ocean. Now is the time to get serious about accepting Jesus. Your eternity depends on it.
Don’t want to know Jesus or have Him in your heart? That’s fine, that’s your decision to go to hell, not mine. But I want to impart to you the importance of eternity. It is forever. Did you get that? Eternity is forever. Regardless of what you think, regardless of how good you are, regardless of what kind of good life you live, regardless of all the people you help and the friends you have or the love you have in your heart, it is all for nil if you don’t have Jesus.
Nothing else will take you to heaven, only Jesus will. You must accept Him as your Lord and Savior and believe He is the real deal. You can’t earn heaven by living a good life or doing good works. You get heaven through the grace offered to you by Jesus, period—nothing else matters. Simply believe in Him like Tom, and you will be saved and become a child of God.
Like Tom, once you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, your life is changed. You become a child of God and nothing can take you away from Christ.
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV).
When you are saved in Christ, you will become a new creature. Your thoughts will change, your motivations will change, but most important—your heart will change. The Holy Spirit will come to you and guide you to stay on the path of salvation, to guide you in a continuing relationship with the Lord, to keep you on that straight and narrow path.
You will begin to grow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in your relationship with Christ. Your view and outlook on the things of this world will begin to change to a more focused view of what Christ deems as important for you and your life. Your worries and anxieties will begin to lesson as you begin to put your trust in the Lord to guide and take care of you and your life.
Being saved is the opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t miss it. Don’t assume you can get to heaven without Jesus, for He is the way, the truth and the life. Eternity with Him in heaven should be your goal and your life you will begin to live for Christ, not for work, not for material possessions, not for friends, or family, but for salvation.
Don’t delay. Get saved now. Pray and profess to Jesus that you want Him in your life and in your heart. Pray to Him for the forgiveness of your sins and that He enters your heart fully and completely and takes you over. Become His, not anyone else’s. This decision you won’t regret. I promise you that eternity with Jesus is by grace—a blessing that cannot be denied. Open up your Bible and research this for yourself. Study and meditate on the Word of God and be His child to learn His ways and His teachings on life and how you should live for Him.
All Scripture is taken for the King Kames Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.