Imagining the plight of thousands of panic-stricken people abandoned at the airport in Kabul is almost too tragic to comprehend. Some were American citizens. Others that served with us during the past 20 years are now facing the threat of death at the hands of the Taliban. It appears the current reports coming out Washington, D.C. have greatly understated the number of people left behind.
Those words, “left behind,” resonate with the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus, however, was warning about missing another final flight. Whether you or I depart this life via physical death or the glorious return of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we be ready. That we don’t miss the final flight.
A couple of days ago as I was reading the Bible lyrics from a very old County Music song tumbled back into my mind: “How many, how many, I wonder? But I really don’t want to know.” The artist was wondering how many other people claimed to have loved him or her.
It was reading and meditating on Psalm 1 that triggered a thought about how many professing Christians are truly authentic Christ-followers. The person whose life is based upon God’s Word is distinguished from those who choose to live their own way or by some other religion or philosophy. Choosing to follow God’s way will change our lifestyle—and our future destination.
For me, the question is simply this: How many friends and acquaintances are prepared for the final flight? How many are truly prepared if Christ was to return today? Tomorrow?
Missing the last flight out of Kabul was tragic. Missing the “final flight” out of this world will be eternally tragic. Some that were stranded in Kabul waited too long to get to the airport with visas and tickets in hand. Some were at the airport on time, but without proper documentation they were turned away at the boarding gate. Many of these that were left behind now face potential persecution or even death.
When Jesus returns or the death angel comes for you and me, will we be ready? One fact is rigid: there is only one way to heaven—to God—and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I (myself and no other) am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes (can come) to the Father except through me.” Those are very strong, exclusive words. I’m sorry, but there is no way to put a positive spin on them and make them less severe or more inclusive.
The key is to understand and accept Jesus’ words and warnings. He, Himself, is the one and only route to heaven. He is—or has provided—the boarding pass through His sacrificial death and resurrection. If and when I believe this truth and accept (submit to) Jesus, He grants the right to join God’s family. Believing and trusting in Jesus not only changes our future destination and our present identity but will change our worldview and values—our code of ethics, priorities and life purpose.
It is not ours to judge whether another person truly believes in and trusts Jesus. I am responsible for myself. But we can look for evidence or fruit of a changed life in a professing Christian. If we do so, and discover little or no evidence of authenticity, it behooves us to encourage, even warn, them to test their own claim to faith.
It’s not enough to listen to God’s Word or read it without putting it to practice. To do that is like a foolish person building his home on shifting sand. (Matthew 7:24-27) Jesus accused the Pharisees of reading and teaching God’s Law without obeying it. (Matthew 23:1-12.)
Self deception is so subtle, especially living in our materialistic culture. Consider Jesus’ warnings:
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34–36, ESV)
““Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32–34, ESV)
The routine of life can detract us from living in a state of preparedness for Christ’s return. That was how Jesus described the time of Noah, when the Great Flood caught all but eight people by surprise. This happened even though Noah had spent decades building the ark and warning his friends and neighbors.
Even the routine of attending church—perhaps singing on the worship team or teaching Sunday School—can create a false sense of security. Jesus spoke of that future judgment day when some will plead that they served faithfully, but will hear these devastating words: “Depart! I don’t know you.”
My credit card statements and bank account reveal my priorities. Am I investing in things of eternal value? Do I care about the hungry? Do I pray for and share resources with my brothers and sisters facing persecution and threat of death every day? Am I even aware of their plight, or have I pulled the curtains?
Do I care about my friends and neighbors and family members still living in darkness and unbelief? Am I a witness by my life and with my lips?
All these things and more help expose where my heart is focused. It is good to stop and take inventory of my life. Do my actions and priorities match my profession?
I write today because I wonder how many of my friends and family remain outside God’s family. I wonder. I wonder. But unlike the lyrics of that old country song, I really do want to know. I want to know so that I can warn them before it’s too late. Before the last flight leaves our earthly tarmac and the gate has been closed. Forever.