“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”
1 John 4:17
It’s the middle of the day at work and I glance up at the video surveillance monitor in my office after hearing someone walk in the front door. Sitting at my desk, I can see the patron stroll through the lobby of my store, so I get up to walk out and greet him.
“Hello, how are you doing today?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” the man says to me.
“Mr. Black! I didn’t know that was you!” I’ve changed his name for this story, but Mr. Black is a long time customer of mine. He’s had my security system in his home for years. So I ask him, “What’s going on? Do you need me to set you up a service call for your system? Is there anything you need help with?”
“No, no, nothing like that. Everything is working fine,” he replies, as he hovers over by my stack of books. If you walk into Alarm Security, all of the books I’ve written are sitting on a section of the front counter with a sign next to them which reads: Free! Take one!
Wondering why Mr. Black is standing by my books, I ask, “So what’s up? You want one of those books? Didn’t you take Volume 1 last time? Here’s Volume 2, you can have it, and while you’re at it, here’s the first book I wrote a couple years ago, True Purpose in Jesus Christ. It’s a short read.”
“Well thank you. Thank you so much,” the elderly man tells me with a mannerism of gratitude.
“So did you finish 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 1?”
“Yeah, I sure did, and I gotta tell you, I really like it.”
“Well good! Here, take these, and have a great day. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Strangely, Mr. Black doesn’t leave, he just stands there quietly, looking down at the books.
“Are you okay?” I asked. By this time, one of my employees had come out into the lobby and was working on the computer.
Mr. Black softly replies, “No. I don’t think so. I don’t think I am okay. Can I talk to you outside?”
After pausing for a second, because I wasn’t expecting him to say that, I said, “Sure.”
I followed him out the front door, and it closed behind us. He had been looking toward the ground nearly the entire time we spoke, and now that we were outside, he was still looking down. All of a sudden he looks up at me, and has tears in his eyes.
“Matt, I just want you to know I appreciate you, and I’m praying for you.”
Taken back, I put my hand on his shoulder and say, “Thank you.”
He continues, “You just don’t know what your book has done for me.”
I still couldn’t quite read Mr. Black. Was he about to set me straight after buttering me up with some kind words? He lives far off, so was his trip to my store his journey to tell me that my theology was all wrong? Was he going to say I needed to repent before it’s too late? What was going on here?
Most elderly people have their idea of God set in stone, so I was expecting him to say, “Your book is great–but–your book is this and your book is that.” However, that did not happen…the opposite happened.
“Matt, please, tell me, how do you know that you’re saved? How do you know you’re going to heaven? How can you be so confident in the things you write? I’ve done a lot of bad things in my lifetime, and I’ve gone to church, and I’ve tried to make up for that stuff by doing good things. But I’m still not sure if I’ll make it.”
I was immediately hit with a feeling of deep compassion for this old man. Empathy flashed across my face, as I could tell he was in turmoil over his salvation. He knew his time was short, and he wanted reassurance.
“Jim, I know that I’m saved, because I know that I’m saved,” I said with a warm smile, hoping that he would understand he is saved by a knowing as well.
“Yeah, but that’s too easy. How can you say that, and yet, my pastor says something so opposite of you?”
I exhaled, “Perfect love casts out all fear. God’s love for you is perfect, so you have nothing to be afraid of. Fear has to do with punishment, and because of Jesus dying on the Cross and taking on your punishment, you don’t have to be afraid.”
He began to tear up heavily, and slightly tremble, “But how do you know? How?”
“Yeah. Our God is a God who is full of grace. Let me ask you, has there ever been a time in your life when you believed Jesus has forgiven you of your sin?”
“Oh yeah, long time ago.”
“Then you’ve experienced God’s grace. God lives in you right now, and you have nothing to worry about. He promises that He will never leave you. He won’t leave you now, and He won’t leave you when your body passes away. Jim, don’t be afraid, be confident. He loves you.”
Mr. Black remained silent for 20 or 30 seconds. I didn’t say anything else because I wanted him to reply, but he didn’t. He just stood there nodding his head while staring forward. Then he looks over at me, gets closer, maybe 18 inches from my face and says, “I hope you’re right.”
He hugs me very tightly and then shuffles off toward his vehicle. Unbeknownst to me, his wife had been sitting in the driver’s seat of their SUV the whole time, watching us. I have a feeling that Mr. Black felt a sense of relief that day, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for the relief you’ve given me by way of understanding your unconditional love. Like Mr. Black, you and I both know the torment I used to feel when I thought about meeting you. However, as I’ve grown deeper into the knowledge of your grace, you’ve revealed to me just how perfect your love is. I cannot express my gratitude in typed words, but you know how thankful I am. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them have been taught to be petrified of you, and that’s not what you want. Many of them compare you to their earthly fathers and you’re nothing like that–you’re so much better. Even if they had a great dad, that great dad STILL cannot come close to who you truly are. You have no desire for us to be afraid of you, instead, you want us to be afraid of a life without you. You are gentle, patient, and kind. You care for us deeper than we can even fathom. Please remove any fear from these dear readers in regard to you. Renew their minds to the truth of your grace. Any incorrect idea they’ve been taught, wipe that slate clean, as you reveal just how unconditional your love is. It’s so unconditional that we don’t even have to wait to experience heaven. Instead, heaven is in us right now. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!