If I Could Do It Over Again...
I Would Still Want To Be A Christian
1. “If I could do it over again....” This is a matter I’ve had occasion to think about this year.
a. Maybe you guys can understand it right now. You guys are heading back to school...or sending your kids back...or seeing another group pass through your classroom.
b. My own graduating class had a big reunion this summer...I’ll just say we all now have decades of experience!
c. I don’t know how it affected everybody else, but I know how it did me. I got to thinking: What if I had to do those years over again? What if I could?
2. And do you know what my best answer is? If I were starting there again, I would still – and even more – want to be a Christian.
a. I don’t mean I did nothing I would do differently if I could, or that I made no choices I would like to have another chance at; I just mean that even those changes would just be to follow Christ more closely.
b. You would expect me to say that, and maybe you would say the same thing, but have you thought about the importance of being able to say why?
c. There are three overriding reasons why, if I were starting again, I would still want to be a Christian.
1. If I were doing it over again, I would still want to be a Christian because the journey is so uncertain and brief.
a. I could die. At best, life is fragile; at worst, it can be way too brief.
i. When our class got together, we had to remember thirteen of our fellows who have already gone on. Thirty or so more have lost touch; none of us knew where, or if, they are.
ii. That fits what the Bible says: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14); and even if “the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty...they are soon gone” (Psalm 90:10).
iii. No one could live very well preoccupied with how soon or suddenly his life could be over, but anyone who ignores is living outside reality.
b. I want to already be in possession of hope when that “same event that happens to us all” comes around for me.
i. At that moment, I want to find that what I have considered to be most important is actually more valuable than I imagined, not less.
ii. I have “heard in the word of the truth, the gospel” of “the hope laid up for [us] in heaven” (Col. 1:5), the one that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:4).
iii. That kind of hope, “living hope,” is not found just anywhere; it is “in Christ alone.”
(1) If I could do it over again, I would want to have become a Christian without putting it off too long.
(2) “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
2. If I were starting again, I would still want to be a Christian because the person who is making the journey matters more than its length or predictability.
a. I might live. That’s just as important a possibility to consider as the other one.
i. Cecil May has an article in which he says, “I want to urge you to become a Christian, not just because you may die, but because you may live.”
ii. If I live, will I have a self I can live with? Will I have a purpose to live for? Will I have a faith to live by?
iii. In my life, I would want there to be the character out of which a family could be built. I would want there to be a heart which could truly love and be loved. I would want there to be a sense of mercy toward my own faults and those of others. I would want there to be enough moral courage to bear up under responsibility and difficulty. I would want there to be some honor that could be respected. In other words, the person I want for the journey ahead is what I would become by truly being a Christian!
b. The Lord came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10). Salvation is not only about “going to heaven when we die;” it is also about really living here and now.
i. The life a Christian gets starts with love he has not earned, “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and it is developed through a loving practice of keeping his commandments, which “are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
ii. It is a life in which a person “finds himself” – finds satisfaction, and a positive sense of his own worth, and a good name – by giving himself in serving the Lord and helping others. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
iii. Because it springs from and is modeled after the forgiving love of Christ, a Christian life will come to have a humble and gentle tone about it, not the hard and hateful spirit of the world. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
iv. Since Christians are called to “walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6), the manner of life that results is characterized by the pursuit of virtue. People who follow him are drawn toward excellence and nobility (2 Peter 1:5; Philippians 4:8), more than driven by guilt or fear.
v. Tough things may still happen to Christians. They do to all of us. But there is a joy in living close to Christ that is deeper than a “happy feeling,” and that transcends any and all circumstances (cf. Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 1:8-9). If I live, that is the life I want!
3. If I could start over, I would still want to be a Christian because of the One who provides and oversees the journey all the way through.
a. I will give an account to the Lord. Christians are simply people who “have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
i. To our minds, his example, his sacrifice, and his authority are evidence that we have an obligation to God and that he is the way for us to meet it.
ii. In Christ, we have someone who must be thanked and trusted and obeyed – a Shepherd who guides and cares, and an Overseer who rules and holds accountable.
iii. To ignore him is to continue straying in lostness, and to continue rebelling against the authority of heaven.
b. Christ is worthy of us. Our lives can be appropriately invested in him.
i. The way he has conducted himself (1 Peter 1:22), and what he has done for us (1 Peter 2:21, 24), and how he stands in relation to the Father (1 Peter 2:23) convinces me of it.
ii. In C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, when the children ask if Aslan the lion is safe, the answer that comes is, “Oh, no. He is not safe; but he is good.” That’s how it is with Christ.
iii. Revelation 5:9-14
1. Trying to think through what you would do if you could start again has the benefit of helping you sort out what you really believe, and why.
2. If I could do it again, I would still want to be a New Testament Christian...
a. Because the journey is so uncertain and brief.
b. Because, in so many ways, it is the person who makes the journey.
c. Because the One who provides and oversees the journey is so great and good.
3. Right now, any one of us could begin again.
a. 1 Peter 1:22-23
b. Acts 2:38; 8:22