I believe most Christians will be shocked when they get to heaven and discover what Jesus really saved them from when they became Christians. The reality is that most Christians don’t have a clue what happened at their conversion.

This shouldn’t surprise us. Have you seen the evangelistic appeals that pastors and church leaders give to non-Christians? They sound like invitations to buy something from the Home Shopping Network:

“Folks, for the next five minutes the opportunity to change your life is staring you right in the face. Don’t wait. All you have to do is follow these easy steps and you’ll be on your way to a happy, successful, and fulfilling new life in Christ.”

Can you imagine the apostle Paul talking that way?

Contrary to what you might have heard when you crossed the line of faith, you weren’t saved from a mediocre version of your life the day you came to Christ. You weren’t baptized to escape a life of boredom. You weren’t reconciled with the Creator so you could live life with meaning and purpose, free from a flabby waistline and dingy yellow teeth. Instead, Jesus rescued you from falling into the hands of Someone larger than your mind can conceive, stronger than the combined strength of a trillion nuclear explosions; a holy God destined to unleash the complete, unrestrained force of His wrath on you for offending His holy nature. That’s what you were really saved from.

One of the reasons Christians don’t feel an overwhelming burden to help their friends find their way back to God is because they don’t understand the nature of the God they claim to follow.

For the most part, it’s not their fault. They were converted to a nice, comfy, pleasant, American Jesus. They didn’t hear the entire gospel. They weren’t presented the whole story. So whenever they think about the spiritual status of their non-Christian friends, helping them avoid hell is barely even on their radar. Hell wasn’t a spiritual problem that drove them to become Christians to avoid it, so why would it be a problem for anyone else?

There’s a saying among church planters that applies here: “What you win people with you keep them with.” If someone is presented at conversion with a version of God that is cleaned up, sanitized, and neatly wrapped—a god that appeals to the masses and rivals the best self-help gurus out there—then that’s the kind of god that new Christian will want to follow after his or her conversion. That new convert’s expectation for his or her spiritual life will be predicated upon that original vision of who God is and what He wants to do in his or her life (which goes a long way to explain the self-sufficient, consumer-oriented nature of many American Christians).

Yes, God loves you. Yes, God wants to show you mercy and grace. Yes, Jesus died on the cross for you as an act of God’s love.

However, if you’re not a Christian, you also need to understand that the God of the Bible thinks that your transgressions warrant execution (Rom. 1:32). He loathes your sin and considers you a personal enemy (5:10). Every single act of disobedience you commit against His will enrages Him and forces cosmic self-restraint just to keep Him from instantly obliterating you from His planet (Nah. 1:2–3). Now some of you may already be thinking: That’s nothing new.

That’s all I heard growing up in church. If that’s the case, and you rarely heard a balanced presentation of God’s love and God’s wrath, then that church really messed with your head. We need to repair your image of God. 

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