A World Without Jesus

Last night, I got to thinking: what if Jesus came to Earth in modern times? Not His return, not when He comes back, but when He first came to Earth. You know, when He was born in a stable, gave the Sermon on the Mount, and died for our sins on the cross. What if that happened today, instead of way back then?

Of course, that got me thinking of something else entirely. If He didn’t come to Earth until today… what would the world be like? How different would our world be?

Part I

Believe in Jesus, don’t believe in Jesus, it doesn’t matter (it does matter, it matters a lot, but we’ll get to that); Jesus Christ has undeniably molded this world into the place we live today. So what would our world have been like without Him?

Now, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good imagination (you’ll see one day when I finally finish that book I’m writing), but even for me, it is frankly hard to visualize what that world would look like. Of course, there would be no Christians without Christ. But I’d wager that there would also be no Constitution of the United States of America. Heck, there might not even be a United States of America; remember, many of the pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution.

There’s a lot of bad that has happened in the world in the name of Jesus- and I want to stop you right there, at that sentence, and make a very, very important distinction: Jesus has not done bad in this world, and has not inspired evil in this world. Jesus and His teachings do not inspire evil or hatred. But bad people have done bad things, claiming to be doing it in Jesus’ name. I’m gonna piggyback off a preacher I listen to from a church in Tennessee; those bad people are breaking a commandment, one that says “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain,” which the preacher said better translates to “you shall not abuse my name”… “Act like you know Me, if you’re going to say you know Me.”). Bad people have twisted the Word to fuel their hatred, to justify their violence. There have been massacres, there have been wars that people have fought in Jesus’ name. But honestly, these massacres, these wars, this bloodshed, probably would have happened anyway, because Jesus never wanted those things to happen. Bad people wanted them to happen, and if they couldn’t say they were doing it “in the name of Jesus” then they probably would have just found a different reason to hate, to start wars and to hurt others.

But there has been so much good done in this world in Jesus’ name, too. Mother Theresa. Martin Luther King Jr. Just two of many good people who have helped shape this world into a better place, because of Jesus. Charities, foundations, people helping people, in the name of Jesus. I’m not saying some of these things wouldn’t have happened without Jesus, either. But many might not have.

As I said, there might not have been an America. Not as we know it today. Much of our moral center, too, comes from Jesus’ teachings, whether directly or indirectly. Would we have gotten there without them? I’d like to think that we would have, at least on some level. Many of our most popular books and movies draw Biblical inspiration. Where would we be without that second half of the Bible to inspire us, to guide us?

I can’t think of a single person in history who has molded our world as much as Jesus. And He still does, every day. And try as I might, I cannot think what this world would be like, had He not been born in a stable, had He not given His sermons, had He not died on the cross for our sins. Whether you believe in Him or not, He has affected this world, and your life.

What would the world have been like without Him?

Part II

And if we are considering a world that didn’t have Jesus in it, we have to consider something else: what would it be like when he arrived now, in 2019? Would He have been born in a stable, or a Staples? Would His sermons be live streamed, have millions of followers on YouTube? Would He have the opportunity to die for our sins? Would He even be in danger of being put to death for His preaching?

Of course He would; with God, all things are possible, and if it is His will for Jesus to die for our sins, it doesn’t matter if that takes place in 2019 or a long time ago. It would be so.

But what of all the people who were saved, between then and now? Without Jesus, would we still be waiting for the Messiah? Would we have moved on? Forgotten? What would have happened to our souls? What would have happened to our world? Would we be a world worth saving?

It’s a scary thing, when I really start to think about it. It is a truly scary thing, wondering what the world would be like without Him. Without His life among us, without His gift of salvation.

If Jesus came in 2019 instead, what would He find? Who would he find?

He’d find His people. He’d find us waiting, no matter the state of the world, no matter if we’ve all forgotten He was coming, no matter what, He would find us. Because that is His promise.

Why am I writing this? I definitely don’t want to think of a world where Jesus didn’t come to us from Heaven to die for us and forgive us of our sins. I definitely don’t want to consider the possibility that it never happened, and what a different world we’d live in.

When the thought first occurred to me, I thought it might make a unique story. What if Jesus came in 2019? But then, the more I thought about it, I realized that would have to be the sequel; the first story would have to be what the world became without Him. And the second book would have to be what happened to that world when He did come. Maybe I’ll write that, one day. But for now, I want to leave this message instead:

Whether He came to us in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem, or came to us in 2019, or in 2219, Jesus would always have come for us. That is a fact.

And because He did come to us all those years ago, because He did die for our sins on the cross, because He did rise from the dead on the third day, He has offered us a way to Heaven through Him, He has forgiven us our sins, He has spread the word of God’s love for us, He has promised us to be with us and to strengthen us and to guide us to making this world a better place for all who live on it.

And wherever you are in your life, however far you’ve strayed from Jesus, whether you knew Him and gave up on Him, or never knew Him at all, Jesus has never given up on you. There’s no sin too great that He cannot forgive. There’s no distance you can travel that He cannot cross. There’s no path too steep, there’s no hole too deep, that He cannot overcome. No matter how unforgivable you feel, no matter how lost you are, He will forgive you, He will find you, and help you find your way.

So I know, whatever the world would have been like without Jesus in it, when He did come, He would come for us. It would never, ever be too late for Him.

Part III

This world isn’t perfect. Even with Jesus in it, with His lessons and His love and His forgiveness, this world isn’t perfect.

People still do bad things, and people still do bad things in His name. There are Christians out there who don’t act like they are Christians. There are Christians out there who, every day, make people believe that Jesus doesn’t care for them, doesn’t love them, doesn’t forgive them. There are people who say they are acting in the name of Jesus who are acting so unlike Him, who are turning people away at the doors of their churches, who are judging people because they sin differently, because they look different, act different.

And it is important for anyone reading this to understand and accept these words: Do not judge Jesus on the actions of those who claim to follow Him. If the church has hurt you, if Christians have abandoned you, shunned you, cast you out, do not, for one second, believe that Jesus has done so, too. People can fail you- Christians can fail you- but Jesus cannot.

As that preacher said, “…it has killed our country. Not the Democrats, not the Republicans, Christians not being Christians. Believers not being Believers.

If you aren’t a Christian- and more importantly, if you were, and you aren’t anymore, I urge you to give Jesus a second chance, because He will give you a thousand.

And if you are a Christian, I urge you most of all: let’s make sure the people around us see Jesus in our lives. If we are going to say we know Him, that we are followers of Him… let’s make sure we act like it.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

-Brennan Manning

Part IV

I took this picture, and it has always made me think of Heaven and Hell. The small, red cloud in the corner being Hell and sin, and the mighty, beautiful clouds above Heaven and salvation.

I struggle. I struggle every day. I sin, and I sin repeatedly. Up until last week, I’ve been very distant from Jesus. Not intentionally, and very aware of the distance, but I couldn’t bring myself to try to get closer to God. And this was despite being raised in a church, despite being a believer my entire life. Just because you are a believer doesn’t make it any easier.

Then, last Sunday, I did. It started with a sermon, from the preacher I mentioned above. His name is Craig, and a long time ago, he preached at a youth service that I attended every week. It was a good time. But I moved, and he moved, and we all moved on.

A while back I discovered the church he preaches at now; it isn’t anywhere near where I live, and I’ll probably never set foot in that church, but I started listening to the sermons online, because this preacher gets it in a way that makes me get it.

Now, I still need to find my own church where I live, I need to find a church family and start being more active- inactivity leads to distance, said Yoda (or something like that)- but the first sermon I listened to was the exact thing I needed to hear. And I believe that- if you are listening for God- He will find ways to speak to you. I wrote about that a while back in a look at the Chronicles of Narnia. God communicates to us every day, in many different ways, but if we aren’t looking for it, we will miss it, like missing a phone call that you didn’t hear ringing.

I’m still struggling, and I’ll continue to struggle. The devil doesn’t pay attention to those who aren’t seeking God, but he will put all of his effort into dissuading those who do. I know I don’t have all the answers; neither does Craig, or any preacher.

I recommend his sermons, but I also recommend that you don’t listen to any one preacher. Find several who deliver the message in a way that makes sense to you, that makes you understand. Don’t rely on just one. As I’m sure Craig will tell you, we are all sinners, we are all bad people trying to do good things. Follow the Bible, and learn from it, learn from your preacher, from your church, but be mindful, if your church or your preacher starts to drift from what the Bible says, follow the Bible, not the church. Call them out on it. Make sure that the Word is what everyone abides by, not blindly following any one preacher’s interpretation of it.

If you need someone to talk to, talk to me. I know I don’t have all of the answers- I don’t even have most of them- but I will try to help you where I can, and I’ll phone a friend if I need to. If you can’t talk to me, or don’t want to (I know we don’t know each other), talk to someone you know, someone you trust, who you feel has a good footing with the Bible. If you don’t know anyone, find a church and talk to someone there. A good church won’t care who you are, what you are dressed like, what you look like, what you believe; they’ll welcome you in, and help you.

We won’t turn you away. You will find Christians who do, but Jesus won’t. I won’t.

The hardest part of me writing this article is publishing it. I have friends who aren’t Christians, I know people who have been hurt by the church. And the constant nag in my head is “what will people think of me, what will people say to me,” about writing this.

One of Craig’s sermons was about being paralyzed. I won’t try to paraphrase it, I’ll let you listen to it in it’s entirety:

In this sermon, Craig is talking about the times when Jesus healed paralyzed men. But we are all paralyzed by something. Among other things, I’m paralyzed by the fear of what others will think when I write something like this.

I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions. They often don’t work. But I’m gonna make a resolution right here, right now. If I have something on my mind, if I have some scripture to write about, some message that the Bible or a sermon or a movie or a book (heck yes, I’ll find something there, like I did with Rogue One; God will send you a message through whatever medium He can, if you are listening for it) has brought up in my head, I’m not going to think “what if,” I’m going to write it, I’m going to share it, and I’m not going to hide it.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He died for my sins, and he died for yours, too, and it doesn’t matter what your sins are, it doesn’t matter what mine are, it doesn’t matter if we sin the same or differently, He died for us, He gave His life so that we can live an eternal life in Heaven. “For God so loved THE WORLD (not part of the world, not this group of people or that, but THE ENTIRE WORLD) that He gave his only Son so that ANYONE who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn it but to SAVE IT.

John 3:16–17 was always my favorite, but it really didn’t hit me the way it should have when I was younger. It never hit me- all those times in Sunday school when the teacher asked me which was my favorite verse and I quoted this one (it was the only one I could remember, honestly)- the impact of these verses. Think about where this verse takes place in the Bible, how far into the book it is, how much God’s creation has done, how many sins mankind have committed by that point, and God still sent His Son to die for us, not to condemn us, but to save us.

And even how early that was in the rest of history, God knew what was to come after that. God knows everything that we’ve ever done, or will ever do. And He still sent Jesus to save us. Whether that happened when it happened, or if He waited until 2019, the outcome would have been the same. Jesus would always have come to save us.

There is no world without Jesus.

If you need a Bible to read, I recommend this one: The Life Application Bible for Students. Even if you aren’t a student. It’s a good Bible, filled with little lessons and more modern-day approaches to the stories of the Bible. My copy is a little dated; it came out in 1992,so prepare for some seriously 90’s examples from time to time. But you can still get it, and there are newer editions out in different translations (mine is “The Living Bible” translation, if you’re wondering).

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Joshua Beck

Joshua Beck

I am just clever enough to get into trouble…