This Was Your Life! Preparing to Meet God Face to Face. By Rick Howard & Jamie Lash. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 1998. 191 pp. Paper. $9.95.
The back cover reads, “Imagine yourself face to face with the Lord. No secret remains hidden; even the thoughts and intentions of your heart are laid bare. Do you yearn to hear Christ say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’? This Was Your Life! offers rare teaching on the judgment of believers and on how to get prepared.”
The book contains exactly what is promised on the back cover. In a time when many “Christians” look to their works to see if they are going to heaven or hell, the issue of eternal rewards is too many times thrust aside and ignored. Either people say that it is selfish to desire rewards (we shouldn’t care about reward since we’ll be in heaven) or, that heaven itself is the reward.
Rick and Jamie do a good job of bringing to light the importance of looking forward to and preparing to meet Christ at the Bema. This Was Your Life! is one of only a handful of books on eternal rewards written from a Free Grace perspective. It is different than other books on rewards such as Dillow’s The Reign of the Servant Kings and Hodges’s Grace in Eclipse. While many Scripture references are used, the primary focus of the book is practical, not exegetical. This makes This Was Your Life! truly unique.
Two statements made early on set the tone and hook the reader. “In the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ, there were things in my life I did not want there, and other things not in my life I did want there,” (p. 22) and “Not a day goes by that I do not think of the Judgment Seat of Christ. It really is going to happen!” (p. 23). They are right, the Judgment Seat of Christ really is going to happen, and This Was Your Life! tells us how to get ready for it.
Before they start warning about loss of eternal reward, the authors are sure to state that eternal life is a free gift, something that cannot be earned and something that cannot be lost. They give an excellent example of the foundation (Jesus Christ) spoken of in 1 Cor 3:9-15. When buying insurance for a house, it isn’t necessary to buy enough insurance to cover the full price of the house. Only about 80% of the value should be covered because the land and the foundation are both permanent. Even if the house burns to the ground, the land and foundation are still there to rebuild upon. They go on to say, “If we have trusted Christ as Savior, He Himself is the foundation of the building. A fire is coming to test what we build on the foundation, but the foundation itself is not burnable!” (p. 24).
They make a very clear distinction between the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment, stating that: “The Judg-ment Seat of Christ is only for judging believers…the purpose of the Judgment Seat is not to punish sin. Instead, God will be looking for things to reward! Unbelievers…will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment” (p 24). To restate their belief that eternal life is a free gift, the authors write, “If you want to make sure that you will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ rather than at the Great White Throne Judgment, please read Appendix A, ‘Are you Good Enough to Go to Heaven?’” (p. 26). Clearly, the purpose of this book is to explain the doctrine of eternal rewards, but a secondary issue is to not confuse rewards with heaven itself. Distinguishing between gift and reward is a noticeable objective of the authors.
Ways to grow in your walk with the Lord and therefore enhance your eternal experience with Him are elaborated on throughout the book. One of my favorite chapters is titled “Stay Out of His Chair” (Chapter 10) and deals with humans who exalt themselves rather than exalting God. These are the people who try to take control of and be the judge of everything rather than yielding to the Father. Once again, practical stories, analogies, and applications are utilized to help us pull ourselves out of that sin so that we can stand unashamed before Christ on that day, which is coming soon.
Possibly the most powerful statement of all is in reference to the words spoken by Jesus to the man (“fool”) in Luke 12 who invested his life in temporal things to achieve success. This sentence follows the passage: “When I stand before God face to face, I do not want to hear that particular greeting, do you? Jesus wants us to be rich toward God. He warns us against selfishness and exhorts us to “live with eternity in mind” (p. 48). If I had to sum up the purpose of this book in one sentence, it would be exactly that; live with eternity in mind.
The book is complete with a helpful study guide that would be useful for a variety of audiences from singles to Bible study groups.
While there is almost nothing but good to say about This Was Your Life!, I can’t review the book without mentioning one problem that I found consistently throughout the pages. Though Rick and Jamie were sure to stress the freeness of eternal life, the wording of how one gains eternal salvation was not consistent. There seemed to be some confusion on what it means to “trust Christ as Savior.”
For instance, they seem very clear on the gospel when they say: “Another reason people do not look to Christ and accept the free gift of eternal life is that they look elsewhere for salvation, especially to themselves. They believe the idea that ‘good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell,’ and then they try to make themselves good enough to go to heaven. Their trust is in themselves.” (p. 156). In another place they write, “We can place our trust in Jesus as payment for our sins…” (p. 158). And again they note, “When we put our faith in Christ for salvation rather than in ourselves, God not only forgives us; He also imparts His own righteousness to us!” (p. 26).
However, they turn right around and say contradictory things such as, “It’s your choice…God gave you free will. He gave you the freedom to follow Him or go your own way” (p. 158, italics mine), “Those who repent and put their trust in Christ rather than in themselves receive forgiveness and the free gift of righteousness” (p. 27, italics mine).
Rick Howard gives his own testimony in the book and it reflects even more confusion. He says, “I broke down like a little child as she [his surrogate grandmother, Mrs. Shipton] led me to the altar. I repented and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ” (p. 18, italics mine).
In addition, the suggested sinner’s prayer is far from clear. It contains nothing regarding believing in Jesus for eternal life. The prayer reads: “Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me so much that You were willing to be punished on the cross for my sins so I could be forgiven. I open my heart to You and I invite you to be my Savior. I acknowledge that You know what is best for me. Teach me to please You in every part of my life. Thank You for Your forgiveness and for the gift of eternal life” (p. 158, italics mine).
So, while they insist that eternal life is a free gift, they are not always clear as to how one goes about receiving that gift.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It opened my eyes to things that I should probably think about much more than I do now. I trust that upon reading This Was Your Life! anyone would be fired up for Christ, ready to go earn some eternal reward for themselves, and encourage others to do the same! It is as easy as living with eternity in mind. Remember, it really is going to happen.
I recommend this book to all who have a firm understanding of how one receives eternal life (by simply believing alone in Jesus Christ alone for it).
Grace Evangelical Society