The college admission process seems particularly arduous these days. I don’t recall thinking much about it during my junior year of high school, but my daughter has already voiced concern that she might not be doing enough to prepare. She’s not even three months into the school year, but after attending a college fair event and comparing notes with friends, she can see that admission requirements are strenuous and competition is fierce. With more student interest than available openings, universities will be forced to deny entry to some who apply, simultaneously closing doors and crushing dreams all at the same time. Ugh. Just the thought (never mind the process!) can surely invite stress and anxiety to join the tornado of to-dos in students’ already overwhelmed minds.
What many believe is the differentiator, though, is how much work a student has done prior to the actual submission of the application – the prep work, if you will. It plays a key role in how ready someone is to enter this rat race and how well they’re equipped for the battle of comparison that is sadly required for each open spot. No student wants to look in the mirror and question if they’ve done enough to even be considered, yet it’s completely crazy that there’s this much effort spent before a student even begins the actual work of going to college. From achieving stellar standardized test scores, to leading in extracurricular activities, to serving in the community, all while earning a higher grade point average than what seems mathematically possible. It’s truly a colossal endeavor for someone to feel truly “prepared” to apply, and it shouldn’t come as a shock that many teens are facing mental health crises during this season.
Doesn’t it blow your mind that it takes this much work to get into college, but in order to be welcomed into Heaven and live out all of eternity in paradise, we only need to believe (John 3:16, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-9)?
Growing up, I didn’t understand this truth, and being a naturally-wired “achiever” according to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment, I wanted to be sure to check all the boxes and get all the prerequisites completed. I was very familiar with legalism and lots of religious traditions, but what escaped my understanding was the very best part of Jesus: grace. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” He’s not looking to hand out punishments or require us to work off our wrongdoings. If God wanted our compensation, He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to pay off the debt of our sins.
With His final breath, just before dying on the cross, Jesus declared, “it is finished” (John 19:30). This is such a poignant moment, particularly because of His word choice. The Greek word used to translate His sentence is tetelestai, which is an accounting term meaning “paid in full.” When Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the debt owed to His Father was wiped away completely and forever. He, of course, didn’t have a personal debt; He led a completely sinless life. The debt He erased was that owed by mankind—the debt of sin.
I think about the resume needed for college applications, and by contrast, because of His sacrifice, Jesus told us that our resume is not needed for salvation. We need not agonize over the to-dos! Instead, in humility and gratitude, we can confess that we are undeserving of such a gift while acknowledging Him, not just as the Savior of the world, but as our own personal Savior. And with that personal relationship comes everything we need to be truly satisfied.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there! (Take a moment and let that soak in. He provides for and guarantees our salvation, He satisfies our longings and still there’s more…). Yes, in addition to meeting all of our needs in this lifetime, Jesus goes before us to prepare a place for us in Heaven, too.
Jesus explained this to reassure His disciples, who were concerned about Him leaving. We can read about this in John 14:1-2, where Jesus soothes his friend’s fears, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
He goes further in verse 3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
For me, this is so intimate and shows evidence of Jesus’ relational nature. I consider how grateful I am when anyone I know invites me into their home. But when I see that they’ve take special consideration to prepare for me, it always knocks my socks off. The effort shown ahead of time to make me feel known and loved is always an extravagant gift, even if it’s in the form of a simple gluten-free treat, a specific color choice (pink!) or a great cup of coffee (totally a love language for me!).
Great hosts ponder all the things they know will bless their guests. Oftentimes, they’re giddy with excitement – I know I am – when guests begin to arrive. It’s so fun to reveal what’s been in the works and watch the joy it brings to those who come.
Friends, Jesus is preparing a place for us in Heaven! (Eeeek, so exciting!) And He knows us personally. He knows what we will love. He has even experienced our same emotions and humanity, so He gets us. Even more, He’s coming back to take us there Himself. My heart could explode with eager anticipation!
Sure, going off to college will be fun for students, and of course, they’ll have exuberant welcoming committees (once they finally get in!), but nothing we will ever experience in life will come close to the greatness of Jesus’ preparation. Who could compare, really? There is no comparison for Jesus.
I can hardly fathom the results of His attention to detail and extraordinary love for us. We’re talking about the One through whom all of creation was made. Just think about all the incredible intricacies that might be possible! But, what truly gets me is when I consider that He might be giddy with excitement to welcome us and reveal the results of His preparation…oh, how gracious is our Jesus that He would do such a thing for us?!
All because we believe. May we praise and glorify Him. Oh, how He loves us!
Lord, as another busy holiday season is about to begin and our minds are racing with creative plans for our festivities and gatherings, please draw our thoughts to You. Remind us not to become so task-driven (regardless if for work, fun or our future) that we forget what You have done and promise yet to do. Your plans surely exceed our own. Keep our hearts longing for You and for our ultimate home in Your presence forever. And let each tiny detail of our effort spark hope for the wonder of what You will prepare in advance for us! Glory to You! Amen.