Jennifer Bagnaschi DeepBeliever.com
My whole life changed at the age of 17 when I was given the shock of a lifetime! A blunt revelation transformed my walk with God forever. In return, I learned the contrast between religion and relationship.
TRAILING BEHIND MY BIG sister, Leslie, I made my way to the altar at the age of eight to give my heart to Jesus. And for years that became my pride. I’d go around boasting, “I’ve been saved since I was eight!” That sort of became my trophy for a long time. Instead of giving glory to Jesus Christ for His painful sacrifice on the cross for my salvation, I’d give it to myself for becoming born again at such a young age.
When I was around 17 years old, I was given a dream that shook me to the core. I dreamed I was joyriding in a car with two other friends in the backseat, and I was the driver. Then, I foolishly yelled to them, “Let’s drive into a wall!” Strangely enough, they gladly accepted. The first wall I could find was a red bricked wall and I drove head on into it. I didn’t feel a thing. I just remember being instantly in a different location other than Earth; I was in Hell. I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew it, and I was being nailed to a cross, hanging upright in a very bright, white room. With my arms outstretched with no control over my body, I could hear the thick and heavy thuds of hammers banging into my hands simultaneously, but I couldn’t feel anything (more than likely because it was a dream). I tried to look over to see who was hammering the nails but I couldn’t, I just knew that there was more than one unpleasant being mercilessly banging into my hands. I suppose my feet had already been nailed or tied because I briefly remember them being bound together at the bottom.
What gripped me the most was that there was also an absolute knowing I had that Jesus was also present in the room. So I turned my head to the left, as far as I could to see Jesus, but I couldn’t. I began to wail and cried out to Him, “…but Jesus, I love You.” Then He walked over from my left and stood directly in front of me. I still couldn’t see Him, yet I knew He was there. He answered these three words I will never forget, “No. You don’t.” Then I woke up.
The very next day, I remember getting onto the school bus telling my best friend about the dream, afterward promising I’d never sin again. I realized I was really lying.
What a contradiction. I didn’t get the dream. I just held on to Jesus’ words when I told Him I loved Him. It shocked and hurt me when He told me I didn’t. So I told a close relative of mine the dream and what Jesus said, and they responded, “Jesus would never say that! That’s not right!” Without even realizing it, I responded, “Jesus tells it like it is. He can’t lie!”
And it was in that moment that I questioned all my years of being a “Christian”. Was I really a Christian or was I just a “holy-rollie” beating people with the Bible? If I died today, would I really miss Heaven and end up in Hell? And most of all, the biggest question was: Did I really love Jesus?
A few months later in my high school science class, a friend who was sitting across from me laughed and said to me, “Jenny, you’re so funny.” I asked her, “How so?” And she replied, “You’re just hilarious! When people say they don’t believe in Jesus, you just get mad and say, ‘Oh well, you’re just going to Hell then!’ And when she said that, it was as if all of time had stopped. I saw my friend almost falling on the floor laughing, but it was as if her laughter was put on mute. I was cut to the heart, realizing Jesus was nothing like that. Jesus never got mad at people if they didn’t believe He was the Son of God. He never blew the final whistle as I had and damned someone to Hell. He didn’t give up on them. He’d tell them the truth in love, stating, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Jesus had already planted the seed– either people would accept or reject. If they rejected, that was on them. But He always left the door open for repentance and Truth (Matthew 4:17, John 8:11).
Still in the moment, I suddenly saw a slideshow in my mind of all the times I’d verbally attack someone if they didn’t agree with me about Jesus, or the times I’d curse others to Hell for not believing. I knew my friend thought I’d laugh along with her, but I didn’t. It was then that I felt a deep remorse for how I treated people, having the audacity to falsely represent Jesus in such a heartless and crude way. I became the poster child for 1 Corinthians 13:1 and 3b:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…it profits me nothing!”
The concluding revelation I got from this, which took the scales from my eyes was this:
Jesus was nothing like that. I was a religious nut! There was no love within me for the people, just a condemning spirit making a whole lot of noise. How many lives did I scare away from knowing Jesus? I cannot count.
About ten years later, the dream I had years prior was still in the back of my mind. Although the dream changed my life (for the better), I still couldn’t figure out why the room in my dream was so bright, being that I was being nailed to a cross in Hell. I pondered this for a long time, until one day in church, a pastor read an insert of Bill Wiese’s book, “23 Minutes In Hell”. As the pastor read this man’s testimony of experiencing literal Hell, it gripped my attention, as well as everyone else’s in the room. Then I said to myself, I’ll really believe him if he mentions people hung on crosses down there. And lo and behold, he did! Nearly towards the end of his experience in Hell, he explained how he suddenly saw a bright light that filled his entire space and the light was coming from Jesus Christ, coming to remove him from Hell.
I was thrilled at this point. Not only did I get confirmation about the crosses, but I also got revelation about why it was so bright in the room. It came to my realization that the reason why it was so bright in my dream, being in Hell, was because Jesus was with me. He was the Light (John 8:12, John 1:6-9)! I now know that He gave me this surreal dream because He wanted to open my eyes to what a real and true Christian is–someone who follows and obeys Jesus Christ, living the life, understanding He is without limit in deed, in action, in self, and has a personal relationship with Him.
Relationship was the part I had completely skipped, being full of rules that come with religion. Jesus never called us to religion, but rather, a relationship with Him (Revelation 3:20; Matthew 11:28).
RELIGION NEVER SAVED A SINGLE SOUL. ONLY JESUS DOES THAT!