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How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Keep the Truth to Yourself?

In the news this week is the atheist group, American Humanist Association, and their campaign to get teens and pre-teens to reject God via their new outreach site, KidsWithoutGod.com. Now that’s bad. And parents should be ever-the-more vigilant to help their children guard their hearts and minds and they teach them to how to love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. We should not ignore the schemes of the enemy or be silent about the very wrong messages bombarding us and our children a thousand times a day. Silence can be complicity.

Here are some words from a famous atheist, Penn Jillette:

“The only people I don’t understand are people that say they don’t care about the whole issue. I love evangelicals. One of the things I learned doing Penn and Teller: Bull—-! on Showtime for all those years is that Christians are really good. They’re really good people. You notice there wasn’t an anti-Muslim show that we ever did. We did a bunch of anti-Christian shows. That is the biggest compliment I can give. The fact that Christians will really believe…American Christians…will really, really believe in the marketplace of ideas. And I love the fact that there are people that talk to me after the show and pray for me and give me Bibles. I never understand the atheists that say it’s OK as long as they shut up. They believe that there is eternal life. They believe you can be saved. What could be more hateful than shutting up?”

But we should be doing more than not shutting up about God and the Way, the Truth and the Life, we should also be actively living it. Actions speak louder than words: Everyone knows it. Here is more from Mr. Jillette:

“I don’t respect [people who do not share their faith] at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself.’

“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Jillette asked. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

How much DO you have to hate someone to put your light under a basket? To hide the salt? To withhold the life preserver from the drowning and the truth from the crowd shuffling its way toward the gates of hell? How much do you have to hate somebody to play church, to plant your butt in a seat on Sunday and forget for the rest of the week why you are actually left here on earth?

Mr. Jillette’s words sobered me. Do you know what else is sobering? 96.3% of the greater San Francisco Bay Area is un-churched. Over 96 out of 100 people I pass on the freeway, or in the grocery store, or at the mall don’t know what it means to live a life of freedom because of Christ’s saving grace. Let me never again see a fellow human being with my own eyes only, but with God’s eyes, and feel with God’s heart, which is to seek and save that which is lost.

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Posted by on November 17, 2012 in Belief, God's Word, Missions, Obedience, Salvation

 

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The Narrow Door

A friend recently posted on FaceBook a 2002 video of Paul Washer passionately addressing a large crowd of youth, his message on Matthew 7:13-27. I listened to the entire hour and was challenged to dig into these verses myself (still not done — it’s quite a lot!). This passage is quite familiar to most Christians but I’m not sure many of us understand it very well. In fact there were some things here that were very eye-opening to me (and no doubt will continue to be, as I continue to dig deeper) and none more so than searching out what Jesus meant by those who practice lawlessness.

Here is the verse (23): “And then I [Jesus] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” Now I always casually thought that this meant super-evil-wicked people. You know, Stalin-Holms-Dahmer-Hitler-types. Wow, was I wrong! The word “lawless” is the Greek word, anomia (an-om-EE-ah) and it simply means the disregard for God’s law (His written and living word). It is translated in other verses as “disobedience.” This does not mean we do not sin (1 John 1:7-10) however, a habitual practice of sin or disregard of His law, perpetual disobedience or love of the world and things in the world is termed, “lawlessness” and this state indicates lack of salvation (1 John 1:6, Matthew 13:23, Luke 13:27).

So I understand that this verse tells us there will be a time that many people who believe they are Christians will stand stunned before Christ thinking they had their fire insurance in order and will find out that their “Christiany” behaviors were but self-deception with devastating results. This is a call for all of us to evaluate our lives. (“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 1 Cor. 13:5.)

I am not saying that a Christian can fall from grace and I believe verse 23 proves we cannot because Jesus says, “I never knew you,” not that He knew them at one point but they messed up so He wrote them off. No. We are saved by His grace alone, bought with a very great price. Nothing we do can earn it and nothing we do can undo it. What I do fear are a multitude of Americans who think they are Christians because they silently prayed a prayer once to ‘accept Christ as their personal savior’ (a phrase, incidentally, not found in the Bible or Christian history and was never even uttered until about 50 years ago). Then they went their merry way with no life change (“you will know them by their fruits”) or even a basic understanding of Christian living (“if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”). What happened to “count the cost” — isn’t there a cost? Can I really silently say a prayer and raise my hand and that’s it? Is that entering through “the narrow door” (v13)?

If 75% of Americans are Christians, as Barna and Gallup polls indicate, then why is our society becoming more and more degraded and immoral? Why are we killing 3700 babies a day? We are nation of relativists. If the laws we are to obey (back to “lawlessness”) are summed up into two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matt. 22:37-40) then the persistent disregard of these is anomia, lawlessness.

Let’s get back to understanding what God’s word truly says and obeying it. Let’s reason with one another and encourage one another in the faith. Let’s confess our mistakes to one another and gently and humbly restore one another in love when we make mistakes. Let’s not be like the religious leaders in Jesus’s day who were like whitewashed tombs – nice on the outside and filled with dead and putrid things on the inside. “Let us turn away from evil and do good; let us seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12).

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Obedience, Salvation

 

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“Accepting Jesus”

OK, this will likely be controversial, but for a while now I’ve been struggling with this phrase, “all you need to do to be saved is accept Jesus.” I can’t find it in Scripture and the Jesus I do find doesn’t seem in any way in need of our acceptance. (Indeed, we are in need of His!) Yet this is how most American Christians are told we can obtain salvation. A silent prayer repeated after a pastor or evangelist, maybe followed by a raised hand (with head bowed and eyes closed). But is that followed by a markedly changed life?

For the record, YES: I believe that we must believe, and confess with our mouth, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God to be saved. YES: I believe that if we ask for forgiveness of our sins, He is just and merciful and forgives us.

ALSO YES: A Christ-follower is known by their “fruit” and the branch that does not produce it is cut off.  AND YES: Faith without works is dead. AND AGAIN YES: He who endures to the end will be saved.

I wonder how many of us would be Christ-followers in Indonesia? It costs me nothing to whisper simple prayer and raise my hand here in this country (yet). It doesn’t cost me anything but a little time to attend church, read my Bible or pray. I have done those things and so checked off my American Christian requirements. But following Christ costs the believer. We are told it costs us our very lives (see Jesus’s words in Luke 14:26-34). This has bothered me for quite some time: What if that silent prayer and raised hand isn’t enough? What if there are multitudes of Americans who think they are Christians because they believe they said the magic words and have obtained a ticket to heaven? What if many of us who think this way will be told on that final day, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”? After all the folks Jesus said that to in Matthew 7 actually did many mighty works in His name.When is the last time any of us performed a major miracle? He follows this by saying, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” I think the “and follows it” is pretty important here…

I am not saying confessed belief + works = salvation. Salvation results from the work of Christ alone. I am saying we are known by our fruit, specifically our love for others. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We take up our respective crosses and follow Him.

For years you could not tell the difference between me and a non-believer just by viewing my actions (other than the good-Christian-girl-checkpoints mentioned above). I certainly was not the disciple Jesus describes in that passage in Luke. What does that say? I think the answer to that question would be very different coming from a believer in Sudan than a believer in the comfy chairs of the typical American church. The answer from Bonhoeffer and Lewis and Edwards would be far different from what we might hear from some church leaders in America today.

Again: I am NOT questioning the mighty hand of God’s salvation nor His faithfulness to His children even when we are unfaithful to Him. I AM questioning whether our formulaic method of “asking Jesus in our hearts” has created untold numbers of people who think they are saved, but in reality are floating down a wide, comfortable river to eternity without Christ. And this is a very, very scary thought to me.

This is what I want to learn in a much deeper and daily way: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

 
 

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I See That Hand

How does the typical American Christian “get saved”?

My first encounter with God was at the age of seven. Angela, my best friend from elementary school invited me to Vacation Bible School that summer. During the week the Pastor came into our little class and told us about Jesus. I was riveted. He asked if any of us would like to invite Jesus into our hearts. Even at that young age I was absolutely convinced Jesus was Someone I was drastically in need of. I raised my hand.

We went to the Pastor’s office and he told us about the decision we were about to make. Then we prayed a little prayer, repeating after him, and at that moment I became a member of the family of God.

Or did I?

Some would say it takes more than a simple prayer to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They cite scriptures like, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” “The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls,” “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter,” and “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

But there is plenty of evidence for the simple act of humbling ourselves, confessing that we’re totally missing the mark and in need of a Savior, and acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved,” and “All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”

I believe there is the moment of stark realization of our state of affairs, our separation from God and heart-desperation for Jesus’s grace and mercy. I also believe that the act believing and confessing is just the beginning: “Faith without works is dead.” “You will know them by their fruit.” Only God knows the heart, but I question whether repeating a prayer after someone, raising your hand or walking the aisle of the church, then walking out the door to the same old life results in salvation. Do we see this practice modeled in the Bible? Do we see this modeled anywhere else on earth but “developed Christian nations”? Isn’t it rather about transformation?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not dissing the invitation to seekers in a church service — not at all! — I am asking if the American church has invented a short-cut to salvation. Do we “count the cost”? Do we talk about dying to self? Do we take up our cross and follow Him?

Here is the truth, Christ’s words from John chapter 15: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. …. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. …. Apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. …. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

I am convinced I received salvation that summer day as a young child. I haven’t always produced fruit, I have been pruned, and at times I may have even been in danger of being severed from the vine. Even now I question my effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But the sustaining theme and refrain of my life has been the enduring conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He alone holds the keys to redemption.

Yet, as an American Christian I have to ask myself: Am I slow to produce fruit or quick today to obey His words? What about you?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Jesus, Salvation, The Heart

 

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