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Is the “sinner’s prayer” a legitimate way to get saved?

April 18, 2013 2 comments

If you’ve been in the American church for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with the concept of the “sinner’s prayer.” Basically, a preacher asks people in the congregation to repeat after him if they are interested in having Jesus Christ come into their hearts and save them. The prayer will generally go something like this: “God, I know I’m a sinner, and without you I am destined for eternal punishment. I repent of my sins. Please forgive me and come into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior. Amen.”

Poof! If you’ve repeated this prayer, then you’re now magically saved, right? Well, not exactly. It doesn’t work like a flu shot.

People will often point to the fact that when they repeated these words, they “meant it” and therefore, it has to be legitimate. Well, maybe or maybe not. The problem is, the words that come out of our mouths can often be at odds with what’s actually in our hearts—even if we feel like they are the same.

People can be swayed very easily by their feelings, whether it be the lovey-dovey atmosphere created by the powerful preaching, dim lighting, or soothing music. It could also be peer-pressure-induced, where friends or loved ones nudge you into saying the prayer or answering the altar call. Either way, the Bible warns us in Jeremiah 17:9 that human hearts are deceitfully wicked…who can know it?

There is not one place in the Bible that tell us that repeating a formulaic prayer will grant us salvation. A simple man-made prayer does not have special abilities. However, these prayers often contain a lot of correct elements that clue us in on how to actually find Jesus. Using my sample prayer, let’s break it down a bit.

“God, I know I’m a sinner, and without you I am destined for eternal punishment.”

The first step toward real salvation is acknowledging and understanding fully that we are sinners. This is more than saying “I’m not perfect” or “I have done wrong at least once in my life.” Everyone in the world could admit to that! No, this means recognizing that we have broken God’s law and that as sinners, we are broken beyond repair. This is letting go of the secular idea that we are essentially “good people” who slip up sometimes. Rather, it’s a realization that our sin nature leaves us in a very grave situation. We are rotten to the core, and there’s nothing we can do about it on our own. In light of a fully just God, we deserve hell.

Do you really believe that? Or do you look at other people around you and say that you are comparatively “good”? Do you secretly think, “If God turned me away from heaven, that would be unfair!” If you feel this way, you are not ready.

“I repent of my sins.”

Do you really? In addition to genuine remorse for your sins, are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to turn completely away from that lifestyle? Do you see those things in a different light now, as dirty and serious? Or do you cling to your desire to dabble in sin, do enough “good” to cancel out the bad? Do you wish to be saved but have no desire to be sanctified?

Do you think this way? “Of course, I want to go to heaven! But while I’m here on earth, I don’t need to be a saint or anything. I’ll live it up because Jesus loves me and forgives me.”

If this is your mentality, then you are not genuinely repentant. Someone who is ready to be a Christ-follower may slip up time to time, but they do not brush it off as if it were nothing. When they slip off the narrow path to life, God comes for them and they continue fighting their flesh. If this is not you, you are not ready.

“Please forgive me and come into my heart.”

Let’s think about our own lives for a minute here. Let’s imagine you are married and you’ve had a heated argument with your spouse. Hurtful words were hurled and you’re still stinging from the pain.

Now, let’s say he or she comes up to you and says, “Please forgive me.” You look at them, and they are not truly sorry, nor do they have any intention of trying to improve themselves in the future. They just want the fight to stop so you can cook them dinner or give them other benefits. Would you forgive them?

In the same way, God is not interested in idle words and empty gestures. As Paul Washer once said, “the greatest heresy in the American church is that if you ask Jesus to come into your heart, he will definitely come in.” No, this isn’t how it works. If Jesus sees your heart and you are not ready or willing to do what it takes to make it work, he will not come in. He does not force himself upon you just because of some words you’re repeating in an instant of conviction.

There’s a reason why many will come to the gate and say, “Lord, Lord,” only to hear Jesus say to them: “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23) How do you know this isn’t going to happen to you?

“Be my Lord and Savior. Amen.”

People often think about Jesus as their savior, but that’s it. They are glad he will whisk them away to heaven and save them from the flames of hell, but they forget about the other requisite part.

He has to be LORD.

Most people in America will call themselves Christians, but they are the furthest thing from Christ-followers. They prayed a prayer and called him “Lord,” yet they live their lives as they see fit.

When someone is your LORD, that means he is your master. You are his servant/slave. Does your mentality really reflect this at all?

If the Bible says something is sinful or commands us not to do certain things (or support them), do you brush it off as outdated “advice”? Do you regard the opinions of man and culture more highly? Do the things that scientists proclaim to be true take precedence in your life?

Do you gloss over the uncomfortable portions of scripture that do not appeal to you, but rather focus heavily on God’s grace and love? Do you profess to love God but fail to live out his commands? John 14:15 tells us that if we love Him, we are to obey.

If you have the (surprisingly common) mentality of “I’ll follow, but only when I really agree,” then Jesus Christ is not your Lord. ANYone will follow someone’s commands if they fully agree with them already. Are you willing to obey even when you don’t fully understand or it rubs you the wrong way?

If God is not your Lord, then He is not your savior. Please don’t fool yourself.

So…

If everyone who calls themselves “Christian” is capable of deceiving themselves and feelings are an unreliable measure, then how in the world can you know if you are really saved? Well, the Bible says that a good tree will bear good fruit (and a bad tree will bear bad fruit…and be cut down and thrown into the fire) – Matthew 7:17-19. It exhorts us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to see if we are in the faith. The test is not whether we prayed a prayer one time in our life, but rather whether our lives are truly changed and on the narrow path in this world. Are we being sanctified? Are we convicted of our sin and repenting continually?

Granted, change is a gradual process for most people, but the trend should be unmistakeable over time. If you were “on fire” for Christ for a short period of your life but have fallen back to a secular lifestyle, there is a possibility that you are like the second or third (unsaved) soils in the Parable of the Sower.

James calls faith without deeds useless and dead. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14)

If we are living our lives just as we were before, or we appear just like the world around us, then this is a serious symptom of a “dead” faith. This doesn’t mean that you are simply living a feeble Christian life, but rather, it means you are not His at all!

In conclusion, reciting the so-called “sinner’s prayer” has no magical powers on its own (though it does have some useful elements in it). This is not the way to test if you are a Christian. The true test and evidence comes in the way you walk and talk, the way you think. Is it conforming to God’s Word, or do you still belong to the world? Remember that you cannot serve both the world and God; it’s one or the other.

In fact, if you are truly a child of His, chances are at some point, the world will hate you or find you foolish (e.g., Matthew 10:22; 24:9; John 15:19). If the world finds you perfectly agreeable, then raise the red flags…there’s something wrong.

Satan, the Cleverest Being Ever Created—Part 2b: Tricking Christians (and “Christians”)

March 2, 2012 1 comment

[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]

Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.

Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”

This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.

On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.

So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.

Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.

But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.

Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.

The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.

A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?

The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉

On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.

Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.

How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)

Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.

Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines

Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.

You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”

One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.

Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.

And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.

But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?

Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.

Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.

Follow the Spirit’s Lead

There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.

God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”

Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.

Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!

Can salvation ever be lost or what?

January 2, 2012 8 comments

This topic came up in conversation last night, and while it seems like a basic topic on the surface, it’s really a lot more in-depth than people think. But thankfully, the bottom-line conclusion seems to be the same for those who oversimplify things and for scholars who have done all the necessary research and exegesis: true salvation cannot be lost.

1 Peter 1:3-5 tells us: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

This is usually where people stop. Feels good doesn’t it? A sense of security sets in, and all worries are alleviated. But as human beings, we always need to remember the practical, application aspect of it. In short, true salvation cannot be lost, but professing faith can. In other words, it all goes back to the whole “fruit” issue of whether we are genuine Christians or not. Many people have themselves fooled because they like easy, convenient answers, but the Bible does not tell us that gaining Christ is supposed to be a simple, one-time “decision.” Philippians 2:12 tells us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” not just rainbows, smiles, and relief.

One of the biggest tests for true faith is endurance (Hebrews 3:14). True faith endures to the end, false faith fizzles out at some point. But until we reach the end, how can we know for sure that we have a true faith in the meantime? After all, we all backslide time to time (although I’m convinced a true believer cannot backslide past a certain point of severity or length). That’s why the Bible tells us not to take it lightly and to keep growing in the faith. We can know in our heads that true salvation cannot be lost, but we must constantly test our faiths and examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to make sure we fall into that “true” category. Imposter Christians might be fooling themselves as well—possibly with the help of the ever-crafty Satan, who probably just loves fake believers who stop trying. It’s like being in a war and a blinded person is unknowingly fighting for the other side.

Anyway, what is a passage like Hebrews 6:4-8 actually saying then? It sure sounds like it’s saying that those “who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit” can later fall away and crucify Christ all over again. Well, let’s take it step by step here…

First, a professing Christian probably goes to church. He probably even goes on retreats or to conferences once in a while. So he has been in the company of true believers. He has seen them, talked with them, and shared in fellowship.

Second, he may have even felt (or indirectly experienced) some of the Holy Spirit passing through a certain venue or event. He may have gotten caught up in the swell of music—or dim lighting, crowd pressure, mood, etc.—and lifted his hands, filled with emotion. Mob mentality or some similar form of peer pressure is one heck of a powerful thing. While these feelings can be great sometimes, we also need to be aware that our hearts are deceitful above all (Jeremiah 17:9). Feelings are not an end-all, be-all indicator of a saving experience, no more than butterflies are evidence of true love between two people. I guess you can compare infatuation to real love in the same way you can compare mere professing faith to true faith. Or just think of the rocky/thorny soil examples in Jesus’ parable. But if you NEVER get fuzzy feelings, that could be evidence of a hidden problem…

Third, this professing believer may have read the Word of God, prayed, and done all the things that true believers do. He may have even had glimpses into the beauty of the Word and appreciated it.

In many ways, this person may have “tasted” or “shared” in common experiences with us without being truly saved. But why does the author of Hebrews seem to think they are even worse off than before? Because if this professing Christian later falls away—rather than transitioning into true faith—he will think that he has seen it all. “Been there, done that,” he will think to himself, and he will be less likely to give Christ another chance later on with an open mind. A part of his heart will be hardened, almost like a person who has experienced broken trust. It will take that much more to buy into Christianity the next time, if there ever is another opportunity for that person.

So what can true believers learn from all of this? It’s important for us to never grow complacent! The following passage (Hebrews 6:9-12) brings us some more crucial advice:

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

We need to realize our full potential as believers…growing lazy is the easiest thing to do for many of us. Heck, that has been one of the biggest struggles throughout my life, whether in worldly or spiritual affairs. But by pressing on continually, we will please God more and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Or, if our salvation was not true to begin with (but we were falsely convinced it was), we may end up truly finding the Lord along the way because God honors diligence and effort. Maybe by staying immersed in scripture and prayer, the not-yet-saved person is increasing his or her chances of finding that “aha!” moment. So there’s nothing to lose by being diligent and working out our salvation with “fear and trembling,” but eternity to gain.

Bottom line? True salvation cannot be lost. But we better make sure our salvation is true by treating the issue with tons of reverence and priority (but not paralyzing paranoia)! Let’s not take the wonderful truth of God’s eternal gift and twist it into an excuse to live shoddy Christian lives.

Random thought of the day: Don’t be a lemming

October 6, 2011 1 comment

Imagine a cliff with a steep drop. Everyone is walking in line and falling off the cliff to their death. You ask the person in front of you, “Why is everyone going this direction? Why not try to cross on the other path?”

“Oh, well that path is windy and uphill. This way is much easier.”

As soon as he finishes explaining that, he too follows the crowd off the cliff. SPLAT~!

Would you follow him off, thinking, “Surely, if EVERYone’s going this way, it must be OK.” Would you take one look at the harder road that safely leads across and think, “but I don’t feel like sweating”?

Following the rest of the world on the wide road (Matthew 7:13) will surely lead to destruction. It doesn’t matter that everyone else is doing it; there is no safety in numbers. Unless the bodies pile so high that you can safely land on someone who before you, you’re destined to die just like the rest of them (hint: the pit is bottomless, OK?).

Don’t concern yourselves with fitting in. Don’t shy away from being on fire for Christ. Seriously, who cares about the opinions of other human beings? We’re all just a huge collection of sinners and goofy idiots, bumbling for truth when it’s right under our noses. Personally, I don’t look up to any person as “cool” and worthy of occupying my thoughts for more than a few seconds at a time. I’d rather impress the Almighty God.

Being casual and lukewarm about God leads to the exact same place as having no faith at all, so you might as well live it up now. Or, hopefully you’ll come to your senses and commit fully.

“I’m going to heaven because I’m a good person.”

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Satan’s greatest lie is one that sounds reasonable to most people.

Always remember that Satan is smarter than you. If I had to choose just one of Satan’s many successful lies in this world, it would be this:

I can earn my salvation and go to heaven apart from Christ alone.

Whether it’s through charitable acts or religious rites, most people have their own concept of how to reach heaven (and some don’t even believe in the existence of heaven, so they live it up now). The problem is, not everyone can be right.

Because this topic is so broad and can cover so many divergent views, I’ll cover just two basic and contending ideas: 1) A person can go to heaven if they’re “good,” and 2) the only way to go to heaven is through Jesus Christ and following Him.

First, consider these Bible verses:

Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Isaiah 64:6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

So clearly, if you call yourself a Christian or believe in the Bible at all, you must concede at this point that no person is good enough to get to heaven. If all righteous acts are worthless apart from the grace of God, then logically there is no way to earn eternal life.

But what about people who don’t believe that the Bible is authoritative? Then let’s turn to some real-life examples and a bit of basic reasoning.

Most people think they are “good people.”

If you happened to see the “180” movie (http://180movie.com/), you may have noticed in the latter parts that most people interviewed would call themselves good or nice people. It may have even occurred to you the irony of a racist, hateful, and fornicating neo-Nazi asking, “Don’t you think it’s funny that God would send a nice guy like me to hell?” Most of us would look at him and say, “THAT guy is definitely not good enough. But thankfully, I am.”

To that I would ask, by what or whose standard are you “good enough”? If it’s not up to God (who clearly articulates in His word that ALL fall short), then who? You? Don’t you think there’s at least a slight danger of personal bias in there somewhere?

Haven’t you lied on many occasions to help yourself? Have you not stolen something that didn’t belong to you, or talked trash behind someone’s back? Are you not a liar, thief, and slanderer? Why then, are you a good person?

Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Consider this. You’re a “nice” person and you generally try to do what’s right. How do you know you’re nice? Because you compare yourself to others, and heck, people have even told you that you’re nice. So far, you’ve been comparing yourself to other sinners who are lost, and other sinners who are lost have told you that you’re a good person. Not too reliable…

You never slept around recklessly in college, nor have you intentionally broken anyone’s heart. Sure, you slept with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but you two were in love at the time. You didn’t cheat while the relationship was still on. “Compared to womanizing perverts out there, I am a very decent human being.”

OK, let’s pretend that the Bible is out of the picture and that fornicating and pre-martial sex is morally acceptable with consenting adults (of course, it’s not). That’s the prevalent American view, anyhow. But people in other countries would look at you and judge you as wicked for not being a virgin on your wedding night. To them, you might be labeled a “whore.” You would in turn label them as backwards, old-fashioned, and intolerant. (Plus, you would probably wave your American diploma in their faces and roll your eyes at their less educated culture.) Who is right in this scenario? Is the default answer always you or America?

Other cultures might look down on you as a woman for not covering your face in public. To them, you seem completely immodest, and that’s before they take a look at the outfit you’re wearing, revealing a “stylish” amount of cleavage. The scandal! Then you would roll your eyes, then point accusingly at them for treating women less equally, and consider their culture chauvinistic. Are you right because you’re an educated American? Or are you wrong morally because you’re also spoiled, materialistic, and living in a sexually charged culture where almost anything goes? Who’s the final judge?

What about the iPad you purchased, knowing full well that hundreds of dollars would feed starving children in other parts of the world? If it didn’t occur to you at the Apple Store, you’re reminded of it now. Are you then going to sell your unnecessary luxury goods to save lives? Why not? To the mother of a dying child in another part of the world, your hesitance to do this—while calling yourself a good-enough person to get to heaven—might seem perplexing. To her, you might not seem like such a great person after all. But again, whose standard is right? (Hint: The answer lies in the simple fact that no one is actually “good.”)

Forget different modern cultures. Let’s just take America, 1950 vs. today. Many of the cherished values of previous generations have gone by the wayside in 2011. But how are we so sure that we are right and they were wrong? Why is “old-fashioned” automatically inferior? There is a huge assumption here of continual forward progress morally, but don’t we know deep inside that this isn’t necessarily true? What’s to say that what we believe today will be looked upon favorably by our great-grandkids’ generation? They will likely look at our societal standards and mock our conservatism. “Can you believe they didn’t allow animal marriage in 2011?” (Ridiculous example, but perhaps not as far-fetched as it seems.)

If standards change from person to person, culture to culture, and decade to decade, how can we be sure we have the right one? Are heaven and God subject to us? If there is such a thing as an afterlife, and there exists a God (which most Americans would agree with), don’t you think His standard would be the right one? I don’t know about you, but if I created the universe—including human beings and their brains—I would feel wholly justified in insisting that my truths are a bit wiser than yours. If you believe in God but disregard what He clearly tells us in the Bible, then you’re being blind and foolish. I know that sounds harsh, but can you honestly say this “I’m a good person” logic makes any sense?

If there is objective moral truth out there, then it is true whether we like it or not. It is true whether it’s 1950, 2011, or 2090. It’s true whether you’re in America or Bangladesh or Korea. Rape is wrong whether you like it or not. Stealing is wrong, even if it’s from a richer person. And trying to get to heaven with acts of charity and being a “good person” doesn’t work whether or not you REALLY FEEL like it’s got to be true. Without an objective truth standard, you’re risking your eternal security on the flimsiest of platforms, and frankly, it doesn’t make any sense—especially since most people who think this way consider themselves to be rational thinking adults.

Put your faith in the Bible and trust what it says. Jesus is the only way, period. You can’t pick and choose the parts you like because what you like is entirely subjective and changes with the tides. A year from now, you might not even agree with yourself! If you want to go by another “holy book” out there, then be objective and explain to yourself (or to me, please) why you think that religion’s book is more reliable than the most tried and tested scriptures of all human history.

Just be real with yourself, that’s all I’m saying.

Holocaust, abortion, and eternal salvation: “180” movie

September 27, 2011 3 comments

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI (Warning: graphic images from 7:24 to 10:14.)

After watching this 33-minute documentary, I am taken aback (but not altogether surprised) at the level of historical and moral ignorance in this country. If people can deny that the Holocaust happened mere decades afterward, how much more do they try to deny the historical Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago?

It’s clear to me that people are quick to rationalize every behavior, whether it’s homosexuality or abortion, with quick cliches and popular-sounding retorts. Phrases like “woman’s right to choose” and “don’t judge,” which sound so positive at face value, blind so many from the obvious truth: people are killing babies for what ultimately comes down to convenience or because they deem themselves to be the deciders between life or death. (What else is new? People playing the role of God…)

I’m also becoming very acquainted with the line, “I’m a good person so yea, I’ll go to heaven.” I’m going to make a separate post on this shortly, but in short, no one is  a good person. Only through Christ can we be redeemed. By whose standard are you judging anyway?

Please watch and share with others. Ray Comfort may not have all the factual knowledge in the world, but he’s right on the money when it comes to morals and the gospel. I must say, I GREATLY admire those in the video who were able to honestly admit that they were wrong. That is incredibly difficult to do in such a prideful world.

Random thoughts: Cool stuff in the Bible plus an illustration of salvation

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Just wanted to share some stuff that I found/learned/thought of.

First off, an interesting quote from Mark Twain about the Jewish people from 1898:

"The Greeks and the Romans...are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out...the Jews saw them all, survived them all...all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces passed, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

The secret, Mr. Twain, is that they are God’s chosen race of people. They will never be wiped out—all the Holocausts and persecution in the world won’t overcome God’s ultimate plan for them. That’s why.

Anyhow, I learned some cool things about end times prophecy again. In Daniel 7, I always wondered what the four beasts could mean or represent. They include the lion with eagles’ wings, a bear, a four-headed leopard, and a beast with 10 horns.

Some people interpret these symbols in light of other scripture, but I tend to believe it cannot be done this way because in Daniel 12:9, God clearly tells him that the meaning of these visions cannot be known until the time of the end. Well, many people think we’re now in the time of the end (or approaching it), which means we should have a better understanding of the vision than was possible thousands of years ago.

One interpretation is that the lion represents England. Why? Because their national symbol is a lion, which represents royalty/monarchy. But why the eagle’s wings? Well, perhaps they represent another country whose symbol is an eagle. That would be, of course, the United States. Notice that in verse 4, the wings of the eagle are torn off and lifted off the ground, given an independent mind of its own. This could represent America breaking off from England and declaring its independence as a country. Another cool thing? This is in Daniel chapter 7 verse 4. It just happens to coincide with our U.S. Independence Day, 7/4.

The bear represents Russia, while the four-headed leopard represents Germany (which is in its Fourth Reich…also notice how it too has wings, but Daniel deliberately doesn’t mention an eagle or specific bird). The beast with 10 horns? Tough to say, but perhaps it’s something like the EU or UN. Tellingly, the little horn that speaks from it represents the Antichrist, which means that he will come from this symbolic beast. At least the other countries mentioned are in the clear somewhat.

Also, I thought it was fascinating how almost 2,000 years ago, John foresaw the Jewish temple being shared with foreigners to the land, or Gentiles. In Revelation 11, God instructs him to measure the temple of God and the altar, but he’s told to exclude the outer court. Why? Because “it has been given over to the Gentiles” (non-Jew) or “the nations.” In modern terms, we know that the Jewish people will eventually be able to rebuild their temple during the end times, but they will have to share the holy land with Gentiles; that is, the Muslims/Palestinians. Bill Clinton, during his presidency, worked to make peace in the Middle East by having them agree to share the land rather than fight over it. It has been an urgent, ongoing process ever since. I thought it was pretty cool how John saw it around 95 AD!

Finally, I was thinking in the shower (the best place to think) about a picture of salvation, and it’s kind of like this.

We’ve been falling in a bottomless pit since we were born into this world of sin. We just keep falling and falling. But next to us in this pit is a rope for us to grab. If we grab hold of it, we can start climbing upward and be saved from whatever lies at the bottom of the pit (if there even is an end to it…probably just a pit of fire). The problem is, there is a limited amount of time to grab the rope. Eventually, it will run out and the chance to grab it will be no more.

But why doesn’t everyone grab hold of it? Because many would rather fall. They reason to themselves, “I don’t even know where the rope leads. Who knows if it can even save me? So I might as well just enjoy the fall.” Others think, “I DO want to be saved! But grabbing that rope is going to hurt my hands…it’s going to burn for a while. And I don’t want to spend my life climbing and struggling. Maybe it’s just easier and more pleasant to just free fall and hope for the best.” Some people who are falling try to grab onto other things to save them or to bring them “meaning in life,” but they don’t realize right away that those things are falling right alongside them. They are not secure.

Now true, grabbing onto the rope might mean some initial pain and adjustment. Fighting gravity isn’t easy, and it might require you to give up some of the ease of life. But eventually, you’ll be glad you did, and what’s better is that the Holy Spirit is like a floating platform for your feet; He never allows you to fall, and He actually assists you in climbing upward, so it’s not nearly as hard as you once thought it would be.

One day, Jesus is going to come for us. He’s going to come on a helicopter (haha) and attach the rope to it from the top, then take us off to heaven. Whether you just grabbed on recently or if you’ve been climbing for years, we will all be saved. The people left falling in the pit will regret not grabbing on when they had the chance.

Once we get to heaven, God will hand out eternal rewards and mansions. The best selections will go to those who had climbed the highest and earned the greatest reward, while those who barely got in will wait patiently at the back of the line. But everyone will be glad and rejoice in the end, for all eternity.