For a number of years a woman I know, I’ll call her Rachel, has wrestled with giving her life to Christ. She admits she really wants to, but how can she when she’d have to serve a God who allows murderers into heaven and sends “good people” to hell? It would be awkward to have to explain to her husband, family and friends that they’re bound for hell if they reject Christ. In other words, Rachel won’t play by God’s rules because His rules make her uncomfortable. In her way of thinking the God of the Bible is too punitive for her sensibilities. And besides, what kind of God would allow a serial murderer into heaven who professed a belief in Christ only minutes before going to the gas chamber while at the same time condemn “good people” to hell for their unbelief?
Liberals like Rachel require a more palatable religion, one that’s all-inclusive and, of course, fair. They desire a warm fuzzy God. The liberal’s ideal God is a sort of jolly ol’ St. Nick figure. The liberal’s jolly ol’ god has a Naughty and Nice list but his heart is so big that he often overlooks naughty children’s indiscretions (even the ones who are unrepentant) and delivers the goods to them anyway. He’d be unloving if he didn’t bend a little.
Rachel has yet to place her faith in Christ because it’s unthinkable that God would send “good people” to hell. Her major stumbling block is that she’s acquainted with a number of “good people” who aren’t Christians — and are a whole lot nicer than some Christians she knows.
Rachel contends that a just God wouldn’t send nice folks to hell for all eternity simply because they reject Jesus Christ.
But the Bible says otherwise. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” ( John 14:6).
People like Rachel sincerely believe they could do a far better job of running the universe than the One who created it. Talk about chutzpah!
No human being has the wisdom to determine if a person is fundamentally good or evil for the simple reason that no one knows for certain what’s in a person’s heart! No one can ever truly know a person’s motives.
For those who hold to a relativistic worldview, good and evil, ethics and morality are simply cultural inventions and cannot be objectively defined. Liberals perceive the Bible as a book of myths and fables, thus it mustn’t be taken seriously. Those who do take the Bible seriously are considered “unenlighted” – a bunch of addlepated dunderheads.
Unbelievers carp that the Bible should not be the standard by which we judge good and bad. So my question is, if not the Bible, then what standard do we use to determine ethics and morality? And how should right and wrong be determined? By consensus opinion?
Another one of Rachel’s grievances against Christianity is that many so-called Christians behave the same as unbelievers. In other words, the lives of Christians she comes in contact with are inconsistent with what they profess to believe in. They claim Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, but they lie, cheat, steal, binge drink, sleep around, view pornography, plus they’re lazy. In other words, they act like heathens.
Rachel has a point.
Many people want Jesus to be their Savior — because they know they’re dirty rotten sinners. But they’re unwilling to humble themselves before the throne of God and put their complete trust in Him. Obedience comes at a cost (take up your cross and follow me) and the price is too high. They may believe in Jesus Christ, that He’s the Savior of the world and all. But their pride gets in the way of allowing Christ to take the helm of the ship. As poet William Earnest Henley noted:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
In order to make my point, I created three typical Christians.
Michelle professes faith in Christ. She attends church every Sunday, sings in the praise band, mans the coffer bar, and attends an occasional Bible study. She rarely shares Christ with anyone, unless she’s forced into it, whereby she quickly spouts the condensed version of the gospel to avoid making the person feel uncomfortable. Her excuse is that evangelism is not her spiritual gift. Michelle believes God has gifted her with the ability to sing. Her voice rivals Judy Garland’s so she really belts out a song in church. But when it comes to sharing her faith she’s as timid as a mouse. She feels that as long as she’s in a committed relationship, having sexual relations is not sinful. Nor is aborting a child. Michelle became pregnant and had an abortion so as not to bring an unwanted child into the world. She also swears like a sailor and dresses like a Hollywood pop-tart.
Jeff accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade when he was a teen. Ever since then he has tried to be a good person and lead a moral life. Unless his kids have a sports event, the family is in church most Sundays. He and his wife participate in a small group that meets in their home for Bible study and prayer. Jeff is generous with his time, talent and treasure. He tithes 10 percent of his income and is always there to lend a hand. One thing Jeff enjoys is getting together with the guys for Monday night football at a local sports bar. He limits his beer intake to two schooners because any more than that could impair his driving. Jeff believes he has the spiritual gift of evangelism and often brags about sharing his faith with dudes he meets at sports events or bars. When Jeff does his income tax he uses “creative accounting practices.” On occasion he views pornography on the Internet and thinks it’s no big deal. Unbeknownst to his wife he regularly emails a woman he met in a chat room.
Michelle and Jeff profess Christ. They both consider themselves good people and for the most part they try to live godly lives – but they’re quick to admit they’re not perfect! They reject the “fundamentalist fringe” of Christianity and the “fundies” constant harping on God’s holiness. God knows we all have our faults, so why does a pastor need to belabor the point? Michelle and Jeff do the best they can, and at least their hearts are in the right place. In the long run going to heaven is what really counts anyway, and since they accepted Christ (on their terms), they’re there! They may get through the pearly gates by the skin of their teeth, but at least they’ll be in!
Michelle and Jeff typify a lot of church-goers. All they need is enough of God to feel comfortable. Neither one of them want the fire and brimstone God the “fundies” preach about. That God is too harsh, too judgmental – way too scary! That God can be mean!
Wilber Reese sums up the attitude of a large number of contemporary Christians:
I would like to buy 3 dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth. I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy 3 dollars worth of God, please.
Far too many Christians are looking for an ecstatic experience – they’re not looking to be transformed. Why? Because transformation involves change. Change takes work. It’s often slow and at times painful.
For transformation to occur believers must immerse themselves in the Bible. It’s the instrument God uses to conform His people to the image of Christ. And by the way, there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. No one should try to do Christianity on their own. Christians are a part of a body — the Body of Christ — with Christ as the head. Members of the church body are designed to function together as a whole. Moreover, they are meant to lean on each other when the going gets tough. Every believer should have a friend they can call at a moments notice. This friend can assist with good advice and hold them accountable.
It’s not uncommon for the Christian to “crawl off the alter” and slink back into the world every once in a while. Some believers can’t seem to shed what Paul calls our “flesh” because it’s like slipping one’s feet into a favorite pair of shoes. But God will deliver us “out of the body of death.” (Romans 7:24-25)
Listen to what Paul has to say about transformation:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12: 1-2).
If you’re a Christian, you must present yourself “holy and acceptable to God!” Offering your life to Christ, holy and pleasing, is a prerequisite for discernment. If this were happening, discernment wouldn’t be almost non-existent in the visible Church. Sadly, professing Christians are dependent on the government for their education, health care, food, shelter, retirement, and all sorts of other “stuff.” And it doesn’t help that God’s people are involved in a whole host of unbiblical practices, including Eastern mysticism, which God expressly forbids. I’ve already covered this topic in “Got Meat?” so I won’t belabor the point.
Returning to Rachel, it hasn’t been lost on her that most professing Christians she knows share her liberal worldview. And they behave like heathens! This means (a) they’re unaware of God’s rules; (b) they’re aware of what the rules are but lack the will to conform. A religion that breeds hypocrites turns Rachel off. For that reason she has chosen to concoct a user-friendly religion with an open-minded god that has very few rules, a god that loves and accepts everyone. Before I move on, it’s important to point out that Christians who have no desire to live their lives in accordance with what the Bible teaches could very well be false converts.
Rachel’s generic god does not require an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I mean, please. The atonement thing is so yesterday! “Self” has replaced the Savior of mankind. In other words, “I” will go to heaven, but “I” will make it on “my” own, without anyone’s help, because “I” deserve it. So move over Jesus!
Generic god is very cool. In fact, he/she is so cool that there’s no penalty for sin! Man is judged solely on his good deeds….or whatever. Rachel assumes her performance on Earth will pass muster and that generic god will welcome her into his/her kingdom when the time comes. But what happens if Rachel’s performance doesn’t pass muster? Wishy-washy Generic God can always be persuaded to change his/her mind.
Rachel is well aware that the God of the Bible offers no hope for those who reject His Son:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:23).
What did Jesus mean by, “the will of my Father?” God’s will is that we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ. Performing miraculous signs and wonders, doing good deeds, and being a “good person” does not cut it with God. Here’s the reason:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
I’ll close this with one last comment about Michelle, one of the women mentioned above. If you recall, Michelle claims she doesn’t have the gift of evangelism, so she’s off the hook when it comes to sharing the gospel. Really?
Not according to Paul:
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:14-17). (emphasis added)
Does the Bible really say we’re not to judge? By Marsha West
A culture of counterfeit Christians By Marsha West
Book: The Holiness of God By R.C. Sproul
Book: Know What You Believe: A Practical Discussion of the Fundamentals of the Christian Faith By Paul E. Little
Copyright by Marsha West, 2015. All rights reserved.