It is probably the universal belief among Christians that Jesus is their safety net. Faith placed in Him will keep that “believer” out of the fires below. As a result of this guaranteed deliverance after death, some Christians are openly rebellious while others seem to be indifferent to spiritual things on a daily basis. I have even had the opportunity of ministering to some Christians who were taught not to worry about sinning because they can always confess it and know that God will forgive it. In other words, they don’t need to stop sinning; they just need to confess it on a regular basis. If they do, God is almost obligated to forgive all the sins that are confessed, or at least that is the impression that some folks have from the teaching that they have received.
Every repentant person (notice that I didn’t add the word “truly!” God knows every man’s heart and can’t be conned in any way), whether he is a Christian or not, will be forgiven. God wants to forgive more than most people want to be forgiven. But He doesn’t forgive the insincere or the manipulative. He sees right through such dark motivations. He is infinitely more knowledgeable than the evil Queen’s mirror on the wall! He knows what is fair, what is fake, and what is flawed. He simply knows it all.
This was the word which was used repeatedly by Vizzini in the Princess Bride. But Inigo Montoya responds correctly when he notably said, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Montoya was correct…Vizzini was using the word incorrectly. Words are funny that way. The Greek Stoic Philosopher Epictetus wrote, “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”
In the English language that is often difficult to do.
We talk about things like English Muffins, which have no origination in England. We speak about hamburgers which have no ham; in the same way we speak of eating eggplant but it has no egg in it. We talk about parking on driveways, and driving on parkways. We say that a house can burn up…as it burns down. I could go on…but I am sure you get the idea. The English language may be one of the most difficult to learn, understand, or interpret.
Communication, written or spoken, is riddled with inherent complications.
We need to learn the meaning of what we say before we speak about what we think we know. When we speak about spiritual concepts or topics, we must learn the meaning that God gave to the terms before we use them.
(An adaptation of the exposition on John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 given in The Grand Spiritual Assumption)
I remember speaking at a luncheon to a ladies group about ten to fifteen years ago that was made up of women over the age of sixty. The church had called it the three-score-and-more class. The director of this little luncheon and outreach for the ladies wanted me to teach something encouraging from the Bible and, at the end, give an evangelistic, come-to-Jesus invitation. I was told that many of the ladies invite their non-Christian friends to join them at this monthly event so I would have a chance to lead several to faith in Jesus. This was long enough in the past that I was still committed to that approach in evangelism. I was more than delighted to do all that was being asked of me.
While I can’t remember the passage of Scripture I taught the ladies, I do remember how I gave the final evangelistic invitation. Based upon my understanding of John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 at that time, I explained to all those present that God was offering a free gift to each person. That gift as called eternal life, and once it was received, it guaranteed to the person receiving it a place in heaven forever. But I was careful to explain, God only gave this gift through His Son. So you have to believe in Jesus in order to obtain your free gift of a heavenly destiny.
We’ve mostly divided the world into two categories: believers and unbelievers. The believers are those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior (and some add to that the concept of lordship: Jesus must be believed in as Lord as well as Savior). Those who haven’t believed in Jesus as Savior (and Lord) are the eternally lost and, consequently, are hell bound. The basic controlling premise is that believing in Jesus is the only way to heaven and the only escape from hell. Hence, the believers are the eternally safe, good guys, and the unbelievers are the eternally condemned, bad guys.
But the fact is the Bible never presents the issue in these terms. The Bible is constantly urging believers to continue to believe and unbelievers to begin to believe. There are unbelieving believers in the Bible as well as believing unbelievers. The cookie cutter presentation of believers and unbelievers is simply not a Biblical concept. It is messier than that, sort of like the kitchen at breakfast time on Mother’s Day!
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