Most Christians are very comfortable speaking of believers and unbelievers. Those terms have been pre-loaded for us after being used in the same way for hundreds of years. So, when we use the term believer, we know that we are talking about a person who has believed in Jesus, who has been given eternal life, who has been forgiven of all of his sins (past, present and future), who is saved for all eternity, who has been justified by God, has been regenerated by the Spirit of God (or born again), and who has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. Right?
(Development of this topic can be found in Acceptable to God without being Saved?)
I’ve been in the ministry for a long time, and I can tell you that no organization will let just anyone speak to its people. I have been vetted over and over again. The questions are usually pretty much the same over and over again.
When and what were the circumstances when you trusted in Jesus?
What ministries (churches, para-church organizations, etc.) have you been involved with?
What seminary training have you had?
What were you going to speak on at our gathering? What passages were you going to use?
If you different in any particular with the teachings of our group, will you agree not to speak on those issues?
The vetting process is supposed to be a way to protect the group from false teachers and divisive persons. This is entirely understandable. I’ve done the same thing every time I invite someone to speak to those in my ministry. I always get a like-minded person.
The problem with this process is simple: if I am wrong in what I believe, getting a like-minded person to speak only reinforces the error and even makes it seem more acceptable since now it is supported by yet another person in the ministry.
“All rise…. this court is now in session. The honorable Judge…presiding.”
Is court in session or not? Why are prosecutors everywhere?
We’ve all heard of lawyers being absent from the courtroom, and we’ve heard either the defendant or the plaintiff missing the trial, but how many times have you heard of the Judge not being present, not being there by choice, not being there because he considered the trial a miscarriage of justice, not being there because he disagreed with the penalty that the prosecutor wanted the defendant to receive? You probably never heard of such an occurrence. Judges don’t miss trials. If court is in session a judge is present.
Many Christians think that court is now in session. They believe a “heavenly courtroom” exists and is in session with God as the presiding judge. In this courtroom God, the Judge, is handing out guilty or non-guilty verdicts, and the punishment for the guilty is eternity in Hell’s fire. In this courtroom the guilty are declared innocent, or righteous, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. As a result of their belief in Jesus, the Judge not only declares them not guilty (even though they are clearly guilty of sin), the Judge also considers them righteous, giving them the righteousness of Jesus Christ. As a result, they are acquitted of the penalty of Hell’s fire and get heaven as a free gift as though they were really not guilty all along. This is traditionally called in theology Justification.
And with this mindset and doctrine in hand many Christians are actively acting as prosecutors.
Is this even Biblical? Is this court really in session or is this a mock trial of man’s own creation?
Exactly When Does a Person’s Relationship with God Begin?
(Adapted from my book The Prodigal Paradigm)
Is the child who kneels by his bed and prays the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) in relationship with God even if he has had no single initial faith event, conversion event or a walking of the aisle?
What about the child who kneels and prays a rhyming prayer like this one:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Can a child who believes in God and prays, whatever prayer he/she knows, yet has had no conversion experience, no knowledge of the gospel or of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, be in right standing with God?
Christian orthodoxy says that justification is related to a person’s initial faith and without that initial faith all are unjustified and therefore out of relationship with God.
Is this biblical?
What about that child?
Well…I was that child. Let me share my own experience.
Before you think it or say it. I know. I know. You shouldn’t go from experience to truth, but from truth to experience. With that sentiment I am in hearty approval. But before any of us start throwing stones, let’s be sure that we have the truth and that we are applying it properly and that the experiences in question don’t illumine us to the absence of truth (which we thought we had in the first place).
When I was very, very young (I don’t even remember how old I was), I remember saying my prayers as I knelt beside my bed. The only prayers I knew were the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and that little rhyme Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep given above. Since the rhyme seemed most appropriate at bedtime, it was the prayer I repeated nightly.
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