~~ Ephesians 2:8 (TNIV) ~~ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
by Carley Cooper
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I was watching a movie with a friend the other day. Or rather, we started watching a movie. We didn’t finish watching it because the movie triggered a very interesting exchange about our Christian beliefs. I don’t really know if I should call it a conversation, or a discussion, or an argument; or a combination of all the above. In the end, the movie got lost and forgotten in our lengthy debate. Which was just as well, it was one of those that attempt to prove the bible false and incorrect. I want so badly to witness for Christ when I have the opportunity, but the truth is when it comes to witnessing, I still feel like I’m a new amateur circulating among a bunch of well-seasoned 'professional Christians'. Sometimes I feel so out of my league it just isn’t funny. I wished, on this day, that I had some of my ‘professional’ Christian friends there with me for help.
I don’t normally respond with any kind of verbal reaction to anything that I’m watching on a screen, simply because I don’t usually see what purpose it serves to yell at a screen. It reminds me a little bit like sneezing. I know what you’re thinking... ‘huh?!’. Well, I don’t yell when I sneeze like many people do. When I sneeze its generally pretty quiet, because screaming at the same time doesn’t accomplish anything other than extra noise. It also reminds me of when I’m with my brother when he’s driving. He yells at the other drivers. He doesn’t open the window so they can hear him, but he yells anyway. The whole concept behind that logic completely escapes me. If they can’t hear him, then why talk to them? Anyway, back to the movie... the comment “I don’t understand God” by one of the characters suddenly had me doing something that was totally out of character for me. But this time, I couldn’t help it. I rather surprised myself actually. I responded, out loud, with “Well, Duh; if you could understand Him then He wouldn’t be God. You would be able to fit Him into your version of some box, and He wouldn’t be the ultimate creator who is the beginning and the end of everything.”
The comment led my friend to ask me some questions about what I believed about God, the Bible and God’s children. He wanted to know if I believed that all people are God’s children. I also told him that everyone is born with a basic knowledge in their hearts of a creator and the freewill to choose Him, or not. If you choose not, then you’ve chosen not to be God’s child. God’s children are those that have invited Jesus into their hearts to be their Lord and Saviour; which also means you are willing to leave the old lifestyle behind and allow Him to change your heart and your life. If you have rejected God, then you’re not His child. You made your choice. My friend was overwhelmingly offended over this statement. He said that he believes that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins, and that everyone can be forgiven; all it takes is to believe that Jesus died for our sins.
Part of our discussion was on the fact that choosing a Christian lifestyle means you are willingly choosing a very difficult lifestyle because God will test you, He will insist on pushing you outside your comfort zone, and Satan will tempt you with your weakest issues and biggest struggles. The enemy isn't about to let you go without a fight. My friend argued with this as well. He wondered; if God knows everything then why should we have to prove ourselves to Him? I tried to explain to him that God is testing us so that we can learn how strong we are in our own faith, endurance, patience, etc. God is outside of time, so He already knows the outcome. It’s us that needs to learn the lessons, not God. We’re not tested to prove something; we’re tested to learn something. He shook his head in disagreement. I told him that it’s all about faith. We have to go to Him in faith. God doesn’t have to prove Himself to us or do anything to earn our respect. God doesn’t come to us; we go to Him. Again, he shook his head in disagreement.
I told him that yes, Jesus died for us to forgive us of our sins. He’s right on that fact, but it’s a gift. If you don’t reach out and accept the gift by inviting Jesus into your heart then you don’t get the benefits. You either want the gift or you don’t. He disagreed. He doesn’t think that he has to be the one to accept the gift. I told him that Jesus isn’t going to force it on anyone. He will not dump it on your head or push it down your throat. You either accept His gift or you don’t. Jesus wants your love out of your own free will in your heart, not out of an obligation or forced position. I can totally understand that. The last thing I would ever want if / when I get remarried is for my husband to say to me that he married me because someone forced him to. I've been through a lot in my life (My regular readers know there's a book in progress about my life. Be patient. It'll be worth the wait). I've been in the forced positions way too often through abusive relationships. It's not how true love is expressed. As difficult as it is for me to be single; I choose it in a heartbeat over being in another abusive relationship. I want true love that is from the heart, and all about God. Jesus wants the same from us. Just because you believe in Jesus and believe what He did for us doesn’t mean you’ve accepted the gift. Even Satan, believes in Jesus! My friend doesn’t believe that one has to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation in order to be forgiven and saved. He thinks it’s automatically given to everyone who believes that Jesus existed and died for our sins. He sees no reason for a concept of inviting Jesus into your heart, or accepting the gift. I tried explaining to him that believing that He died for our sins and actually accepting the gift are two separate steps. Jesus gave us an awesome gift... but it’s only a useful gift if we reach out and take it!
Several times I tried quoting scripture to him to back up what I was saying. He saw my Bible on the table and said that it is not written by God; that it is written by people, who copied it from some another book. He said that can connect me with people who can ‘prove’ my bible to be wrong. I know he doesn’t have these contacts, of course, because I know that the Bible is true and it is the only living Word of God. It makes me wonder, though, why do people willingly settle for not wanting salvation when they could have a wonderful eternity. Why are people willing to settle for temporary and instant pleasure even though it means an eternity in jail; in the fire pits of hell? Personally, I only want to know THE one and only truth.
I told him to beware of churches that are preaching gospel that has been influenced by worldly thinking instead of being biblically sound. Those types of churches are in every neighborhood these days. I also shared with him about courses at my church and bible studies that I’ve done that show the data, even scientific evidence, that backs up the bible. I told him that all the information he needs to see to believe is out there. I even offered to start taking him to some of the courses that I’ve been doing where I’ve learned all these things over the past few years. I also offered to give him phone numbers for a couple of men I know that could give him more than enough information to prove to him all he needed to know in order to show him that the bible is literal, accurate, God breathed, is backed up by science, that prophecy is accurate down to the letter. He refused all my offers.
He figures his beliefs help him feel good and he is comfortable with that so it’s all fine. I tried to use the example that God sets rules for us the same way that he sets rules for his daughters. He saw no connection between the idea of him parenting his kids; and God setting guidelines for us because He loves us, just as my friend loves his girls. He doesn’t understand that we go through so much trauma, trials and tribulations in our lives because God is trying to get our attention and we’re just not listening. He believes that to be a ridiculous concept. My friend thinks he hears God and believes himself to be Christian. However, he also shares stories that tell me he is willing to cheat on his wife, doesn’t want to invite Jesus into his heart, to let God change him, live a Christian lifestyle, or follow Jesus (even though he says he believes in Jesus). He says he hears God, yet he doesn’t believe that the Bible is the living Word of God. I wonder, how what reference does he use to know it’s God’s voice he’s hearing over the enemy’s voice? He has no drive or passion to know THE ultimate truth. There is no quest in him to continue to know more and more about God, or to want to get closer to Him. I want so much to make him realize that his thinking is relevant and that this type of thinking is useless. It’s like chasing your own tail.
Well, I was trying to explain to him about this drive within me to know THE truth. I don’t want to settle for my own limited opinion or that of the masses; especially when I know it’s broken. For me to settle for "my beliefs" leaves room for adjustment or being wrong. I don't want that. I only want to know the one and only, hard-core, unchangeable, definite, for-sure TRUTH! I don’t understand how someone wouldn’t have an intense passion and a great need to how more and more about the one ultimate and absolute truth. How could anyone settle for anything less? My friend has no foundation for his beliefs except that it is what makes him feel good. He stated straight out that this is perfectly OK with him and he’s willing to live with that. What is my friend basing his values on? He doesn’t believe that the bible is God breathed, so who’s rules is he following? His own? Where does he get the basis for his beliefs? What makes him so absolutely confident in his own beliefs and feelings? Personally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that confident in my own judgement. What rules, guidelines or definitions is he following to know what is right or wrong; good or bad? And why are those definitions so special that we should all be expected to follow them and base our lives, loves, faith, and eternal lives on them over the definitions or rules developed by someone else? What makes him feel that his beliefs are so solid that he can be sure that of all the people in all the world in all of history, including the present time, that it’s his rules that will allow his soul to be saved for eternity and go to heaven? If his own rules can do this, than what about everyone else? Why his rules over someone else’s? If everyone can save themselves just by making their own set of rules than where’s the order? Why did Jesus die? If everyone could save their own sorry butts just by feeling good about themselves than all the suffering, the sacrifice, humiliation, betrayal, pain that Jesus went through was in vain. He died and fought death for nothing. He went through the trouble of dying rising again from death to live forever all in an attempt to save us... when we didn’t need to be saved... we could have just save ourselves!? And if we could save ourselves, than why would we have been broken in the first place? That doesn’t make any sense. There is absolutely no logic in that kind of thinking; no order, and God is a God of perfect order in every single thing He does. And for those who don't believe that statement either, I've also seen the science to back that up as well! It's fascinating when we can use the same science that scientists have been using for generations to prove the bible wrong; against them and prove it to be correct. Jesus didn’t go through all that just because He was bored sitting around in Heaven waiting for us all to get there to have a big party!
How do ‘seasoned’ Christians handle these things? Does it ever get easier to see your friends or loved ones willingly turn away from God, even when they think they’re following Him? Does the frustration ever go away? Does the feeling that you failed your loved one by not getting through to them ever go away? Does the feeling of failure to God ever go away; that you could have led someone to Him and didn’t? My friend said that I have always had a big place in his heart, and always would, but that he wasn’t going to have this discussion anymore. He willingly refused to hear or accept the gospel of Jesus. I’ve known this man for twenty years, and I did not realize that he felt this way and so strongly. I know that as a Christian that I have to pray for him. I also know that if he continues to deny the gift Jesus is offering him than it is my responsibility to discontinue the friendship. We are not to risk our own salvation for others. My hope is that somehow I planted a seed. I will pray, and continue to pray that Jesus will let it grow.
As for my ultimate truth... I know this for sure... Jesus was born of a virgin, He died on the cross, He rose again on the third day, He lives still today. He lives in my heart because I have asked Him to be my Lord and Savior; and as difficult as it is, I welcome the changes He is making in my heart and in my life. I know that He loves me and forgives me. I want to know more. I want to get closer to Him. I am not willing to be restricted by the limitations of worldly thinking.
~~ Dear God ~~ Thank You for taking me to a church that preaches sound doctrine based on Your Word; and is committed to producing disciples for Christ. Thank You for opening my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to understand, and my heart to accept the truth. I do not ever want to be restricted by worldly thinking, Lord. Please do not ever let me lose the passion for this quest to know more and to get closer to You. I pray that there was a seed planted in my friend, and that there will be more seeds planted as others read this article. I pray that Jesus will let each and every seed grow into a deeply rooted tree that will produce much fruit in Your Holy name. ~In Jesus name, AMEN.