Monday, January 19, 2009

Ultimate Questions (part 2)

In my last post I urged readers to consider these matters carefully and objectively. In this post I intend to address erroneous beliefs that I have personally encountered.

First of all, a Christian is not someone who claims to be something only because of a family tradition. Though I see this primarily in those who are 18 years of age and younger, adults are not immune. The Bible is very clear that nobody will enter heaven because of anyone else. Becoming a Christian is a very personal thing. 1 Corinthians 6:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him…” You are responsible for your own personal faith. In other words, Christianity cannot be passed down like your grandfather’s pocket watch.

Secondly, nobody can be a true Christian if they believe they can or must earn their way to Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly state: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Let me ask you a question. Can you earn a gift? Of course not. If you work hard for someone, how would you feel if they called the money they handed you a gift? That would be insulting! It is the same with salvation. There is nothing you can do to deserve God’s free gift of salvation.

Thirdly, nobody can become a true Christian simply by saying something that their heart does not mean. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he.” Talk is cheap! The heart is very important and in the proverbial sense just mentioned it is referring to the will. (* see note at bottom) A true Christian knows this and acts on it. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” It is very important to know that there are no magic chants or secret passwords that will get you into heaven.

Fourthly, nobody can truly be called a Christian if faith is just one of the masks they wear. Some people can look very convincing on the outside. They may have a Christian t-shirt from snow camp, they may have a Bible, they may even go to church, but none of those things are what a Christian is. 1 Samuel 16: 7b says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The heart is that part of us deep down inside where all of the things we really believe are kept. Those core beliefs are like roots, they feed all our actions and words. There are many people who hide what they really believe. They fake that they believe something to impress others and it fools some people sometimes, but mostly we just fool ourselves. And, honestly, trying to “fake” God out with words we don’t mean or actions that hide what we really think is ridiculous. God looks right past all that stuff to see what’s really written on our hearts.

Next time I'll share the last two misconceptions I intend to cover, and I believe they are the most important.

*Note: The writer of Proverbs was not scientifically ignorant of the function of the brain in thinking processes. He combines the mind and the heart to illustrate that thought and action must be interlaced. Generally speaking, our actions betray what we really believe. See misconception #4.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ultimate Questions (part 1)

I am often asked about the means of salvation. I love this subject because it seems to me to address one of the most important questions anyone can ask. In answering the question I always refer to the Bible as the authority because I am no different than anyone else. If we seek to answer the profound questions of life and have naught but ourselves to appeal to, then we are left with the corruptible opinions of people. In such cases, people's choices are generally a matter of taste. It is as if there were a supermarket of ideas and each shopper selects a unique assortment of propositions to purchase. Few make their choices rationally; most look to justify their passions and maintain autonomy (I answer to me).

If you have been down the road of, "I did it my way," and have found it lacking I invite you to consider the message of the Bible. Join me, and you may find that the light gets stronger the closer you get to the truth. In so doing, you may need to clear your vision by unlearning all that you have learned about the Bible's message heretofore. If you have a Bible I encourage you to keep it close by to look up verses that I did not print.

Now, let us ask the question, “How can a person gain salvation?" Please note that I am framing the question in the classical Christian sense because it is the Christian faith that claims to follow the Bible. Notice also that I say this with the full awareness that many atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity throughout the ages. There are no justifying words to excuse them. But those who commit such acts must twist and manipulate the Scriptures to justify their actions. Let me be clear, the Bible does not condone inquisitions, or crusades, or forced conversions, etc. Those who have done such things in the name of Christ will receive their just reward.

Skeptics love to point out the skeletons in the Christian closet. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris (to name a few) are happy to use history to set up religion as the greatest evil in the world. But, let us not forget that the godless alternatives have their own closets full of bones. They are located in places such as Auschwitz and Stalingrad. The difference between the killing done in the name of Christianity and the killing done in the names of atheism or humanism (man as god) is that the actions of the Nazis and the Soviets were NATURAL OUTWORKINGS of their philosophy. It was Nietzsche's concepts of the will to power and the superman that gave rise to Hitler's master race. Hitler personally translated Nietzsche's writings into Italian and presented them as a gift to Bonito Mussolini. Furthermore, it was Frederick Engels, the good friend of Karl Marx that suggested he dedicate his Das Capital (his major work on economics) to Charles Darwin. Engels told Marx that Darwin gave him the foundation on which he could justify his philosophy and therefore deserved the honor.

I mention these things in an effort to encourage you to avoid the error of dismissing the message I seek to share because of its damaged packaging. Other faiths (including atheism and agnosticism) have damaged goods too. So please try to evaluate what I say objectively.

In my next entry I will begin to answer the question. And, the best way to answer it is to not answer it too quickly. I believe the answer is found within the teachings of the Christian faith, so long as it maintains fidelity to the Bible. So, I will begin by telling you what being a Christian is not.

(to be continued)