Sunday, May 2, 2010

From a Ransomed Sinner, With Love - Part 2

In this post, I would like to address some of the responses that I received from my first letter.  I have addressed them privately already, but know that some others may have the same views, so I am addressing them here, too.  The responses are in bold italics, & my answers to them follow.

"I am on my spirtiual journey, & no two are alike, so I cannot & don't want to travel anyone else's but mine."  It is absolutely correct that no one's journey is exactly the same as anyone else's.  That's very true. God leads all of His children through different circumstances because we all have different areas in need of sanctification. A very important question to ask ourselves here is who's leading my journey? All journeys have an ending, a destination. So, another question to ask ourselves is where's my journey leading? There are only 2 options -- heaven or hell. Only 1 way leads to heaven, & all other ways lead to hell. Think of it like this: God's Word says that the way to salvation is a narrow path that few people find. Each of God's children journey down that same path, but there are different obstacles that each person will overcome by God's grace & in His strength. Only God's children travel this path, though.  Those who don't belong to God travel the other path, & the fact that it's wide is an indication that more people travel this path leading to hell than the narrow one leading to God.  All paths don't lead to God; rather, each person on that one narrow path is going to God but will experience different things along that path. (Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan perfectly illustrates this, & it is such an enjoyable book!) Even with our different experiences, there are marks of true believers, characteristics that all true followers of Christ have in their lives that show them to be true followers. I spoke of these in my first letter. In our culture, in our world, it is commonly believed that there are many ways to God. My road may lead through riches & indulging in the things of this world, my neighbor's road may lead through numerous sexual relationships, & that stranger standing in front of me in the grocery store may have a road that leads to God through Buddha (or any other false religion or god), but they all eventually lead to God. It sounds lovely, that everyone can be right & no one is wrong, but that's just not true. Jesus explicitly says that no one can come to God the Father apart from Him, apart from His sacrificial death. To be perfectly straightforward here - & please know I say this in love - if your journey is not based on an accurate interpretation & application of Scripture, then it does not include, nor is it leading to, God. He says so in His Word, & we must believe what He says. If we don't, it's at our own peril.

"The rules of God are pretty basic." They are, but not in the way people mean. They are basic in that they are laid out in His Word. We keep coming back to this point, because without an acknowledgment that His Word is the basis for our understanding of Him & for how we live our lives, then both are skewed. Without this basis, we have no true understanding of Him, no true relationship with Him, & we're simply living our lives by our own rules, even if we claim to follow God. Some people do it with man-made rules in the name of Christianity, while others do it by discarding all rules in the name of tolerance. Without sounding too "hell-fire & damnation" here, this leads to nowhere but. . .well. . .hell. Here's an example of how not acknowledging God's Word in our lives plays out & hurts us in the end: "I have learned if I live by the positive things I have been taught & not so into what is expected of me & do what feels natural & right then I am living what God wants me to."  But living your life this way means that you're basing your relationship with God - & therefore your standing before Him - on how you feel & what your experiences are, rather than what Scripture says. And what does Scripture say?  That Jesus Christ is the only way to have a right relationship with God, that only trusting in His sacrifice for us redeems us from our sin & exhausts God's wrath toward that sin.  It may seem like an acceptable way of approaching God, to just do what feels right & comes naturally, except that Scripture bears out that "what feels natural & right" to us is sin. It feels natural to have anger when someone wrongs us, but the Bible says that God sees anger as tantamount to murder. It feels good for us to look at a man's body with appreciation (lust), but the Bible says that looking at someone in lust is the same as adultery. It feels right to tell someone what they want to hear so that we don't upset them with the truth, but the Bible says that's lying. The Bible also says that it is innate (natural) in man to sin. Not here & there, but all the time. Even the things we do right are tainted with sin. The Bible says that even our "righteousness" is as filthy rags (used tampons is a modern-day comparison) before God. Bottom line here is that we can't trust what feels right to us, because it will lead us to sin.

"The world just seems to put more into [religion] & makes it seem so rigid & unfun when it's really not that way.  I am having too much fun & feeling too much joy & happiness on my own journey.  I am adventuresome, positive, free, & living life to the fullest."  There are those who believe the focus of life is to be on having fun.  Their life is supposed to be joyful, positive, & devoid of anything serious or difficult.  It sounds like a wonderful way to live; the only problem is that these happy feelings aren't based on truth. Is this you?  If so, in believing the lie that you are free, you have been blinded to your bondage. Again, I don't say this with malice, but in love & with an almost overwhelming sadness. A lot of people, maybe even you, believe what this world says about God, about who He is & how we can relate to Him. And this world lies about God with each & every breath. The world is not a friend of God. I understand that so many people have been scarred by those who claim Christ & behave as anything but. I know that. I've been there, too. I had to finally realize that I can't judge God by - nor can I base my understanding of Him on - the words, actions, & lives of those who misrepresent & distort Him. So, I had to learn to ignore what the world is saying about God & ignore what those who misrepresent Him in the church say. I have to take Him at His own Word. He's told us everything about Him that we need to know. Who He is, who we are, what He's done for us, what He'll do at the end of time to His enemies, how we can be set free from our sin & be His children - even how to recognize true believers.  God doesn't try to squeeze you into an "unfun" & "rigid" mold. He created you with your personality. He doesn't want to change your personality, He wants to change your heart. Christianity is not about following some list of rigid rules where you can't dance or have a daiquiri or wear makeup. Some try to make it about that, but they're wrong. Christianity is about God showing mercy & undeserved love to rebellious enemies by sending His Son to die on a cross to rescue us from our sin & His wrath. In response, we love Him & joyfully serve Him. Did you catch that? Joyfully! Christianity - truly & faithfully serving God - is wonderfully freeing & infinitely joyful! Does God have expectations of His children? Doesn't every parent? He's our Father, & He lays down guidelines for how our lives work best just like any human parent does for their children. The bottom line for our lives is not about us & our fun, it's about Him & His glory. Incredibly, in loving Him & living for His glory, we are so blessed! He's glorified & we're blessed! It's amazing to think of! The thing is, God will be glorified in each person's life, whether by their salvation or by their damnation. That may sound harsh, but that's the truth. And I love you enough to tell you the truth, because I'd much rather that He be glorified in your salvation.

I want to pose a few questions to you. Give them some thought & answer them for yourself. These are questions that come from one of my favorite books, Stepping Heavenward. It's fictional, but accurate & very edifying. Every time I read it, God uses it to convict me, encourage me, & strengthen my faith. 1) Do you love God? Not the god of your own making (as is prevalent in the world, even among those who claim Christ), but the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. I laid out a thorough description of the true God in my last letter. Do you love Him? 2) Do you love to be with God? To commune with Him in prayer & Bible reading? To fondly think of Him during the day? 3) Do you love to hear others speak about Him in an honoring, praising way? Do you love to talk about Him yourself in this same way? 4) Do you love to try to please Him with your thoughts, words, & deeds? Do you love to live your life in a way that pleases & reflects well on Him? Remember, as I said in my first letter, none of us will ever do this perfectly, nor will we earn His favor in living this way. His favor was earned for us at the cross. Saying yes to these questions does not earn us our salvation. If we love God, if we pray & read our Bibles, if we adore Him with our speech, & if we live holy lives -- these are the fruits of salvation, these are the evidences of our salvation, not the way to earn our salvation.

Why have I written this?  Model after model is given in Scripture of the saints earnestly defending the faith & correcting error. I want God to be glorified in the salvation of sinners; & I say that humbly, as a sinner who sees my need for Him every single day. I want you to know the truth about Him, & not just to know it, but to rejoice in it, to revel in it, to trust in it! There is such joy, freedom, & blessing to be found in Him! For years, I've seen people searching for joy & meaning. They've moved from one place to the next, from one job to the next, & from one relationship to the next in this quest. And each place, job, & relationship has left them empty & still searching. This positive-thinking, "let's just have fun" ideology that seems to be so rampant will do the same. You will not have true joy or true meaning - nor will you have a true relationship with God or true salvation - by following this path. I know it may make people angry for me to say this, but while y'all fume at me, please seriously consider what I'm saying. And think about what it takes for me to say it. I love you enough to tell you the hard truth, & I'm praying you will heed my words. I've been on the receiving end of truth that I didn't want to hear, & it can be hard to take. It's incredibly difficult to humble yourself & admit that you're wrong or misguided. It's very uncomfortable. But know this:  Know that I love you. Know that I don't want to hurt or anger you. Know that I want what is best for you, what will lead to your ultimate good. That's why I had to write this. I do love you, & I've tried to be as gentle & humble as possible without watering down God's truth. As before, I pray you receive it in the spirit in which it's written, & that God may somehow use this letter to reveal Himself to you. You're in my prayers, & I'm here for you if you want to talk.