Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why We Worship – Part 4

This is a continuation of a series on the importance of regular worship of God.

2. The Church’s Role

How does the church play a role in all this? When we talk about worship, the first thing we think of is “church.”

Worship usually takes place within a church (the building); by the church (the people); and according to the church (the denomination’s or universal church’s traditions). The Greek word translated as “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia, which has the sense of a people being called out of the world. Placing that in a worship context, it refers to calling people out of their day-to-day life to gather together in a sacred time and space. Worship can breathe life into the community of Christ’s followers, especially after a tough week of stress, problems, and maybe even conflict.

God works through the church to make disciples, and worship plays an essential role in this process. For example, most people attend worship in a church for a period of time before making a commitment to Christ. Often as a result of their worship experiences, they will receive Christ as Lord and Savior, and become his disciples.

In worship, we express love for God and one another, and we experience God’s love and grace, offered freely to us. This becomes especially meaningful when we have become his disciples. So the results of the communal worship experience are to form and strengthen communities; shape souls to be more consistent with God’s will; correct self-interest – turn people from self-centeredness to compassionate and caring; and bind people to God and to each other.

Another way of looking at it is to say that through worship people seek to connect with God; they allow God’s Word to shape them; and then they respond in faith because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you participate in worship?

Passionate Worship in Particular

All of these things should happen in worship, but let’s examine what passionate worship means. Passionate worship engages the intellect as well as the heart. Regarding the intellect, worshipers learn about he content of their faith. They learn about God, Jesus, the stories of Scripture, morals and ethics, the practice of their faith, and gain some insight about the world around them.

Regarding the heart, worshipers are helped to grow in mercy and hope, as well as to experience grace and learn to receive and give forgiveness. In passionate worship, the heart senses the Holy Spirit through the music, the prayers, the stories, the fellowship, and the sacraments.

Sometimes we react to that sensing of the Holy Spirit with tears, or a feeling of overwhelming love, or some other emotion that often surprises us. These emotional responses result from the Holy Spirit touching us in a profound way that goes deep to our inner being. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about when you react to the Holy Spirit’s moving in you – it shows you have a sensitive spirit. Passionate worship eliminates all distractions, is authentic, and is focused on God that also touches us in a way that goes beyond intellectual assent.


In conclusion, let’s ask ourselves some questions.

·Am I allowing God’s Spirit to form me, change me, and transform me though the worship experience?

·Am I allowing myself to be challenged, sustained, and led the God’s Spirit?

·Is my week better because I attended worship on Sunday?

·Do I feel welcomed and supported as a part of Christ’s church?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then ask yourself “why not?”

The answer could be in your attitude, your approach to worship, or other factors that are preventing you from experiencing passionate worship. Don’t allow distractions to disconnect you from an encounter with God. Worship is our gift to God, but also God’s gift to us. Your spiritual vitality comes from passionate worship as a body of believers in a place where God changes hearts, redeems souls, and transforms lives. Don’t miss out on God’s best for you.

Note that some thoughts in this post are based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. © 2007 Robert Schnase

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why We Worship – Part 3

This is a continuation of a series of posts on why it is import that we worship God on a regular basis.

4. Early Worship

From what we can determine about worship in the early church, we know from earliest times that people gathered together to pray; sing; listen to God’s word; have fellowship with one another; and share in a common meal. Our worship today, while more formalized, still consists of prayer, singing, the proclamation of the Word, fellowship, and eating. Of course the common meal we have today is Communion. But we also have the breaking of bread with one another during the coffee hour and at certain events.

In both the Old Testament and in the early church, we see that worship can define a people. God’s people, the Israelites, were defined by their worship of one God, and by their unique way of worshipping him. God gave them their form of ritual worship plus another form of worship, keeping the Law. The Israelites’ daily worship consisted of observing the various ceremonial laws, such as the dietary rules and a strict observance of the Sabbath.

Today our daily worship consists of how we live our lives and glorify God, and keeping the moral law. Our daily worship should also include prayer and daily devotions, but these are no substitute for coming together as a community to worship God. Why is it important for us to come together as a community to worship?

Worship in General

Essentially, worship connects people to God and to one another. We should gather together with the right attitude, deliberately seeking an encounter with God in Christ. In worship, we meet Christ through singing, prayer, Scripture, preaching, and Holy Communion.

1. Results of Worship

God can and will use worship to benefit us by transforming lives; healing wounded souls; renewing hope; shaping decisions; provoking changes in our lives; inspiring compassion; and binding people to one another in Christian love. God through Christ actively seeks a relationship with us through worship, and will change lives. Has your relationship with the Lord improved because of worship?

More about worship in a future post. Note that some thoughts in this post are based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. © 2007 Robert Schnase

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why We Worship – Part 2

This post is the second in a series of posts concerning the importance of worship. The first post gave a brief history of worship before the giving of the Law to the Israelites.

2. Giving the Law

Eventually, God formalized worship when he gave the Law to Moses and instructed him to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. The tabernacle was portable so it could be disassembled and transported wherever the Israelites went during their 40 years in the wilderness. It was critical to God that the people worship him in the way he specified, using the tabernacle he designed as the center for worship. Eventually Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, and that became the new center of worship for the Jews.

3. The New Covenant

Later, Jesus talked about worship under the New Covenant with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:21-24):

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” NRSV

The worship under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ has these attributes:

(1) The location of worship is no longer centered in the temple in Jerusalem, but can take place wherever God’s people gather.

(2) People can worship God with a fuller understanding now that Jesus, the true Word of God, has been to earth.

(3) Worship is inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the focus on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us.

(4) Worship is not a duty requiring animal sacrifices, but is a joyful experi­ence, a time of spiritual renewal, of learning God’s truth, and of fellow­ship.

(5) The purpose of worship is no longer to atone for our sins by offering sacrifices, but to give thanks and praise for what God did for us in Jesus.

We don’t have to atone for our sins again and again at the temple, the main form of worship before Jesus died on the cross. However, the one thing we must remember is that worship is about God, not about us. God uses the worship of his people as his throne, as we read in Psalm 22:3: “You sit as the Holy One. The praises of Israel are your throne.” (NCV) We benefit from the worship experience when we worship in spirit and in truth, but we are not the focus of worship, God is.

More about worship in a future post. Note that some thoughts in this post are based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. © 2007 Robert Schnase

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More on Homosexuality

I read in the Poughkeepsie Journal this morning (3/24/09) that the anti-Gay church group from Kansas didn’t demonstrate at Natasha Richardson’s funeral in Millbrook (see my earlier post), for which I am thankful. The issue of homosexuality is much too complex for a full discussion in a blog, but I do want to bring out a few points on the subject for your consideration.

(1) The Bible is pretty definitive and specific about condemning homosexual practice. Although Gay rights sympathizers try to water this down by bizarre misinterpretations of Scripture, I think the better way is to accept what the Bible clearly says and then deal with it in a Christ-like manner.

(2) The Bible condemns all kinds of behaviors such as divorce, yet most Protestant churches accept divorced people, allow them to receive the sacraments, and even ordain them (to the RC Church, divorce is the unforgivable sin). If we can accept divorced people, why can’t we figure out how to deal with practicing homosexuals?

(3) What is an example of dealing with Gays in a Christ-like manner? Loving them as fellow human beings made in the image of God, and lovingly accepting them into our fellowship. Christ had hated tax collectors in his fellowship of the first disciples, he ate with sinners, and he forgave the woman caught in adultery. To hate Gays as that church in Kansas does it not at all bring Christ-like.

(4) Having said all this, I do believe marriage should be between people of the opposite sex. Marriage is what it is and has been for thousands of years, and shouldn’t be redefined to fit an agenda. For legal purposes, civil unions make sense, but not “marriage” between same sex people. I know some disagree with me on this issue, but that’s what I believe. I don’t mean it as a slap in the face to Gays, but my position is based on the Bible and biology.

(5) Unfortunately the issues of Gay marriage and the ordination of those engaged in the practice of homosexuality have seriously divided denominations. The Episcopal Church is the most visible, but the United Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches are all facing divisions over these issues. Sides have become so polarized that I’m not sure if people will be able to reach some sort of accord. The positions seem to leave no room for compromise or finding an acceptable middle ground. Please pray for wisdom for these churches in this regard.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Richardson Funeral Protests

I read with dismay in Sunday’s (3/22) Poughkeepsie Journal that a church in Kansas was sending some of its members to Millbrook to stage a protest at Natasha Richardson’s funeral. The reason for this protest is that Richardson raised funds for research for a cure for AIDS, and this church is virulently anti-Gay.

Such a protest at someone’s funeral is obnoxious and certainly not in the Christian spirit. After all, Jesus ate with sinners and forgave the woman caught in adultery. This protest reminds me of other protests that were just as bad, and those were the anti-war protests staged at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. No matter how noble you feel your cause is, there is also something called consideration for others. Why rub salt into a grieving family’s wounds?

Regardless of your views on the practice of homosexuality, Christians are called to be caring, compassionate, merciful, and loving. This church in Kansas is none of these, and churches like that give Christians a bad name. I suspect this church teaches that AIDS was sent by God to punish the sodomites, and so working towards a cure is going against God’s will. Let me assure you that such a church and such teachings are on the lunatic fringe and are not in the mainstream of Christianity.

Jesus died for Gays and Lesbians just as much as He died for you and me. Although the Bible clearly condemns the practice of homosexuality, the fact is that as Christians we are not to condemn those who are homosexuals. We all sin and fall short of God’s standards of behavior. Why has homosexuality become the unforgivable sin for some?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beacon’s Pub Crawl

I read with dismay the article in today’s (3/16/09) Poughkeepsie Journal about the bad behavior of some of the patrons of Beacon’s Pub Crawl. It is unfortunate that a few bad people ruin what could be a good time and fun event. I have a couple of points to make about this situation:

(1) First of all, I don’t think offering unlimited booze is a good way to raise funds. The Beacon Community Center, for example, raises funds by having a “Taste of Beacon” event at which local restaurants offer various food items. There is also a 5K run. Certainly there are better ways of raising money for worthy causes than offering the temptation of overindulging, because some immature people will overdo it.

(2) Second, I’m not sure if there was adequate provision for handling the large crowds that attend this event. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for sure, but I suspect there was an inadequate police presence, and inadequate toilet facilities. If you’re going to hold such an event, do it right, or don’t do it at all. If there had been a better police presence, those who were obviously drunk could have been hauled away before they started any trouble.

(3) Third, since the near riot happened by the Knights of Columbus hall, I presume that the K of C was a participant in the Pub Crawl. Since the K of C is a Roman Catholic layman’s organization, I don’t think it is a good Christian witness to be participating in this event, thus encouraging public drinking. Rather than offering booze to outsiders, the K of C should have been giving away coffee and food. That would have been the Christian thing to do, rather than conforming to the world’s ways (which I’m assuming happened – if not, I apologize).

(4) Fourth, this debacle is another proof, if anyone stills needs it, that the human race has a propensity to sin. People will take anything, such as the telephone, TV, movies, games, and the Internet, and pervert it to do evil. The Beacon Pub Crawl, while misguided in my opinion, was established both as a fund-raiser for a worthy cause and a means of having a good time. Unfortunately, people were having too much of a “good time”, and that’s where humankind’s fallen nature becomes evident.

(5) Fifth, I’m not painting everybody who was a part of the Pub Crawl with a broad brush. Most people were well-behaved, I’m sure, just out for a little fun. Most, I suspect, didn’t overindulge, pee in someone’s yard, puke on someone’s stoop, or pick a fight. A few rotten apples spoil things for everybody, so this is probably the last year for the Pub Crawl, and I say good riddance.

May I make a suggestion to those who live in the Beacon area? Rather than hitting the pubs, why not spend an hour or so on a Sunday morning or evening and attend church? I know of a great church in Beacon, one that has open hearts, open minds, and open doors to all. Email me if you would like more information.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Central Hudson Utility Rate Hikes

I read in the Poughkeepsie Journal today (Friday, 3/13) that Central Hudson Gas and Electric (“CH”) wants to raise its rates. CH’s lame excuse for this proposed increase is that conservation has reduced their revenue. So we are told to conserve energy, and then we get penalized for it! What’s wrong with this picture?

This is another example of the morally bankrupt thinking that has ruined our economy and resulted in the Northeast being so expensive. CH is merely following the example of local governments, which have significantly increased property taxes because sales tax revenue is down. So your local government is hitting you with tax increases when there is higher unemployment, the risk of more layoffs, people having lost wealth, and retired people’s income is down because of stock market losses. Nothing like kicking people when they are down. Thank you, elected officials.

Unfortunately, CH doesn’t have the backbone or the competence to adjust to the “new normal” of decreased revenue due to conservation. Why don’t CH and the various municipalities try cutting back on frivolous and unnecessary spending? Why not eliminate duplication, waste, and pet projects? No wonder more and more people are leaving New York State for less expensive states. I know I’m certainly going to retire elsewhere when the time comes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why We Worship – Part 1

Worship Is Important

First of all, we should understand just how important worship is to God. In the Book of Revelation, we get a peek at the worship in heaven, which is continuous. The reason we worship is stated by what the elders say when they lay their crowns before the Lord in passionate worship (Revelation 4:11, NLT):

“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

1. History of Worship

Worship has been around since the beginning of the human race. The earliest act of worship we read about in the Bible is when Cain and Abel presented their offerings to the Lord, as we read in Genesis 4:3-5:

Later, Cain brought some food from the ground as a gift to God. Abel brought the best parts from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. So Cain became very angry and felt rejected. NCV

Apparently Cain wasn’t as conscientious about his offering as he should have been, so God rejected his offering. That should be a lesson to us that we should take worship seriously because it is very important to God. We should come to worship with the right attitude, and with the intention of encountering God. Throughout Genesis we see worship, usually involving the sacrifice of an animal, such as when Noah came off the Ark, as we read in Genesis 8:20:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. NRSV.

Archeological evidence has shown worship, especially sacrifice, to be common across many different cultures.

More about worship in a future post. Note that some thoughts in this post are based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. © 2007 Robert Schnase

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Great Depression II?

Every time I watch the news, it seems as if this current economic crisis is looking more and more like the 1930s. Now tent cities are springing up near many American cities, reminding me of the “Hooverville” shantytowns of the 1930s. We’ve had bank failures, a steep stock market decline, double-digit unemployment (factoring in the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work), and venerable companies either going out of business or in danger of doing so. All we need is a dust bowl and the picture would be complete. This is a worldwide phenomenon, with an estimated 50 trillion dollars in wealth lost so far as a result of stock market declines, fraud (i.e., Bernie Madoff), bankruptcies, loss of value of homes and other assets, and other factors. That is a staggering amount, and the world economy is expected to shrink in 2009.

Many Americans are living in fear and uncertainty, and can you blame them? Either people have very inadequate savings because they have been spending rather than saving, or their savings have declined significantly in value. If somebody loses his or her job, he or she could be in deep financial trouble almost immediately. Little or no savings, a house that won’t sell, and if it does, it might sell for less than the mortgage amount. To make matters worse, if you do have money in an IRA or 401(k), you’ll be penalized if you take the money out earlier that age 59½. Young people might be able to temporarily move back with mom and dad, but not everybody has that option.

In such times, we must look to God for our help as well as for peace and comfort. These are trying times, and it is no time to ignore God. I encourage you that if you are living in fear (and who isn’t), start going to church. There you’ll hopefully find God, you’ll meet others facing similar circumstances, and you’ll find a church family that cares. You’ll be uplifted and encouraged by the worship, and upheld by the fellowship. Don’t go it alone!

(by the way, if none of that happens, try a different church. I know a nice one in Beacon, if you’re interested).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

President Obama, as expected, recently lifted the ban on federal funding for most embryonic stem cell research that George W. Bush had put in place early in his presidency. Conservative Christians are saying this will kill living human beings, while others are saying this is a victory for science. Let’s take a look at what all this means.

When some say that science should not be dictated by ideology, that is a false, dangerous, and misleading statement. Science should be controlled and guided by ethical standards. The ethics you use can be derived from Scripture (my preference), your society’s tradition (shaky ground), or something made up as you go along (worst way to go). As we all know, science can be abused and misused. There is plenty of “junk science” out there, and there are quite a few poorly done studies or fudged numbers masquerading as science. We should remember that science should not be our god, nor is it infallible. Just as the medical profession takes an oath to do no harm, scientists should be similarly responsible.

Many people, if not most, believe life begins at conception. There are many reasonable arguments to support this belief. Interestingly, the Bible is silent on the matter. If you believe that life begins at conception, then these embryos are living human beings. Given that fact, the next question is, What do you do with them?

Ideally, these embryos would be planted in a woman and would be allowed to develop into a baby. However, there are so many of these “leftover” embryos from fertilization procedures that there aren’t enough women to have these babies. So what do we do? Keep them in the freezer forever? Thaw them out and let them die? Let scientists experiment with them in the hope that some good will come out of it, even though we are killing them in the process? This is at the heart of the ethical dilemma.

My own personal opinion is that if these embryos can’t be harvested and implanted in a woman, then we should do the next best thing, which is to free their spirits to go to heaven. Right now, their spirits are trapped in a suspended life, which seems cruel. Rather than let these little lives be lost for nothing, we should let scientists experiment using their stem cells. However, in no case do I believe it is moral or ethical to create embryos solely for the purpose of experimentation or therapeutic purposes. Only these “leftovers” should be used, so their lives are not lost in vain.

In addition, I feel that fertilization clinics should limit the number of embryos created so that we don’t have thousand of these little lives being lost. I might also add that those on the Left seem so sure about the promise of embryonic stem cell research. They seem to think that this will be the next great breakthrough in science and medicine. However, scientists have also seen very promising results from research on adult stem cells, a fact that isn’t mentioned as much in the mainstream media. I would be willing to bet that adult stem cells will ultimately be more successful than embryonic stem cell research. Why? Because God won’t bless endeavors which kill human lives. Given the large number of these embryos, I believe we have to use them to learn for ourselves which type of stem cell works the best.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I read a lot of anguished cries about how the Palestinians are being persecuted by big, bad Israel. These cries for peace, mostly from leftists, don’t recognize the realities on the ground, and the realities of history. While they give passing acknowledgement that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, they feel the 1967 “occupation” of Palestinian lands is illegal, and that the Israeli response to continued rocket attacks on its territory is disproportionate and excessive. Let get a few things straight:

(1) The goal of the Palestinian leadership and terrorist organizations is to eliminate and exterminate the Jewish state. That has been their goal since 1948, and continues to this day.

(2) The Arabs started the 1967 war, and Israel won. Why should they give the land back? There are no do-overs in world conflicts.

(3) Israel isn’t the aggressor, the Palestinians and Arab terrorist organizations are. Israel wants nothing more than to live in peace with its neighbors.

(4) Peace would be at hand immediately if the Palestinians would stop their rocket attacks and any other terrorist actions. But the Arabs will have none of that, as we’ve seen time and time again.

The bottom line is that the Palestinian and Arab terrorists care nothing about their people, and having cities and towns destroyed by the Israeli retaliations feeds into their propaganda efforts. Unfortunately the naïve people on the left buy into this propaganda and become unwitting tools of the Arab terrorist organizations.

Stop the rocket attacks and Israel will stop retaliating. It’s that simple. If the world community, and especially the Arab states, would put pressure on the Palestinian leadership and other terrorist organizations to stop this foolishness and make peace, the Middle East would become an oasis of peace and tranquility, and the unfortunate civilians on both sides could finally live their lives without fear.

Unfortunately peace in the Middle East won’t come until Christ returns, I’m convinced, but let’s pray for it anyway. Who knows, maybe God will intervene in some miraculous way and mitigate the suffering in that part of the world.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trust and Authority

In the 1960s, authority came into question. An unpopular war and other problems caused the youth of that day to question all authority. We are still feeling its effects today. Today however, I think we have to question earthly authority because it has shown itself to be ineffective, self-serving, and often unethical.

In addition to less than effective government at all levels and public servants who are not serving their constituents, you now have unethical practices by corporate, bank, financial, and other executives. The earlier catastrophes such as the collapse of Enron due to crooked dealings and “cooking the books” now look like a walk in the park compared to the mismanagement and downright illegal actions we are seeing uncovered today. Moreover, there are scam artists such as Bernie Madoff who have robbed thousands of people of billions of dollars. How could all this happen?

First, we now have situational ethics rather than absolute principles guiding behavior. That is a recipe for disaster. We must be guided by transcendent principles as found in the Scriptures, not by situational ethics and other man-made guidelines.

Second, we have an increasing unchurched population who haven’t been exposed to biblical teachings about morality, ethics, and the principles for leading an upright life. Maybe their parents tried to instill those kinds of principles in them, but without the reinforcement from the Church, the efforts are less effective. Kids today are exposed to all kinds of garbage through the media, with little or no exposure to biblical principles. Then we’re surprised when these things happen?

Third, we have had an attitude in government that prefers trust over regulation, ignoring the fact that humankind has a propensity to sin. We have government and its various agencies (the police, military, FBI, SEC, FDA, etc.) to protect us from the evils that might be perpetrated if there is no oversight.

Last, we have a callousness and uncaring attitude towards others since fewer people have been exposed to the Golden Rule and the principle of caring for and about your neighbor. How, for example, could the executives of Peanut Company of America knowingly allow tainted food products be shipped from their plant? It is astounding.

We aren’t going to turn this country around by government policies and rhetoric from Washington. We must turn back to God, and expose our kids and ourselves to biblical teachings. If it isn’t too late, we just might get back on track.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Archbishop of NY

Congratulations to the Archdiocese of New York on receiving it new spiritual leader. From what I understand, many Catholic New Yorkers will be glad to see Cardinal Egan go. He was unpopular because, among other things, he closed churches and parochial schools. Let me share a couple of thoughts on this.

Any church that is losing members because of demographics can do one of two things: either slowly decline until it is no longer viable, or reach out to its neighbors and hopefully grow with a new demographic. It appears that many churches (of all denominations) are content to slowly die. Hence the closing of many churches in the New York metropolitan area as Catholics move out and non-Catholics move in.

Regarding the closing of parochial schools, sometimes those schools were associated with a dying church, so there isn’t much choice in those situations. However, some of the schools were closed more for economic reasons than for lack of students. I think closing a school for economic reasons is very short-sighted. A parochial school is a ministry, training the next generation of Catholics. If the wealthiest organization in the world can’t invest in its future, it will not thrive and be blessed. I hope Archbishop Dolan has a different view on this than Egan had.

I wish Archbishop Dolan well in his new position, and I pray he seeks God’s counsel in these matters. I pray that the universal Church will seek revival, and will obey Jesus’ commission to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Some churches are looking more to the ends of the earth rather than right in their Jerusalems, their own neighborhoods.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity – Part 4

IV. Are All Others Doomed?

Finally we come to the question everybody asks: “What happens to people who aren’t Christians? Are those who never heard of Jesus doomed?” The answer is, we don’t know for sure, and it is really between them and God. Our job is to put our trust in Jesus, and tell others about him.

As we know, there are many convincing verses in the Bible that tell us that Jesus is the only way of salvation. But, you may ask, what about the person who never even heard of Jesus, who never had a chance to accept or reject him? Is that person condemned for all eternity? There are some passages in the New Testament (Romans 2:14-15a and Romans 1:19-20) that indicate they might be saved. Based on these passages and our understanding of God’s mercy and grace, here’s one possible answer to the question of what happens to those who never heard of Jesus: God may judge those who never heard of Jesus based on how they responded to the light given to them.

That sounds good, but since Christians believe you can only get to heaven based on what Jesus did on the cross, how would this work? Don’t you have to consciously put your trust in Jesus to be saved? Yes, you do have to consciously put your trust in Jesus, if in fact you have been told the Good News of Jesus Christ. However, it may be that God, in his mercy, extends the grace and merits of Jesus to those who never heard of him. This assumes, of course, that they responded appropriately to whatever light they had been given by God.

A word of warning: this doesn’t mean that those who have heard the Gospel can reject Christ but can still get to heaven based on “being a good person”. The New Testament is clear: being “a good person” does not qualify you to get into heaven. Christians believe that if you’ve heard the truth of Jesus Christ, then you have to make a decision. Not making a decision is still rejecting Christ and the gift of salvation he offers.

When I say those who never heard of Jesus might be saved by the mercy of God, you have to realize what I’m not saying. As a Christian, I’m not saying all religions will get you into heaven, or that all religions are equally valid paths to God. I’m not saying all religions are true or equivalent, because of the profound differences among them that we discussed earlier. I am saying that God might save those who weren’t in a position to accept Christ as their Savior through no fault of their own. Something I recently read relates to this: “All roads do not lead to God, but God will travel any road to reach us.” (From the novel The Shack)

V. Conclusion

Please realize that by this discussion, I’m not putting down anybody’s religion or belief system, but simply pointing out the uniqueness of Christianity and why I believe Christianity is the best. Many religions have beautiful philosophies and excellent codes of behavior, but I believe that without Jesus as Savior, they are significantly lacking.

Of course not every religion can be true, despite their claims, so we should examine the evidence to see why we are convinced Christianity must be true. Summarizing the advantages we have as followers of Jesus Christ, we have:

·Joy, which can be described as a sense of well-being and comfort because of our faith in Jesus;

·Peace, which is the peace Jesus leaves with us, and we are peaceable people because of it;

·Assurance, that we will get to heaven (no doubt about it) and we have nothing to fear from death;

·Hope, that God is with us, and will guide and comfort us in this life; and

·Love, that we love others, we are part of a community of love, and we are loved by God.

As far as I know, no other religion on the face of the earth offers these, and I believe these are ample evidence that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Now that we have reviewed the case for Christ, I hope your faith has been strengthened and you have been equipped with the tools to tell others. I hope you will use these tools to guide others to the light – the light of Christ that transforms people and ushers them into the Kingdom of God.