Get Out of Hell Free . . . A Limited Time Offer, On Now!!

It seems we—those of us who attend church regularly and/or who call ourselves Christians—are living with a preoccupation of the “end times” or “last days”.  We see the signs everywhere.  “Oh, did you see that “X” happened just the other day?  We must be living in the end times!”  Therefore, it seems imperative to us to promote this “conversion” culture–bringing everyone we know to God.  Now!  To “save” the world.  Today!

But it seems to me our delivery might be a bit off. 

The “easy” road in converting people is to claim that those far from God are bad, they’re sinners, they need a savior (cue superhero fanfare!).  And, because they’re bad and sinners and need a savior, they should repent. Now!  Or they’re gonna go to hell for ever and ever, amen!

So we badger, pester, guilt them, and they start to feel bad (those we don’t totally alienate–driving them completely away from Jesus) and out of this sense of guilt, or shame, or maybe even to just get us off their backs, they say the “sinner’s prayer” and now “Woo Hoo!!” we think we’ve done our job!  Pat ourselves on the back!  Check another box in the “saved” category!  Move on to the next lost soul!

Except . . .

Could it be we’ve missed a few things?

Like: What it means to accept Christ into your life?  What it looks like to follow God?  What it means to get into relationship, not only with God, but with other believers as well?

In other words, by bestowing on them the magical “get out of hell free” card, could it be we’ve only dared scratch the surface?  We’ve given them nothing but the preface of this great book called “Redemption”, and possibly neglected the rest of the story?

Like . . . The important part!

Now I’m not saying that a big part of our role as Christians is not to share the Good News.  Or that there aren’t bad people in the world.  Or that there isn’t a hell (in whatever form it may look like).

I’m also not making light of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross.  I’m not saying that there aren’t sinners.  Or that the world doesn’t need a savior.

We ALL are.  And we ALL do.  In fact, I kinda side with Paul here:

1 Timothy 1:15
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

But why “seek and save what was lost”?  Why “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”?  Why “teach [them] to obey all the commands I have given you.”?

To get out of hell free? ~ That’s a fringe benefit in the grand scheme, not to mention selling God’s desire for reconciliation waaaaayyy too short.

Exodus 2:20
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

God’s desire isn’t to convert us.  It isn’t to merely get us out of hell.  It’s to free us from the bonds of slavery (of sin, worry, doubt, fear, etc.) that we’re in; to live in relationship with Him.  And with others.

The reason is relationship.

We were made for relationship: Made for a relationship with our Creator; and made for a relationship with His creation ~ that means each other, the world, and everything in it.

We are made for a relationship with God.

Matthew 6:33
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Psalm 34:8-9
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need. (NKJV)

What this means, essentially, is to look to Him first.  He is the creator and holder of everything.  (He has everything you need.)  He also happens to be omniscient.  (He knows everything you need.  Not want.  Need.)  Looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you have.  More importantly, looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you don’t have.

We are made for a relationship with each other.

Romans 15:2-3a
Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually].  For Christ did not please Himself [gave no thought to His own interests] (AMP)

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

John 15:12
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

Christianity isn’t a solo project.  We can’t just convert people and send them on their merry way, content in the knowledge that they’ll figure it out as they go.  They’re newborns in their faith; infants in their walk with Christ.

1 Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Merely converting people solely so they can be saved from an eternal damnation is doing them the utmost disservice.  Further, its robbing them of the essence of joy, comfort and peace available within the relationship of a loving God and His people.  If mass conversion is your sole purpose in sharing the gospel, you’re no better than those phantom “evangelists” who litter various bookstores and retail shops with their fake $1,000,000 bills and “can you answer these questions?” pamphlets. (I worked in a bookstore for ten years; I have a right to call this stuff “litter”.  And, I know who you are!)

So, if you think that by merely “converting” people, your job as a Christian is done, you’ve got a few phone calls to make; you’ve got a few relationships to rekindle.  Walk with them.  Get to know them.  Answer their (many) questions.  Build the relationship.  Be the “lamp to guide [their] feet and a light for [their] path.”

As you share the gospel with your family, your friends and/or your neighbors, I hope you have many opportunities to lead those people into a relationship: closer to you, and closer to Him as well.  But please don’t think your job is then over.

Jesus never called us to convert or convict people.  That’s not our job anyway.  It’s His.  And He’s really good at it.  What He does call us to do is make disciples, and that’s a long, slow, wonderful, amazing, life-changing process.

It also happens to affect the person you walk with as well.

Relationships are like that.

(* all Bible texts NLT unless otherwise noted.)

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10 thoughts on “Get Out of Hell Free . . . A Limited Time Offer, On Now!!”

  1. This was a very well-written article. I want to ask you a little about it though. For one, I feel like I already have joy, comfort, and peace. So why do I need something else? And if I become a Christian, how will this relationship with God manifest itself? Will he talk to me the way everyone else I share a relationship with does?

    I’m not trying to mock your points, so I hope it doesn’t come across that way. You know I value you and your thoughts, and I imagine the above questions are things you’ve considered before. So I’m truly interested to know your thoughts on those.

    Thanks!

    1. Excellent questions my friend. I don’t think they’re, in fact, mocking at all. I’ve got to take the kids to school and run a couple errands. I’m gonna think on them while I’m out and about as I want to honor your questions and not give an “off the cuff” not-thoroughly-thought-out answer. 🙂 Talk to you soon.

    2. “I feel like I already have joy, comfort, and peace. So why do I need something else?”

      First of all, I think it’s great that you have these things already in life. They are truly not easy to come by. My thought on this is not that you need more, but in examination of where those feelings and outlooks come from. Is it something wherein you have to put all the dominoes in place to achieve? In other words, is it something you work at? Is it something you work at? Or, is it something you are just able to accept, regardless of situations, problems and worries (as I put it in a previous post). Do you have these things despite the day-to-day struggles? If, in fact, you do, more power to you. I think that’s a great accomplishment. And, I’m not saying Christians have the market cornered on this, or that we’re even any good at it. But, to me anyway, it’s the difference between, “Okay, if I can do/get A, and B, and C, then I’ll be able to relax, my mind will be at ease and maybe my wife will get off my back.” 🙂 Or, “Okay, I may not know what the future holds or how we’re gonna get there, but I know God is in control and He’ll work out what ‘s best for us, and my wife is on board with me so here we go!” That’s how I see it anyway. It’s just one of the things that are promised in the Bible to those who earnestly seek Him. As I said, “He is the creator and holder of everything. (He has everything you need.) He also happens to be omniscient. (He knows everything you need. Not want. Need.) Looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you have. More importantly, looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you don’t have.” That not only applies to “stuff”, but to relationships, achievements, a certain future, etc.

      “If I become a Christian, how will this relationship with God manifest itself?”

      First of all, let’s get this out of the way; does God talk to me as my friends/family/etc. do in other relationships? No. Are there ways I know he’s there, He’s looking out for me and He has my best interests at heart? Yes, and I’ll give you two examples: In the couple days leading up to my post(s) on porn addiction, the two daily devotional books my wife and I read from both had to do with being in God’s will, resting in God’s will, knowing that if you earnestly strive to follow Him, He has your best interests in mind. Then, when the posts came out and the s**t hit the fan with Ds Connections Nw, our first thoughts were of almost a relief and finality. This isn’t the first time we’ve rocked the boat with our “controversial” stands on issues, but by this time we’d had enough. We were fine with walking away. Even walking away from something my wife had helped to create. Then, looking back over those previous days devotions, it became clear to us that things happened exactly as they were supposed to happen, God was setting us up to be okay with it, and through it all, we were going to be okay. You can call it karma, or coincidence, or fate. We choose to call it God’s will for us, in other words, one of the ways our relationship with Him has manifested itself.

      The next would be the birth of our daughter. Cheryl and I were older when we found out we were pregnant (I love how a guy can so easily say we were pregnant!) and the risk of Down syndrome was a real possibility. We prayed—we honestly, earnestly prayed—with our home group and others from the church that our baby girl would not be born with Ds. God said no. We were initially devastated. How could this be God’s will for our lives? How could this be God’s will for HER life? It honestly took a while. But to see the type of impact Emma has had on the lives of the people she comes in contact with; her friends, her teachers, her therapists; to see the type of young man her big brother is becoming; to see the compassion grow in our own lives—especially towards the disabled community. We would never have seen any of this apart from Emma being exactly who she was meant to be: Resting in the assurance that, indeed, God had our best interests, and hers, in mind all along. Again, call it coincidence, fate, chance; we see it as so much more than that.

      It’s not easy. It’s not without its struggles. But I can look back in the rear-view mirror of my/our life up to this point with clear 20/20 vision and see exactly where God has been with us all along. That, to me, is how God’s relationship with us manifests itself. Not only has manifested, but grown and expanded as our faith and trust in Him grows and expands.

  2. This is one of your best ever, Kent! I don’t believe it is a true or Godly principle to try to “guilt” or “scare” people into becoming Christians. I think the things that really change our hearts are feeling the love of God and Christ and recognizing all the blessings they have given us and everyone around us. As we read God’s word and allow his spirit to work within us, we can feel the JOY that comes from following his laws when we apply them in our family relationships and in our daily walk. I believe our mission in life is to receive the light and love of Jesus Christ and then to reflect that to others. I was very touched by your words about Emma and the blessings she has brought to your family.

    1. Thank you Maryann. I always appreciate your kind words and great comments. I have to give a little (knowing) laugh when you say, “As we read God’s word and allow his spirit to work within us, we can feel the JOY that comes from following his laws . . . ” I wouldn’t necessarily say “joy” all the time. A lot of the time when reading God’s words, we gain knowledge; knowledge often leads to growth; growth is sometimes painful; and, pain is often NOT joyful . . . but still necessary. At least that’s been my personal experience. 🙂

      I miss you and all the B&N peeps!

      1. Oh man, have I ever experienced THAT! When I read God’s words, I am sometimes struck forcibly by my need to repent and, yes, that process can be painful—but also hopeful.

  3. I pretty much agree with what you are saying here and agree that it is important. I suggest we can see an even bigger picture than “God’s desire is ….. to free us from the bonds of slavery (of sin, worry, doubt, fear, etc.) that we’re in; to live in relationship with Him. And with others.”, true as that is. Jesus came to set up God’s kingdom on earth, where everything (people and the whole creation) would be made new.

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