Unsaved Christians

July 1, 2009

Have you ever met someone and thought “That person cannot possibly be Christian.”? Not in a malicious way, but just as an objective observation.  Of course you could be wrong.  Perhaps that person really does believe in Christ, and is just being sanctified slowly.  But sometimes you meet someone, and all they think about, talk about, and do are centered around himself.  And sometimes this person may do volunteer a lot and help other people a lot, but their thoughts are always about “I’m doing all this!”, or “This is how I will look good in front of others” or “How can I feel good about myself?”  Sometimes you see someone in that light, and can’t see them in any other light.  You try to be gracious, you try to be understanding, especially if they’re non-Christians.  But it’s hard to be gracious to those who profess to believe in Christ and yet act in this manner.

And then I look in the mirror.

This is our tendency isn’t it? We make far greater deal of others’ sin than our own sins.  I asked a fellow Christian brother who I kept feeling that really didn’t know the Gospel (based on our conversations, the way he thinks, and lives).  I kept sensing that to him it was all about earning God’s favor, instead of receiving it freely.  I asked him, are you saved, and if so from what? He answered yes, he was saved, from condemnation.  Why was he condemned?  “Because I am a sinner like you,” he answered.  Good answer, but a better answer would have been simply, “Because I am a sinner.”  That is what we try to do.  We say “Yes Lord, I am a sinner, but at least I’m not as bad as him.”  We come to God thinking that our righteousness is based on our own merit, because we’re not as bad as others.  This is the biggest lie we can believe in. We cannot be brought up if we refuse to bring ourselves down before God.

We must first see the gravity of our sin if we are to realize the magnitude of God’s love.  The following lines are from a movie illustrates the devastating power of gossip in particular:

A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew – I know none of you have ever done this. That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O’ Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. ‘Is gossiping a sin?’ she asked the old man. ‘Was that God All Mighty’s hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?’ ‘Yes,’ Father O’ Rourke answered her. ‘Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.’ So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. ‘Not so fast,’ says O’ Rourke. ‘I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.’ So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. ‘Did you cut the pillow with a knife?’ he says. ‘Yes, Father.’ ‘And what were the results?’ ‘Feathers,’ she said. ‘Feathers?’ he repeated. ‘Feathers; everywhere, Father.’ ‘Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.’ ‘And that,’ said Father O’ Rourke, ‘is gossip!’

ALL SINS ARE LIKE THIS.  It may not scatter everywhere like careless words, but it spreads insidiously all over our beings.  When we realize how great our sin is, and then furthermore that GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD?! That NOT DEATH NOT LIFE NOT ANGELS NOR DEMONS CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD?! That we can call Him ABBA FATHER?! His love and sovereignty becomes absolutely liberating, where as if we do not understand this God’s love and sovereignty seem squishy and egotistical.

A Protestant, a catholic, an agnostic and an atheist were talking about religion.  The agnostic was half listening, while the atheist, who was the somehow-optimistic humanist type and not the more brutally honest and logical pessimistic type, was more engaged in the conversation that their two more religious friends were having about the nature of men.  Was man basically good, or was he basically bad?  The catholic kept insisting that Man is basically good.  God created him in His image, and said that it was good.  The Protestant kept insisting that man was basically bad, because of the Original Sin and continuing evidence of it in the world.  Is this Catholic friend saved?   If he truly believes that Jesus came to only show us that we are all basically good people, doesn’t that imply that he doesn’t believe he’s a sinner?  This is not a condemnation of all Catholics.  Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic convert who grew up in a Calvinist family, actually says that we are worse than just morally bad.  He claims that we are morally insane, for part of us know that the sin we commit are bad for us in the long run, and yet we continue to commit the same sins over and over again.  And a definition of insanity is doing something repeatedly expecting a different result.  But this particular Catholic friend, and the continuing tendency towards Universalism in some Catholic circles poses a great danger.  For if we do not need to be saved, than we do not need a Savior.  If we think we are healthy, we will not call for a doctor.

It is not enough to be brought up in a Christian home.  It is not enough to have Christian parents.  It is not enough to be a convert for 30 years and quit smoking and drinking.  It is not enough to be, like Will Smith in “Ms. Holy Roller” in his Lost & Found album (wow obscure reference), to have gone to church longer than another person.  Those things don’t make you a Christian.  It is not enough to say grace before meals, and go to service twice a year on Easter and Christmas.  It is all about Grace.  It is all about Love. It is all about Christ’s work, freely given.  Some of the nicest people you know will not be saved, for they have relied on their own works rather than in Christ.

Knowing this, what should we do? First we can look at our own lives.  How do you treat your relationships with others?  Do you keep a detailed account of everything you give to others?  It may indicate that you approach your relationship with God in the same way, that you approach God expecting Him to do something for you if you do something for Him.  “I scratch your back, you scratch my back.”  Second, do you see your brother or sister live in this manner? Then approach him in love, and gently remind them of grace.  If you cannot do this with gentless, it’s probably better not to do it.  Lastly, do you find a non-Christian living and thinking this way? Then do not judge him for he does not profess to live under the same standards as you.  Rather show him the love of Christ that breaks down the hardest of hearts.

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