First, a little note:
I heard Rev. Billy Graham speak one night. He said something that, for me, really stuck. I will take great liberties at explaining his thought while hopefully remaining true to his idea. He who puts his faith in a false religion is as one who has taken an inoculation. The false religion will prevent him from catching the real thing. Indeed, it can be more difficult to lead a devout atheist to Jesus than someone who has put his faith in a false religion, or for that matter any religion.
The fact is that no one was ever saved by religion. For that, it takes faith in Jesus, Christ, the Son of the one and only living God. It will work with no other god. It will work with no other faith. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is either misled or he is lying.
Many years ago, I was told of a clergyman who said he couldn’t sing the word wretch in the song, Amazing Grace. The tragedy is that he is not alone in this attitude. We, as humans have a tendency to look at things from our point of view, which is also a relative point of view.
It is likely true that he was better than most, but that is not the way God looks at it. If you want to know what God’s point of view is, read Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and our righteousnesses are like filthy rags, our iniquities , like the wind, have taken us away.” (New King James Version)
It is a common thing to think more highly of ourselves. We have a tendency to say, “Well, I’m better than so and so.” It even goes to an extreme with some people. They compare themselves with clergymen who have fallen, especially those who are well known. However, God does not judge us on a relative basis. He judges us individually and each of us will have to stand before him and give an account of ourselves. He does not grade on a curve.
Think of it this way, if a man is able to work his way into heaven, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross. The penalty of sin is death. It is what we all deserve. Jesus paid the penalty for us. It was his gift to us. But those who do not accept his gift will die and go to hell. God does not force salvation on you. It is your choice. If you choose hell, he will not force you to go to heaven.
Moreover, he will not accept the works of a man. As said above, the best man has is filthiness to God. Why would a person even try to offer our own works to God, when Jesus is offering his righteousness for us? Yet, it is an argument that is lost over and over again. People try to offer up their filthy rags and expect God to be impressed by them.
In my book, “Going Home,” I list a number of reasons people have for rejecting Jesus as their savior. However, the two biggest reasons are simple, ignorance and pride.
Certainly, there are millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus, but that is not the only ignorance. There are many who claim to be Christians who don’t truly know what the word means. Most count on religion for salvation. They put their faith in a false church and its false teachings and hope they will go to heaven because they follow a few rituals, more or less.
The truth is that you can know that you are going to heaven. If you don’t know, I would strongly suggest you find the truth…today. Tomorrow might be too late.
Pride builds a wall between man and God. The idea of, “I can do it myself or I am as good as the next guy,” is wide road that leads to hell. The words gift and earn do not go together. If salvation is a gift then it cannot be earned. If you earn it, then it is not a gift. Read it yourself in Ephesians 2:8-9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of your works, lest anyone should boast.”
You might note the final phrase, “…lest anyone should boast.” I don’t recall anyone telling me so, bit it appears that God directly prevented us from earning our salvation, so that none of us would be able to brag of our achievement, which would build up our pride. We all must approach God with humbly. You will not find one person in heaven who contributed in any way to his being there. God hates our pride.
It is a little bit of a paradox, but those who think that they might go to heaven won’t. Those of us who know that we will go to heaven will. To those who don’t know, it sounds like pride, but it is faith. Those who think they have a chance rely on themselves. Those who know they are going to heaven rely on Jesus and his Promise:
In John 3:16-18, Jesus himself tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The first verse is likely the most quoted verse in the Bible. However, I personally believe in the importance of the other two verses. They help in explaining the first. The third verse plainly says, that if you don’t believe, then you are condemned, because you don’t believe. Hence, if you don’t believe that Jesus will save you, then you are condemned by your unbelief. The way I look at it, if you trample underfoot the salvation that Jesus offers, then there is no other salvation for you.
…or another way of stating the same thing, if you don’t accept his way, you can’t design or invent your own. To some, it is horrible to be so narrow minded. However, it is far more horrible to teach people that there is any other way. If you are one of those who teach that there are many ways, you are the horrible one. You are leading others into condemnation and God will hold you accountable for it.
Moreover, when Jesus says he will save me, why should I doubt Him? It is not vanity when I say I will go to heaven. It is faith in Him and His promise. If I doubt him, then I make him a liar, or at the least I doubt his ability and/or his word.