Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A conversation on the Gospel

I recently had an online chat conversation with a young man who expressed confusion over the way of salvation. I had noticed the following phrase on his profile comment line..."the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."

I decided to find out what he meant by that and what follows is our conversation.

Jim: What do you mean by the one who endures to the end?

Young Man: what do you mean, read matthew 24... you might learn something...:)

Jim: Thanks. I like to learn new things.

Young Man: hahahahaha.

Jim: What does that mean to you to endure?

Young Man: meeeeeeeeee...to last... to overcome...I think.

Jim: How do we do that?

Young Man: don't give in to temptation...overcome sin.

Jim: so what happens when we give in to temptation and sin?

Young Man: you better ask for forgivness and repent.

Jim: How does that fit in with enduring until the end?

Young Man: well you can't give in to temptation, you can't fall away from Christ...and no one knows when the end will come.

Jim: What does it mean to fall away from Christ?

Young Man: give into sin.

Jim: ha ha, you are giving me the run around on these answers.

Young Man: lose faith...lol.

Jim: What happens to someone who loses faith and gives into sin?

Young Man: maybe I don't have the answer...

Jim: What does one have to do in order to end up in hell?

Young Man: not believe...not repent...have no faith.

Jim: believe what?

Young Man: believe christ died for our sins...it's much easier to go to hell then to heaven.

Jim: no doubt...what does it mean to have faith?

Young Man: to believe that Christ died for our sins,to believe he's coming back for us...to trust in his word.

Jim: Do you believe you will spend eternity with Christ?

Young Man: honestly, if the last day of the earth was tomorrow, no...but I'm working on it.

Jim: What do you think it would take to know for sure?

Young Man: to know deep down inside that I put the Lord first in my life and that I live every day for him...which I know I haven't.

Jim: Isn't that based upon your own efforts? Is there anything you can do to make yourself a better person or acceptable to God?

Young Man: yes.

Jim: what? The bible says that there is none righteous, not even one, and anything we try and do for God is like the filthy rags of a women having her period. gross eh!

Young Man: well being a good person won't get you into heaven but I think I would be more acceptable to God if I put him first everyday and told people about him.

Jim: Basically, there is nothing we could ever do to earn God's forgiveness. You could tell the whole world about God and that still wouldn't get you into the kingdom of heaven. Even if you put Him first everyday from now on, you have still fallen short of His glory.

Young Man: God's grace is a gift we can't earn it.

Jim: That's right, how do we access that grace.

Young Man: I'm not sure...give your life to him.

Jim: Do you believe Jesus Christ died for you?

Young Man: yes.

Jim: Do you believe He can forgive your sins?

Young Man: yes.

Jim: The bible says that if we confess Jesus as Lord, and believe that God has raised Him from the dead we shall be saved. "But as many as received Him, to them he gave the ability to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." You must believe He died for you, and confess Him as your Saviour. With our mouthes confession is made unto salvation. There is nothing we could do to earn God's favor. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and the punishment (eternal fire) that we deserved. The payment was made in full, but we need to acknowledge that and trust Christ to save us. Living for Christ and telling others about Him are great, but they will never save us. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from our sins and allow us to stand before God, blameless.

Jim: That is a decision you must make between yourself and God. You must place your trust completely in His sacrifice...calling out to Him to save you and forgive you from your sins. The Bible says that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not is condemned.

Jim: Does this make sense to you?

Young Man: yes.

Jim: awesome!

Young Man: :) yes it is...thanx Jim.

Jim: Your more than welcome, I am always happy to try and answer any questions....I will be praying for you.

Young Man: thanx I greatly appreciate it.

While this man obviously knew the terminology regarding salvation, he lacked a key ingredient...assurance. He had no definitive confirmation of being saved. He really didn't understand trusting in Christ alone. Instead, he had included the need to repent, to not sin, to not fall away, and to tell people about God in order to incur His favor. This is the basic problem plaguing religion today...a man centered attempt at reaching God, without realizing that we cannot add to the finished work of Christ. He had not come to the place of simply abiding in Christ and entering into the rest Christ had purchased. This is interesting since many people can quote verses, doctrines, and theologies. But they lack the critical step of faith in Christ, apart from any other external activity. I sincerely pray that he will realize Christ is enough and the payment has already been made in full. He just needs to reach out by faith and lay hold of the promises in scripture. May we all return to the simplicity of trusting in Christ alone. What are your thoughts?

29 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

It was heartbreaking to read of a professing Christian who had absolutely no understanding of the Gospel.

That really is tragic.

God Bless

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, would you say this man was saved and didn't know it?

What do the rest of you think?

jazzycat said...

Jim,
You did a great job of witnessing to someone who was trusting in his own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Christ that is received by faith alone. I noticed you told him to 'trust Christ to save us.' This trust is the active part of faith that goes beyond the mere mental assent belief that the demons have according to James. Saving faith consists of knowledge, mental assent, and trust. This man had an awareness of his sin, need for repentance, and of the forgiveness that is available in Christ. He was just unable to connect the dots to the point of realizing that justification comes by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. You not only brought him to that point, but you did it by letting him respond to your leading rather than trying to push him to the right conclusion. Great work.

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Jazzycat,

This shows me that it takes the Holy Spirit to connect the dots. We can know the theology, but until He illuminates our darkness it remains simply objective truth.

jazzycat said...

Jim,
Amen to that brother Jim. That sounds very much like a Calvinism view to me. This is not unusual in evangelism and also prayer.

They way you conversed with that young man shows that you do have a gift for evangelism.

Jazzycat

Rose~ said...

It is a shame that people are being told such things that lead them into this kind of confusion.
I am so glad that the witness who God sent to me said nothing of a faith that "works" or of a complete surrender to Jesus. He just told me "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." He told me all about what Jesus had done for me and that I could offer Him absolutely nothing; He wanted to give something to me! What a wonderful gospel.

I am sorry for the confusion that this poor young man has had. It saddened me reading it, until the very end. I am thankful God sent you his way and that the Holy Spirit is active in the world today, illuminating man.

Thank you for sharing this!

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jim
If that was what he had always believed, he was a lost man.

Jazzycat
"Saving faith consists of knowledge, mental assent, and trust."

I agree. However, I do not think those three things can be separated. If I know that Jesus Christ has given me eternal life, then I am trusting in Him for eternal life.

If I have mentally assented (I actually do not like that term, as it seems to imply you can chose to believe something) to the propostion of Christ's savign work, then I know it to be true.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
I think our debate comes down to action as part of the definition. I would like to offer the following analogy to saving faith and the results of a true faith..........

Suppose a medical doctor was practicing on a backward isolated island where the people’s knowledge of medicine was non-existent. Then say a native complained to the doctor that his head was always aching and the doctor determined that it was just a chronic headache problem. The doctor explained to him that he would freely give him two aspirin tablets that would cure his headache. At this point the native had knowledge of the cure but he did not believe it to be true. So, the doctor brought another native into the room that testified that he also had the same problem, took aspirin, and was cured. The native now had the knowledge that aspirin would cure a headache and also assented that it was true. However, he still had the headache. He needed to take the final step of receiving and resting his hope by taking the two free aspirin tablets from the doctor. At this point his knowledge, assent, and trust worked together to receive and apply the free aspirin that did cure his headache. There were no works required and his gratitude to the doctor was so great that he believed the doctor in other matters as well. Since his cure was absolutely free, he began to show his affection and appreciation by voluntarily serving the doctor in anyway that he could. This service to the doctor did not earn the free cure that was already his, but resulted or flowed from a cured body and joyful heart.

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Jazzcat, thanks for the encouragement.

Jim said...

Rose, I think there are two distinct points here. First being the offer of salvation is free to all who receive...no strings attached and nothing required but simple faith. I wonder how many people actually ever hear the simplicity of the gospel message.

The second is the call to discipleship. Not all believers will unfortunately heed this call and surrender all to Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road and confusion creeps in. Many have falsely assumed that someone who is unwilling to become a disciple is in fact unsaved.

If we could only see the two I think a lot of questions would be answered.

Jim said...

Matthew, while this man may indeed be saved it is not my place or position to grant him that assurance. Considering his lack of confidence in being with Christ for eternity, my job is to bring Him scriptures declaring the sufficiency of Christ's work alone in our salvation.

Once the Holy Spirit reveals this mystery, he will rejoice and affirm his trust in Christ alone. I am then free to call him my brother and fellowship with him as such.

Matthew, do you have an example of a person that trusted Jesus for eternal life, having no clue as to His character and person?

Daniel said...

would you say this man was saved and didn't know it?

Hope I am not to late to add my two cents.

How does that proverb go? "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished."

For some reason I thought of that when I began to post. ;-)

It is significant that even though the fellow was familiar with Christian language, he seemed unable to articulate the gospel. Most of us will concede that out trusting in Christ to save us from our sins and to grant us eternal life didn't happen to us "unawares" as it were. That is, I don't think a person can be saved by a gospel they have never comprehended in the first place. This doesn't leave us much room in our conclusion - the young man, unless he suffered head trauma since his conversion, if he had understood and obeyed the gospel should be able to articulate it clearly. The gospel is not confusing or vague, and it seems to me that this young man was confused, and his understanding of the gospel vague.

I would say therefore that my suspicion is that this fellow was not saved. Yet I don't rule out the possibility that at some point he may well have understood the gospel in it's simplicity, but later come under the instruction of someone who taught him that the gospel was more than he had heard - and being a babe spiritually, was impressed by such doctrine to the point that he no longer felt himself to be saved except that he performs some vague feat, whatever that may be - such that at this time he is so confused that he no longer is sure of what saved him.

What I am saying is that I leave room for that possibility - whatever the case - be he lost previously, or just very confused - yet from the conversation as you record it, I believe the Lord led you for your part in it.

My opinion therefore is that he probably wasn't saved, having never really understood the gospel, and if he had been saved - he was quite confused.

Jim said...

Daniel, you are never too late. I must say, I agree completely with your diagnosis of this man's condition.

We as christians are very poor in articulating the gospel that saves us. I think if you were to ask many christians what and how they are saved, the answers might surprise you.

Thanks for the input, I think you nailed this one again.

In Christ,
Jim

Daniel said...

Jim, I think some imagine that when a Calvinist speaks of repentance in regards to saving faith - that the Calvinist is suggesting that in order to be saved a man must change his own spots first. Such a notion is rightly condemned, because it doesn't reflect Calvinism at all - but is in fact only the cartoonish "straw man" that they hang the Calvinist sign on before they beat the stuffing out of it.

If I, or another Calvinist, speaks of that repentance which precedes/accompanies salvation, we are not talking about a man cleaning himself up in order to believe. We are talking about the change of heart that is granted by God in order for a man to believe in the gospel. There is none who seek God, God has to draw them. The Calvinist understands that God grants the unbeliever grace in order for that unbeliever to become a believer - this "grace" is a change of heart - a desire to give one's life to God that cannot be generated by the flesh. When this quickened heart commits itself to God in faith - it is the first act of repentance, and it happens at the moment a genuine believer believes.

So when the Calvinist speaks of the repentance that accompanies salvation - they are not talking about a work that they do prior to, or during the moment of justification - they are talking about a gift God has given - they are describing an aspect of God's grace.

The problems start when someone says that you can be saved and have no fruit at all.

The Calvinist argues that this is an impossibility since justification began with fruit bearing (repentance). Even the most carnal believer came to Christ the King on his knees - a surrender that God himself orchestrated, initiated, empowered, and brought to fruition. The idea (therefore) that a person can enter into the kingdom some other way is preposterous.

I think a lot of the flak directed at Calvinism is just a misunderstanding of what they mean - I could be wrong - but your mention (Jim) of understanding the difference between salvation and sanctification reminded me of that.

Jim said...

but is in fact only the cartoonish "straw man" that they hang the Calvinist sign on before they beat the stuffing out of it.

I think this could be said for many different labels. But you are right, there are some who would rather pound a straw man than debate man to man a coherent contradicting argument.

If our desire is for truth and reality, we will find unity in Christ. If not, our divisiveness will soon be obvious.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jazzycat, that analogy is inadequate. It is simply faith itself that appropriates Christ's work.

A more appropriate analogy would be with a magic medicine that heals you if you believe it can heal you without even taking it.

A person has eternal life if she believes that she has eternal life through Jesus Christ. There is no intermediate step.

Jim,
I cannot give any real examples, but that does not prove such a circumstance could not happen.

Of course, it is highly possible that the Samaritan woman in John 4 was completely ignorant of Christ's person, but this is cannot be proven.

If there is some official list of what a person needs to believe to be saved, tell us what it is and where it can be found.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, I think this discussion is possibly simply a semantic one.

Their is an implicit understanding of who Jesus is in the accounts of people coming to Christ.

Both John 17:3 and 20:31 tie the understanding of who Christ is to believing in promise of eternal life.

Even the Ethiopian Eunuch confessed his belief in Jesus Christ being the Son of God.

God bless,
Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Son of God has a number of meanings in the Bible as it did in the ancient near east.

When the NT speaks of believing in Christ as the Son of God, there is no indication that the title is meant in a Trinitarian fashion. Rather, it speaks of His messianic role in providing eternal life.

John 11 makes this clear:

25 "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26 and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."

Believing that Christ is th Resurrection and the Life (the provider of eternal life) is to affirm the salvific necessity of believing that He is the Son of God.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, I am failing to completely follow what you are saying here? But I do believe we agree on the basic premise of belief in Christ Jesus for eternal life.

Kc said...

I thank God for you and your witness. I really am blessed and encouraged in reading this.

Shawn L said...

Jim,

Wow what a tragic story in many ways, but thankfully you told him to turn to Christ.....

I do hope and pray this man turns to Christ.

As for your other concerns about sometimes there are Christians without discipleship, I don't agree with that premise. That is as tragic to deny to me in other ways as what you are seeing in this lost man's confusion about coming to Christ on his own merit.

jazzycat said...

Jim,
You said............
(The second is the call to discipleship. Not all believers will unfortunately heed this call and surrender all to Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road and confusion creeps in. Many have falsely assumed that someone who is unwilling to become a disciple is in fact unsaved.)

This relates to those questions I asked you and I am so curious about. What do they say about curosity and the cat...

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Shawn, I hope so as well.

As for not all believers becoming disciples, please explain why you find this unreasonable. I think scripture is very clear on this premise.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Jazzycat, thanks for your patience and continued reminders. I do intend to address this issue.

I am perplexed still as to where the misunderstanding lies in our thinking here.

Perhaps you could attempt an answer at my question to Shawn.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

KC, there is a thrill and excitement in presenting the gospel.

It is too bad I am a chicken most of the time. May God deliver me from my pride.

Bless you brother,
Jim

jazzycat said...

Jim,
Many places in Scripture but 1 John 1:6-7 and indeed all of 1 John points to discipleship and salvation being joined as a unit.

That is why I think the better question is to explain your position by answering the three questions I posed.

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Sigh...Ok Jazzy, I will try to get those answers up soon.

I just hoped you would have given me a credible answer.

1 John 1:6-7 refers to fellowship, not discipleship.

In fact all of 1 John refers to the conditions for fellowship. If I as a believer harbour unconfessed sin, my fellowship with the Father will be severely restricted.

Antonio said...

I wish I would have gotten involved with this comment thread sooner. I just discovered that you had begun to post again.

Too much now to comment on, as I have great contentions with both Daniel and Jazzy.

Antonio

Jim said...

Antonio, I for one still appreciate you.

Thanks for dropping and feel free to leave a comment whenever you deem it appropriate.

I personally am trying to find the bottom of these contentions...God have mercy on those teachers who have muddied the waters with strange doctrines.

God bless,
Jim