What Was That? Dept. (With Comments)

The following are statements certain pastors make. They’re taken from several messages, from different times and occasions (e.g., Sunday morning sermon, memorial service, etc.). 

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“God gives all men at least one chance to accept Christ.”

“God/Jesus loves us so much. He wants to enter into our hearts. But if your hearts are filled with sin, he cannot come in.”

“We must first confess our sins before God. He will forgive us when we confess everything to him.  When our hearts have been cleansed, Jesus will come rushing in. Then we will be born again.”

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If you notice, there is very little that can be supported by Scripture. There is also very little [that can be said was] taken from scripture. My comments are in italics.

“God gives all men at least one chance to accept Christ.”

This is problematic on the face of it. What do we mean by “all men?” Does the phrase include people living in China in the first century? Does it include men in Africa or the Aborigines in Australia in 30AD? Using more recent examples, what about the souls today who die without ever hearing the name of Christ being preached? If we go by what Operation World and similar organizations tell us, there’s still a significant number of them. Did God give them a chance?* 

I once talked to a brother in the Lord about this, and the response I got was, “See, that is why God is sending YOU and I to do missions work.” Which, frankly, completely misses the point. It still doesn’t help the 160 or so people who died while that brother’s reply/sentence was being analyzed and spoken. 

If you go by the logic of things, God is either desperately trying to woo people and failing at it in many cases, or he does not give all men (meaning every individual who has ever lived or is living on this planet) a “chance.” (Let’s not even go to the topic of people who die in their infancy.)

Verses like John 6:44 tell us that we cannot come to Christ unless enabled by the Father. And passages like Acts 16 (Paul’s dream) indicate that God is selective in dispensing his particular favor (grace).  Even considering 2 Corinthians 5:20 and Acts 17:30: These passages are dependent on Christ’s finished work on the cross; they don’t say that God gives all men a chance. 

“God/Jesus loves us so much. He wants to enter into our hearts. But if your hearts are filled with sin, he cannot come in.”

Ok, this is a bit harder to comprehend. I think it comes from Rev. 3:20, where Jesus is standing outside the door and knocking. Of course, it’s quite a stretch to say that he’s knocking on the door of your heart, since the Bible neither says nor implies the door is the door of the heart. In fact, the Bible never mentions the heart at all in that verse! As to our hearts being filled with sin that he cannot come in… Isn’t this supposed to be the Almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ who CONQUERED sin by his death and resurrection? If he carried the whole weight of sin of the world on his shoulders, then why is he suddenly powerless over ONE person’s sinless heart?

Or are we going to argue that man’s free will (whatever the heck that is) supersedes God’s will? “I so desperately want to save you, but you won’t let me! You won’t open the door of your heart to me! Boo-hoo, sob-sob!”

“We must first confess our sins before God. He will forgive us when we confess everything to him.  When our hearts have been cleansed, Jesus will come rushing in. Then we will be born again.”

Two things: Yes, we need to confess our sins. We need to do so regularly. And the true confession is always hand in hand with repentance (a change of the heart). We confess our sins because they are a slap in the face of an infinitely holy and righteous God. Does that mean that we need to confess ALL our sins? Do you remember all your sins? I don’t. But sometimes (and I believe that this is the work of God’s Holy Spirit) we are reminded of a sin that we did in the distant past. If we are in Christ, then the sin has been paid for. Do we need still to confess it? Yes, I believe so, but only in light of thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us. (“Father, I remember insulting that man twelve years ago. Thank you that in Christ that that sin is covered by his blood. Please help me not to insult anyone again, because to do so would not be in line with your will for me, to be more like Christ.”) Of course it would be a great thing if you sought out the person you insulted and asked for his forgiveness too. Show him in love the new life in Christ you have been given. Maybe that’s why God reminded you. =)

Second: Being born again (or born from above) has nothing to do with Christ “rushing in” to our hearts. I’m not even sure if that can be imagined, like Christ was some sort of Road Runner or Wile E. Cayote running all over the place. Being born again is being given new life. Some people believe faith comes first and then a person is regenerated. If, like me, you believe that regeneration precedes faith, then the statement of “being born again after Christ comes rushing in,” is plainly comical. (Sincere, yes, but still comical.) We are first “born again”–we who are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) are given a new life, new nature. Our spiritual eyes are opened so that we will see our need for a Savior. Only then can we exercise faith in Christ Jesus. When we exercise faith (which is also God’s gift by the way) then we are justified before God for Christ’s sake. (I’m speaking as if an objective observer can actually time everything with a stopwatch, but while what I’ve described above has a logical sequence, it can’t be measured chronologically. Something my seminary professor said.)

Hope this helps.

Sayonara.

*While “clues” were given in the Old Testament (Abraham’s ram in a thicket, Isaiah’s suffering servant, etc.) Strictly speaking, the knowledge of Christ (including details of his ministry, death, burial, and resurrection) were realized at a certain point in time and in a certain location (first century Palestine). That fact has logical and practical consequences.

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