When you are a visitor to a church, or you get a visit from a pastor or Christian group, what is the main thing you feel like they are trying to do for you? Get you saved. But some people can feel totally spooked out, and even resentful that someone who doesn't know them, and seemingly has no personal feelings or care for them at all, can just tell them how their disbelief and evil ways are going to make them burn in hell forever, having shown them no personal worth, love, or heartfelt concern before slamming them; never letting them see the true heart or plan behind everything Jesus has done for them.
And on top of that, you have people with lack of real knowledge in Scriptures—or those with knowledge but wanting to push a false agenda—who will tell you that God doesn't even love people like (partiers, failures, cheaters, homosexuals)—that God hates certain sinful people. So, some with good intentions, and some with purely deceiving intentions, paint God's Plan of Salvation poorly. Even many with balanced beliefs, who are already walking with Christ, often believe there are two basic things that will cause you to miss Salvation: 1) You believe there is no God 2) You have committed sin. We make God cheap and legalistic with these kinds of simple answers—answers not worthy of an Awesome God.
Let's look at this first statement:"If you don't believe in God!" Obviously, we have to believe there is a God, in order to follow. But there are a couple of things so ignored or overlooked in this thought. First, God would not hold anyone accountable for something they could not control, right? Therefore, He would not condemn you for something that you truly wanted to accept, but just could not believe: Romans 1:18-20. With the depth of knowledge that has been acquired in biology, astronomy, archeology, and others, the reasoning that all of creation points to a Creator has not decreased, but massively increased. Showing unfathomable intricacy, information, and even coded language in the smallest of single living cells; showing even these single cells to be cities of activity, filled with programmed machinery, all working together, all necessary at once, not piecemeal) to build life from a pre-existing blueprint of DNA; and our whole Universe giving great evidence of an ultimate beginning; and showing a pattern of, "order to chaos", and "pure energy to heat death"; just as Scriptures described all of creation after the curse: Romans 8:20-22. We can see the overwhelming evidence clearer than ever, that the intelligence behind creation's designs is obvious. Because something that requires intricate design, and involving many individual parts, working in simultaneous and unified action, following coded information equivalent to language, in order to succeed, shows distinct purpose, and distinct purpose proves intent, and intent shows intelligence. Scripturally speaking and literally speaking, no one lacks faith in God because they just can't believe; they choose to reject the idea based on their desire, or their belief is darkened and taken away as they continue to reject the thought: Romans 1:21-22. How many who say they just can't believe right now would investigate with all their heart, on their own, the evidence of God? And then, promise to follow that evidence for life, no matter where it leads them; no matter what it costs in their lives right now? If not, then don't ever say again, "I just can't believe...", because you are acting on more faith than you are saying that I have right now. The second horrible mistake that many people make concerning, "Belief in God" is just the opposite. Many people share the sentiment that “I believe there is a God, and I think I'm a pretty good person, so I'm probably OK, don't you think?" James 2:19 Belief doesn't mean just knowing He exists, any more than belief that a beautiful girl exists, makes her your wife; belief, means so much more: Acts 16:30-31. (pisteuo) This is a far cry from simple belief in existence. God doesn't just want you to know He is there, He wants you to see that He is Trustworthy, Faithful, crazy about you, and that He wants to be your everything. Belief is not a head problem, it is a purposeful choice of the heart, which can be darkened and blinded by a passion to put self in charge; by a passion to see what we want to see, against all evidence. And simple, intellectual, "belief" is not all God wants at all, but a deep trust and connection with Him as your God, your Beloved, your King, worthy of your commitment to Him.
The next major reason quoted to us, as to why we are going to hell, rather than be with Christ, is that we have sinned.
This is even backed by Scriptures: Romans 3:23. Many will immediately, and (I must say at first) with seeming justification think, how fair is it that a God could punish me for eternity, based upon my behavior for just a few years on this earth? That sounds kind of imbalanced. And if He is so loving, why doesn't He love me the way I am? Why do I have to change who I am to please Him? I don't need a God like that. If you've ever had these thoughts—stop right now and open your heart and your mind. Why punish for eternity over a few sins, and a few years? 1) We think, "Eternal punishment for a short time?" The very opposite is actually true. God asked us to think less of self and serve Him and others with our lives for just a very few years, and in exchange we can have countless time and possessions given to us, yet most of us are not willing to put self aside for even a few years on His behalf. How on earth could He expect us to use eternity any better? It's like asking a child to behave for five minutes and you'll take them to Disney World for a week, and they simply refuse. Do you really think they will behave in Disney World? Do they deserve the reward? Luke 16:10. What would Paradise be like with your present attitude, if He did let you in? If you and I can grow that selfish and sinful in a few years on this planet, what would we become if He allowed our attitude to cultivate and grow for eternity? If we show our true heart in a few short years, it is all that is needed to know that we do not belong with Him for an eternity. 2) If He is such a Loving God, why doesn't He love me just as I am? Why do I have to change to be loved? I hear this constantly anymore; it is one of the number one movements in our society today—this attitude victimizes the person and villianizes God whether it be lust and adultery, homosexuality, drinking and drugs—can’t He love me if I want to get a divorce? If I want this lifestyle? If I like to party a little? If you've ever felt this way, consider these next few moments very seriously: Matthew 5:43-45. First of all, if God commands that we love those who oppose us, do wrong, sin—do you think that He would do the same? Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 4:10. So Jesus loved all of us, even when we were all against Him; even when we didn't love Him back; even when we were stuck in our own sinful ways, enough to give His life to have our love in return. Luke 23:33-34. Did Jesus even love the people who were literally torturing and killing Him enough to beg the Father to forgive them for what they were doing? How dare anyone purposefully try to make God look like He doesn't love every person, just as they are, just where they are. So, you might ask: "If He loves me just as I am, why should I have to change?" 1) because He is wiser and more loving than you, and if He has a way that He says is better, believe it. He designed you and I; He knows what will bring us more happiness and meaning. Have the world's ways worked? Trust Him. 2) because there is not a single thing He asks us to do that is not ultimately a show of love for Him or others. 3) real love will always involve change—as we do things to please and join as one with someone we love. Why doesn't Jesus have to change? Why doesn't He have to give up things for me? Why doesn't He have to be disliked? First, He's God. He's Wise, He's All Powerful—you're not. He made the Universe. You might think you could do better, but you don't have a Universe. Second, even though He is God, and owes no one anything, He did change. From all powerful, all worshiped, comfortable God, to a lowly, poor, uneducated, mocked Man on earth. He did have to give things up; He traded joy and fellowship with His Father and all in Heaven, for sorrow, grief, anxiety, fear, misery and death. He did not have to be disowned, disliked, and looked down upon. He was double-crossed, abandoned by every friend He had made, rejected by the very people that said they were His followers. And finally, even rejected by the Father Himself, in our place, so you and I would never have to feel that rejection, no matter what we had done. So, He did change for you. He did give up things for you. He was disliked and abandoned for you. Therefore, the question is not, and never has been "Why doesn't God love me like I am?" He absolutely does. The only question is: "Do you love Him back enough to change for Him?" If He, in His wisdom and love, asks you to do something, He's not asking you to do anything He hasn't already done for you. Real love requires action. Always. By giving up things that Jesus calls sin, you are showing your love for Him is greater than love for self. You are showing that you trust Him, believe in Him, want to love His way, because you can never beat or leave any sin that has become a part of who you are, unless you love something or Someone more than self, unless you see a Worth greater than self or that sin. Will you live perfectly sinless? No way; not until we all learn to love perfectly. But, He sees the desire in your heart to please Him, and love others, and that makes you perfect to Him.
Let's go back to the original verse which said, our sin is what sends us to hell: Romans 3:23. Listen to the very next continuing verses 24-25. In the end, you won't go to hell for a single sin you have committed, ever! (Did you get that?) Your sins were already covered by One that loved you when you didn't even love Him back. He doesn't see black, white, rich, poor, kind, mean, abuser, adulterer, lesbian, holy, Methodist, Baptist--He sees two kinds of people: those who love Him and accept Him in return; those who reject Him, and love self, even after all He did to save them. He simply wants you to love Him back; believe in Him and His sacrifice for you. And it's not that some of you can't believe—you won't believe. You will reject His love and all He's done—by choice.
God stands before you now, broken, bloodied, judged on your behalf—saying just love me as I have loved you. And some of you have the audacity to say, "I don't need you, or your love; you don't even love me, you just judge me. I want my way, I don't need Your perfect plan. Just go away." So, He will go away--that is why you will be lost. One day very soon, the tides will turn, and we will be standing before this Warrior King, who laid down His armor and died for us; but now, we will stand broken before Him in Judgment, and if you are condemned by Him, it won't be because you sinned too much, or you just couldn’t believe—this is what you will hear: Luke 13:27-28.
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