While I appreciate the fact that you're
thinking of me, I don't appreciate the
tone of your last letter. Needless to
say--and I'll be blunt--I was offended.
Your view is not only extreme, but it
threatens Christian unity. Your
rebuke--and yes, I took it that way--was
unreasonable. Perhaps you expect me to
live like a hermit, isolated from the
world; the world you seem to describe
with such distaste. I frankly don't see the
need for your brand of "[H]oliness", where
extreme separation is a way of life. Your
repeated use of the term "worldly" was
both unkind and divisive. You see a need
for separation, where such a need is
unnecessary. Have you forgotten that
God created the very world you are
trying to shun? I suspect this is not the
last time I will hear of this, considering
how persistent you are. But I must warn
you: no matter how many more verses
you send, I will not be convinced. In the
end, it is God who will judge us both. It is
Him to whom I must ultimately be
accountable. And I strongly suspect that
He is not the extreme separatist you
seem to be. In fact, maybe you should get
to know God better; perhaps then you
won't be at the mercy of another
culture's extreme, outdated view. May
God show you the error of your way. I,
naturally, have already forgiven you.
Still your friend,
MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND, the opening
letter you just read is fictitious. Its
controversy could just as well have
been "works vs. faith", eternal security, infant
baptism, or any of the other Bible doctrines
born-again Christians often find themselves
disputing or defending--the doctrine itself is not
the issue here.
The letter is designed to illustrate that the
core of a person's resistance to a given Bible
doctrine is sometimes a false notion about God.
The God behind the doctrine . . .
Suppose you encounter someone who strongly
believes that he must earn his way into Heaven.
The Bible says that person is practicing a
Therefore, you show him that the Bible DOES
NOT teach a "works" salvation; the Bible
teaches salvation is by faith in the finished work
of Jesus Christ.
You tell him that no one can pay for his/her own
sins by doing "good works." That is why Jesus
Christ paid the price for our sins. He shed His
blood on the cross on our behalf.
You show him that Christ did all the work, so
He does all the saving! You even show him
where the Bible says "NOT BY WORKS of
righteousness which we have done, but
according to his mercy he saved us." Titus 3:5
"For by grace are ye SAVED THROUGH
FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift
of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should
boast." Eph. 2:8,9
And yet, in spite of all the other verses you may
show him, he is still unconvinced. Why?
THE FIRST VERSE that pops into your mind
is probably: "In whom the god of this
world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of
them which believe not" (2 Cor. 4:4). And there
is no denying this truth. However, there are
many ways the devil can blind a person's mind.
Sometimes, all it takes is a subtle mis-
understanding, a misconception, a false notion,
an erroneous assumption that blinds the
person's mind by obscuring the truth. And one
false notion that often blinds is an erroneous
perception of God.
"Their land also is full of idols; they
worship the work of their own hands,
that which their own fingers
have made." Isa. 2:8
Christian, we could just as well apply the above
verse to the topic at hand. We can say: "Their
minds also are full of false notions; they worship
the God of their own perception, that which
their own minds have conceived."
A person's perception of what God is like will
directly affect his belief in what he thinks is
right; his God becomes the God behind his
Furthermore, how that person views God
determines the standard by which he feels he
will ultimately be judged. In other words, while
many people, who "believe in God," believe that
they will be accountable to Him, the God of the
Bible is normally not the God they readily
conceive. Thus, the God of the Bible is not the
God they feel they will have to answer to. Their
accountability is to a God of their own
conceiving. Therefore, they reason, why should
they be accountable to the Bible?
Is it any wonder so many religious people refuse
to heed what the Bible teaches? To them the
Bible is NOT representing their personal
conception of God! However, to the true child of
God, God and His Word are INSEPARABLE! The
Scriptures are the very words of God; they
reflect His character. To the born-again
Christian, it only makes sense that God would
give us His Words and reveal His desires to us.
God is light; He doesn't operate in the dark:
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime
were WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING, that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures
might have hope." Rom .15:4
The God of the Bible
does all the "good works" . . .
To the Christian, it's perfectly reasonable that
God would reveal His plan of salvation. God paid
an enormous price to redeem us from sin.
Therefore, it is not "out of character" for God to
not only tell us how to get saved, but actually
do the saving for us!
To those who know something about God's
character, the free gift of salvation by faith
makes perfect sense! It's the God we know,
acting in accordance with His character. The
God of the Bible is the God behind the doctrine
of salvation by faith.
But if a person views God as "outright
demanding," then naturally, they will assume
that salvation must be earned; a demanding God
demands good works. You can show such a
person every verse describing salvation as a free
gift offered by a gracious God, but in that
person's mind a gracious act is "out of
character" for a demanding God.
To that person, a demanding God wouldn't be
so non-demanding as to expect him to do
nothing toward getting saved. Therefore,
salvation by faith would be totally out of
character with that person's personal view of
God. You can well imagine how a discussion
could ensue for hours as one person tries to
convince the other of correct Bible doctrine,
while all along the two people have opposite
views of what God is like. Often, lying at the
root of many doctrinal arguments is an
erroneous view of God that is never addressed.
Refer back to the opening letter . . .
Eric, the offended writer, conceives that God is
a unifier; a God who loves unity, at all costs.
The idea of God wanting separation of any kind
is "out of character" with Eric's God. We can
see this in his statements: "I strongly suspect
that He [God] is not the extreme
separatist you seem to be."
Now, please notice the subtle implication here:
Eric assumes that separation is Matthew's idea
and not God's. And since Matthew's doctrine is
Matthew's idea, Eric is confident that he will
ultimately be right with God because, as he puts
it, "In the end, it is God who will judge us
both. It is Him to whom I must
ultimately be accountable."
Eric's accountability is to his own erroneously
conceived God. Eric can't lose! He will rarely be
out of line because his actions and beliefs will
often be acceptable to his God.
For example, maybe Eric's God doesn't mind
him taking a drink once in a while, or maybe Eric
conceives of a God who understands his sexual
urges, and tolerates him fooling around once in
a while. Therefore, any Bible verses condemning
alcohol or fornication would not concern Eric.
You can see how Eric could conceivably justify
any sin. What Eric can or cannot get away with,
is tied directly to Eric's perception of the God
behind the rules. And as soon as anyone comes
along with rules that sound "out of character"
with Eric's God, Eric will assume those rules
must be the person's own belief. Toward the
end of the opening letter, Eric assumes that the
Old Testament Jews were behind the doctrine of
separation. Eric assumed that separation from
worldliness was a "cultural" attitude, and not a
mandate from God--Eric's perception of God!
That's why Eric wrote: "Maybe you should
get to know God better; perhaps then, you
won't be at the mercy of another culture's
extreme, outdated view." Of course, the God
Eric wants Matthew to know better is Eric's
own non-biblical god!
So what's the solution?
Christian, we should readily be aware of any
underlying false notions of God. It is so easy for
us to assume that everyone we witness to has
the right Biblical view of God. We can easily get
caught in a lengthy debate, trying to convince
someone of the proper doctrine, when all along
the real misconception goes unaddressed--their
personal false notion of the God behind the
Therefore, when a lengthy debate ensues,
STOP! Change the subject to God Himself. Ask
the person you are dealing with what they think
God is like.
For example, if the topic is separation, ask
them if they feel God is a separatist. The person
will probably say no. If that's the case, then
show them that the God of the Bible desires that
we separate from worldliness because "If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not
in him" (1 John 2:15). Show him/her that
separation is in character with God. Use this
same approach with any other doctrinal debate.
But be ye warned!
Child of God, this requires that you know God
even more than you do now. You will have to
learn more about His character in order to show
someone when something is "out of character."
This means more time spent in God's Word!
IF you were to die today, are you 100% SURE
you would go to Heaven? The Bible says
YOU CAN BE SURE (1 John 5:13).
BUT FIRST, you must realize that what keeps you
from going to Heaven are your sins, because:
"...your iniquities [sins] have separated
between you and your God," Isaiah 59:2.
In fact, in God's eyes YOU ARE A SINNER: "For
all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God;" Romans 3:23.
SECONDLY, you must realize that there is
NOTHING you can do to save yourself and earn
Heaven: "For by grace are ye saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves: it is
the gift of God: Not of works, lest any
man should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) Baptism, good
deeds, church membership, self-righteousness are
all examples of good works that cannot save you,
because, "Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but
according to his mercy he [Christ] saved
us," Titus 3:5.
THE ONLY WAY you can get saved is through
Jesus Christ. He said: "I am the way, the
truth, and the life: no man cometh unto
the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) THAT'S
WHY: "...while we were yet sinners, Christ
died for us." Romans 5:8-9
THEREFORE: You must REPENT (change your
mind); admit that you are a Hell deserving sinner
and can't save yourself. And call upon Christ, and
Him alone, to save you. "if thou shalt confess
with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [REPENT], and
shalt believe in thine heart [TRUST] that God
hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved." Romans 10:9
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