© 2006 by Martin Zender
Paperback. 80 pages. 20 illustrations.
Human belief is a gift of God that acquaints people with something God already did. People do have faith, and they do have wills, but the believing and the willing originated outside themselves. Belief is a gift that follows salvation; it does not precede it. So no one should think: I did it! The startling result?
WE ARE NOT SAVED BECAUSE WE BELIEVE; WE BELIEVE BECAUSE WE ARE SAVED.
One of the most popular statements in the Christian religion today is, "Jesus saves." By itself, this statement is true. As presented by the Christian religion, however, it is hypocrisy packaged in a false expression. If Jesus saves, then why is salvation presented as a challenge? Why is it put forth as the result of a wise decision? Why do ministers at altar calls tell people to come down and "get saved?" Why is the exercise of the human will advertised as the all-important thing? What, exactly, saves? Is it Jesus or will power? I think this is an important question.
We probe beneath Satan’s promises of a "well-message" (that is, of a "gospel"), to see what we find. What we find is uncleanness, hypocrisy, and lawlessness. We find the bones of dead doctrine. We find a disgusting pile of death. We must appropriate the attempt Christ made to save us. And so Christ is not the mighty Savior of whitewash advertising, but rather the weak end of a formula that requires our vital contribution.
We, as hopeful seekers, walk away shaking our heads. It all sounded so good; it looked so beautiful. But it was just another heap of bones, another challenge to overcome our own sinning selves. We must somehow summon the energy to become worthy of Christ’s work. Alas, there is "still one sin which will send us to hell," and it is our own human inability, the same millstone that has plagued us from birth. The result? We perceive God now as a hypocrite. He has wonderful ideas, but He cannot follow through on them. We are turned from Christ to seek another religion, one that will not lie to us.
And Satan smiles.
Christians liken salvation to God giving you a gift. "But it’s just like any other gift," they say. "You have to accept it." This is the favorite Christian analogy for describing salvation. I’ve heard it a million times. It’s their dearest pet. "When someone gives you a gift," Christians say, "you can either accept or reject it." I will admit that this is a suitable analogy for Christmas and birthdays, but as a picture of salvation through Christ, it fails completely. It’s all wrong. Here is an analogy of salvation through Christ.
In the ninth chapter of Acts, an extremely stubborn and helpless-to-save-himself person named Saul of Tarsus is en route to Damascus to arrest and kill Christians. Before he could even say, "Praise the Lord," Saul was on the ground beholding Christ’s glory. This was not a general invitation to fall off a horse. Saul (Paul) wrote later: "The grace of our Lord overwhelms" (1 Timothy 1:14). "Overwhelms" reminds me of Niagara Falls. A person walking out from under the falls would not need to make a decision whether or not to get wet.
If you believe in either the annihilation or eternal torment of unbelievers (unbelievers such as your Uncle Horace, for instance) then you have encountered a serious problem. I have just shown from the Scriptures that God is responsible, not only for withholding Himself from Uncle Horace, but also for locking up Horace in stubbornness. Now look around you. The world is an oblate spheroid from the weight of people like your Uncle Horace; the spiritually stubborn account for most of humanity. My question to you is: what happens to these people when they die in this condition? You say that everyone gets an opportunity to believe, in this life, before God sends them to hell for eternity. Hm. Let’s test this theory.