John knows that the bus is about to leave, but he refuses to step out of the shelter and into the rain to do what it takes to get on the bus. As the bus drives away, Bob, who’s just coming into the shelter, tries his hand at small talk. "I hope that wasn’t your bus" he says with more of a giggle than a laugh. John cheerfully and with surprising confidence says, "Actually that was my bus. I’m on my way."
"What do you mean you’re on your way? You’re still here."
"Nope. I’m on the bus," counters John.
"You sound very sincere in your beliefs," Bob says politely, "but how can you be here, and on the bus at the same time?"
"Well, I’m not sure," ponders John. "I just know that I must be on the bus because a loving bus driver would never leave me standing in hellish weather when he knows that I want to go to the Shopping Mall at the end of his route."
"Did you make any effort to accept the ride that was being offered by the bus driver?"
"No, not really. But I didn’t cause any trouble while I was standing in this shelter either. That’s why I get to be on the bus - because I’m an example of a respectful, decent bus passenger."
"But to be a bus passenger, even a decent bus passenger, you have to actually do what it takes to get on a bus!"
"You’re too narrow-minded Bob. In my belief system, if the bus driver loves me, he’ll ensure that I simply appear at the mall, even if I don’t want to ride with him."
It’s difficult to believe that anyone could be as deluded as John. On the other hand, you’ve probably heard someone comment - "A loving God would never allow a good person to go to hell when He knows that person would want to go to heaven." This thought process is more like childhood fantasy than adult reason.
The belief system of those who tell God what He can and cannot do, seems to go something like this. As long as I try to be a good person, and as long as I’m not as bad as some other people that I know, I can choose to worship any god of my own creation, or no god at all. I can decide whether God is right or wrong on any given topic, based on popular opinion. Not only can I dabble in Buddhism or Native religion, I can praise others for inventing their own ‘spirituality’, and still expect Jesus to say to me, "That’s OK. Even though you’ve rejected My offer of salvation, and encouraged your children to reject Me also, I’m going to ignore your desire to live without Me during your life on earth, and make you live with Me in heaven for eternity."
No doubt, this kind of wishful thinking is very appealing. The difficult reality is, heaven and hell are Christian (taught by Jesus) concepts. You cannot be a Christian and not be a Christian at the same time. And the fact is, trying to be a good person does not make someone a Christian. If that were the case, then there would be Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and even atheists who were Christians. There is no logic to that kind of thinking.
A Christian is someone who believes and acts upon what Jesus Christ taught about Himself, about life, death, sin, forgiveness and the resurrection (His and ours). Jesus taught that a follower of His is a person who depends upon Jesus alone for salvation. He taught that a Christian is someone who depends upon what Jesus calls His Word (The Bible), and upon His Spirit for guidance and strength in daily living.
Beyond that definition, the single biggest difference between what Jesus taught and what other religious leaders have taught, is that Jesus made it perfectly clear that there is nothing that we can DO to merit salvation. If we could earn our salvation, then Jesus died for nothing!
All other religions, and even some cults that call themselves Christian, have "Good Works" and/or the observance of ritual as a base for one’s entrance into their concept of paradise. However, the Bible tells us in:
John 8:24 - Jesus said, "For unless you believe that I am the Son of God, the Messiah, you will die in your sins."
Romans 3:27, 28 - Our acquittal is not based on our good deeds, it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in Him. So it is we are saved, by faith in Christ and not by the good things we do.
1st Thessalonians 1:8,9 - The Lord Jesus will bring judgement on those who do not wish to know God and those who reject His plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of His power.
These verses literally scream for our attention. The basis for what they say is this. God is completely Holy. Nothing less than complete Holiness can come into His presence. Jesus taught that we are separated from His Holiness by our sinful nature, and neither religion, nor a moral life, nor some concept of spirituality can fix that. In other words, we can never be ‘good enough’ to be good enough for heaven (Romans 3:22,23).
Think of it this way. A surgeon, will discard a scalpel that has a single, tiny blemish on it just as readily as she would discard a scalpel that is completely dirty. Or ask yourself, "How many pubic hairs would I have to find in my meal at a restaurant before I wouldn’t eat it?" You see, the size of the dirt is not the issue. The issue is the presence of dirt. We are always repulsed by dirt when we expect to find cleanliness. Just so, our sinful nature is unacceptable to God. It cannot come into His presence. Sin is intolerable in the presence of a perfectly Holy God. That’s why the Bible explains to us that the result of sin, the wages of sin, the consequences of sin, the cost of sin, is banishment from God. But there is good news folks! Out of His enormous love, Jesus paid the penalty of sin for us. Our part of the bargain is to step out of our self-created shelter and accept that payment on His terms.
To those of you who complain that religion is being rammed down your throat, ask yourself this, "Would I rather that Jesus warned me about Hell now, or after it’s too late?"
This is serious stuff! If what Jesus taught about eternity is true, then making the decision to accept Him or reject Him as our Saviour has got to be the single most important decision that you and I will ever make. And it’s urgent. Strokes, fires, heart attacks, falling, car accidents, violent storms; Statistics show that for most of us, our ability to make a decision for Jesus will end suddenly, with little or no warning.
As people reflect on the suddenness of death, we hear them say things like, "I was just talking with him yesterday," or "I just saw her this morning." That’s why we are told in the Bible "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near. Turn to the Lord, and the Lord will have mercy on you"(Isaiah 55:6,7).
You can’t just stand in what you think to be a neutral position.
A decision is being made even as you read this.