I have just found your website and have learned a great deal as well as carry great respect for your ability to answer questions biblically. That being said, I bear an immense disagreement but extremely open to reconsideration if thoroughly convinced. I'm only 23 and have been born again since I was 14. Since you have studied the Bible for over 40 years, I fully admit you have greater wisdom than I carry when it comes to the Word.
The secularization of the west is impossible to ignore and many nations that were once a majority of Christians are now a majority of nonreligious. The US is not exempt from this trend with stats showing that only 65% are followers of Christ and only 64% being convinced God exists. The data can tell many stories, but one that I believe is that people feel they can't or simply don't want to follow the rules of Christianity.
What I'm here to ask or argue is that there are no rules except one. John 3:16 to me is the core, foundation, and summary of being a Christian. Many may say that makes it too easy and on the surface, it does. Believing Jesus was the Son of God and that he rose from the dead is a choice that anyone of any age, race, gender or ethnicity can make and nothing will be taking. In some places, you may even be rewarded for it.
But considering that the struggles of life, the attacks on religion and the desires of the flesh all things The Lord knew we would face, carrying the faith for a lifetime can make that simple task more difficult than any law the Bible commands. I believe in God of the Bible because of not just a plethora of philosophical arguments, scientific facts or historical events, but because I know in my heart that He is real.
The Bible is full of men who are heavily flawed but are still used by God to do great works in His name. The Lord was not OK with their sins nor OK with them staying in their sins. Many of them already knew Him, feared Him, but still disobeyed Him. Yet He still used them because He knew them, He loved them, He was gracious and to show He was always there beside them.
I believe the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior we are saved and that we follow God's law not so He will love us but because we love Him and to show Him gratitude. That we do good things not to be Christians but because we are Christians. I don't believe that Christianity is about rules but a relationship, about unconditional love, and unconditional surrender. That as we walk we will fall, but through Christ we can get back up and keep walking.
Christians should not willingly sin or be afraid that they will sin for so long as they have their mind on God and their heart filled with Christ, they, or at least I believe, will make it to Heaven. As I said before, you have greater knowledge on this than I do and I may well be wrong. I mean no disrespect and keep up the good work.
"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:8-12).
You selected one passage and claim it is the whole of the Bible, not because God said that John 3:16 is the only passage that matters but because it is your favorite verse. It would seem that God wasted a lot of paper if all we needed was that one verse. But what was amusing is that you then proceeded to allude to things written in both the Old and New Testament, so it seems you don't believe that one verse is sufficient to understand God's message to man. For example, you said, "Believing Jesus was the son of God and that he rose from the dead is a choice that anyone of any age, race, gender or ethnicity can make ..." But John 3:16 says nothing about the resurrection of Jesus, let alone a need to believe in the resurrection.
What you are really doing is just picking out the verses that appeal to you and skipping the ones that you don't think are necessary. Thus, in your religion, you are God because you control your belief system.
If you want to love God, then listen to what God said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Not some. Not just the ones you agree with. Love of Christ demands we keep all of God's teachings. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). In other words, God doesn't say faith alone is something everyone can do. All of God's teachings are within the abilities of every person. God is not asking too much of anyone.
While you think Christianity is not about rules, God said, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (I John 2:3-6). You can't have a relationship with God without following God's rules. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:6-7).
The reason faith is necessary for salvation is that God gave a rule that said we must believe. The reason we must give up sin and change our lives in order to be saved is that God said we must repent (Luke 13:3). The reason you have to vocally confess your belief in Christ to be saved is that God said so (Romans 10:8-9). The reason you have to be baptized to remove your sins is that God said so (Romans 6:3-7). If you don't accept all that God said you must do, then you don't believe God and you demonstrate a lack of love for God. See What Saves a Person?
Thank you for your quick and detailed response, sir, I appreciate it greatly, though I again have disagreements and believe you misunderstood me.
I didn't say that only one verse was the whole of the bible nor that only one verse mattered. I said that John 3:16 was the only rule we have to follow to go to Heaven and the rest of the rules are things we should follow as we live on Earth, but not out of fear of God but out of love for Him.
That isn't even my favorite verse, by the way, it's Psalm 23:4.
The Bible is the foundation for being a Christian, but that verse is the key to becoming a Christian. Hence why I alluded to both the Old and New Testament because it all points to Jesus, the center of that verse. Mind you, there are 30,000 denominations of Christianity (I don't even agree with that number) but that one verse is the one thing we all agree on and is known as the core of our faith.
As for skipping verses, that couldn't be further from the truth. According to data, only 3% of Americans actually stay abstinent and I'm on my way to be one of them. I'm constantly made fun of for it by other Christians. But I don't judge them or shame them or scare them because it won't make them change nor will bring the closer to God which is our job as Christians.
Also, those verses prove my point. That we don't follow the laws out of fear for God but out of love for Him. I fully agree that we are capable of following God's teachings. The thing is even the Bible shows that even the most devout of us commit sin and in the Lord's eyes. Sin is sin. There is no greater or smaller. But the Lord still used them, the Lord still loved them. My point is not that it's impossible to not sin but that it's inevitable that we will and that we must not be afraid of it for Jesus already paid the price.
"You can't have a relationship with God without following God's rules."
Do you understand what is happening, right now, in the west? People are leaving our faith in droves. Souls are being lost mostly because of bad teaching and bad study. To bring these people back and to reach the untouched, we need an approach that can change hearts, change nations, change generations and we have done it before. We don't follow God's rules to have a relationship with him, we follow God's rules because of our relationship with him.
"The reason faith is necessary for salvation is that God gave a rule that said we must believe."
I disagree. It's because He gave the rule that we must believe and all the other rules, we will be compelled to do because of our love for him.
Sir, I was weak, I was broken, I was an outcast, but when I accepted God, I felt compelled to repent not out of fear but love. I felt strength flow through me to do things I never thought I could do and finally found a family in my church.
You have provided scripture for your points which I deeply respect but I really want to reiterate or to correct myself. God's rules should be followed and I have done my best to follow them and some of them I have fallen short on but Im still working on it.
I believe in God as described in the Bible, I believe Jesus died on the cross and rose for my sins. I am missing so much wisdom and I'm seeking guidance to be closer to him as the world will undoubtedly become hostile to believers. I have had friends and family who have walked away from Christianity and if I'm trying to bring people, this is a topic that I can't mess up.
If, after making myself clearer and you still disagree with argument, I am willing to learn.
Again much respect.
Yes, I still disagree with your argument. You continue to be selective in what you think applies to you in regards to salvation. As an example, you emphasize the love of God. John 3:16 is just one of many verses that speak of God's love, but you continue to claim that this is the core verse without any evidence that God said this is the one verse that is needed to go to Heaven. Instead, you say that this is the one verse that all denominations agree about. How sad that we place God's wisdom up to a vote by mankind and limit what is taught simply to the least controversial subjects. This is not the unity that God wants of His followers, which I proved in my prior response.
It is not because God's rules are too difficult or too many for people to follow (Matthew 11:28-30). People sin because they chose to sin. Watering down the truth won't make Christianity more acceptable to the world. Nor will lying to people that all they need to do to be saved is believe to get to heaven. The truth is that the majority of the world will not make it to heaven. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Just because a person thinks they are going to heaven, it doesn't mean they will make it. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23).
To tell people they are at peace with God when it isn't true, will merely place you on the wrong side of God. God told this about the false prophets of Israel's day and the principle remains true today. " "They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD" (Jeremiah 6:14-15). Partial answers lead people away from God and not toward Him. I mentioned before that God connected many things to salvation (see: What Saves a Person?).
Regardless of what motivated you to start following Jesus, God has always stated the fear is the beginning of learning (Proverbs 1:7). Fear is not exclusive to love. In our childhood, we have all both loved and feared our parents so they can exist at the same time. Fear is the motivator to change that eventually leads to love.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
When Paul said this, he was not referring to a sub-portion of the gospel but to its entirety. Believing in all the gospel leads to salvation, which then includes all the commands of God -- not just the ones you find most convenient.
Thank you, well I have much to ponder over.
John 3:16 speaks of God's love for the world, Jesus dying for our sins, having faith and having eternal life. Are these not the foundation and core of being a Christian?
The number of denominations equal to the number of disagreements they have with one another. I simply pointed out the one truth they all hold, showing the power of the verse. If you disagree, then tell me what could possibly unite these various groups under Christ?
God's rules are not difficult or too many to follow. If I claimed such, I was wrong.. I simply said it was inevitable that we will sin, no matter how devout we are, for we are not perfect. It doesn't mean God doesn't love us any more or that God can't use us in His name or that we can't go to Heaven.
If I'm wrong, then tell me why did Jesus die for our sins, what ransom did he pay or what makes us different from every other religion out there that claims their long list of rules gets us into heaven or not following them will take us to hell?
The power of John 3:16 is how much weight it puts on God and how easy it is to receive him. Again we follow the Word, not out of fear of damnation or shameful judgment by fellow peers, but out of love for our creator.
Watering down the truth of God or lying in the name of God is wrong. But so is a "holier than thou attitude" or claiming to know what God is saying. I don't accuse you of either of these two but I myself do not want to be accused of either of these two. Hence from the beginning, I was open to being wrong and have used I believe that I am right. I don't know how the Lord sees me so I will not make judgments on others nor do I know if I'm even going to heaven but like a knight serves his king whether it will lead to prosperity or tragedy, I will serve my God as faithfully as I can.
Acceptable to the world, now that I have time to ponder, was an awful way to come at this. I admit that. Progressive or Liberal Christianity are things that I have always hated for I believe they have sacrificed too much for too little. I have always stated that I believe sin is sin and that we should not do it willingly but if we do so we should not be afraid to come before God and beg for forgiveness and power to not do it again.
There are approximately 2.4 billion Christians in the world and while I don't know their hearts, I sincerely doubt that they are all believers. My worrying about numbers was short-sighted, I admit that. If the Lord wants somebody to know him, they will know him. Your statement that a majority of us will not make it to heaven I believe is correct. Still, we are called to make disciples and evangelize and there is a reason why the likes of Billy Graham were so successful.
Peace with God is not something I can judge for anyone nor myself and I agree that bad teaching and bad study will lead many away from God, it is usually the most common reason why people walk away but as will narrow condemnation or judgment. I believe both are examples of false prophets. Jesus said they will know us by our fruits and Jesus visited prostitutes and tax collectors and while he did judge them, he sat with them first. This tells me plenty of the man I call my savior.
Fear is the start of learning is true even in the secular sense but I disagree with children having feared and loved their parents. Maybe back in the day but discipline is frowned upon in today's society and I know of many parents who simply loved their kids and never touched them and they still behaved. Respect is the word you are looking for and I certainly respect the Lord as the master and creator of all.
Is it really not possible that the entirety of the Gospel revolves around Jesus? After all we are Christians, followers of Christ but not every Bible story is about Christ, it simply points to him or after the Gospel points back to him.
This is all I got. If you responded to this as strong as you have the prior two answers, I fully admit and I have no rebuttal. To be honest with you as I was walking home, I begin to believe you were right so your response to this may just tip over. I greatly appreciate your time.
I put your last question aside because so much of it merely repeated what you contended in your first notes.
Solomon studied why God created man and at the end of Ecclesiastes he reached his conclusion: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). While love draws us to do what is right, fear is the motivation that keeps us away from evil.
"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Denying that role that fear plays in life does not change things. Yes, I know that people foolishly think that children can be raised without fear of consequences, but God teaches the truth. "Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:9-11).
Reading through your last note, you put a lot of emphasis on what God has done for us so that we might be saved, but you end up minimizing the responsibility men have to obey God. Judgment is based on what we do.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell -- and great was its fall" (Matthew 7:21-27).
Faith is the motivation behind doing Christ's commands, but notice in this passage Jesus emphasized the need to act in accordance with his teachings. No one can enter heaven without obedience because disobedience is an indication of disbelief. "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:18-19).
Why did Jesus die for our sins? Because we are unable to pay off the debt of our sins (see The Living Redeemer). But his work does not leave us without responsibility. If all it took was the death of Christ to save all mankind, then all are saved and there is nothing left to do. The reason Jesus said most will not make it to heaven is that most won't choose the narrow, strict way required by God (Matthew 7:13-14). Salvation is not based on the individuals God picks to be saved, as you mentioned in your note, but based on whether individuals follow the way God picked. If God picks the individual for salvation, there would be no need for judgment.
It is correct that we are not perfect and that we will sin (I John 1:5-2:1), but God has provided a way that He can remain just while showing the obedient mercy. God requires that we strive to follow after Him and He will forgive our shortcomings.
I'm wondering why you think it wrong to know where you are headed. Paul told us, "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). Are you saying we were given an impossible command?
"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).
While I don't know what my future might hold, I sincerely desire to be able to say as Paul did at the end of his life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (II Timothy 4:7-8).
Thank you for your time. I can see myself agreeing with all of this, but you still didn't answer one question of mine. If Christianity is about following rules for salvation, then what makes it any different from other religions that say follow my list of rules to get to heaven.
The question is misleading. Let me illustrate: other religions ask for their followers to believe, so do we conclude that faith is not necessary in Christianity because all religions have faith? Even atheism has a belief system, which they ironically deny their faith.
Yes, other religions have rules that define the practices of that particular religion. But the existence of rules does not prove the religion to be correct. For that matter, faith doesn't prove a particular religion to be correct. Faith only tells us that some people follow that particular system of belief. Christianity is based on evidence that can be checked to show that God does exist and that the Bible contains the words of God.
Those who love God and belief in His teachings then demonstrate their love by following after His teachings. Not obeying God means the person doesn't really believe or love God.
Alright, again. Thank you for your time.