Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thursday Discipleship

Last Thursday, we had our 4th discipleship meeting for pastors and other church leaders.  During the bible study session, I told the following story followed by a simple question:

"One afternoon, a man, who was a christian, got on a minibus and headed home from work.  As the bus started off, this man realized that the conductor hadn't taken his money for the bus fare.  But instead of reminding the conductor of the error, the man just sat there quietly thinking that he was getting a free ride home.  In essence, he was stealing the bus fare.  When the bus reached its stop, the man got off, stepped out into the street and was immediately hit and killed by another car passing by.  Now, based on what you have heard in this story, did that man go to heaven or hell?"

Now, remember, we're working with Pastors and other church leaders, people who should have an adequate grasp on the core message of the gospel.  But I was kind of taken aback by some of the answers that were shared.  Several in the group immediately answered "Hell."  While others in the group had to think about it for a while before formulating their own answers.  There was only a few out of this group of 12 that quickly answered "Heaven."  It was a simple question, but very eye opening to the struggles the church here in Zambia faces.  If the leaders are not equipped to fully understand and share the message of the gospel, how will the church ever understand and share it?

It also got me thinking about some of you who might visit this site from time to time.  If pastors here struggle with answering this question, I thought some of you might as well.  So, how about you?  What would your answer be?  Heaven or hell?  Do you know, biblically, why hell is the wrong answer to the question above?  Do you truly know what it means to be saved?  Are you sure you understand the gospel?  If not, please let me quickly summarize:
  • God created man for a love relationship.  (Genesis 1:27; 31 & Psalm 139:13-15)
  • Man, all men & women over all time, has sinned and fallen short of God's standard.  (Romans 3:23)
  • God cannot have a loving relationship with man because of sin.  (Isaiah 59:2)
  • Because "all have sinned," all are destined to die a physical death here on earth, separate from a loving relationship with God and will spend eternity in a real place called hell.  (Romans 2:6-8)
  • But this is not what God desires.  Even though we are sinners, deserving His wrath, he still wants to have a loving relationship with us.  (Romans 5:8; Revelations 21:1-4)
  • So, God made a way.  He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as an atonement for our sins (Romans 5:8-9) so that we could receive the free gift of salvation and spend eternity with Him in heaven. (Revelations 21:1-4)
  • Salvation can only be received as a gift through faith in Christ.  It's given by God's grace.  Salvation, therefore, cannot be earned by our good works or by our obedience to God's law.  It is by grace.  Grace simply means getting something good that we do not deserve.  So, there is nothing you can do to earn salvation.  It's a free gift given by God.  (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23) 
  • To receive the gift of salvation, the Bible teaches that we must repent of our sins, meaning that we must turn and go in a new direction, and believe in Christ.  (Mark 1:15)  We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10)
  • After doing this, the bible teaches that we will be forgiven of our sins (past, present & future) and be counted "not guilty" or justified before God.  And that this legal standing before God will never change.  We will forever become children of God and never be able to lose the gift of eternal life (Psalm 103:11-12; 2 Corinthians 5:21;  Galatians 4:4-7; John 10:27-28)
That last point is really the answer to the story I posed to the group on Thursday.  You see, the man who got on the bus, was already a Christian, meaning that he was already declared not guilty by God based on what Christ did for him on the cross.  When he stole the bus fare by not paying it, he was sinning, but he had already been forgiven of that sin when he became a believer.  His sin, even though it affected his fellowship with God, did not change His status before God.  He was still a son of God, someone whom God had declared not guilty, someone whom God had promised would never be snatched from his hand.

And God wishes that that would be true of us all.  Listen to this verse from 2 Peter: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."


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