Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Kinds of Christianity

They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to help them. Matthew 23:4, NIV

Glen always said he liked to keep to a schedule when he was teaching. "I stop within seconds of when I say I will, and I stick to the subject so people know where to study and be ready for each meeting.

"But tonight I'm going to depart from my subject. It's a first time for me and I'm not too happy about it. But this has to be done so when we start up again, we'll be on the right track. At least I hope so."

I passed out the lesson plans for this night, plus a short outline called Two Kinds of Religion, as the people filled the seats and settled down.

Glen opened with a short prayer and began his presentation.

"Folks, I want to apologize for departing from my outline tonight. But I feel this is so important that the usual lesson will just have to wait until next week. From questions I have been getting and comments people are making I feel we are in a kind of tug of war, a conflict between two ways of looking at our Christian walk that interferes with our study of the word of God.

"Ordinarily we would not be dealing with the subject of salvation theology, or soteriology, in a study on prophecy, but some of you folks have been worrying about things like, 'Will I be worthy of being in the rapture?' I heard a man say he was afraid his children might be in the great tribulation--things like that.

"One thing I have learned is that before anyone can really study the scriptures they must be certain about their salvation. I mean, are they saved and will they stay saved? If anyone has any doubts about that, they don't have the peace of mind to study the Word concerning other issues. They will subconsciously be thinking 'Am I in this judgement?' Or 'What do I have to do to be good enough to escape this terrible time that is coming?'

"Some folks, I mean members of my own family, are afraid to study Revelation because they think the terrible events in this great book apply to them or their family. That's pitiful! And it is totally unnecessary."

I saw frowns on some people's faces. Some stared at Glen as if they wondered how he was able to read their minds. Glen had the ability to tune in on people--to be in synch with them--and this was a big part of his ability to teach.

He once told me, "I want people to be at peace with God as they study first of all. The only concern I want anyone to have is that they understand the Bible correctly, not whether they are saved or not.” And he added, "You should never assume that because a person has been a member of a church for thirty or forty years that they are born again. Or if they have saving faith, they know they are sealed by the spirit of God. I never assume that."

Glen walked to the chalkboard and paused. “My wife once accompanied a bunch of school kids to an amusement park on a school outing. The first thing the kids wanted to do is ride the big carousel. They scrambled aboard and were happily riding, all except one little boy. He stood back on the verge of tears as he watched the other children going round and round.

"Finally she walked up to him and bent down to ask, ‘Don't you want to ride, too?’

"‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but I don't have any money.’

"Poor little guy!" said Glen. "He thought he had to pay when the whole outing was already paid for.

"Well there are many, many people in that same frame of mind concerning their salvation. They think they have to pay! If you think their churches are going to tell them, all I can say is, Don't count on it!

"They may have a big missionary program. They may go house to house and recruit people year after year to bring in new members. But don't be surprised if the shoe maker's kids need shoes!

"I heard a minister on James Dobson's program tell a terrible story about the death of his son. The teenager had run away from home and was hitch hiking. He was killed in a wreck on this trip, and they traced back and found some of the people he had hitched rides with.

"It turns out that he confessed to one of the drivers that he was running away from home. The driver asked him why. And the boy said, 'Because my father doesn't love me.’ Now if a minister neglects to tell his own son that he loves him, don't be too sure he will tell his congregation about God's unconditional love for His people.

"In a lot of churches there is only one sure way to get any attention. Just don't put any money into the collection. If you stop giving, you'll hear from somebody."

Glen was experienced enough to realize a lot of people didn't like to hear this. And Glen didn't care. "I only care if they can prove me wrong," he liked to say.

Glen stood before the board, chalk in hand, but did not write yet.

"Now folks, I am a Bible teacher, I am not an evangelist. We all have different callings. A dog is not a fish, but a dog can swim, and tonight this dog is going to swim!"

He started to write on the board, but turned away for one more story.

"Now I sure don't want to get into politics,” he said, "Ever. But there is a story about Harry Truman that I want to relate only as an illustration! Some reporter asked Truman what was the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Truman said, 'Both the Democrats and the Republicans want to help people. The Democrats want to help people that need help and the Republicans want to help people that don't need any help.'

"Now don't get me wrong," Glen said. "I'm not taking sides. This was just an illustration about the contrast between two things. I am going to try to illustrate two approaches to religion, including Christianity.”

He turned to write on the board:

Two beliefs, two kinds of religion

1) You are born—you work to be saved—you die and go to heaven or hell.

Glen turned from the board and said, "This one is the most popular. Almost everyone follows this one--all Muslims and an awful lot of Christians too."

The he turned back to the board and wrote:

2) You are born again--you work for reward--you die, (or are raptured) and then you have rewards or you suffer loss of reward.

Glen returned to the podium and read:

"If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved:
yet so as by fire.
1 Corinthians 3:14,15."

"If there is something we should be concerned about once we have trusted in Christ, it is whether or not our works can stand the test by fire. The issue of whether or we are saved, if we believe in Jesus as our savior, was settled long ago."

Glen turned to John 19:30 and read:

"When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'"

The class was quiet for a time. Then a man held up his hand. "Are you saying works can't save us?"

"No," said Glen, "not at all."

There was a murmur of surprise. I was startled to hear Glen say this, as if he was contradicting himself.

"Without work no one is saved," Glen added. "That is what Jesus said from the cross, ‘It is finished.’ He meant His work. "What the Bible says is that our works don't save us.

"But without His work, no one is saved. Our works don't even begin until we are saved. In a human sense, a farmer can't farm before he is born. And we can't do God's work until we are born again."

"And, just to be sure," asked a young woman, "how do we know how to be saved? And how do we know we can stay saved?"

"I am not an evangelist or a theologian," said Glen. "I am a primitive. That's all I am. But I tell you what I will tell anyone.

"Take out your New Testament and read the first six chapters of The Gospel According to John. Read it. Eat and drink it in. Revel in it, ma'am! Then you will know the way of salvation is Jesus. Believe in Jesus and he will save you and he will keep you saved. It's as plain as that, and as wonderful as that too."

Glen looked at his watch.

"We're about through for tonight, folks. Good idea for us all to look into John's Gospel. That way, when we come back next week, we can return to our study of prophecy. If anybody has any doubts about being saved and staying saved, John will put them to rest. Then they can study Revelation and the other books too, with peace of mind."

Glen and I walked to the parking lot together.

"You swim pretty good for a dog, Glen," I told him. "You must be a Labrador."

Glen smiled and waved "goodbye" as he walked to his van backed in under the big sycamore tree.

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