One of the things you should all know about me is that I typically do not write from an outline. Shoot from the hip I always say. And perhaps this is the wrong place to practice this, but I’m gonna write on this subject using my normal style of dealing with everyday people in my life. And I have never written on the Gospel in such fashion. So, bear with me and if anything it may make for great subjects to write about on your own blogs ;).
The subject of heaven and hell has come up numerous times this past week. Some have specifically asked about it and others have not. Now, I do owe an answer to the one who asked. And I hope this will help with that. For the others, including one friend in particular, I’m not necessarily asking you to believe anything I write here. I am, however, hoping that you will carefully hear what I am saying. Because several times there have been assumptions made about me that I wish to clear up.
Now’s the fun part:
Where to begin?
You will often hear me say that we all have our baggage. It’s because of this one little fact in life that I strive to be very accepting of all those I come across. I do not sit around judging people, with one exception. I do not tolerate well those who are holier than thou and self-righteous. NOT at all. That is the type of baggage that makes me want to send ya’ packing. Please make a note of that.
On a dear friend’s site, this subject, or it’s opposite rather, came up. And I felt I found myself defending myself in a way that caused some strife. But then another friend chimed in and asserted that we all sin, but that we’re not all going to hell because of it. Now, she is not a Christian. But she’s been gifted with some grace and wisdom that rang true in so many ways. And she managed to say, what I could only fumble.
We all have our sin. And what I or someone else may consider sin, others may not. So, I don’t wish to elaborate. The bottom line is that we all have it in our lives and there are no degrees or gradients of sin. Sin is sin. And I’m speaking in the context of God’s economy and what’s laid out in scriptures.
I cannot help but think that some of my friends now operate under the impression that I think they are bound for hell. Gee, that fosters great friendships. Don’t you think? “Mike, I’m so glad you accept me as I am. By the way, so you think I’m going to hell?” See my point? Talk about the ultimate in ice breakers. But it’s just not so cut and dry as that.
For those of you feeling hurt by my stance, let me explain. My view of this is based on the assumption: if you were to die right now. It’s not a sentiment that I hope applies years down the road.
I’m not asking for change
You need to know that when I tell you I am not looking for you to change, I mean it sincerely. The reason for this is several fold:
- You are my friend as you are, not for what you might become.
- You could change yourself, make all sorts of improvements, pray 20 hours a day and it will have zero impact on my earlier assessment. So, why be anxious that I expect you to change.
- I could ask you to believe on the Lord Jesus that you might be saved. But even this isn’t so simple. You cannot even do this unless God the Father draws you and causes your eyes to be opened to certain truths.
- I could ask you to repent, but repent of what? and repent to what? Again, it makes no difference. So, why would I ask you to do something that bears zero fruit?
Going to heaven has absolutely nothing to do with what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, what you might do and so on. There is nothing you can do to go to heaven, just as there was nothing I could do to secure my spot. The bible makes it very clear that it is not based on man’s works so that not a single person can have reason to boast.
So, when I tell you that I’m not asking, nor expecting you to change a single hair, I mean it sincerely. I fully accept you as is!
So, does this mean I believe you’re hopeless?
Not at all. Trust me. Let me tell you a story, since I love to do that. When I became a Christian and came to the point of faith and belief in Christ, I was not searching for a change. I was pretty content with myself at the time. I was popular, more so than ever before. And sure, I believed in the Jesus I knew from history. But that was about it. I liked who I was and I was a regarded as a bit of a bad-ass back then [sorry to some of you, but there’s no other way to describe it.]. I was.
Certain events were introduced into my life at this time. The primary thing was I had met this girl, Yvonne, whom I thought was simply gorgeous. One day, she decided to plop down next to me at lunch time and simply started talking to me. And frankly, I wanted to get to know her better. If you know what I mean. So I began to inquire about her. All I knew was that my friends all regarded her as “super religious”. Much like I’m sure many of you consider me to be.
There was this one guy who worked out at my gym, who I figured could help me get the lingo down or do whatever to at least get a date with Yvonne. Poor guy, though. I used to dedicate things like “Highway to Hell” or “Back in Black” to him whenever he’d come in. In fact, I’d do this over the loud speaker all the time. Nice, huh? Like I said, I had a particular image.
This guy, Jeff was rather patient with me and simply told me that I must be born again to see the kingdom of heaven. Hmm… Okay!?! What does that mean? We had several of these little exchanges and each time I kept getting more frustrated with him. Finally, I told him I was willing to get a bible and to read it and to apply whatever I learned to my life. And what was his response? “You must be born again”. Crap! Nothing I offered to do was good enough.
Over the next few days, other things happened including my going to church for the first time in my life. All of it was a mystery to me. I didn’t understand one darn thing. And now I wasn’t sure I really wanted to. No offense Yvonne, but no chick is worth all that!
But then something happened in my room. I had heard so many bible verses over the past several days and was even given several of those bible tracks some of you may have received. Now, some are better than others. I have a copy of the exact track on my About Me page. So, here I was, alone in my room, when my head started to spin with all the stuff that had been inserted into my life over the past few days. But then it hit me…
All of a sudden something had happened and I came to the realization of certain truths. One, Jesus Christ was more than a man. He was in fact the same God who created the world. Second, I had sinned against this God in various ways and at various times. And as a result of being a sinner, not because of an individual or accumulation of sin, I was headed to hell. Let me stop there for a second.
This is huge. The truths contained in this are above man’s normal reasoning. I did not have these thoughts before. And though I heard so much preaching, I did not attain an acceptance and understanding from it. According to the bible, this ability to all of a sudden understand, this opening of my eyes, had to come from God himself. Sure, the bible contained the verses. And the preacher preached the verses. But the understanding didn’t come from me. It had to come from someone greater than me. God had to give to me the ability to believe any of it, let alone all of it.
Once this happened, the rest sort of fell into place. There were many things I wasn’t aware of because I hadn’t read of them yet. But there were many things I now held as truth, which I surely didn’t previously.
Faith is from above
Now, there are those who will suggest that you must take what little faith you can muster up and place it in Christ. Tell them to go pound sand! I’m gonna quote a verse here. And I don’t like doing so because this isn’t supposed to overwhelm you with “bible knowledge”. 1Cor 2:14 says, The natural man, or non-Christian, does not receive or accept the truths of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know and understand them for they are spiritually attained and comprehended.
That’s the Mike Young expanded version for those wondering. I could give it to you all in Old English if you’d prefer. Anyway, it sounds a bit circular don’t you think? The natural man can’t understand to do anything. The converse must be that the un-natural man can understand and can do something.
The transformation from one category to the other is brought about by Faith. And the bible clearly states that THIS type of faith is the gift of God, and not the product of man’s emotions or best efforts.
Wrapping things up
So the issue really isn’t whether or not there are things I agree with you or disagree with you on. And there is no amount of change I want or expect from you. Period! It all comes down to faith and belief. And this faith and belief is in Jesus Christ, that he is God made in the likeness of man. That he was sinless and perfect in every way and that he provided himself as a sacrifice for all those who will believe on and in him. And for these individuals, all of our sin, it doesn’t matter what type of sin, all of our sin was placed upon him 2000 years ago when he was crucified. And even though we may only come to that point of faith now, all of his righteousness was ascribed to us at that same crucifiction. This is the faith I’m talking about. And unless God brings a person to the point of believing and accepting it, that person has an appointment in hell. For the bible says that the wages of sin is hell, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So my friends, what have I asked you to change? And do you think I’m even asking you to change your beliefs? I cannot and will not place any expectations upon you. For I have already accepted you as you are.
But forgive me, please, if I weep for your soul and if I beg God with every ounce of life and energy that is within me to open your eyes to these truths. Because unless he does so, this is always going to be that one difference that will never escape me. And in some cases, I simply wish I could trade places with you. That I might be able to give up my faith and my salvation that you might have it. This is not about being better than you. I’m not better than you. You are actually better than me. And if I could give up my life for you, I would in a heartbeat. But I cannot; and that is my great burden and the source of my broken heart.
As I mentioned, I owe one friend this explanation because she asked for it. But I also have others, and one in particular, who have not asked to know more, but that I hope will understand me just a little bit better now.
There have been times in my past, and I seem to have arrived there again, where I have wished none of this had ever happened to me and that I hadn’t even been born. Because I want to embrace life and my friends without ever holding anything back, wishing things were different, or laying on them any guilty feelings. But when you know some inescapable truths, maintaining consistency, and the haunting burden can be quite overwhelming. And in the last couple of days, I have been simply overwhelmed by so much.
As I mentioned on my earlier post, there will be some more changes coming. And some of you may not see me for a little while. I need some alone time and I need to regain some perspective and focus. I will likely pour myself into my technical pursuits during this time. While I can be passionate about the things I derive, there’s no emotion involved with technology. And I think I need to cut off my emotions just a bit before they get the better of me and destroy me. One of the benefits of my background is that I do have an on/off switch– just no rheostat. I hope you can possibly understand.
And for those I’ve hurt or upset, I do hope you can forgive me and that we can simply pick up where we left off. But I do understand that I may once again be seeking the impossible. What can I say? I’m still a dreamer.