I know a hypocrite
I know a man who would spend eternity in hell if he were to die. The scary part is that he is convinced in his mind of the contrary. He honestly thinks that if he were to die, he would spend eternity in heaven because after all, John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” and he can nod his head and say “amen!” to that. He doesn’t realize that he has a false sense of security which started when he felt moved at one point in his life to say a prayer to ask Jesus to come into his heart, and was told that asking this would mean that Jesus would definitely come in. After saying the prayer, he left the church completely unchanged, moving on with his life submersed in sin and seeking his own will with absolutely no regard for God’s will.
Occasionally he would pray when things got really bad, thinking that God was listening because after all, it doesn’t matter who or where you are in life, if you pray to God He definitely listens and is glad to hear from you… right?
Apparently he has never read Isaiah 1:15 where God says:
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood…”
… or Isaiah 59:1-2 where He says:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
You might be thinking “who are you to say that this man truly isn’t saved?” The part that I didn’t mention was the man that I have been describing is me. Or at least it was me until God in His mercy moved on my heart to hear and receive the Gospel on November 18, 2007. My testimony isn’t like many radical testimonies we hear of people who ended up in the lowest of lows (in the depths of murder, extortion, rape, prostitution, homelessness and the most addictive drugs known to mankind) before they found Jesus. I am in no way debasing what God has done in these people’s lives, and I praise God for their testimony. They are undoubtedly changing lives, testifying to the awesome life-transforming, soul-saving power of Jesus Christ, and giving hope to others in like situations. My spiritual journey, however, didn’t start at the lowest point in life that one could possibly attain to. On the contrary, it started when I had everything I thought could bring me happiness in this life.
On The Top of the Mountain
Many times we overuse the word love. We say things like “I love my wife” and “I love cheeseburgers” in the same breath. God has been teaching me to minimize my use of this powerful word, and to only use it when I really mean it. However, I can honestly say that I LOVED snowboarding! It was my life, my passion, and all I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In 2006, I landed a job at Mammoth Mountain ski resort (which is the largest ski resort in continental USA). I was only a lifty – which in snowboard speech means chair lift operator. It was an entry level job on the mountain, but it paid well for someone who had no debt and no real large bills. The best part was that it allowed me to snowboard every day, and get paid! My goal was to get as good as I could possibly get while I was there (when you work on a mountain like Mammoth where all of the pros ride, it pushes you to get better) and hopefully get noticed, and maybe even sponsored. Worst case scenario I could teach lessons the rest of my life – getting paid for what I loved doing.
At that point in my life I thought I had it all. I was getting paid to snowboard, I had enough money to buy all of the beer and weed I wanted, I had a girlfriend who drove 6 hours out of her way to come visit me and do what unsaved boyfriends and girlfriends do, and I had all of the friends in the world. There was absolutely nothing else that I wanted to get in life, and I would have been happy living that life forever… or so I thought.
Vanity of Vanities
Ecclesiastes is a book that talks about the vanity (or meaninglessness) of life under the sun (or apart from God). Trying to find purpose in life by looking at things the world has to offer ends in futility. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” I didn’t know the bible at that time, but this scripture was a reflection of what was going on inside of my heart. After a great day of riding, I would smoke a blunt (a cigar paper filled with weed), hang out with my friends, drink a 40 oz. of Bud Light, and lie down in my bed thinking “what next?” That was the first of several questions that began to torment me, such as: “What am I here for? What is my purpose? What does life mean? What does God think of me? Is God real? If God is real, where would I go for eternity? Why?” It was the first time that I can remember really questioning God’s existence; but I would quickly shut down thoughts like that because I believed that as long as I still held on to a mental assent of God and Jesus, I should be safe when I died.
These questions plagued me and I, like most people, didn’t take the initiative to search out the answers. I just changed “the game plan” thinking that would help. I thought that maybe the snowboard life wasn’t for me. I could have a different kind of job, and still snowboard on the weekends every winter. So I moved back home, quit smoking weed (for awhile so that I could get a job), got a job at a bar, married my girlfriend, and still felt something missing.
I didn’t think it was Jesus because at that time I thought I had Jesus. I was raised in church, and I heard the scripture that says “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)… I confessed that. I believed that. I was a Christian right? I love the pastor of the church I was raised up in, but I don’t remember hearing a message that convicted me of sin in a way that made me want to turn from it. I’m sure that he talked about sin and repentance, but I must have never paid any attention. My heart was completely blinded to the gospel. I had no idea of sin and repentance in their relationship to salvation. I was as Matthew 13:14 says, “Ever hearing, but never understanding… ever seeing, but never perceiving”. I had always known that God didn’t like sin, but I never knew how much God absolutely hated sin. I never thought that sin was a big deal because we all sin, and God really knows our heart. I didn’t know that Jeremiah 17:9 says “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”. I thought that all you would have to do is ask for forgiveness, and your slate was wiped clean. I was fully convinced that I was a Christian.
Effects of a Praying Wife
Less than a year after I returned from the mountain my wife, Candace, started having panic attacks. She would freak out thinking that she was going to die and that nothing we could possibly do could save her. This got her thinking about eternity, and she wasn’t as convinced as I was that she would go to heaven. In fact, she told me several times “if I were to die, I know I would end up in hell!” I of course tried to talk some sense into her, but nothing comforted her. The weight of her sins was pressing on her, and she made the decision to start going to church. After months of trying to convince me to go with her, and me continually telling her to leave me alone, she finally SHUT UP! Without me knowing, she took the plea to her knees and started praying for me. She knew what she needed to do, but she could not do it on her own. She was starving for a spiritual leader to be born out of her husband. To make a long story short, a series of ‘unfortunate events’ (which I now attribute to the sovereign hand of an almighty God who was pleased with the heartfelt cries of a praying woman) took place which led to my electricity getting shut off, and I found myself camped out in my mother-in-laws house… going to church!
I can almost remember that day in church like it was yesterday. It might as well have been only me and the pastor in the service. Everything he said sounded as if it was directed to me. Answers to the questions that haunted me in Mammoth and clarification to the misconceptions I had about sin and its relationship to a Christian… it all started to make sense. I remember one statement he made, “If you live like hell, chances are you’re probably going there!” Let’s just say it wasn’t a very “seeker-sensitive” message. When he gave the altar call I felt something inside of me which I now know was the Holy Spirit telling me “it’s now or never… are you going to live for yourself, or me?” God had instantaneously developed within me a hatred for the sin that I was submersed in. At that, it took all of the courage inside of me to get up out of my chair and pull myself to the front. The lady at the front of the altar asked me “what do you want prayer for?” I was thinking “didn’t you just hear the message!?” but instead replied, with tears being held back, “I need strength to change the things I can’t change on my own.” Those were the exact words I used, and I pray that I never forget them.
The Sinner’s Prayer
What was the difference between that prayer, and the “sinner’s prayer” that I had said before? The difference was a heart change. I had previously said a prayer because of either a fear of Hell (it was like fire insurance), or just because it felt like the right thing to do at the time; but I loved sin way too much to turn from it. This time I meant it! I wanted forgiveness, but I also desperately wanted to completely turn from sin and I knew that if I tried in my own strength I would fail. I wanted to be freed from sin, not freed to sin.
If you read the bible from cover to cover, there is one thing you will not find anywhere – and that is the “sinner’s prayer”. This misinterpretation of Romans 10:9, I believe, is sending more people to hell than all of today’s “New Atheists” put together. We are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and faith is accompanied by repentance. Many of today’s modern evangelical methods consist of a series of questions directed to a sinner such as:
- Are you a sinner? (Romans 3:23)
- Would you like God’s forgiveness of your sins? (1 John 1:9)
- Will you accept that God raised Christ from the dead? (Romans 10:9)
- Would you like to invite Jesus into your heart and life right now? (Revelation 3:20)
And if they nod their head and say “ah-huh” to all of the questions, the preacher tells them to repeat a prayer that basically sums up all four questions. It’s that simple! Hallelujah, you are now born again! The sinner is told that they are now a saint, although he or she has no clue of what the preacher is really talking about. There is no reality of sin, God’s justice, God’s judgment, God’s mercy or the meaning of the cross.
The day I gave my life to God, I felt as if blinders had just been removed. I was like the Apostle Paul when scales fell off of His eyes. I was so excited to get to know who God was, and I knew the place I would find Him was in His word. By the time I was 22, I can only remember reading one book all the way through (and it was because I had to in order not to fail English my senior year). I could never comprehend anything I read, especially if I tried to read the bible, but I knew I had to read it if I wanted to know God for myself. I dusted off the old study bible my dad bought me when I was a kid and started reading it every day, praying that God would reveal Himself to me. When I did this, Psalm 119:130 became true in me – “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” He started showing me things that I had never known before, and the exciting part was that I could actually comprehend it! I started seeing how fallacious my prior beliefs were, and how God wasn’t anything like I thought He was. I was so excited that I would talk about God all the time, everywhere I went. I always looked for opportunities to share what God was speaking to me through His word. Soon, my excitement turned to despair when I realized that the majority of people in America who call themselves Christians probably think like I did before I was saved; which would mean that a majority of American’s are going to hell even though they are fully convinced that they are going to heaven.
That fact has been one of the primary reasons for writing this book, and has become the inspiration of my life. If I believe in hell, which I do, I would do everything in my power to stop people from going there. It is not our mission as Christians to try and separate the wheat from the tares (the false converts from the real Christians); it is our mission to preach the true gospel to an unbelieving culture. The question is… what is the TRUE Gospel?