Most people make decisions every day, and truth be told, they tend to do so in a routine way. You do not agonise over what you will have for breakfast, and you do not dread what antiperspirant or deodorant you put on. Life is too full of important things for us to deliberate agonisingly over lesser things. But some things that are vitally important, are not, at times, given the serious consideration they deserve. Making your calling and election sure, as pertains to your eternal destiny, falls into this category.
I was pleasantly reminded of this very recently, and I am ashamed to admit that I had almost forgotten that some people are like this, when I had an enjoyable encounter with an elderly woman.
This woman and I, along with about 10 others, were passengers in a courtesy shuttle vehicle provided by our car agents, and we were being taken to various destinations; after leaving our cars for servicing.
As the shuttle drove along the streets of Barbados, this lady and I conversed on various topics, and being Christians our conversation inevitably turned to religion and Christianity. She was very engaging and informed me that she was Anglican and her husband was Roman Catholic, and when I asked her what church she attends, she replied Roman Catholic.
Knowing the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and how the Anglicans came out from the Catholics over the King Henry VIII fiasco, I asked her how she was able to mix the two and her answers were startling.
I gathered, from what she told me, that she was absolutely convinced of three things:
1. Nobody knows who is right, so who is to say. People should believe whatever they want and nobody should judge them.
2. Everyone says he is right, so you can't tell.
3. It does not really matter, no one should really care, because in the end God will sort out everything and that will be that.
As someone very committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and would like the whole world to be evangelised, I asked her a defining question, that would take us to the heart of the matter. In truth, I already knew her position, but I wanted some final proof, so I said told her about Jesus' response to Nicodemus in John 3:1-15 and asked her this question. "What does it mean to be born again?"
The good lady shrugged her shoulders, and was speechless.
My suspicions were confirmed. I was not dealing with a blood-washed, born again, converted Christian, but in fact someone who was baptised as a baby, and in due time was accepted into the church as a member. This is how the vast majority of Roman Catholics and Anglicans, and similar churches, operate; and the rest of Christendom calls them nominal Christians.
During my evangelism campaigns, I've had the blessed honour of dealing one on one with members of both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and some were converted, and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
One avoids being dogmatic in a negative, censorious way, but we have a responsibility to tell it as God requires, and no matter how we look at it, it is important that we know truth from fiction. I never see my calling as making people feel good, in honest truth I do not go around trying to make people feel bad either, but I like to call a spade a spade and hope that the truth will not offend you.
Jesus was uncompromising and crystal clear when he said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Lives are endangered, and countless souls are lost, because people believed the lies.
It matters that we know the truth because:
All roads do not lead to heaven
It is truly tragic that some people are travelling on a road that they think will lead to heaven and eternal rest, when in truth they are on a road leading to death. The Bible is our only reliable guide in these matters and it says, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) People have a huge capacity for self deception, but truth is not altered because of our wish not to acknowledge them.
Rituals and liturgies cannot save us
Like this unfortunate woman, there are those whose delight is in the beautiful singing, and the processionals, and the sacraments and liturgies. Rituals and liturgies have their place, some are good and delightful and others are not. In any case they are man-made and tend to fit into cultural norms to harmonise with local people. It is a monumental error to think that faithfully observing the rituals, and loving the liturgy and aura of church life, qualifies us for salvation. Even God-ordained rituals cannot save us as Hebrews reminds us: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4)
Being sincere is not the same as being right
I read, not very long ago, about a leader of a group of Christians, who sincerely believed that all believers are empowered to mess with deadly snakes, and the snakes cannot harm them as per this scripture: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18) This leader wanted to show people that he was a true believer, so he went in among poisonous snakes, touched them and played with them. The snakes bit him. He died. I recall a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "There is nothing in all the world more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
We have to make a choice where we are going after this life is over, even doing nothing is a choice, and then, if we are wise, we should do a due diligence, to make sure we are on the right track. Peter advised us thus: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" (2 Peter 1:10)
You tend to live what you believe, and if your belief is grounded in Christ, then you are called from darkness into the marvellous light, you have positively responded to God's call and so God has elected you to salvation, and you now walk pleasing to God in the light of the Gospel.
If your calling and election is sure:
1. Your life is like a lighted candle that gives forth its light naturally and effusively, and capable of generating not only light but warmth.
2. Your life is a changed life, a born-again life, because conversion is life changing, and your friends, neighbours, family and colleagues will notice that it is so.
3. Your commitment is life consuming, because Jesus demands it: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)
4. Your focus is in Christ and the things of God, and you find nothing onerous, or objectionable in God, or His Word and His Spirit guides you day by day.
As believers travel along on their journey, it is inevitable that they will have distractions, discouragement, grave disappointments, and numerous opportunities to turn back or grow weary. The Apostle Paul warns us, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9). This can only be true if we are on the right road, following closely in the footsteps of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, with our heart full of love for God and his people.
It is well worth your time to make your calling and election sure.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013
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