Whatever the reason, I'm feeling almost overwhelmingly compelled to tell people about Jesus.
One of the most popular arguments against the salvation message of Jesus goes something like this:
"I respect Jesus and who he was. I believe he was a man sent by God to teach us how to live. He was a great teacher, and I try to follow his example. Since I try to follow his example of loving everyone and living a good life, I'm a Christian and will go to Heaven some day."
Let's talk about this for a moment, shall we? In fact, let's look at Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. If all he came for was to be our teacher, it would be wise (if you respect him as a teacher) to really look carefully at what this teacher actually TAUGHT. Even if we completely disregard much of the Bible, and read only those words in red (Jesus' actual words), we can learn Jesus' teachings. Here we go...
"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." John 14:7 (Jesus is God - how else would they have *seen* the Father?)
"Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." John 12:27 (speaking of his impending crucifixion...the REASON he came was to die)
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 (there is no way but through the work of Jesus on the cross to enter Heaven)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life." John 6:47
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 (belief = eternal life, whoever = open to everyone)
"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels." Luke 12: 7-8 (God loves us and knows us intimately. Jesus will not save everyone. He CAN save everyone, but the ones who deny him will be denied by him before God)
"Do not be afraid any longer, only believe." Mark 5:36 (he then went to the home where a girl had died and brought her back to life - he was far more than an ordinary teacher!)
"You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." Mark 13:13 (Does this sound like the words of a simple teacher of peace and love? Why would people be hated for following Him, if he was just came to teach us a nice way to live?)
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." Matthew 17:23 (a mere gentle teacher who could foretell the future?)
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matthew 10: 34 (Jesus' message is divisive because it is a teaching of sin and salvation...a message of being saved by faith and by God's grace)
Okay, I could go on for much longer because there are lots and lots of red words in the Bible! Yes, I left many out. And yes, there are many teachings of Jesus that DO speak to the way we should live...about following in Jesus' footsteps in the way he lived his life in complete obedience to God, about loving people, about being generous, about prayer, etc.
But we must do things in order!
If we live a life of trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus' example as our good teacher, and THEN expect to go to Heaven because we lived a good life...we are out of order. In this order, we live our life in the best way possible, and expect God to reward us. The person and their good deeds comes first...and then they expect God to respond to THEM and their efforts to be good.
Instead, based on Jesus' teachings....
First, there must be a genuine belief in who Jesus said he is (God) and what Jesus said he came to do (die as a full and sufficient and perfect sacrifice for our sins). It is a humble belief in these things that save us - that allow us to enter Heaven some day. Once we've accepted these beliefs, then we do our best to live the way that Jesus showed us. We live in a way that honors Him out of our love and gratitude for Him and what He did. In this order, God comes first - His goodness, His grace, His salvation...and then we respond to God.
Do you see the difference?
God and His ways come first, and we respond to Him.
NOT...Our ways first, and God responding to us.
It might seem like splitting hairs, but it's crucial. It's the difference between a prideful attitude toward God and a humble attitude before Him.
It's the difference between obeying that great Teacher, or not.
It is the difference between eternal life and death.
Do you agree with what I've said here? Disagree? I would love to hear from you - please leave a comment or email me directly to chat more.