I remember, quite vividly, one of the things that used to bother me more than anything else in the world. It struck me, at the time, as either absolute arrogance or brainwash. If you wanted to elicit the rolling of the eyes or an audible scoff, all you had to do was mention that one could know that they were going to heaven. I thought such a knowledge claim was preposterous.
I believed that no one could really know that there is a God at all. Or if there were multiple gods. I was fine with claiming that Jesus was God, or that Budda was the enlightend one, or that Muhammed was Allah's prophet. After all, I figured any of these things could be true. I thought religion was simply a matter of picking the one that seemed to make the most sense. Thus, I was happy in my amiable agnosticism, and I was content to let everyone be happy in the system that they had picked...as long as they did not start telling me that I was absolutely wrong.
I felt that I had arrived at my own system of belief by the only means availible to a human being: reason. I found my system of belief to be as reasonable as anyone else's, and so I took it personally if someone told me I was wrong. I could suffer being told wrong if it could be demonstrated reasonably my error. But I would have none of this, "I just know that I know" stuff. That sounded too much like getting emotionally carried away or simple psychological wishful thinking. As if one were attempting to make something true by repeating it over and over.
In some ways, I am much the same as I was then. I am still stubborn, and I still have little patience for the "I just know that I know" explanation. I believe that a Christian ought to have a better reason for their faith than that. But in other ways, I am vastly changed. I now proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, that one must believe that He died for one's sins and rose from the dead for one's justification, and that Jesus Christ is the true Lord of the Universe. I tell people that He is the absolute and only way to salvation. What changed?
I confess that I did not figure this out by reason. The Holy Spirit reaveled this to me personally through the gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart was dead, and God the Holy Spirit made me live. I had nothing to do with this. I did not figure it out by human wisdom. I did not figure it out because I was searching for God in my own strength. It was a simple, gracious, sovereign gift that God gave to me unmerited and unlooked for.
Because I remember where I came from and who I am, I try and present the truth in such a manner that I may cause the least offense. That is not to be confused with soft-peddling the gospel or avoiding conflict. I simply mean that I try to speak the truth in love and humility. The gospel is edgy enough without me adding my own hubris to it.
There are a few things that I now know to be true that really aggravate people. Even fellow Christians. I know that Jesus is the only true Lord and that salvation only comes by Him. I know that God has not chosen to save everyone, though He would save all who are willing. I know that God has an elect that He chose before the world began, and that this choosing was based in His own good pleasure and not by the foreseen merit of sinful creatures. I know that God makes a genuine offer of salvation to all who hear the gospel, but that man in his falleness will never bow the knee to Jesus Christ apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I know that it is not God's fault when men perish, even if they are not among the elect. Men do not spend eternity in hell because they are 'unelect', they go there because they are guilty of willful sin, and it is willful sin that keeps men from embracing forgiveness in Jesus Christ. God does not actively prevent men from believing.
It may seem like arrogance to some for me to claim such things, but I assure you it isn't. I am open to correction from the Scriptures. If I am guilty of something, it is that I have the audacity to believe in truth and that I have received it by revelation of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
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