Can you be a Christian and…

Let’s talk about labels for a bit.

I was reading a friend’s post online and my jaw dropped when he mentioned a conversation with “a Christian agnostic” – because, the way I understand the term “Christian”, it just totally doesn’t go with being an agnostic. Agnostic is what I was before I became a Christian – then I met Jesus and found faith! and by “faith” I don’t mean the feeble, fuzzy “I kind of hope it’s true, maybe” that some call “faith” – no, I mean the Biblical concept of having a 100% certainty that Jesus really is who he said he was and that through his atoning sacrifice I get eternal life and forgiveness for all my sins.

But yes, there are people who use the term “Christian” in different ways, and there’s nothing I can do about it. There are those who wear that label because they were brought up in a Christian home, and have never realised that they need to be born again of the Spirit through making their own, personal decision to follow Jesus. There are people who go to church regularly and think that this makes them Christians. (Insert old joke about how if you went and sat inside a garage you wouldn’t magically turn into a car.) There are people who say they live according to “Christian values” (whatever they think that means) and therefore they call themselves Christians.

There are lots of people who, for one reason or another, wear this label but wouldn’t recognise Christ if he hit them on the nose. (Not that I’m suggesting he is in the habit of doing that…)

So I wear this label but, when I have the space to say a bit more, I prefer more explicit labels. On my Google+ profile, where there’s room to say as much as you like (no offence to Twitter), I describe myself as: a fallible and imperfect follower of Jesus.

I felt it was important to add “fallible and imperfect” not only because that’s what I am, but because it’s part of the deal: being fallible and imperfect is why I need Jesus! Which takes me back to the title of my post: can you be a Christian and…?

There’s all sorts of things people sometimes place at the end of this question – can you be a Christian and do this, that or the other? (I’m totally not getting into specific examples here. That’s not what this post is about.) And of course your answer will depend partly on your understanding of what it means to be a Christian. So all I can say is, from my own point of view, seeing Christian as shorthand for a person who has put their faith in Jesus for their salvation and has been born again of the Spirit – there’s not many things you absolutely can’t do if you’re a Christian, but there are all sorts of things you are likely to feel uncomfortable doing because the Holy Spirit would be bugging you about it… But one thing you definitely can’t do is: not believe in Jesus Christ.

So if you call yourself a Christian agnostic, I suggest you need to re-examine your labels. Christ died to save you from your sins, to give you complete assurance of eternal life! Agnosticism is the opposite of faith. I pray that, just as God opened my eyes to see the truth, he will open yours and lead you to this faith, so that you too can have the joy and the peace of mind I have – the peace and joy that come from knowing that I’m ok with God and I’m ok with him forever.

 

45 thoughts on “Can you be a Christian and…

  1. I’ve heard of the “Christian-Agnostic” thing before. It is a common belief that being a Christian is simply the belief in Jesus. But it is more than that. Because if we truly believe in Him, then there is the choice to FOLLOW Him that comes next. Because even the Jews and Muslims believe Jesus existed, but they don’t follow Him. (Some Jews come to Christ but I’m talking about the ones who do not follow him as the Messiah.) Great post!

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    • Thank you. I guess this may be the way some people use that term – it’s not how it sounded to me, and I was responding to what I understood from it: “agnostic” being someone who has not made their mind up.

      (which is why I was addressing the issue of belief, or faith – and not getting into other aspects, such as what it means to follow Jesus. first of all a person needs to repent and believe in Jesus, and an agnostic is, to my understanding, someone who has not done that.)

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      • “Yes, there are people in this world who believe all sorts of things about God and about the afterlife….
        and here comes your belief..
        ….”You can accept this or not – that’s your call. All I can do is tell people the truth, and pray that God in his mercy will help them see. I am not the one deciding who gets to go to heaven. I don’t have that prerogative. Neither do you, or any other human being”.

        You keep repeating the same thing over and over. I have an understanding of your “belief” and it may seem like the “truth” to you but you are going by “faith” what you “believe” is “true”. There is no proof of god. It is like the Agnostic struggle, they cannot prove there is a god yet they cannot prove there is no god. People ask Atheists “How can you possibly know there is no god” but the atheist can answer back, “How can you possibly know there is a god?”

        What I am explaining to you is that other people have their own belief, like you, and are free to believe them. Instead of casting them into the fire because they have a different belief then you, accept their belief and allow them to worship as they conscience dictates. You say you don’t control them and they are free to worship but then you try to proselytize that they are wrong because God is the truth. Then you proselytize they are going to hell unless they believe your belief. They likely believe your belief is wrong and that they only need to be a good person to get to heaven.., you have no idea what the truth is, only the truth of which you believe.

        I just can’t understand why you would say God is loving yet threatens them with death in hell. You never did answer about Hitler vs God so you likely know the thought is evil. Ditto with thinking family and friends going to hell is an awful thing. I really don’t care what your belief is, you are entitled to it but I do know when someone may very well be good intentioned but is standing in judgement of others while hiding behind the bible. Of what I read of Jesus, that was not him at all.

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        • *sigh* I keep saying the same thing – yes, I’m consistent, so sue me :) I can’t change what God has said, what the Bible says, what the truth is – sure, you want to see this as just what I believe, and I can’t *prove* to you that it’s true, I can only point you to the Bible and invite you to read it and to ask God to show you what the truth is.

          “of what I read of Jesus, that was not him at all” – well, then you need to open the Bible and read what Jesus said about hell. It ain’t pretty. Here’s a random selection I collected once for a friend who asked:

          Matthew 25:31-46
          https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+25%3A31-46&version=NASB
          and especially v.41-46, where he talks about “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” and about “eternal punishment”.

          Luke 16:19-31
          https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+16%3A19-31&version=NASB
          the rich man in Hades, in torment and agony

          then there’s a whole load of places where he talks about the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, e.g.

          Matthew 13:47-50 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13%3A47-50&version=NASB

          Matthew 22:1-14 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A1-14&version=NASB

          Luke 13:23-28 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+13%3A23-28&version=NASB

          and in the Sermon on the Mount he mentions hell a few times, e.g. Matthew 5:22 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5:22&version=NASB

          You seem to think I take some kind of joy in thinking that there are people going to hell, that there are people I loved who actually are there. I do not. I grieve over those people who have died and gone to hell, and I do what I can to try and warn those who are still alive and can still repent and be saved.

          “you have no idea what the truth is,” you tell me – well, that is clearly what you believe, and we can carry on forever going: yes I do, no you don’t, yes I do… You can keep telling me that other people believe differently – as if I didn’t know that! – and that you think I’m wrong. And I will keep telling you: read the Bible, ask God to show you the truth, find out for yourself – studying what other people believe is not going to get you to the truth, only God can reveal the truth to you and he *will* if you let him.

          “I really don’t care what your belief is,” you say, but you care enough to keep telling me again and again that you think what I believe is wrong and even evil.

          I’m sorry if I’m sounding cross. I’m getting a bit tired of this to be honest. You seem intent on telling me that I’m wrong and not listening to anything I say. Just: look at this belief of yours that there are people going to hell, it’s a terrible belief – well, like I keep saying, I don’t get to tell God how to run the show, and neither do you.

          Jesus said he is the only way.

          and here’s a post I wrote about this whole thing:
          https://meiravsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/mention-hell-and-youve-lost-me-she-said/

          I know I can’t convince you that it’s true. Only God can. For your sake, because I care about you, I pray that he will open your eyes to see it.

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          • I’m sorry your thinking you sound cross or you are getting tired. Not only do you believe I am going to hell but you also think I haven’t read the bible. So many judgments against me, What if I really turned this around and responded in kind? Made similar comments such as you made to me. It would sound something like this I guess:

            Have you ever read the bible in entirety?

            Who teaches you what the bible states, translates it, determines if it is literal or figurative? or has someone just pointed out the verses you need to know. Is there differences of opinion on those versus you pointed out? Most people I debate the bible with just know the versus they need to know and really haven’t delved deeply into what the bible actually says.

            If you have read it in entirety, What do you think about the (false) prophecy against Tyre? which leads to the false prophecy against Egypt? How about the Nile drying up? There are also references to slavery, rape and women in general seem to get the short end of the stick. or where those bible versus just common aspects of the time in which it was written? and if that is the case, wouldn’t an all knowing God know slavery would eventually be determined to be “wrong”.. or do you think slavery is okay because it is in the bible?

            So then you say:
            “I know I can’t convince you that it’s true. Only God can. For your sake, because I care about you, I pray that he will open your eyes to see it.”

            How would you like it if I said, “I can’t convince you that it is all rubbish, only you can. For your sake, because I care about you, I hope you will open your eyes to this falsehood”

            Seriously, how does that make you feel? Well, you know how I feel when you hide behind your bible while smacking me over the head with it.

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          • Hi David. I don’t have a problem with you saying that – I’m well aware that this is what many people think, and I’m not offended by it.
            (and no, I wasn’t assuming you haven’t read the Bible!)

            But I came back just now because I’d been thinking a bit more about this conversation and had a bit of a lightbulb moment – I think there was something significant I was missing earlier, which probably made some of my responses seem like non sequiteurs. My apologies.

            Here’s where I think I misunderstood you.

            When you talked about other people having different beliefs, I wrongly thought you were presenting that as a reason why I’m wrong, which made no sense to me. But now I see you meant it not as evidence I’m wrong but as a reason why you find my beliefs so appalling – because you think it would be highly unfair for God to punish those people, when they sincerely believe they’re living his way.

            So what it boils down to is the old question of us humans questioning God’s justice, and you basically saying: how can you believe that God could treat people this way? Because you, David, are sure you know what’s right, and if you were in charge the criteria for who goes to hell would be very different.

            And what you seem to want from me is an admission that the God I believe in is wrong and unjust. Whereas my approach is: let’s see what God really is like, what he says in the Bible, and learn the truth – recognising that God doesn’t have to conform to our way of thinking and that we are not in a position to judge our Creator.

            I hope this helps you understand my point of view better.

            (and I hope this comes out legible – my first go at doing this on my new smartphone…)

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          • I guess we had a miscommunication :-)

            I would never want to say your beliefs are wrong and yes, my reasoning is based not just on your beliefs but the beliefs of others. Some have similar beliefs, others have vastly different.

            I don’t necessarily think God is unfair, I think people misunderstand. If someone is doing their very best based on what they have been taught, what their religion has taught, I would think God would cut them some slack. If, let’s say (for the sake of argument) that Jesus was a made up thing. You have been worshipping this idol! Do you think it would be fair that, out of ignorance, God punishes you? Even though you point out “But God, that is how myself and others translated or understood the bible to mean”. I doubt a loving god would send you to perish. Likewise, Jewish people are led to believe they are the children of God.

            Technically, I have no way of knowing if there is a god or not. So yeah, it would be as you stated “let’s see what God really is like” but at the same time, I’m not going to worship something. I am just going to do the best I can with the life I have.

            Honestly, I can’t see why an entity that we claim is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent would even care if we worshipped him. I’m sure he/she would just want us to take care of one another and not mess things up :-)

            It looks good on your new smartphone. :-)

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          • “I have no way of knowing if there is a god or not.”

            This is exactly where you and I differ – but I can relate, because that’s pretty much where I was at before I met Jesus: I was sure that it’s impossible to know if there is a god or to know what he’s really like/what he really wants from us. I could see there are people who believe very different things, and thought: how can you possibly know which of all these religions is right? (if at all)

            Since then I discovered – to my great surprise – that it is possible to know. I discovered that the real God – the one who made this world and all that’s in it, not one that human beings invented or imagined – is not some distant being sitting silently on a big cloud, but someone who loves us and cares about us passionately (loves us to death!), and who communicates with us! So we don’t need to rely on our fallible and limited imagination – we can read his word and find out!

            Which is what I meant when I said my approach is “let’s see what God really is like” – opening the Bible, asking God to help us understand, and reading. Not speculating about what you or I think is likely or reasonable, nor looking at what other humans have come up with, but going straight to the source and hearing what God himself has said.

            Oh, and when I talk about reading the Bible, I mean reading it with an open mind and not ignoring the stuff we find hard or unpalatable. When you’re trying to really get to know someone, you can’t ignore bits of their personality and pretend they’re not there. (And yes, there’ll be things that make you go “but why?” and sometimes God provides an answer, but sometimes he doesn’t and that’s got to be ok too – he’s God, and he doesn’t owe us an explanation for everything.)

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          • Ah, that a lot nicer to hear than “you can’t possibly know” :-)
            Thank you :)

            But, you know, the much more important question is how you can know: ask God to show you the truth, open the Bible and read it with an open mind, put aside your preconceived ideas and let God speak to you. God never turns anyone away if they come to him sincerely, wanting to know him.

            (and yes, it’s about knowing him – not just knowing about him in some kind of detached theoretical way. God’s invitation through Jesus is to a loving, intimate relationship.)

            Have you got some spare time this weekend? Why not sit down with a Bible somewhere quiet on your own, say something like “God, please show me your truth” and then read through John’s gospel?

            You can find out the truth – go to the source, to God’s word, and ask.

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          • It’s ironic, I do that with many books. I invite you to open up “Faithfully Religionless” by Timber Hawkeye. I just opened it up and saw text I highlighted “You can make yourself happy, or you can make yourself miserable; the amount of work is the same”.

            and when I opened the Bible (King James version) it fell open at one of the last places I debated someone on, Ezekiel 26. Which probably isn’t fair so I will choose another one later but until then, let’s discuss.

            So… Ezekiel states that Nebuchadnezzar will destroy Tyre. and in 26:12 states “Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise” but then in 29:17 “he word of the LORD came to me saying, 18“Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare. But he and his army had no wages from Tyre for the labor that he had performed against it.”

            But in Ez 26, God said Tyre would be destroyed and Neb’s army would reap the rewards of it’s plunder but 29:17 states that they didn’t???

            EZ 29:19 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And he will carry off her wealth and capture her spoil and seize her plunder; and it will be wages for his army. 20“I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they acted for Me,” declares the Lord GOD.”

            But Neb never took Egypt either!

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          • No, David, that’s not what I invited you to do – to read it like any other book, and to look for points to pick. No, I invited you to do something very different: talk to God, ask him to help you understand the truth about him, and read John’s gospel.

            If you want to know the truth, and to get to know God for real – you’re going to have to let go of some attitudes and open your mind a bit more.

            Once you’re saved, you can then ask God to help you understand the bits you wrestle with – but first you’re going to need to put your trust in him, bow to him as God, stop trusting in your own limited human understanding. And that’s why you first of all need to do the thing I was inviting you to do – you need to get to know God for real.

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  2. I too have heard “Christian Agnostic”, “Secular Buddhists” and various other terms to describe ones beliefs. Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted the portions of the New Testament and basically called it “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He believed in his teachings but not some of the more “mystical” writings.

    I tend to research religions and philosophies and if there is something that sticks with me, I adopt it as my own. The only thing that should matter to you, is what you belief. You are not your brothers keeper :-)

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    • Hi David, thank you for taking the time to read and engage with what I said. You did give me a chuckle though – quoting Cain as though he’s some kind of authority :-)

      Jesus said I am to love my fellow human beings as I love my very self – that includes caring very deeply about their eternal salvation, and doing my best to try and warn people and call them to repent and be saved.

      And Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

      The invitation is open to all. It’s open to you too. I pray that you will repent and turn to him while you still can. I may not be your keeper but I am someone who cares, and who is commanded to care.

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      • I definitely understand where you come from with your religion, so I can appreciate the concern.

        As a student of world religions, there are countless religions, countless religious beliefs, many versions of the afterlife… all claiming to be true. I’m going to stick with my own conscience and let that be my guide. Thanks!

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        • Yes, there are lots of different religions and beliefs, and until I met Jesus I was in a similar position to yours: agnostic.

          As for letting your conscience guide you – I can see this working to a certain extent for telling the difference between right and wrong, but we all have times when we ignore our conscience and do what we know to be wrong – and then, if you don’t have Jesus, you’re stuck with the guilt, and have to live without the assurance that you’ll be ok when the time comes for you to stand before God for judgement.

          Through Jesus we can have that assurance. Through him I get to live a guilt-free life, and to talk to God himself knowing that he loves me and has adopted me as his child – despite all the wrong things I’ve done. All the other religions and ideologies – they can tell you how you should live, but they can’t help you when you don’t live up to the standards. Jesus is unique: he holds us to very high standards, but he died in our place, taking on the punishment we deserve.

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          • Bingo, you just told me what you believe! So (for example) you have gone against your conscience, done something wrong but if you go through Jesus, you need not feel guilty. So when you stand in front of God for Judgement, you have that assurance that, even though you did something wrong, God will not judge you for it?

            That’s pretty convenient and there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on improving ones self. Why change when you believe that Jesus has you covered and despite him holding you to a high standard, does it not bother you that you continually fail him?

            So my point to the entire topic is that people, even among the same religion, often do have different beliefs and standards. When I was a Christian (and even now), I never felt guilt free about doing something wrong. And if I continuously did something wrong, I would look within myself in an effort to discover why. I would take personal responsibility and take corrective measures.

            But, that’s just my belief.

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          • David, you say you were a Christian and never experienced this? You didn’t know your sins were forgiven? That’s sort of Christianity 101 really – that Jesus died to pay for our sins, and through faith in him we get total forgiveness!

            And as Paul pointed out – no, that doesn’t mean we can abuse God’s grace and sin without caring, not when we appreciate the price that’s been paid for our salvation!

            My incentive to do better is not based on guilt or on fear of punishment – it is based on my love for God and my huge gratitude for what Jesus has done for me.

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          • Not in the way you described it. We were taught if you sin, you are forgiven through Penance. I’ve never quite heard that it would take your guilt away too.

            For the sake of argument, you killed someone, I would expect the guilt to be enormous and, sure, you could ask for Gods forgiveness but that should have no bearing on the guilt you *should* have for what you have done. That guilt, as well as the love you have for your god, should be a constant reminder of what you did was wrong and a reminder not to do it again.

            But that begs the question, what happens if you do kill again?

            Hope your having a great day! (err, nothing to do with killing people)

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          • Having an excellent day, thanks, and enjoying this conversation – and can happily confirm I haven’t killed anyone today :-)

            But about guilt: yes, if you kill someone the guilt should be enormous, definitely – until you confess your sin to God and receive his forgiveness. I’ve done plenty that’s wrong and if I had to walk around carrying all that guilt forever I don’t know how I’d cope. (Actually, I do know a bit about how I used to try coping, and it wasn’t pretty.)

            Penance is a human invention, by the way – not biblical, and, the way I see it, contrary to accepting the once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Bible talks about confession, not of doing something to make up for it or to prove we’re really sorry or whatever it is that the Catholic church teaches penance is supposed to be about. The biblical promise is: if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us – and I’ve experienced this again and again and again… It’s an ongoing process, it’s a regular part of living life as a saved sinner, relying totally on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for my sins.

            Do you really feel that walking around feeling guilty is the only way to be incentivised to refrain from doing wrong? It’s *so* not my experience.

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          • Penance is considered confession. So when you confess your sins, who do you confess them and where?

            and no, I don’t feel walking around feeling guilty is the only way to be incentivized from refraining from doing something again but I do think it is part of the process. I don’t think it’s constructive that if you do something wrong, you just kiss it up to god and tell the victim (if there is a victim) “Sorry I already atoned for my sin so I have no more responsibility in the matter”.
            It doesn’t really give that much incentive to be remorseful about an action.

            But, that’s my belief/that’s your belief :-)

            Enjoy your weekend!

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          • Ok, there’s several different issues here, let’s see if I can clarify:

            What I’ve been talking about is our relationship to God, not to our fellow human beings. God forgives me when I confess my sin to him – that’s between me and God. It doesn’t mean I don’t have to make things right with a person I hurt (if possible) – in fact this is something I personally faced in a big way, there was some major stuff I needed to sort out with people, a long and complex story but basically: the Holy Spirit convicted me of the need to make restitution to these people.

            So no, it’s not that you just sort things out with God and walk away whistling a happy song and not caring about people you’ve hurt. That wouldn’t go with the command to love your fellow human beings as you love yourself!

            But in terms of my relationship with God, with where I stand with him – Jesus died to atone for our sins, so because I put my faith in him, the punishment I deserve from God is written off. When I confess a specific sin it’s just me acknowledging one specific instance of this, recognising that I’d done wrong (again) and asking him to forgive me and to help me do better in future. (I repeat – this is between me and God. I don’t need a human mediator – Jesus is the mediator between humanity and God. I talk to God as and when, I can talk to him wherever I am and I can talk to him about anything.)

            By the way, another thing I feel I should clarify because I’m not sure I did it justice earlier – it’s about guilt. I realise I talked earlier about not feeling guilty, whereas the real issue is: not being guilty – or, more precisely: not being regarded as guilty by God. Our feelings can do weird things, emotions can be affected by all sorts of stuff – while I have experienced the feeling of “yay, I’m not weighed down by guilt anymore” and it’s a wonderful feeling, people don’t always experience that, people sometimes walk around still feeling guilty even though they’ve confessed and they know in their heads that they’ve been forgiven. We humans are capable of all kinds of mix-ups in our emotions, and as far as I know there’s no biblical promise that if you confess your sin you will suddenly feel better.

            What is clear from the Bible is that once you put your faith in Jesus you are saved, you are declared not guilty in the sight of God – there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

            I could go on but I think I’ll stop here. It’s late night here. Hope you’re having a good weekend, and if you have more questions do feel free to ask!

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          • Thanks for the clarification. I have a few more questions for you but will have to ask them at a later time. Nice talking to you.

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          • That’s cool! In the meantime, a couple of things that came to my mind related to our conversation yesterday:

            1. You talked about feeling remorse, and it sounds like you thought if I’m free of guilt then I also have no remorse. That’s not the way it works. Guilt is about my legal standing before God – through faith in Jesus I’ve been justified, which means that in the heavenly courts I’m regarded as not guilty. Through faith in Jesus I get to trade in my sins/guilt/punishment and get his righteousness – totally undeserved, totally by God’s grace. But receiving this grace doesn’t mean I don’t feel remorse about the wrong I’ve done, or regret, or deep sadness. I just know that I don’t need to let that weigh me down, I don’t need to wallow in all that, I can try and learn lessons and try and do better in future but I don’t need to spend the rest of my life beating myself over the head, and I don’t need to dread God.

            2. Confessing my sins to God is just part of normal Christian life, a kind of maintenance thing, part of working on my relationship with him, keeping lines of communication open, being honest with myself and with my loving Father – but I come to him knowing he loves me unconditionally and knowing that I have already been justified, once and for all, by putting my faith in the once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jesus died so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life – this is something Jesus himself said, and he said “all who believe”, not: all who believe and also jump through all sorts of extra hoops that human beings will invent later :-)

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          • I’m not sure if this was the last message we sent. I haven’t kept up with the latest in Christianity :-) You are Jewish but converted to Christianity, what sect of Christianity?

            Years ago I had a friend who (I believe) was Catholic, become “Born Again”. I thought that strange at the time but I’m assuming it is similar to joining a different sect.

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          • I’m not sure how to reply – you’re using terminology I can’t really relate to, but I’m going to try anyway :-)

            I don’t belong to any sect. I’m just a follower of Jesus Christ – saved by grace through faith in him, and seeking to live according to his will. Being born again is simply what happens to a person when they put their faith in Jesus. (Jesus talked about that in John 3.) I’m pleased for your friend – because being a Catholic can’t save you. (Sounds like when you said you used to be a Christian this is what you were talking about – being a Catholic? Is that the religion you were brought up on?)

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          • Sorry, yes, I should have realised you meant denomination – but no, I don’t belong to any denomination. I’m just a follower of Jesus.

            Yes, I believe in the triune God – Father, Son and Spirit. That’s what I learn from the Bible about God, he’s a united plurality and not some solitary being. (By the way, did you know that the Hebrew word Elohim, which is used to refer to God right from the first verse of Genesis, is a plural noun? That’s just one of many clues that God isn’t just one single person. As a Hebrew speaker, I found that pretty mind-blowing when I realised!)

            Being a Catholic can’t save you because the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, not through obeying the rules of some man-made religion. Jesus said he is the only way to the Father. Jesus died so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. The Bible – which is the Word of God – says we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Salvation doesn’t depend on going to church or being brought up in a certain religion or following the dictates of a particular brand of religion – salvation depends on one thing only: you personally repenting and turning to Jesus, accepting him as your Lord and Saviour, and committing to following him from now on.

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          • Interesting, so if a catholic does not go to heaven, where does a catholic go? While I’m on that topic, where do you think a Buddhist or Jewish person go? and one last question, how were you baptized?

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          • It’s not that “a Catholic doesn’t go to heaven” – it’s that being a Catholic won’t get you there. The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ.

            (Where do people go who don’t put their faith in him? I think you know the answer to that, and it’s not a nice place – which is one reason why I’m so passionate about telling people about Jesus.)

            how was I baptised? it’s simple – I went under the water and came out of the water. That’s the biblical practice. (but I understand that if you were brought up in the Catholic tradition, this is probably not something you’ve been exposed to.)

            by the way, how long is it since you left the Catholic church? how old were you? what was your reason for leaving? I’m curious.

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          • I’m asking many questions that I’m pretty certain I already know your answers :-)

            Catholics & Heaven: I would imagine that most Catholics I know have faith in Jesus so it intrigued me to hear your response when I asked what you meant “being a Catholic can’t save you”. Likewise, I’d imagine the same thing could be said about a non-denominational Christian.

            (Where do people go who don’t put their faith in him? I think you know the answer). I know your answer, I just wanted to hear you say it. You believe that if you take Jesus as your savior, you go to Christian heaven. A Buddhist believes they go to a heaven or hell realm based on accrued Karma, people of the Jewish faith believe they go to Paradise, Islam also believe they go to Paradise. I believe I become part of the earth, I become the hummus of the earth, I become the soil, the grass, the plants, bushes and trees. I become the air and water we breath…

            There are many afterlife beliefs, people do many wonderful things (People do horrible things in the name of religion- duly noted) believing they are going to a wonderful place in their afterlife, just like you. I guess it just seems strange to me that someone would state they are going to… (not a nice place). That is your belief. I’m sure the Buddhist doesn’t think they are going to a Christian hell, they hope to be in a Buddhist heavenly realm so maybe they can see their family again. The follower of Judea/Islam should also feel they will be in paradise with their family. For you to say they are going to a Christian hell… that’s kind of sad to think you believe that (my belief).. no matter what your belief.

            I was baptized as an infant. Off hand, I’m not sure of the terminology but held over a bowl/urn and water poured on my head.

            I will write another post for the rest of my response.

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          • Dear David,

            You keep talking about what people believe – some believe this and others believe that, and… so what? Someone may believe the moon is made of cheese but if they travel there and hope to have enough to eat based on that belief, they’ll starve to death. Believing X, when X isn’t true, won’t help you when your life depends on it. And choosing to believe just the stuff that makes you feel comfortable, just what give you nice warm fuzzies – it won’t help you when your life depends on it.

            You may not like some of what Jesus said – like all that stuff about people going to the place where there’s eternal fire and wailing and gnashing of teeth [I don’t like it either, and I don’t know anyone who does] – but just because you don’t like it, that doesn’t make it any less true. And you will one day stand before God for judgement, no matter what you chose to believe. No, you won’t conveniently turn into part of the earth when you die, or become stardust, or stop existing, or whatever else people believe as a way of shielding themselves from the fear of hell.

            You know, it’s funny how people sometimes mock religious faith as a crutch, whereas in reality it’s those who reject Jesus who need to invent all kinds of crutches to somehow reassure themselves – with no evidence to base it on – that no, there’s no need to worry about hell.

            Hell is real, and it’s utterly terrifying. But God in his mercy has provided us with a way to avoid it. For real.

            – – –

            (Interesting to hear some of your own story. It’s so different to mine – I grew up in a culture where atheism is respected and religion is looked down on. My dad was an atheist and my mum kept some of the Jewish customs but very loosely. I didn’t really know people who seriously believed in God when I was growing up.)

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          • (by the way, how long is it since you left the Catholic church? how old were you? what was your reason for leaving? I’m curious.)

            From an early age (10 years old?), I discovered that I did not believe in “mystical” things. Ghosts, Gods, Spirits, Angels, Mystics but went along with the religious teachings because that is what is expected when you are from a religious family. This included church, Sunday school, Religious education until I was about 18 years old. I was an alter boy, my mom was taught bible classes. My mother was very strict religiously so imagine if one of your children decided to go a different direction religiously… how would you take it?

            My brother married a Jehovah Witness (and had to convert) and my mom had a hard time with it. I think at some point she said to me “You can be any religion you like but you have to have a religion”, I never gave in to the point that I was atheist.

            Only people who were close to me knew I was atheist, About 12 year ago (then 36 years old), I announced my atheism to my family and friends. Most took it without an issue except one of my friends who got a bit bent out of shape. Despite being a strong atheist for many years, about 5 years ago, I started learning about world religions… not because I wanted to find a new religion, just to understand people who follow religions. I do lean towards Buddhism because it works for me. It fits the person I am.

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          • I keep talking about what people believe to try to give perspective to the discussion. You don’t find it strange that there are so many people with different beliefs, even you have changed what you believe but you are currently standing firm that only your belief is the correct one and for those who do not believe like you, they will perish in hell.

            What Hitler did to the Jews was horrific, do you equally feel, based on your belief, what your god is doing is equally as horrific? How about friends and family members who have different beliefs than yours? I read some of your blogs trying to determine what you believe about hell and came across a mention of your mom going to hell. It sounds like she was a women who held her Jewish beliefs close to her (just based on what I have read) and she firmly believed she was doing the right thing, she may have believed in the afterlife she was going to Paradise, Maybe before you converted to Christian you would have thought this was a comforting thought at the time but now you have done a 360 and are now considering she went to hell??? Does that give you any inclination about the manipulative power of religion?

            When your life depends on believing X, when X isn’t true…? Will not be important during your lifetime. If you feel a loving god would not understand that millions of people may have been doing their best with the religion that was taught to them and banish them to hell, what does that say about your loving god? What does it say about your belief? Maybe it is your belief that is wrong, it certainly sounds like it so far.

            “You may not like some of what Jesus said ….[Snip] And you will one day stand before God for judgement”

            Please note, these are your beliefs, please do not associate them to me

            “No, you won’t conveniently turn into part of the earth when you die”

            Please note, this is a scientific fact as opposed to the shameful belief that someone you love is going to someplace to burn.. in the name of your new religion.

            “Hell is real, and it’s utterly terrifying. But God in his mercy has provided us with a way to avoid it. For real.”

            and, again, this is your belief. Which wasn’t always your belief. Not to mention the millions of people who have a differing belief. I’d much rather have those good old fuzzy feelings that scientifically, my parents, family and friends will always be part of the earth and my surroundings…but… those are my beliefs. :-)

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          • Oh dear… Somehow you don’t seem to get what I’m saying – I’m going to try once more:

            Yes, there are people in this world who believe all sorts of things about God and about the afterlife. Before I met Jesus I didn’t really have any firm beliefs about these things. I do have firm beliefs now, because God revealed his truth to me through his word, the Bible – which is available to anyone. I don’t pick and choose what suits me, what sort of deity I’d like to believe in, what sort of setup I would prefer for the afterlife, what criteria apply for whether someone goes to heaven or to hell after they die – I’m not God, it’s not up to me.

            You can accept this or not – that’s your call. All I can do is tell people the truth, and pray that God in his mercy will help them see.

            I am not the one deciding who gets to go to heaven. I don’t have that prerogative. Neither do you, or any other human being.

            If someone sincerely believes that doing xyz (when xyz does not equal: putting your faith in Jesus for your salvation) will get them to heaven – they will find they were wrong, and it will be too late. Which is part of why I feel it’s my duty to try and tell people the truth – the good news of salvation being available to anyone through Jesus Christ.

            Sure, those other beliefs give people comfort – for now, for this very temporary life we live before our bodies come to an end. But after that – when your body gets buried and decomposes in the ground, or gets burned to ashes – your soul remains and whatever you believed, you will stand before God for judgement.

            I’m not asking you to believe this just because I believe it. I’m just a human being, fallible like you, capable of getting things wrong. I’m just telling you: God, who created this world and all that’s in it, has given us his word, the Bible, to tell us exactly what our problem is and what the solution is. He has declared that there’s only one name by which we may be saved, he has provided us with the information we need and with the blood of his son! What more can we ask for? He has made the ultimate sacrifice for us, because he knows we can’t save ourselves and because he loves us so much! He has every right to send us all to hell but no, he has chosen to provide us with a way to avoid the hell that we deserve – all you, or anyone else, has to do is accept his gift, his precious undeserved blood-bought grace, the sacrifice he has made for us!

            And yet we humans argue and insist he should do things our way. As though we know better than God himself. As though we, the ones created by him, have a right to tell him how he should operate. The clay telling the potter what to do. The mortal human, who would not have come into existence without God, and who could stop existing any moment if God chose to end his life, raising a fist and yelling at his Creator…

            If God was anything like me, he’d have lost his patience with us long ago. I’m grateful that he is so very slow to anger, so gracious, so patient. He keeps giving us more time, time for more people to come to their senses and repent while they still can.

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          • I’ve read John many times in my life. I have asked you how you know there is a god, I have asked you who baptized you, who interprets the bible for you (or who do you go to when you have a question). I’ve produced a bible prophecy but you have made no comment on it. (Have you even read it?)

            Knowing I don’t believe in a god, you task me to “say something like “God, please show me your truth” and then read through John’s gospel?”

            I’m starting to feel the conversation is getting circular, in which we keep going back to the same “Born Again” verses. You are reciting/referring to the same common verses. You seem to deflect from the more indepth verses, why is that?

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          • It’s certainly felt circular to me – you ask but you don’t like my answers, because the only source of truth I can point you to is the source you refuse to accept. Knowing that you don’t believe in God, I also know that you can’t find the truth without talking to him and being willing to listen to what he says.

            I see absolutely no point in getting into a discussion with you of what you refer to as “more indepth verses” when you haven’t yet grasped the most basic, essential truth. I pointed you to John’s gospel because it has that basic, essential truth that you need for your salvation.

            It is up to you, David – I can lead you to the water but I can’t make you drink. (Not that I’m suggesting you’re a horse, obviously.)

            There’s water there. Good, pure, living water. Enough for everyone.

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          • First and foremost, you keep assuming I am looking for “Salvation” even though I keep telling you that I am not.
            A few messages back, I stated that neither you or I can know for a fact there is a god, you took exception to that..So..I said, What is your proof?

            You go on to ask me open John and ask god to show me.

            I don’t like your answers because you don’t answer questions. You are vague and refer me to bible verses.

            As I stated, I have read John but you turn around and respond that you don’t want to get more indepth because I haven’t grasped the most basic (John)?? It’s like telling someone who wants to talk Geometry that we first have to go over Basic Algebra.
            It seems to me that maybe you are not answering my questions because maybe it is you who only has a basic knowledge and have been relying on others to tell you what verses to read.

            Thanks for your time but It’s getting annoying for you to repeatedly assume I am looking for salvation and proselytizing me every 3rd response.

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          • No, David, I’m absolutely not assuming you are looking for salvation. I’m just telling you that it’s what you need – it’s what everybody needs.

            You asked me how I know that God exists – I told you how you can find out for yourself, if you want to know. If you don’t – I can’t force you.

            If what you wanted was the whole detailed story of exactly how I came to find out for myself – it’s a long story, I have shared some of it on my blog but I didn’t feel it would be particularly constructive to get into all that here, in this conversation – my story is just my story, how it happened to me. (Though it did involve opening the Bible and reading the gospels)

            I don’t feel your geometry analogy is particularly appropriate. This isn’t about studying some theoretical subject – it’s about getting to know God, and once someone gets to know him they can – with his help – work on figuring out all sorts of details. Since you don’t know him – you aren’t even sure he is there at all – I don’t see any point in getting into discussions about particular bits in the Bible that you feel like picking at. It’s not what I’m here for. I’m not here to act as a Bible teacher. (and I absolutely don’t feel I’m under an obligation to answer each and every question someone throws in my direction.)

            I’m a bit baffled by your comment that I’m vague and refer you to Bible verses – do you mean I wasn’t specific enough in saying which verses I meant?

            but it’s nearly 4am and time I got offline and got some sleep now.

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          • “I’m absolutely not assuming you are looking for salvation. I’m just telling you that it’s what you need – it’s what everybody needs.”

            and there it is again, the circular discussion. I tell you that I am not looking for “salvation” that you are proselytizing me and you continue to do it.

            You wonder why when you talked of “Hell” that someone tells you that you lost them. I’m trying to have a discussion with you but you don’t want to answer questions, just proselytize.

            I have my own world view, which I am not trying to convince you is the only truth, why not extend me the same respect?

            You lost me…

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          • I’m not surprised at your reaction. I realise that what I’m saying is very much not what you want to hear. I keep saying it because I feel I have a duty to at least try and lead people away from the path that leads to their own destruction – but like I said, I can’t force you, it’s up to you.

            as for showing respect to someone by not trying to convince them of something you’re sure is true and good? I don’t get that. People do this kind of thing with a whole load of stuff – sharing excitedly about the latest movie they enjoyed/the new health regime they’ve discovered/the diet they find absolutely amazing/the book they’ve read with seven steps to happiness and contentment/whatever. People try to persuade others of their political views, their preference for Android vs. Apple, their views on the importance of recycling, animal rights, fracking, you name it. But somehow when it comes to Jesus, it’s not ok to shout from the rooftops that I’ve found the pearl of great price? sorry, no, that really doesn’t work. especially considering that Jesus is about a lot more than all those other things – he’s about your eternal destination, so of course I have to try and tell people, to warn them!

            which goes back to where this conversation started, I guess – you said I shouldn’t be concerned with what others believe. I told you I’m commanded to love my fellow human beings as I love myself, which includes caring passionately about their eternal salvation. I respect your right to choose for yourself if you want eternal salvation or not – but I will not brush it under the carpet.

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          • When someone tells you to stop doing something, you need to respect their wishes. If someone continuously tells you no, NO means NO.

            I don’t think it is Christianity at fault here, it is what you believe Christianity is. Christianity is not condemning your mother to hell.

            You can keep repeating the same thing over and over again but at this point, I will no longer be an audience to it.

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          • You’ve been free to leave this conversation all along. I wasn’t forcing you to stick around.

            You said: “I don’t think it is Christianity at fault here, it is what you believe Christianity is. Christianity is not condemning your mother to hell.”

            You’re right, in a sense, to say that Christianity is not condemning my mother to hell. The one who has the power and the authority to decide these things is God himself, and only him – which is what I’ve been trying to get across but you refuse to accept that, you keep insisting that it’s all about what people believe.

            The good news though – which, again, you’re refusing to accept – is that God is also the one who offers us a way out! Jesus died so that anyone who believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

            and he has commanded me to try and tell people about the way out. If someone doesn’t want to listen they can always leave the room.

            (Whether or not my mother took him up on his offer at the last minute, I have no way of knowing. I very much hope she did.)

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    • Jesus did command us to love God, love one another, and make disciples. We actually are responsible for advising our brothers and sisters in Christ and helping each othe along in life. But not everyone is a brother or sister to us. Only if they have chosen to be saved by the blood of Christ are they our family. But we are to love all people still, even if they are not in the family. Which is why we speak truth to the world. Not in arrogance, but in love.

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      • Yes, spreading the good news! :-) But staying more on the point I was trying to make, no two people really believe and worship the same way. I was never taught when I was young to spread the “good news”, I don’t remember many people at my church doing that. (That’s not to say it didn’t happen).

        If I found out someone was a different religion, I would not be telling them that their religion is wrong and mine is the truth but I have heard those words used time and time again. Now, I would take the opportunity to learn about their beliefs and see if there is anything I could extract from it .

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