Wendy and I will be looking forward to seeing you and Mom very soon. The babies should be here within a few weeks.
As I was riding the motorcycle on the way to my janitorial job, my mind kept going back to you and some of the things experienced in my childhood. You know, it always has been hard for us to talk on a father to son basis (which is probably not unusual for many families).
The reason that I'm writing this letter is because I want you to know the truth -- the truth about life, about Christianity, about things you knew to be wrong such as hypocrisy (pretending to be something that you weren't).
The disciples asked Jesus one time, "What would be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?" Jesus answered, "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ (or I am of Christ); and shall deceive many." "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Mt. 24:3,13).
How do we know or how can we know truth from error? Well, the first thing is to take by faith that the scriptures are the very God-breathed words of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Today I am writing you a letter. I presume that you are not just reading one sentence from this letter and then telling Mom that such and such is what Don said in his letter. Much preaching today is like reading one sentence from a letter; frankly in doing that you can make the Bible say anything you want it to. The apostle Peter warned that many people would distort the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:15-17). This is where the word "heresy" is derived from. "Heresy" comes from a Latin word which means "to take or choose." Many people today are taking or choosing which part of the Bible they would like to believe. (The result is the many church denominations that we have today.)
Jesus said when He left this earth He would send the Spirit of truth to guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13-14). The apostle John again speaks in the epistle of first John of men that would seduce, that is, try to lead a person astray. He says, "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of ALL things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him. And now little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (1 Jn. 2:26-29). Let me share with you what I see from these verses: (1) Men will try to lead you astray (knowingly or unknowingly). (2) The Spirit of truth will teach you. (3) The Spirit of truth's teaching that causes you to abide in Christ, will produce a fruit or character of life that will cause a person not to be ashamed when Christ comes. (5) Those that are truly born again are those whose faith in Christ's redemption and Word brings forth a fruit which is doing righteousness.
You see, 70 or 80 percent of Americans claim to be born again. But if that were true we would have a nation that practiced righteousness (and that is not the way it is). You see, the apostle Paul also made a statement against the religious Jews of his day that claimed to be the people of God by saying, "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you" (Rom. 2:24). In other words these religious Jews were talking the talk but not walking the walk. They claimed the true God but conducted themselves in such a way that caused other people to think less of God. In other words, "If their God is real and they live like that, I don't want anything to do with their God." Well, Paul goes on to say, that the problem is not with God but with man's heart (Rom. 2:28-29).
Jesus was asked one time if there were few that would be saved? "And He said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Lk. 13:23-24). For "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt. 7:21-23).
You see, these people were religious enough and claimed many wonderful works but yet they were turned away from the kingdom. Why? Because they worked iniquity. You see, Jesus saves people not only from the penalty of sin but also from its power. Not to sin and continue a lifestyle of sin but FROM SIN. Is this sinless perfection? No. Is it a change of direction? Yes.
Jesus says, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." "Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them" (Mt. 7:17-20; 3:10; Jn. 15; Lk. 13:7-9). You see, being born again is likened to an incorruptible seed (1 Pet. 1:23). And what kind of fruit does and incorruptible seed bring forth? What kind of fruit would a corrupt seed bring forth? Fruit after its own kind.
The apostle James speaks about the true religion and the pure religion when he says, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to KEEP HIMSELF UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD" (Jas. 1:27). Don't get me wrong, we are saved by faith in Christ alone. But we can tell what we believe by what we do. We are not saved by works but works are the test that reveals if our faith is real (Jas. 2:18). See Titus 1:16.
In our western civilization, to believe in Christ has come to mean no more than to acknowledge some facts about Him. Or to use natural terms I could say, "Do you believe that is a tree?" You said, "Yes, I believe that is a tree." "Do you believe Jesus died for your sins?" "Yes, I believe Jesus died for my sins." It is very possible that this kind of faith could be no more than demons faith (Jas. 2:19) or mental assent to some facts. In the Bible the words "believe" and "faith" mean much more. If I said, "Your house is on fire!" If you believed me that would produce an action which would be getting up and running out of the house. If you really believe that Christ's sacrifice (redemption) saves you from sin you're not going to be living in sin (Rom. 6). These things go together just as much as running out of the house that is on fire. Christ's redemption is not only that which saves a man from the penalty of sin, but it is also the great act of God whereby we have been enabled by God's Spirit (as He applies the truth of redemption to our hearts) to never go back into a lifestyle of in again. For those who continue a lifestyle of sin, the question is, "Do they really believe what they say they believe?" This is why the Bible says, "Examine and test and evaluate your own selves, to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it" (2 Cor. 13:5; AMP).
Don't get me wrong, its not that doing good things or deeds could ever deal with the problem of sin. For forgiveness comes only as a gift through the shedding of Jesus' blood. What good are good deeds in the light of redemption? They could never remove one of our sins. God through Jesus has paid on our behalf the wages of our sins which was eternal death (Rom. 6:23). "Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification - our acquittal, and to make our account balance, absolving us from all guilt before God" (Rom. 4:25, AMP).
But is there not also a second meaning in the idea of God declaring man righteous through the redemption of Christ? Does not God make man upright (that is, giving him a new heart and change in his direction) as well as recognize him as upright? For example, I could never keep a pig away from a mud hole. Why? Because it is the nature of a pig to wallow in mud. But if I could somehow put the nature of a lamb into the pig then I wouldn't have to worry about the pig wallowing in the mud. It isn't the nature of a lamb to wallow in mud. So in Christ a new nature of Christ has been placed into the believer (Eph. 4:24). This explains the many scriptures that say, "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (1 Jn. 2:29). "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 Jn. 3:3). "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that co mmitteth (continues in) sin is of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:7-8). "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (1J n. 3:10). "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). You work out that which God has worked in you. That is the fruit of your faith or as Hebrews 6:9-10 states, "Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that ACCOMPANY salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name." That which accompanies (to co-exist or occur with) salvation are the good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in (Eph. 2:10).
Yes it is possible for a person to have said the sinner's prayer, asked Jesus into their heart, without having really repented of their sins (repent: a change of mind, a change of heart that turns away from sin to God). These are people that Jesus said "draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me" (Mt. 15:8).
Yes, Jesus is after the hearts of men, they that have taken on the yoke of His kingdom (Mt. 11:28-30), they that will live by their King's (Christ's) commands (Lk. 6:46), they who have turned aside from sin unto Him (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
God is calling you, I know because there's a special love in my heart to see you enter the kingdom and I pray to this end.