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Sunday, November 27, 2016 am                                            What It Means to Be a Christian Index

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN (3)
Hindrances to Becoming a Christian

 

Last week, we addressed obeying the gospel.   Not only did we address what one must do to become a Christian, we also noted some of the benefits of becoming a Christians, and that we must remain faithful and realize that becoming a Christian comes with a cost.  There are many things that obeying the gospel will not do – miraculously change your heart, remove temptations, keep you from committing sins, remove all your struggles and difficulties, remove the consequences of sin, including relationships, and will not guarantee your salvation (make it impossible to fall away), etc. 

While the commitment is serious, many still refuse to obey the gospel.  In fact, it seems that fewer people within our society seem to be interested in the Bible and salvation through Jesus.  It seems that as time goes on, the wayside is adding lanes (Luke 8:5, 12) that lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13) to accommodate the increasing masses that most are just not interested in the gospel.  Meanwhile, the road to life (heaven) continues to be “straight and narrow” and it seems to be more and more lonely (Matthew 7:14). 

In Acts 8:36 we find a question the Eunuch asks Peter, “See here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?  As he was taught, he saw that he needed to do something and that prompted the question.  We greatly anticipate those who ask such questions as they afford opportunities to teach, but more often today there ARE hindrances to obeying the gospel.  In this lesson, we want to notice a few of them.  Understanding these things can help us to anticipate and prepare for such objections. 

 I.         Some simply don’t believe. 

a.       We are living in times when fewer believe in the Bible, or even God. Beyond that even more do not believe it is necessary to follow the Bible’s teaching on righteousness (obedience – cf. 1 John 3:7). Furthermore, humanism (emphasis on the importance of the human rather than God) has degraded the accountability that comes with belief in God and a divine pattern of morality. 

That presents a challenge.  Often, in trying to reach the lost, we cannot even begin opening a Bible until we address these issues.  At time, they are deeply rooted and hidden from the surface. 

b.       Add to this the confusion that is present because of the plethora of world religions, world views ecumenism, and antagonism toward God (challenges).  There’s confusion – religious and otherwise.

c.        Yet the Bible is clear that one MUST believe in order to be saved.   The whole system of faith is sometimes included in the word “believe”. 
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 speaks of the gospel being “veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

In the parable of the sower, we read of wayside being hardened hearts that just refuse to accept the truth. (Luke 8:5, 12)
Jesus dealt with many unbelievers, including the Jewish leaders (John 12:37-40 -  in spite of the signs Jesus did, “they did not believe Him” so that the prophecy of Isaiah about blindness would be fulfilled (Isa. 53:1, 6:9-10).    Even among those following around, Jesus knew there were some who didn’t believe (John 6:64). 
2 Thessalonians 2:12 speaks of those who are deluded because they believe the lie, “that they may all be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

d.       There’s not much we can do for one who has a hard heart and doesn’t want to believe until you can get him to rethink these things. 

 II.       Faulty thinking

a.       Contributing to unbelief, others are simply thinking wrong about themselves and what they need to do.  In our society, many believe that Jesus saves, but they don’t need to or want to obey the gospel. 
They just think wrong – Psalm 94:11, The Lord knows the thoughts of man, That they are futile.
Romans 1:21 speaks, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

b.       Some say:
“I’m not good enough” (a true statement, but still a misunderstanding of scripture) – our salvation is not based upon our perfect law keeping.  While we must seek after righteousness, we are saved by the blood of Jesus.  Titus 3:4-5 speaks of the kindness and love of God appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… 
Furthermore, Christ died for sinners – Romans 5:8. 
“I’m good enough” as if to say I don’t need to obey the God because God is going to accept me like I am.   Isaiah 64:6 describes it, All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.  Romans 3:10 – there is none righteous.   Again consider Titus 3:5, we are not saved by works of righteousness
“I have plenty of time” is said of those who know they need to take seriously the gospel, but not right now.  Sadly, this mindset often becomes permanent (there’s always an excuse to put it off) or meets a tragic ending.  We are warned that our life is a vapor – James 4:14.  
I hate God” and blame Him for all their troubles.  They are bitter and miserable.  While some have been given unpleasant circumstances, their quality of life is determined by their thinking. 
“I’m not lost” – many have been lied to about what they need to believe and do.  Some reject the need for obeying the gospel in favor of “faith only”.  Matthew 7:21-23 notes it not enough to say “Lord, Lord”, but you must obey.

c.        Obeying the gospel begins with proper thinking - Bringing every thought into captivity – 2 Corinthians 10:5. In Acts 2:37, they were cut to the heart and asked what shall we do.

d.       But sadly, faulty thinking will keep many from becoming Christians and thus leave them in their lost state.  Proverbs 27:3 says, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.  While dealing with a miser, the point of the attitude applies much broader.

 III.      They don’t want to deal with their sin

a.       To become a Christian, you must give up living in sin. 
1 John 3:9 tells us that as Christians we cannot sin.  Paul emphasizes this in Romans 6:1-2 where he proceeds to remind them they had put to death the man of sin. 

b.       We have a sin problem in this society.  But that is nothing new. Often it keeps one from becoming a Christian.   Far too many are unwilling to give up sinful behavior.   They love their ungodly lifestyles – whether it be sensual lust, pride, materialism, profanity, illicit substances and behaviors, etc.  Some love to crush others and live as if they are better than everyone else.  Some are arrogant and selfish.  The list is endless and far too many love this world and the things of the world too much (1 John 2:15-17). 

c.        Jesus in John 3:18-19 spoke of how men loved darkness and hated the light, seeking to destroy those who expose their evil deeds.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  
Job 24:13-17 said, “There are those who rebel against the light; They do not know its ways Nor abide in its paths. The murderer rises with the light; He kills the poor and needy; And in the night he is like a thief. The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, Saying, ‘No eye will see me’; And he disguises his face. In the dark they break into houses Which they marked for themselves in the daytime; They do not know the light. For the morning is the same to them as the shadow of death; If someone recognizes them, They are in the terrors of the shadow of death.”
Paul warned Timothy that perilous times would come (1 Tim. 3:1-5). 

d.       This love for sin has caused many problems as some seek to water down the gospel to accommodate sinful conduct, or they ignore the whole counsel of God to appease ticking ears (cf. Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:2-4).  The result is a class of professed believers who have not obeyed the gospel.    NOTE: This goes back to our emphasis on repentance in a previous lesson.

 IV.     Consequences of obeying the gospel–

a.       There are others who will hear the truth and understand it.  They realize that becoming a Christian comes with a cost, as we have already addressed, and are unwilling to pay that cost.

b.       Many realize that accepting the Bible means you will be resisting society.  Being a Christian today is politically incorrect and comes with labels.  Accurately following the Bible is villainized today by our society.  If we take a moral stand true to God’s word, we are likely to be mocked and maybe worse.  Some have even faced persecutions (lost businesses, fines, etc.). 
Many just don’t want to face such ridicule.   John 12:43 notes that even among the rulers, many believed in Jesus but would not confess Him for fear of being put out of the synagogue. 

c.        It may cost you your job – what if you are doing something that supports sinful behavior (working for a brewery, in a casino, a bar, etc.)? What if your job requires you to lie or be deceitful?  What if the job conflicts with your new found Biblical principles?

d.       It may cost you family and friends – Jesus directly warned this might happen – Matthew 10:34-38 – He came, not to bring peace, but a sword – families would be divided!  There are some who realize that following Jesus might mean rejecting a system of faith you grew up with and others who hold to that.  But we must put God first.
Another thought – some realize that by accepting the truth, it might mean their family is not saved.  While such is put in God’s hands, that doesn’t change what you must do, and if they genuinely care what they would want you to do! (cf. Luke 16:27-28) 
As to friends, you may lose some of them as well - “They think it strange…” – 1 Peter 4:4.

e.       Jesus said if we’re not willing to pay the price we cannot be His disciple.  Luke 14:33
Jesus also paid the price saying (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 2:24).
He told His disciples there is a price, “if the world hated me It will hate you too” – John 15:18.

f.         What profit is it to a man, if he gains the world? Matthew 16:26.  The cost of rejection is greater!

 V.       Hypocrisy

a.       God despises hypocrisy.  It is contrary to everything that is the life of a Christian.   The word is NEVER used in a good sense in scripture.  James 3:17 tells us the wisdom from above is without hypocrisy.  

b.       Right or wrong, when we are not what we ought to be, the world takes note and judges.   Sometimes it turns people away.  What a tragedy that is.
It also gives justification to critics of truth.  Example: When “Christians” are filled with divorce and other sins, what does this say to Muslims, atheists, etc.?  We judge them for their abortion, homosexuality, etc.  We’re not consistent!

c.        Hypocrisy is something we CAN control and remove it as a reason!  Be sincere.  Romans 12:9, our love is to be without hypocrisy. 

 VI.     Ignorance - They’re not being taught!

a.       One reason many don’t obey, is because they have never heard the truth.  OR what they have heard is so far from truth they are ignorant to it.

b.       Ignorance will NOT save anyone!  Act 17:30-31

c.        This is one of those areas, where we can do something.  Furthermore, if we don’t tell others, who will?

 VII.   That “one thing you lack”

a.       Finally, consider the rich, young ruler.  Luke 18:22, “You still lack one thing”.   His love of money and things stood in his way of inheriting eternal life.   Sadly he went away sorrowful because of his great possessions

b.       For many today, they lack that “one thing”.  It may be different for everyone, but often it is “one thing” that they need to change.  Whatever it is, if possible we need to help them see it and overcome. 

Some call these reasons, but in reality they are all excuses.  The real reason many fail to obey the gospel is because they refuse to.  As Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39-40, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.  

The truth is one day we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an accounting for whether or not we have obeyed the gospel.   And where you stand after judgment will be determined by your decisions in this life.  Don’t let your excuses and selfish desires keep you from heaven.  Think about it.