Thursday, April 14, 2011


There is an old story about a born-again Christian who died, and was ushered into heaven. After a tour of "the place," he told his guide that he was surprised that so many of those he was sure had gone to hell, were there. He remembered that they had always seemed to be too busy for church, and some of them had been anything but pleasant to be around while they were alive. During his tour of heaven, he began noticing that many of those he was sure he would meet there, were absent. When he asked about them, he was told that they had been model citizens and very religious, but that they had never placed their trust solely in Jesus. He was shocked as many of those "missing" had been missionaries and pastors he had highly esteemed. Finally, it was time for him to meet Jesus. He could not wait to see the Lord. He made sure his luminescent robe was just right, and he entered God's presence. When he saw Jesus, sitting at the right hand of the Father, their radiant glory was more than he could take. He fell to his knees with his head bowed toward the golden floor, for he was utterly amazed that he, himself, was there!

I retell this story to make a point. You and I do not know who is saved, and who is not. The first group that surprised the new arrival consisted of born-again Christians who failed to live like it! The Bible calls them "carnal" because they lived their lives in the flesh instead of being filled with the Spirit (Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. 5:16-25). In other words, when we fail to live for Christ, folks cannot tell us from those who are lost.

The second group, those who shock us, are those who appear to be the "most holy" of our fellow church members. This should not be unexpected for there never seems to have been a time when people have not pretended to be pious. The Book of Job, said to be the oldest book in the Bible, speaks of hypocrites "in the congregation" long before God chose Israel (Job 15:34). The Jewish nation was warned about the same thing in Isaiah 33:14, and in the preaching of Jesus (Matt. 23:1-39). Although the word "hypocrite" is not found in the Bible following the Day of Pentecost (the birth of the Church in Acts 2), there are numerous verses which warn believers about them (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 5:6; Col. 2:8; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 Jn. 4:1).

Then there is the individual himself, who was amazed he was permitted to be in the presence of the Lord. Hopefully, he represents you and me. If we know we are deceiving others, we know we are lost. But there are those who are "working their way to heaven," who will discover they had failed to receive Christ by faith and have deceived themselves (Matt. 7:21-22). We, on the other hand, can know for certain that we are a child of God, that our salvation was an undeserved gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Jn. 3:2; 5:13). Still, because our relationship to God is totally the result of His work on our behalf, we will truly be amazed to be in His presence! Awesome is God's amazing grace!

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