Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Why a Christian?

There's no simple answer. Why would anyone choose to be a Christian? And don't say, "Because I love the Lord." Oh, I know that if you're a Christian you love the Lord. But you love Him because He first loved you. Conversely, before you became a Christian you did not love God. So yes, as a Christian you do love God, but that is a consequence of your salvation, not a cause. So again I ask, why would anyone choose to become a Christian?

It's well known that once you become a Christian, others are going to hate you, despise you, for living your faith. Indeed, if you preach Jesus' gospel, people will hate you for it. Christ Himself tells us so.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against [their] parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10: 16 - 22).

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead [you], and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against [their] parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Mark 13: 9 - 13).

But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute [you], delivering [you] up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle [it] therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and [some] of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake (Luke 21: 12 - 17).

Jesus made it quite plain. If we live our faith, if we fulfill our purpose, if we carry out the Great Commission of bearing witness to His gospel, the world will hate us. And He explains why as well.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15: 18 - 24).

We're like the little children telling the Emperor he has no clothes. Christ came and told the world that they needed to repent their sin. But people prefer to deny their sin. It's human nature, this ultimate state of denial. Like the adulterous woman of Proverbs, people would rather deny their sins than repent them. But Jesus denied people the comfort of denial, of self-deception, and if we are living our lives in submission to His will, if we are fulfilling the Great Commission, if our lives bear witness to His gospel, then indeed, which is to say quite literally in deed (as well as word) we do too. So of course the world will hate us.

And as if that weren't enough, Christians also get to look forward to being chastened by God.

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (Hebrews 12: 5 - 8).

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (Revelation 3: 19).

Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, [so] the LORD thy God chasteneth thee (Deuteronomy 8: 5).

And now for the best part, God tells us that all of this is a blessing.

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake (Luke 6: 22).

Blessed [is] the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; (Psalms 94: 12).

So again I ask, why would anyone choose to be a Christian. The world will hate you, and God will chasten you. So why, then, would anyone choose this?

As I said at the beginning, there is no simple answer. Oh, to be sure, there is an easy answer. It's easy to find and just as easy to understand. It's just not simple.

In fact, it's a bit complex, or at least duplex. It is often the case that the best choices, the best ideas, have a multiplicity of reasons. For example, it's a good idea to put brakes on a trailer. Why? Well, it allows you to maintain better control when braking, especially if you're braking abruptly. It also reduces the strain on your towing vehicle, the wear and tear on your vehicles brakes and suspension, when stopping. For both of these reasons it is a good idea to put brakes on a trailer. So there is no one simple reason, but a duplicity of reasons instead.

Similarly, there is not one simple reason to become a Christian. Some will tell you that being a Christian is about spiritual fulfillment. Others will tell you that becoming a Christian is about staying out of Hell, and not spending eternity in a lake of fire. And without doubt, that too is a very good reason. Both of these reasons are valid and legitimate reasons for becoming a Christian, and don't let anyone tell you that either of them isn't.

Whatever you do, do not let anyone deceive you into believing that the lost will not spend eternity in Hell. God is plain on this point, and in no uncertain terms.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 12 - 15).

It is an unvarnished lie that God will not condemn those who reject Him, those who reject Jesus, to eternity in the lake of fire. Make no mistake. God's love is perfect, and so is His justice.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (I John 1: 8 - 10; emphasis added).

Yes. God wants to forgive our sins. And because His love is perfect He paid the price for our sins. That is why He is both faithful and just to forgive our sins. But while we are grateful for His love, we should never lose sight of the fact that if He could not do so justly, God would not just forgive us anything. It was His perfect justice that made necessary Him sacrificing Jesus on the cross. And if His justice is that important, if it's that big a deal, then it is either a foolish or deceitful man who dismisses as mythic the eternal lake of fire.

If there were no other reason to become a Christian, this one alone would suffice. Becoming a Christian will keep you from spending eternity in the lake of fire. But that is not the only reason to become a Christian.

Consider young people, young adults. They can go for hours, sometimes for days, without seeming to tire. They spend whole weekends cavorting and carousing with their friends, hopping from one night club to the next, and still get up and make it to work on Monday morning. And it's purely rhetorical when we ask "How?" We know how. Because they're young. They're still little rubber people. They bounce and bounce back. So let's just skip right past the feigned incredulity and cut, instead, to the real question. Actually, make that two questions.

Instead of wondering how, ask yourself "Why?" Why do young people spend days cavorting and carousing? And, while you're contemplating that, ask yourself another question too. Why don't we?

The second is by far the easier to answer. We don't behave that way because it hurts. We lack the stamina and vitality of youth. But you can bet that if it didn't hurt, we'd be doing the same thing. If we could go all weekend without sleep, and still get up and go to work on Monday, you can bet we would. And what's more, when we were younger we did. Unfortunately our bodies have betrayed us, and just won't take it anymore. Still, to the extent that we can, we all still behave the same way.

You see, the reason young people behave that way is because that's what God built us to do. No. I don't mean that God intended us to go bar-hopping. But He did build us to worship. So it is our nature to worship. Of course He intended us to worship Him, so when young people are out worshipping and serving the creature rather than the creator, it is a perverse manifestation of God's intent for us. And this is easy to understand. Adultery and fornication are perverse manifestations of God's intent for us, as is gluttony. And so too is carousing and bar-hopping. Still, it is our nature to worship something, because that's how God made us. And so we all do.

Even those of us too old to go bar-hopping all weekend long, we still worship something. We have no choice. We need to worship something. Not all of us worship God, but we all worship something. Maybe it's an NFL football team, or a particular NASCAR driver. Maybe it's a favorite activity like bowling or hunting or fishing. Maybe it's a career, or money or television. The point is that we all worship something. We simply must. And if you want to know what it is that you worship, just answer this question. What do you think about most of the time?

The problem is that, except God, all of these things will leave you unfulfilled. Even when your favorite football team wins the Super Bowl, when your own personal object of worship reaches the highest possible pinnacle it can achieve, the very next day it's over and you're left empty. And to make matters worse, eventually they're going to lose and then you're let down too. No matter what it is that you worship, if it isn't God then it will inevitably let you down and leave you empty. And if you are still in the world, you know all too well the emptiness of this unrequited need.

Even worse, if you're still unsaved then hopefully you know that you're a sinful creature unfit for fellowship with God. Hopefully you know that you do not deserve either God's love, or His mercy, or His grace. I hope that you know this, not because it's true (though it is) but because if you know it then you can still choose to stop denying it and confess your sins. Oh, to be sure, your sins are terrible. But if you will confess them, if you will repent your sin, then God will most surely forgive them. It was He, after all, that paid the price for them, just so He can forgive them.

Do you see now? God, wants to save you from the eternal lake of fire, from that terrible fate, but His desire is so much more than just that. He wants to make you fulfilled. Most people understand that this is a question of where you will spend eternity, but few understand that the choice is not between a lake of fire and Heaven. The choice is between spending eternity in a lake of fire, or in fellowship with God. Moreover, even fewer people understand that eternity doesn't begin when you die, it begins when you accept Christ. And that, in the final analysis, is why one would choose to become a Christian. In part to escape the eternal lake of fire, but moreso because they finally understand that there is something better than the endless stream of empty promises, disappointments and let-downs this world has to offer. Yes, God will purge you, which is to say cleanse you of all unrighteousness. He will chasten you, but always out of love. Moreover He will always make certain you know that you're loved, even when all the world hates you. And unlike your favorite sports franchise, or whatever else it is that you might be worshipping, God will never let you down. He will never leave you empty.

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he [it is] that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Deuteronomy 31: 6).

Proverbs 30: 20    Such [is] the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.