One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Remember that song? Boy, I sure do. I was raised on Sesame Street, Big Bird, the Grouch, and that song. I remember when it came on I would be transfixed sitting in front of the TV trying to figure out what was different. Often it was a hard choice because the one different item looked so much like the other three.
It's a fun game to play when it is about cookies, but not when it is about eternal life. It can become downright dangerous!
There are countless numbers of people walking around claiming Christ as their God, and yet with some, there is just something missing. They look and act like they really are saved, but you just know they don't know.
I have met people who believe most of the same truths I believe: "The Virgin Birth," "The Second Coming," "The Validity of the Sacred Scriptures"; but there is no life, no personal understanding of these things.They can even be doing "Good Things" for the name of Christ: helping the poor, going to church, abstaining from addictive behaviors -- and still, the engine of eternity just doesn't seem to driving them to do these good things. Their actions don't have the taste of real fruit grown naturally on the vine; but rather those "works" appear more like the plastic ornamental fruit that grandma has beautifully arranged in that old-fashioned bowl on the living room dinette set where it has been sitting for the last 25 years. It is only there to impress, not to feed.
What makes people different when it comes to genuine salvation?
I think there are many different possible answers, but theologically I believe it boils down to one thing: Has the person really been born from above? Are they born again? This is different than knowing the right things and doing the right things, this is actually having the life of God put in you. It is a completely new reality where God himself, through the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in your soul.
So why don't some people who claim Christ have Christ in this way? Because their pride gets in the way of their own salvation!
We do not receive the Holy Spirit into our life by impressing God: "Looky what I can do. I can go to church, I can sing loud, I can dress up nice, I can give money, I can point to my great family heritage that has been going to this church since the beginning of time. See God, I deserve to make it in, I am quite a wonderful person and a great addition to your family." But obtaining eternal life is the exact opposite: I receive the Holy Spirit into my life by faith alone! Look at how clear scripture is on this point:
- John 1:12-13 "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
- Romans 4:4-5 "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness"
- Ephesians 1:13 "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and having believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit."
- Titus 3:5 "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."
Each one of these verse are intentional in expressing two vitally important things: (1) People have a complete inability, in reputation, good standing or human effort, when it comes to impressing God. (2) The Holy Spirit is a gift to be simply received by faith. God alone gives eternal life, and if we think we contribute even the smallest of assistance or goodness to carry out this transaction, we utterly and completely spoil the whole thing. It is like taking credit for growing a giant oak tree because we watered it with a garden hose.
When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9, how much light did the blind man first have to see in order for Jesus to heal him? Nothing, he was blind. Then why do we think we need to first impress God with our effort in order for him to eventually accept us? Like the blind man, all of us are 100% spiritually blind and dead before he comes to give us new life. (Ephesians 2:1-4 proves this!)
I think the reason some people are true believers and others are not is rather simple: one is willing to admit their complete need for deliverance ("Save me!"), and the other still hasn't gotten over themselves yet. ("I can do it myself with no hand outs from God -- thank you very much!") They really believe they are so special, so intelligent, so passionate, so dedicated to tradition, that they can offer something of worth to help in saving themselves.
So, now you see why some Christians are real and some as fake as plastic? The sad part is, people get mad when you simply tell them what you see. If only we could accept truth like we used to watching Sesame Street!
Maybe Jesus was right, "To enter heaven you must first become like a little child."