Friday, November 20, 2009

Vainhope

I talked to a man today about eternal life. He was in the hospital with an IV in his arm and heart monitor patches glued on his chest and sides. His scar from a previous open heart surgery was clearly visible on the center of his chest as we talked.

I asked him, "Are you sure that when you die you will be accepted by God into heaven?" He said, "I won't know until I get there." "Won't that be a bit too late?" I asked.

But he is not afraid. He talked and talked. He wasn't afraid when he had his open heart surgery. He isn't afraid now. He was born and raised in the Roman Catholic church. Even though he never attends Catholic services or partakes of Catholic sacraments, his confidence is in his identity and background in the church. He wakes up in the morning and praises God for a new day. He does the best that he can do in his life. He doesn't worry about what anyone else believes - including his children. He goes to bed at night and entrusts himself to God. He reads his Bible every day, he told me.

Eventually I asked if I could borrow his Bible that he reads every day to show him something there. He graciously and tenderly handed me the two small books. One was the Catholic catechism. The other a well worn copy of the Catholic Faith Handbook For Youth.

Not a Bible at all. This explains why his long accounts of biblical history are completely out of step with what the Bible really teaches (e.g., we are all Jewish because Adam and Eve were Jewish.)

So what does he believe?
1) He believes that if he is good enough (and he is sure that he is), God will let him into heaven. As he says, he does the best he can do, and that will have to be enough.
2) He believes that it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe it with all your heart. According to him, there is no objective knowledge of God based on the Bible - there is only what resonates with you. That's why he doesn't care very much what religion his children are following.
3) He believes that he is the measure of everything... right and wrong, good and bad, true or not true. He and he alone can tell the truth, but nobody can tell him. Whatever he has picked up or thought up - no matter how contrary to the facts - is true because he believes it to be true.

I like this man. He is an interesting man. He is an articulate man. He is a vibrant, bright eyed, gregarious man.

But he is lost. He doesn't know the basic truth of the Gospel - that all have sinned - that the wages of sin is death - that the only remedy is the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ - God's gracious gift, received by faith and not by works.

But even though he is lost, he is not frightened. He has great confidence. He faces the approach of his own death with complete calm. Just like John Bunyan's character, Ignorance, he will cross the river of death without getting his feet wet because he has hired a ferryman of dubious origin. The ferryman's name is "Vainhope."

So, while this man is not afraid, I am afraid for him. He needs Christ. I pray that God will open his eyes and his heart, that the word of God might enter and give him light.
(John 3:36) He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

1 comment:

Christina said...

I think those are always the tough ones, friends so aren't worried about eternity and haven't placed their hope in Christ. Those friends that I worry about even though they aren't concerned themselves.
Thanks for sharing. I also really appreciated the two newer blog posts of yours that I read.