Question:

I noted in one of your articles that over 2000 people click on over 6000 pages each day at your web site. I've spent the last couple of days reading several articles and am satisfied to see that you demonstrate no shame in boldly declaring the truth of the Scriptures. I've also noted that there seems to be a tendency for some to postulate ridiculous questions, so I thought I would ask a truly serious one. I don't know who else to ask and the shame of having it is driving me bananas.

I was raised in the church of Christ. Growing up, I was turned off by it because many of its members seemed very hypocritical. My grandparents attended the Baptist church and I was rarely allowed to attend services with them as a child. My grandparents were 'good people' and I didn't figure the doctrine of the Baptist church was all that much different, so I spent nearly six years in the Baptist church. Boy, were they off on so many things, and it took me five years to realize it! When my son's Sunday school teacher came and told me that my 6-year-old son had "asked Jesus into his heart," I literally rolled my eyes. It just happened, I had no self-control!

As I sat in there and watched a misguided flock drink up whatever water they were given without question, I was compelled to do an intense study of the Bible on my own. I never really knew what was being preached in the church of Christ when I was a child (as I was not listening), but after studying the Bible honestly, I realized that the church of Christ was right on target. I took my family, found a church of Christ, and was baptized at the age of 29 after having gone for a swim during church at 14. That first 'baptism' was at the urging of my mother and I did it to 'avoid hell.' I now understand that the gift of salvation is not to be accepted out of a fear of hell . . . now I sincerely want to live a life of allegiance and servitude to my Savior and can't wait to meet Him in the air! With that knowledge, however, has come the awareness that very few of the people I know and love are saved. I am terrified for them. I cry a lot. I'm crying right now.

I have witnessed firsthand the heresy that abounds in the denominations and have suffered the persecution of being a 'cult member' (I always respond with Act 24:14 and accept the charge with a bit of satisfaction). I have essentially been verbally abused for not giving in to falsehood. As a result, I can see why the members of my childhood church seemed self-righteous to me. They knew they were telling the truth and became very defensive.

My dilemma is this: it hurts me deeply when my friends and family do not listen to me, though I know I am simply presenting them with the truth. I pray for them all very sincerely, but I can't help feeling a sense of contempt for them because of their blindness and unwillingness to hear the truth. I know that they are false teachers, and I walk away from confrontation with a small glimmer of satisfaction that God will punish them for their wickedness.

As a result of these feelings, I feel very sinful. I read in Revelation where the saints who were beheaded for their witness are beseeching the Lord to avenge their deaths. Eventually, He does. I feel like that is what I am doing in a roundabout way by telling myself that they will be condemned to not receiving the love of the truth that they might be saved (II Thessalonians 2: 9-12). I am starting to despise this sense of 'self-rightousness' I have picked up and sob over it at least twice a week. I don't want to treat the entire misled world as though they are saved when they're not, but I don't want to treat them as though they are condemned. If I do the latter, there remains little to no chance that I can be an effective disciple.

In short (or rather, long), is this a normal feeling for a Christian? Do you experience these feelings? I take note of the no-nonsense approach to some of the questions you answer and wonder what feelings you are experiencing when you are asked them and when you are insulted with hateful, idle words.

On another point, being that you don't waste any time beating around the bush, I have an 'opinion' on the error of "Unconditional Eternal Security." There are two kinds of teachers, the ones who tell the truth and the ones who lie. There is no in-between. Being that UES is a false doctrine, promoted by angels of satan for the purpose of his having company in hell, is it reasonable to point out that these people are not saved at all to begin with, and that their notion of UES is irrelevant?

Does that latter question make evident my new-found contempt for satan and his ignorant, misguided followers?


Answer:

The statistics you found are a bit out of date. Currently the web site is running around 3,500 unique visitors per day who are viewing about 8,500 pages each day. It has been holding steady at that rate for quite a few months now.

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences" (II Corinthians 5:9-10).

A major motivator for at least the faithful preachers out there is a realization that if we don't say something that person might end up facing God's wrath. This was Paul's motivation, "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily" (Colossians 1:28-29). And for this reason Paul felt he could not keep silent. "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (I Corinthians 9:16). A portion of this is a realization that my own salvation is tied to my willingness to warn people of their danger.

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul" (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

I want you to notice something very important. The servant of God's duty is to warn. The acceptance of that warning remains with the person. Each one of us is a free moral agent. God has allowed each of us to accept or reject His message. It is hard to accept, but I can't make any do right. I can only warn, persuade, and encourage. And, yes, it hurts a great deal when I see someone with great potential turn back to the world. And I'm not directly affect by their rejection -- I'm not the one being rejected. I can't imagine how it hurts God to see His own children turn down His rich blessing for temporary and harmful pleasures.

If I could hazard a guess, because you are dealing with family and friends you are taking their rejections of God's truth as a rejection of you. In truth, that is taking too much upon yourself -- it is a form of pride. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).

Now, there are people who don't just reject God's message. They actively battle God or they are so steeped in wickedness they care for no one else but themselves. It is these people that we often must battle, not for our own sake but to protect others. "Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies" (Psalm 139:19-22). These are people who have made a choice to be enemies of God and to stand firm against them. And it is even proper to hate them because they have chosen to destroy the works of God. That is what you find in Revelation. It is the souls of those killed for the truth by wicked men who cry out to God for justice. "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"" (Revelation 6:9-10).

When I deal with the questions sent in, I must hazard a guess as to who is behind the question. I get numerous questions that I know are just trying to irritate me -- "pulling on the preacher's chain" if you will. But long ago I realized that even these "questions" still can serve to spread the message. The Lord is our own example. Many of the questions recorded for us came from people who were not looking for an answer but looking for a way to bring down the Lord. But look what we learn from his answers!

Another thing we learn from Jesus is that every question should not be answered in the same way. I make a lot of mistakes in judging the motivations and honesty behind the questions I get, but I try to apply the principle: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:4-5). The first statement is a warning not to step down to the level of a foolish questioner. The second, though, is to answer such that his foolishness becomes clear. As a result, when I get a prideful question, I'll attempt to take them down a few notches -- if I don't, they won't even think about what I show them. When I get someone justifying their sin, I'll try to show them how foolish they are behaving and the danger they are in -- if I don't, they will just blindly go on. When some writes and their dishonesty is apparent, I will point it out in hopes that others learn to see liars clearly and perhaps shake the person up enough to get them to see how they are deceiving themselves. If I get a question that comes from a person in the pits of despair, I take extra care to be encouraging and guide them toward a better idea. "And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh" (Jude 22-23).

Yes, a person can only teach either the truth or falsehood. However, there is another level you need to consider. There are people who teach truth, but for the wrong motives. "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel" (Philippians 1:15-17). We don't get to see into the hearts of our fellow men, but Paul realized that regardless of the motivation, at least truth is being taught. "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:18). In other words, Paul is letting God judge the motivations.

But the same is true when some teaches a false doctrine. Some, like Apollos, just don't know any better (Acts 18:25-26). Others have been deceived by Satan (II Timothy 2:24-26). They honestly are convinced that what they are teaching is the truth, even though it is not. But worse are the teachers who use false doctrine to promote their own ends (II Peter 2; Jude). But once again, we aren't always aware of the motives. We can only teach and then wait to see if there are results (Matthew 7:15-20).