The Cold Shoulder

Last week, on a Wednesday, a most wonderful thing happened to me. As I was sitting down doing my work, the Lord very obviously and very clearly brought to my mind the name of a person whom I had met some time ago, whose name is Mike (whom you can please pray for). And it was very obvious to me why the Lord brought him to my mind so very clearly like that, because on that same day, an Alpha course was beginning. Now if you’ve “been around”, and especially if you’ve been around in certain countries and locations of the world, you will know what the Alpha course is, or at least you may have heard of it.

The Alpha course is a course that presents Christ through video teaching, a friendly environment, and discussion groups, which enable people who are either searching for the answers to life, or have already begun a relationship with Christ, to be able to dig deeper. It is a “foundational” course of sorts, and one which has been used by God to literally change the lives of countless thousands of people around the world. I heard it said that at any given time, there are about 5,000 Alpha courses being held around the world in various locations. That’s a lot of courses! (I can’t immediately verify the number, but in light of Alpha’s popularity, it does seem reasonable.)

Now the connection with this “Mike” fellow (which is his real name), and the Alpha course is as follows. Mike is not a Christian and neither is he even sure that God exists or not, but some time ago, I think it must have been about 2 months ago, I met him through providential circumstances in which he openly shared with me that he had recently been considered legally dead on five occasions due to a heart attack (or perhaps a series of heart attacks, I can’t remember). Now this man is young – about 40 or so. And the reason he shared with me is because I took the time to gently challenge him on his faith, and to encourage him to trust in Christ. Of course, I said that prior to knowing anything about Mike’s medical history. I had simply felt led by the Lord, and that was the discussion that ensued.

I don’t mean this to be a very negative comment, but in a way it is. Mike’s comment to me at that time was typical. He said, “Well, there must be a reason why I didn’t die because the doctor’s said it was a miracle that I am alive today.” However, Mike did not get any “closer” than that to embracing or trusting in the Lord. I brought some information to Mike shortly after that, sensing time was of primary importance and that – who knows – Mike might not have much time to live! In short, I sensed an urgency in my spirit. I brought him a well written document explaining some answers to life’s questions (written by someone else, not myself), as well as some basic information about the Alpha course in our church. I left that with Mike. And that was a few month’s ago.

But last Wednesday, all of a sudden, the Lord clearly puts Mike in my spirit. Suddenly realizing that Alpha was also beginning at our church on the exact same day, I put “two and two” together and decided to give Mike a phone call and invite him to the course. I only had his work number. But lo and behold, Mike was no longer working at that place! The grievous part about this story is that the people at Mike’s workplace refused to release his telephone number to me. There was a suspicious attitude about anyone who wanted to get hold of a former employee, I suppose.

You know, that’s how it is in North America – one’s privacy is to be held in higher regard than one’s eternal security. (But it’s true, it’s good to be careful. I am not saying this against the whole idea of guarding privacy, but against going too far when it grieves God’s Holy Spirit.) Feeling very grieved that the man should respond this way to me, I simply asked him at that point if he would be willing to pass on a message to Mike. He said he would. Hours passed, and I wasn’t sure if the message got delivered. So I called the man back and asked him if the message had got delivered and he said, “No”. He had tried to call Mike’s new work number. I asked him, “Do you think you could call his home number and leave a message? I’d really appreciate it!” He said he would do it.

But you know how it is. In an environment of fear, you need to be shrewd. I was not satisfied with the answer I received, and did not trust that the message would in fact get delivered to Mike. So I approached another person at that work location who, in fact, told me that he would give me Mike’s telephone number. I had my hopes up for a little while, but unfortunately, that fell through and I was not able to get a hold of it. Today, being Wednesday, I called back again, and asked that man if he had managed to get Mike’s telephone number for me. But in the meantime, he had spoken with others at his work who informed him that I had already asked a certain person and had even approached another person requesting Mike’s telephone number.

The man made it very clear to me on the phone that he was now not going to give Mike’s number to me and that he wanted no further communication with me. In fact, he shared with me that someone had spoken with Mike to relay the information and that Mike was not interested. I asked if I could still get Mike’s number, to which the clear reply was that Mike did not want to give his number away to me (true or not I do not know).

All this, of course, grieves me very much.

There’s a lie out there which I often embrace myself, which is that everything in life always happens according to God’s will. That actually is just not so. While it is true that ultimately God has full control, he allows man to make decisions – often those that are contrary to his perfect will. Decisions like abortion, anti-marriage laws, pornography, gambling, witchcraft and countless other things, are contrary to God’s stated will. Does everything happen according to God’s will every day? Absolutely not. In fact, our Lord is grieved continually and it is no wonder that Jesus was called, “A man of sorrows, aquainted with grief” in the Bible. Jesus grieves constantly over his creation. And if you don’t believe me, just read Genesis 6 where it says that it grieved God that he had made man. In the New Testament, you can read John 2:

“But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

That is not an utter statement of faith and confidence, my friends, so learn from God’s word and make it your aim to not be counted among those who are listed in John 2:24-25!

Will Mike go to heaven because I providentially “ran into him” that day and talked with him about eternal issues and the Alpha course? I sincerely hope so! But things are not looking great at the moment, to be sure! In all my attempts to help Mike to get to the Alpha course, I have been clearly given the “cold shoulder” treatment by those who have it in their power to help me out. And by all reasonable accounts, this is a “God” thing – God wants Mike to attend that Alpha course, and I’m not entirely convinced that Mike really has all that long to live, to be honest with you!

Which makes me think of General Melgar Castor, former military leader of Honduras. In the summer of 1987, God gave me the unique opportunity of sharing the gospel with this man, and to clearly explain to him the way of salvation. By all reasonable accounts, he rejected my message and was not interested. About 6-8 months later, long after I left Honduras, General Melgar Castro suddenly had a heart attack and died with no possibility of ever hearing or responding to the gospel message again. That’s a very scary thought, when you think about it.

Will Mike ever respond positively to the gospel message? I don’t know. I do know that I’ve done my part inasmuch as I’ve tried to help him find faith in Christ. But for whatever reason, the door is now closed on that relationship. I have to assume that Mike was contacted and that he, in fact, does not want to pursue a relationship with me. The sad part is, that could also cut him off from having a chance to find faith in Christ who died for his sins.

Dear friends, it is a frightful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! There are people who will perish in their sins. Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24) This is a reference to people not believing and trusting in Jesus as Savior and God. The reference to Jesus being God here is clear in context, for the larger passage from which this verse is taken bears it out very clearly.

This passage is also a clear teaching against any notion of “purgatory” – this place where you can somehow escape after you die! There is no such place, so don’t be fooled by the teaching of the Roman Catholic church. When Jesus warns in John 8:24 that people will “die in your sins” unless they believe he is who he says he is (clearly, God in this passage), he is making a solemn statement about eternity and the fact that, at the moment of death, our eternal fate is “secured” (for better or for worse, the word “secured” here is not to be interpreted as meaning, “good” – it may be “secured” for the worse, in hell).

To “die in your sins” literaly means that you die eternally unforgiven with sins taken into account by God. Now I have a question for you. Do you want your sins taken into account, or not taken into account, at the time of your death? I would have lots of sins to consider, but because I have trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, God will consider none of them. The Holy Spirit lives in me, and in all Christians, and when a Christian dies, God does not take their sins into account, but literally the purity of Jesus Christ is seen in that person, without spot or wrinkle. The true Christian does not need to worry. Notice I did not say, “The baptized Christian” or “The Christian who has taken his first communion” or even “The praying Christian”. But rather, “The true Christian”, the one who has truly repented of his sins before God, and the one who has truly trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. It is this person who will not have his sins taken into account at the time of his death.

But this verse of Jesus’s, “if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” is a scary verse, to be sure! And I would not want you to be uninformed about the true meaning of it, or to allow you to retain a false hope, like Mormons believe, and like Roman Catholics believe, that there is a chance of somehow “rescuing” loved ones after they have died. No, it is simply not the case.

God cares for Mike, and God cares for the rest of the world so much so that he sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins. That does not mean that everyone is going to find Christ in the end. Many will die in their sins and perish. That place is a place of eternal torment and punishment with everlasting and unquenchable fire. It is a place that Jesus described as a place “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44) That word, “Worm” is an interesting word. In the prophetic Psalm 22, referring to Jesus, David writes, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” (Psalm 22:6) The interpretation of the word, “Worm” here is “one who is rejected.” David uses it in the context of Jesus being rejected by sinful men. But Jesus uses it in the context of sinful men being rejected by God! Ouch! To be rejected by men is one thing. It hurts, but one can and will recover from it. But to be rejected by God? That hurts an aweful lot more!

Christ died for our sins so that we might find favor with God. He paid the penalty which we deserved to pay. By faith we can receive Christ into our lives, and find new hope, new meaning, and a wonderfully restored relationship with God, who sent his Son so that man would not perish, but have eternal life.

Where are you now in your “walk of faith”? Have you trusted Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? Why wait? What is preventing you from trusting him right now?

Taste and see that the Lord is good. You have nothing to lose, and all eternity to gain and look forward to.

May God bless you as you consider these words.