By Tony Miano
We receive a lot of email at Living Waters—good, bad, and ugly. One day we received the following e-mail. It came from a young man named Robert. I've removed the reference to the school he attends to protect his anonymity.
Greetings, I'm a spiritual yet confused, non-Christian, 23 year old history major at ------- University.
Today a young lady (13 at the maximum) gave me a cleverly designed trillion dollar bill which I just stuck in my pocket. I read it on the bus with a completely open mind. My question is without malice and is NOT a "gotcha" question at all, but I feel like I need to write about this threat of hell and damnation because I've looked at women and think they are pretty. Surely someone within this organization knows we live in a society with no real fear of [G]od. I and most of the people I know, including real loving Christians, don't fear [G]od for punishment. Parents don't make their kids fear them, good parents make their children RESPECT them, love follows. People need to LOVE [G]od and not FEAR [G]od. To get people to love [G]od, why won't this organization foster the respect for faith and spirituality? BOTH things are lacking in our society, as well as a love of [G]od or gods. Really, this flyer trillion dollar bill exemplifies the failure of traditional American Christianity. Telling us we are going to hell will not get more people to join your religion. I really doubt this will be taken into consideration by the leaders who organize this but I hope whoever reads this they take this into consideration. NOW my opinion of this organization (where I'm sure you have stopped reading) I see this organization as a hollow skeleton of a once power structure on the way out. Drop your American-centric perception and open your eyes to our common humanity. Our [C]reator wants us to know the world so that we may know him, not fear him.
And here is my response to Robert:
Thank you, Robert, for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. I am so thankful for the young lady who had both the love for God and the love for you to hand you a Trillion-Dollar Bill gospel tract. I am also thankful that you chose to keep the tract and read it on the bus. That is the very reason gospel tracts are produced and distributed. And thank you for complimenting the design of the tract.
First, it appears that you either misread the tract or have chosen to interpret a portion of it in order to justify your behavior. The tract makes no mention of looking at women and finding them pretty. The tract says:
Jesus said, "Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Have you looked with lust?
To lust after someone is not to simply look at them and find them nice looking. To lust after someone is to look at the person (other than a spouse) and entertain sexual thoughts about that person. But I suspect you already know that, Robert, or you wouldn't be making a stand about that particular sin.
"Surely someone within this organization knows we live in a society with no real fear of god. I and most of the people I know, including real loving Christians, don't fear god for punishment."
Robert, everyone in our organization "knows we live in a society with no real fear of [G]od." How do we know this? We know this because the Bible affirms this sad reality. "Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes," (Psalm 36:1).
You suggest that God should not be feared. Sadly, by making such an assertion, you reveal a serious sin issue in your life--idolatry. No, I am not suggesting that you carve graven images and bow down to worship them. But the idolatry your ideology reveals is every bit as sinful--idolatry of the mind. You have created a god in your imagination to suite yourself, a god who will turn a blind eye to your sin, a god that is not holy, righteous, or just. You have created a god in your mind that will not punish sin. On this point, I must agree with you. Your god cannot and will not punish sin. Why? Your god does not exist. The tragic flipside to your idolatry is that just as your god cannot and will not punish your sin, that same false god cannot and will not save you from the just punishment for your sin. Why? Again, your god does not exist.
Contrary to what you believe, Robert, the Bible makes it very clear that God is to be feared.
"It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you," (Deuteronomy 6:13-14).
"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling," (Psalm 2:11).
"The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether," (Psalm 19:9).
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever," (Psalm 111:10)!
"The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor," (Proverbs 15:33).
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with very secret thing, whether good or evil," (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
And just in case, Robert, you read the above verses and are trying to make the argument that they are all in the Old Testament and Jesus taught contrary to what you just read, consider what Jesus said.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell," (Matthew 10:28).
"But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him," (Luke 12:5)!
Your referenced "real" Christians do not fear God. Sadly, many of the people who profess to be Christians are not Christians because they have crafted in their minds the same unholy god you have crafted in your mind.
On the other hand, those people you know who are in fact born-again followers of Jesus Christ have no reason to fear the wrath and judgment of God because they have been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. More about that later. While God will discipline His children (and only born-again followers of Jesus Christ are His children), they need not fear His judgment. Judgment is reserved for the unsaved, not the saved.
You asked the question: "To get people to love [G]od, why won't this organization foster the respect for faith and spirituality?" To do so, Robert, would be to sin against God. This is not to say that Christians shouldn't treat people who worship false gods respectfully. God makes it clear in His Word that we should love people--all people. But to respect false religious systems that worship false gods would be to sin against the One True God--the God who has revealed Himself through creation and His Word.
Robert, you wrote:
"Really, this flyer trillion dollar bill exemplifies the failure of traditional American Christianity. Telling us we are going to hell will not get more people to join your religion. I really doubt this will be taken into consideration by the leaders who organize this but I hope whoever reads this they take this into consideration."
Robert, you have mischaracterized the present state of the American Church. Very few churches these days lovingly warn lost people about the reality of sin, judgment, and Hell. Sadly, many churches these days have compromised the truth about God's holiness, righteousness, and justice and have replaced the truth with messages that will placate the minds of people like yourself with a false, all-loving god who turns a blind eye to sin but leaves your soul destined for Hell.
And contrary to the goals of many segments (certainly not all) of the American Church, Living Waters does not exist to convince people to join a religion. The goal of the ministry is not to convince you to attend church on Sunday, so you can live like hell Monday through Saturday (by definition, hypocrisy). On the contrary: the goal is to do what Jesus did--to take the Law of God and the consequences of sin to the proud and to take the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ to the humble. The goal is to see sinners like ourselves come to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although you would not show enough respect for God to capitalize the word, "God," you insist that we should tell people to love God. Then allow me to ask you, Robert: do you love God?
If your answer is "yes," then I hope you will consider the words of Jesus--the sinless Son of God--God in the flesh. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," (John 14:15).
If you love Jesus, you will keep His commands. This is not to say any of us can or will obey Him perfectly. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But if we truly love God--and we can only love God because He first loved us ("In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" [1 John 4:9-10])--we will grow in our love for Him, loving the things He loves and hating the things He hates.
Do you love God, Robert? Then you must obey one of the first commands Jesus uttered to the masses. Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel," (Mark 1:15).
Robert, you took the time to read the gospel tract and share your thoughts. Again, I appreciate that. In your correspondence to the ministry, you questioned whether or not your e-mail would be read and taken seriously. I hope my written response alleviates both of those concerns.
In turn, I hope you have taken the time to read to this point. If so, I ask that you stay with me just a bit longer. I care about you as a human being. The likelihood is that we will not meet in person this side of eternity. And where you spend eternity is of concern to me. I don't want you to perish in your sins and spend eternity in Hell.
Robert, you must repent of (turn away from) your sins against God. Everything you have ever done in thought, word, or deed that is contrary to the moral Law of God is sin. What you read on the back of the Trillion-Dollar Bill is true. If you've ever lied, stolen, or looked with lust God will find you guilty of breaking His Law. Because God is good, He will punish your sins against Him, and the punishment God has ascribed for sin is eternity in Hell.
The good news is that God provided only one way for you to escape His just and holy wrath and the punishment you deserve for your sins against God.
Two thousand years ago, God the Father sent His Son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ--fully God and fully Man, yet without sin. Unlike you and me, Robert, He never once violated the Law of God in thought, word, or deed. He couldn't, for He was God in the flesh. He was born of the virgin, just as the prophets said He would be 750 years before His physical birth.
Jesus lived the perfect life neither you nor I can live. During that time, He both proved and affirmed His deity--that He is God. He performed many miracles. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He knew the thoughts of people before a word came out of their mouth. He was the Messiah. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. There was never one like Him before He came to earth, and there has been none like Him since that time. He is the Son of God--the Lord.
About 30-33 years into His earthly existence, He voluntarily went to the cross. He shed His innocent blood. He suffered and died a horrible, bloody death He did not deserve in order to take upon Himself the punishment you and I rightly deserve for our sins against God. Then, three days later, He rose from the grave, forever defeating sin and death. He is alive today, seated at the right hand of God the Father, in power. And He will return at a time of the Father's choosing.
What God, therefore, commands of you and me, Robert, is that we repent--that we turn from our sin and by faith and by faith alone receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me," (John 14:6).
Living Waters exists, Robert, because we love God and we love people. We love you, Robert.
You describe yourself as a 23-year-old, spiritual yet confused, non-Christian. My prayer for you is that the Lord would use what you read on the gospel tract and what you've read in this post to soften your heart towards Him, extending to you the priceless and matchless gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord. My prayer is that God--by His love, grace, and mercy--will remove the spiritual blinders from your eyes, giving you redeemed eyes to see the truth.
Many are praying for you now, Robert. Please repent and believe the gospel while God has given you time.