Friday, May 20, 2011
Vaccinated from the Gospel
I recently met with a man who had been one of the leaders in the church. He served as a teacher and held other leadership roles. He told me that he didn't believe any more. He wanted to get a prettier wife and go out drinking with his friends. I don't know why he told me these things. He had already made up his mind that he was through with church.
This man had been raised in the church. He made a "profession of faith" as a child. He was involved throughout his life. Suddenly, he calls it all a sham. He believes the problem is with the church. He may go to another church at some time in order to please his parents. I, however, believe him when he told me that he didn't believe. I don't think he ever did. I understand his condition thus:
When I was a child my parents took me to be vaccinated from smallpox. I didn't throw a fit when the nurse scratched my arm because I wanted to please my parents. I went along with it when it made me a little sick for a day or so. I didn't know exactly what was happening but all my friends also had to go through it. It was just something you had to do as a child.
I learned later that my smallpox vaccination was a weaker form of the virus which would allow my body to fight off true smallpox if I was ever exposed. I never got smallpox. I don't know if I was ever exposed. If I was, the vaccination worked.
Children want to please their parents. They want to do what the rest of their friends are doing. Many times the "profession of faith" of one child will result in many others doing the same thing. Their parents have told their children their desire to see all their children saved. They have told them that this is the only way to heaven. The desire of the parents and the peer pressure of friends urges children to believe.
Initially, the children exhibit some of the characteristics of Christianity. They actually say the right words and seem to be repentant when they have done wrong. They come to church, get baptized and even have the right "Sunday School" answers about the faith. Later, however, they may continue to come to church but do not truly believe.
They resemble people who have been vaccinated. They got a weaker form of the gospel which is no gospel at all just like getting a weaker form of the virus was not really smallpox. It seemed to take at first just like getting sick after the vaccination did but it prevented them from getting the full-blown disease. This tasting of the gospel but never swallowing is preventing many people from ever believing. They have known what it is and could even explain it to someone else. They have been infected but never got the full conversion of the gospel. They can't be brought again to repentance because they cannot understand what the gospel is.
Don't get me wrong. Parents should bring their children to church and expose them to the gospel. They should pray for their children and tell their children the gospel story. However, they should also be very careful that they don't push their children into something that the children have not believed. The parents' faith cannot save the children. No one can give their faith to another. Each person must trust in Jesus for himself or herself.
It took a miracle for the resurrection to occur. It takes a miracle for a person to be saved. Salvation is becoming a new creation. It is not going through the motions. In fact, going through the motions will vaccinate someone from ever accepting the gospel.
And how will they ever get the disease if we vaccinate them?
Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.