Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why I Stopped Accepting Jesus into My Heart

If you’ve spent any time with evangelical Christians, then you’ve no doubt had at least one of them tell you that you need to confess your sins and accept Jesus into your heart. You’re promised that if you do so, you’ll have eternal life in heaven.

Does this sound a little odd to you? In this way of thinking, if you just so happen to come across a Christian who gives you the right words to say and you say them, then you’ll get to spend eternity in heaven. Conversely, if you never meet a Christian or none of your Christian friends pass this very important information along to you, then God will have no choice but to throw you into hell where you’ll be tormented with fire and brimstone for all of eternity.

The basic message being communicated is that our eternal destinies are riding upon confessing our sins and accepting a dude who lived 2,000 years ago into our hearts. When I step back and evaluate it from a logical perspective, it sounds pretty superstitious to me.

Yet, almost two thirds of self-proclaimed Christians believe that they will go to heaven when they die because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus into their hearts.[1] Are they right? Or have they gotten caught up in a heretical superstition which has spread like wildfire through American Christianity? Let’s take a closer look.

Is Accepting Jesus Biblical?

When Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee and found four fishermen, did he give them an invitation to confess their sins and accept him into their hearts? Not at all. Instead, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[2]

When three men asked Jesus if they could follow him, did he offer them an invitation to confess their sins and accept him into their hearts? Not at all. He told one that it was going to be very uncomfortable. He told another to let the dead bury the dead. And he told the third one that he had to be totally surrendered to him.[3]

When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, did Peter offer the crowd an invitation to confess their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts? Not at all. Instead, he told them to repent and be baptized.[4]

None of these key passages mention anything about confessing sins (confessing is different than repenting) and accepting Jesus into our hearts. Is it absent because it was unintentionally omitted by the authors? Or is it absent because it never happened?

Having read every word in the Bible over and over and over again, I have yet to find any evidence to support the claim that if we confess our sins and accept Jesus into our hearts, then we will be given a one-way ticket to heaven. Instead, I have come to see that Jesus doesn’t need nor does he demand our acceptance. Instead, we’re the ones who need his acceptance.

Why Do We Need Jesus’s Acceptance?

Did you know I get in trouble with Amy sometimes? I don’t intent to do it, but I hurt Amy seemingly all the time. I’ll say something mean to her or I’ll fail to come through on a promise I made. When I hurt Amy, there’s nothing I can say or do to make up for the hurt I’ve caused her. I’m completely at her mercy; she has the ability to decide whether she’s going to continue to accept me or whether she’s going to cease accepting me.

It works the same way with Jesus. We sin against Jesus every single day of our lives, even if we don’t intend to do it. This means we’re completely at his mercy in regards to whether he wants to accept us or not. He may choose to accept us and he may choose to not accept us.

Let’s say I had an extramarital affair with another woman. How do you think that would impact Amy? Obviously she would be extremely hurt by it. Would there be anything I could do to make up for the pain I caused her? Absolutely nothing would make up for it. At that point, I’d be completely at her mercy. She could decide to forgive me or she could decide not to forgive me.

Let’s say Amy was very merciful and decided to forgive me. Is it then up to me to accept her forgiveness? What if I didn’t want her to forgive me? Would my lack of acceptance of her forgiveness make her forgiveness ineffective? Not at all. Whether I accept it or not, she can still choose to forgive me.

In this example, it makes perfect sense that when I sin against Amy, she is now in control of the relationship. But when it comes to Jesus, we don’t see it this way. We view ourselves, the ones who’ve sinned against Jesus over and over and over again, as somehow being in control of the relationship and having the ability to accept or reject what he’s done for us. Somehow we’ve arrived at the conclusion that Jesus’s forgiveness is only effective when we accept it. This makes absolutely no biblical or practical sense.

What’s a More Biblical Approach?

How does this conclusion relate to accepting Jesus into our hearts? Isn’t it one thing to accept Jesus’s forgiveness and another to accept him into our hearts? Actually, they are pretty much one in the same thing, meaning that it’s just as foolish to think we have the ability to control whether Jesus works in our hearts as it is to think that we have control over whether Jesus forgives our sins.

Thankfully, there is a much more biblical approach to evangelism than trying to get people to say a superstitious prayer to confess their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts. To prove this point, let’s look at when the twelve disciples accepted Jesus into their hearts.

Did they accept Jesus when they were first called to follow him? Did they accept Jesus when Peter realized he was the Messiah? Did they accept Jesus when he died on the cross? Did they accept Jesus on the day of Pentecost? I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t tell us. All we know is that they are saved, but we don’t know when it happened or how it happened. If we need to confess our sins and accept Jesus in order to get to heaven, then wouldn’t you think the biblical writers would’ve included it somewhere in the New Testament?

What can we learn from the absence of any wording in the Bible alluding to the need for us to confess our sins and accept Jesus into our hearts? Apparently that’s not how we receive eternal life in heaven. Instead, the Bible tells us that God chooses to save his people and works in their hearts to bring them to repentance and draw them to him.[5]

We’re not disciples of Jesus because we accepted him; we’re disciples of Jesus because he accepted us.

[1] According to a study conducted by the Barna Group, 63 percent of the evangelical Christians surveyed believed they would go to heaven because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior: Barna Group, “What Do Americans Believe about Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs.” April 1, 2015, accessed October 7, 2016,
[2] See Matthew 4:18-22.
[3] See Luke 9:57-62.
[4] See Acts 2:1-41.
[5] See John 6:37-44, 15:16, Acts 2:39, and Ephesians 1:3-6.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stop Judging Me!

It’s my life. I can live it the way I want. If I want to buy a nice car, I should be able to without someone judging me for how I spend my money. If I want to move in with my girlfriend, so what? It’s not hurting anyone else. If I want to smoke a pack every day, then I should be able to smoke a pack and not feel like other people are shaming me for it. What gives anyone else the right to tell me whether what I’m doing is right or wrong?

These aren’t the voices of people on the other side of the world; these are the voices of our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. All of us know what it feels like to be judged. And I haven’t met a single person who was excited about being judged. What we all really want to say to our judgers is, “Stop judging me!”

Is it acceptable to judge other people? Regardless of how I answer this question, my answer would be judgmental since I don’t possess the authority to determine what’s right or wrong. Therefore, I need to go to an authoritative source to find the answer to this question.

The best authoritative source I know is the Bible, so that’s where I’m going to go. I realize some of you may not view the Bible as an authoritative source, but I still encourage you to join me in taking a look at what it says about judging others; you may be surprised what it has to say about this topic.

Is It Acceptable to Judge Other People?

Whether you believe the Bible is an authoritative source or not, you’ve most likely heard a verse from it which addresses the issue of judging others: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”[1] At first glance, it may seem like this verse is saying that we shouldn’t try to determine whether other people’s thoughts, words, and actions are right or wrong. Well, at least that’s the context in which I see most people quote it.

For many years, I thought that’s what it meant. But recently, I decided to dig deeper into this verse, specifically by looking at it in the Greek language (since the New Testament was originally written in Greek and later translated to English) in order to gain a better understanding of the context in which this verse was written. The Greek word used here is for “judge” is the word krino. Theologians generally agree that the definition of this word in this context is “to assume the office of a judge.”[2] What Jesus was saying, therefore, was, “Do not assume the office of a judge.”

A key word I want to point out in this definition is the word assume. What does it mean to assume the office of a judge? In Findlay where I live, we have a municipal court where we have two elected judges. Our two judges have been given the authority to make determinations between disputing parties about who’s right and who’s wrong. They do not assume the office of a judge; they have been given the office of judge. By being given the office of judge, they have the authority to make these determinations. When Jesus said that we are not to assume the office of judge, he wasn’t saying that no one could be a judge; he was saying that we cannot unilaterally give ourselves that authority. This authority has to be given to us by another source.

What about Paul?

When we flip ahead in the New Testament, we come across a letter which was written by Paul to the church in Corinth. If you think churches today have issues, you should read this letter. Their problems dwarf the problems in today’s churches. The people were dividing themselves based upon which apostle baptized them and which one they liked more. They were struggling to understand the true meaning of Jesus’s atonement. They were questioning the legitimacy of Paul’s apostolic gifting. There was a guy in the congregation who was sleeping with his step-mother. Some of the people were suing each other. Some of the people were arguing over whether they could eat food sacrificed to idols. And they had a huge misunderstanding about what it meant to speak in tongues.

As Paul was addressing one of these issues, he rhetorically asked the church, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”[3] Wait a second…didn’t Jesus tell us not to judge people? Why is Paul now telling us to judge people? Instead of assuming Jesus and Paul were saying two completely different things, let’s take a closer look at these two verses to see if they actually align with one another.

If Paul is saying that it’s permissible for people in the church to judge other people in the church, then he must also be saying that people inside the church have been given the authority to judge one another. Of course that doesn’t mean people in the church have been given the authority to condemn one another (since only God has that authority), but they have been given the authority to hold each other accountable to living in obedience to Jesus’s commands. Does this interpretation align with other biblical discussions about the church?

Believe it or not, it actually does. In the same letter, Paul tells us that everyone who is part of the church (the invisible church) is part of the body of Christ.[4] To put this in simple terms, the body of Christ looks kind of like a football team. One member of the team can’t do it all himself, but when the team, comprised of many people with different skill sets, comes together, they can play a competitive game of football.

The coach’s job is to give the team instructions for what to do. The team is obviously going to be most effective when everyone on the team listens and follows the coach’s instructions. However, sometimes players don’t listen to and follow the coach’s instructions. Let’s say, for example, that a wide receiver runs the wrong route. Do you think his teammates are going to say, “I see he ran the wrong route, but I’m not going to say anything because I don’t want to judge my teammates”? I don’t think so. You better believe someone in the huddle is going to call him out for running the wrong route.

Or how about if a lineman misses an assignment and the quarterback gets sacked? Is the quarterback just going to brush it off because he’s not supposed to judge him? Once again, I don’t think so. The quarterback is going to make sure the lineman knows he missed his assignment.

Why do the players on a football team judge one another? Is it because they don’t like each other? Not at all. They judge each other because they are concerned about the effectiveness of the team. If each player on the team doesn’t take responsibility to hold each other accountable, then they probably aren’t going to win any games.

In the same way, the body of Christ, which is made up of many people, is most effective when every person is living in obedience to Jesus’s (the coach) instructions. Sometimes this involves judging (making a determination of right and wrong) one another. I’m not talking about “judging” over differences in opinion about how one should dress for gatherings or for the amoral activities in which a person engages. The type of judging I’m talking about doesn’t tear down the body, but builds it up in love.

We all have blind spots. We all run the wrong passing route. We all miss a block over and over and over again. But when we’re surrounded by others who have this same mindset, they’ll be willing to point out our mistakes so that the entire team can be more effective. I’m very thankful for the people in my life who are part of the body of Christ who love Jesus and me enough to judge me so that our team becomes more effective.

What about People outside the Church?

Going back to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, we see that we do not have the authority to judge those outside the church. Instead, we’re told, “God judges those outside.”[5] What does it look like for those of us who are a part of the body of Christ? I’ll give two examples of what this might look like.

Let’s say I have a friend who isn’t part of the body of Christ who decides he and his girlfriend are going to move in together. Theoretically, a dating couple could live together and not commit adultery (I’m talking about all forms of adultery, not just sex), but you and I both know that the chances of that happening are next to zero. So for the sake of this example, I’m going to assume that they are committing adultery. According to the Bible, adultery is sin.[6] But since my friend isn’t a part of the body of Christ, I have no authority to judge him.

In another example, let’s say that I have a male friend who has a male partner. The Bible is quite clear that homosexuality is sin.[7] But since my friend isn’t a part of the body of Christ, I have no authority to judge him.

One Final Note

Before I end this discussion, I have one final clarification I want to make because the last thing I want anyone to do is claim that I’m giving them permission to condemn or harshly rebuke other people. First of all, I’m not giving anyone permission to do anything; the authority to judge comes from God. And second, the Bible doesn’t say anything about us having the authority to condemn or harshly rebuke another person, even people who are a part of the body of Christ.

The purpose of judging in the church is to build up the church, not tear it down. When we see another member of the body living in disobedience to Jesus, it’s the love, grace, and compassion we have for them that should drive us to have a conversation with them rather than pride. In Galatians 6, Paul wrote, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”[8]


I appreciate you taking the journey with me to explore the topic of judging. This study has led me to conclude that we are not to assume the position of a judge and the authority that comes with it. However, if we have been given the position of a judge, then we need to judge with the authority we’ve been given in accordance with the law. Every member of Jesus’s invisible church has been given equal authority to judge everyone else in the church, but they have not been given the authority to judge people outside of the church. The authority to judge in the church is intended to build up the church. People outside of the church, with the exception of governing judges, have not been given the authority to judge other people.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this topic.

[1] Matthew 7:1.
[2] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Judge (Noun and Verb)”, accessed October 10, 2017, (Noun and Verb).
[3] 1 Corinthians 5:12.
[4] For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. – 1 Corinthians 12:12
[5] 1 Corinthians 5:13.
[6] Exodus 20:14.
[7] 1 Corinthians 6:9.
[8] Galatians 6:1.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Are There Evil People in the World?

I was once taught that all stories have something in common: they have good guys and they have bad guys. To this day I question whether this statement is really true, but one thing I do know is that every Disney movie I grew up watching was consistent with this statement.

The film writers drew clear lines in the sand to show us which characters were good and which characters were evil. Cinderella was good; her step mother was evil. Snow White was good; the queen was evil. Aladdin was good; Jafar was evil. And to make it easier to delineate between the good and evil characters, the film writers adorned the good characters in bright colors and adorned the evil characters in dark colors.

Is real life like these children’s movies? Is it clear which people are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys? Or have we merely been living in a fantasy world for all these years, believing that real life is a mirror of Disney cartoon movies with clear distinctions between good guys and bad guys? Let’s take a deeper look.

What Makes a Person Evil?

On the whole, it seems we typically view humanity as being good. So when tragedies such as the recent Las Vegas shooting, 9/11, or the massacre of six million Jews occur, we instantly jump to placing the people responsible for these events in a separate category from the rest of humanity; we place them in a category called “evil.”

What is it about these people that make them evil? The commonality between all the people I mentioned above is that they are responsible for killing “innocent” people. In other words, the people who were killed did nothing to their killers which deserved being killed by their killers.

The people in Las Vegas didn’t personally do anything evil to the shooter. The people on the airplanes and in the World Trade Centers didn’t personally do anything to the people who hijacked the two airplanes that were flown into the buildings. The Jews who were killed in the Holocaust didn’t personally do anything to Adolf Hitler.

If this is the way we define evil, then we need to take another look at a few people throughout history who Americans commonly call “good.” Let’s take a look at Winston Churchill. Although rarely recorded in our history books, following World War 2, Winston Churchill deliberately starved six to seven million “innocent” people in India in what is known as the Indian Holocaust.[1] Does this put Winston Churchill in the category of evil people?

How about Franklin D. Roosevelt? He was responsible for dropping atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima which collectively killed upwards of 246,000 people, most of whom were “innocent” civilians. The residents of those two cities didn’t do anything to FDR to warrant death. Does this put FDR in the category of evil people?

Or how about our American ancestors who killed thousands upon thousands of “innocent” native Americans? The natives were here first and did absolutely nothing to European settlers to deserve being killed, enslaved, or evicted from their lands. Does this put our ancestors in the category of evil people?

If this is the way we define an evil person, then we have no choice but to place all these other people, people who we generally see as good people, into the evil category as well.

Are We Evil?

How about us? Are we evil as well? Most of us haven’t killed “innocent” people, so if this is the way we define evil, then we could place ourselves in the good category.

Many people will stop here in their evaluation of this topic. However, when I consider the practical implications of this conclusion, I find myself being far from satisfied with it. Some of these people who we’ve placed in the category of evil have done some really good things. Winston Churchill helped lead Great Britain through World War 2. FDR helped lead America out of the worst depression in its history. Our American ancestors blazed the trails so that we could have everything we have today. Even Adolf Hitler didn’t have any extramarital affairs, didn’t smoke, and only drank alcohol on occasion, all things which the people of that day would’ve considered good things.

I’m not satisfied with making the claim that these people are all evil and the rest of us are all good similar to the way Disney movies make distinctions between good and evil characters. I’m not even satisfied with claiming that these people are mostly evil and the rest of us are mostly good similar to the way our culture tends to categorize people. I think there’s a more realistic answer out there.

If you were to take a look at my résumé, you’d see that I’ve never killed “innocent” people. You’d see that I’ve never had an extramarital affair. You’d see that I’ve never had slaves working for me. But you’d see that I’ve made hateful comments about people. You’d see that I’ve lusted after other women in my heart. And you’d see that I’ve used positional power for my personal gain. Do these actions make me evil?

Answering this question requires us to determine what makes someone good. In our culture, we seem to, by default, place everyone in the good category until their actions are bad enough to place them in the evil category. So we start with a definition of evil and conclude that most people don’t meet that definition, leading us to place them in the good category. We define good as not doing evil things. But does simply abstaining from evil actions make someone good?

I realize some of you may not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but I believe there is substantial evidence proving that it is the Word of God. Therefore, I’m going to use the Bible to answer this question. According to the biblical writers, there’s not a single person who is good.[2]

What do they mean by this? Do they mean that no one does good deeds? Not exactly. What they mean is that God is the standard of good and no one measures up to that standard. This standard isn’t a measure of our actions or even the motives behind our actions, but rather, it is a measure of what the biblical writers call our heart conditions. Do our hearts look like God’s heart? If the answer to this question is “yes,” then we are “good.” But if the answer to this question is “no,” then we are “evil.” This is the clear black and white line we can draw in the sand to separate good people from evil people.

When I look at my résumé, I don’t see as many bad actions as I see on Adolf Hitler’s résumé. Does that make me inherently any less evil than Adolf Hitler? Not at all because evil isn’t determined by my actions; it’s determined by my heart condition. Do you see my implicit claim? I’m claiming that my heart is inherently just as evil as Adolf Hitler’s heart.

Some of you may bulk at this claim and instead, claim that I’ve been thinking about this for so long that I’ve become delusional. I don’t merely think about this stuff in a vacuum apart from reality; I live reality every single day of my life. I personally know people who are mentally stable and sane who have done some pretty bad stuff. No, they haven’t been responsible for the death of six million Jews, but given the opportunity to have same amount of power as Adolf Hitler, they may have done something similar.

Furthermore, if I had the same power as Adolf Hitler, I may have done something similar. If I had the same life experiences as the Las Vegas shooter, I may have done the same thing as him. If I had the same life experiences as the 9/11 plane hijackers, I may have done the same thing as them. If I had the same life experiences as the Columbine high school shooters, I may have done the same thing as them.

I think our biggest error, Christians included, is that we’re holding onto an unrealistic view of our heart conditions. We think we’re born with good hearts which can become corrupted throughout our lives. But is this really true?

According to the biblical writers, we are born with evil hearts.[3] This means every person who has ever lived has been born with an evil heart. Furthermore, it means that every child has an evil heart. My life observations are consistent with this claim.

We consider it bad for someone not to share something they have with someone else. Yet, I’ve never observed a child who willingly shared everything he or she had with other kids at all times. When two children get together, what normally happens is that they play nicely for a while, but then at some point, both of them want to play with the same toy at the exact same time and a fight ensues. Where did they learn this behavior? Did they learn it at daycare? Did they learn it from their parents? Or was it instinctive? It seems pretty instinctive to me.

I realize the Bible’s claims are not very popular and they’re certainly not going to make me popular among the masses. If they’re false, then I guess I’m just another one of those Bible teaching lunatics. But if the Bible is right, then it has some huge implications for how we live our lives.

What If It’s True?

If it’s true that our hearts are inherently evil, then we have a host of other questions to deal with. I don’t have time to go overly in depth into any of them, but I want to briefly address a few of them.

How do we fix the condition of our hearts? If you’re like me, then the way you’ll instinctively respond is to try to make yourself into a better person. Maybe if you can change some of your outward behaviors then your heart will change too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. We can discipline ourselves to behave just about any way we want, but we can’t discipline our way into changing our hearts. The only way our heart can change is if God changes it. If you want your heart to change, ask God to change your heart. As he is changing your heart, a change in your outward behaviors will naturally follow.

How do we love evil people? It’s easy to love people who are deserving of our love.[4] But how do we love people who hurt us? Or for that matter, how do we love people when we believe they have evil hearts, even if we’ve never met them? We can love them because God first loved us. As I discussed in my article last week, God doesn’t love us because of something we did to earn his love; God loves us because he chooses to love us. We are inherently nothing more than worthless evil people, but God chooses to love us despite our extreme inadequacies. In the same way, we can love other people, not because they do anything to earn it, but because we choose to love them like God loves them.

How do we avoid getting depressed? Honestly, the thought that every person has an evil heart can be extremely depressing. Because this is what I believe, I can’t help but see every person I interact with, including myself, as having an inherently evil heart. Yet, I’m not depressed about it. How? Because my hope is in God rather than in humanity. The rest of the world has to overlook the daily reminders that evil exists in order to continue finding hope. But those of us who are disciples of Jesus don’t have to overlook evil in order to have hope in our God. First of all, he doesn’t have any evil in him, so we don’t have to overlook any deficiencies in order to hope in him. And second, he is in control of everything and everybody, meaning that he can still make good happen despite our evil hearts.

How do we avoid being paranoid that everyone is out to get us? If we believe everyone around us has evil hearts, then we may naturally draw the conclusion that they’re plotting ways to hurt us. Although some people might actually be plotting ways to hurt us, most of them aren’t. Most people are so focused on getting their own needs met that they don’t have time to try to get their needs met while they concurrently try to deprive you of your needs. Instead, I think most people are so singularly focused on getting their own needs met that they don’t even think or care about the effects their actions have on the people around them.

Furthermore, God seems to give this world what theologians call common grace. Common grace is what allows humanity to live at peace with one another (since peace is a fruit of the Spirit, it’s impossible to have it without God). I think tragedies such as the Las Vegas shooting, 9/11, and the Holocaust are a result of God not pouring out his common grace. But even in the midst of those events, God is still in control.

How can we trust other people? We can’t trust other people completely. Other people are going to hurt us over and over and over again, no matter how good of people they may seem to be. That’s part of being human. The only being in the entire universe who we can trust completely is God. But that doesn’t justify living in isolation of other people in order to avoid the pain that comes from someone breaking our trust. As disciples of Jesus, we are not only called, but desire to be in relationships with other humans. We’re called to be transparent in these relationships, even if we enter every relationship knowing we’re going to get hurt.


So what’s my conclusion? My conclusion is that answering this question isn’t as simple as placing most people in the good category and a few of history’s murderers in the evil category. Instead, all of us need to be placed in the evil category because none of us measure up to God’s standard of good. If this is the conclusion we draw, it doesn’t have to lead us into a depressed state, but rather, it can lead us into a place where we display much more grace and mercy towards other people because we realize we are no better than them.

Lastly, if you’re one of those people who likes to skip to the end to read my conclusions, I encourage you to go back and read the entire article to understand my logical reasoning for how I drew this conclusion. This is a very sensitive topic and I would hate for you to misunderstand what I’m saying simply because you only read one paragraph of this article.

[1] Gideon Polya, “Churchill’s Crimes from Indian Holocaust to Palestinian Genocide,” MWC News, January 23, 2009, accessed December 28, 2016,
[2] The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. – Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3, Romans 3:10-12.
[3] …for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. – Genesis 8:21
[4] See Matthew 5:43-48.