smooth talk and flattery.

So I took quite a hiatus after I made my blog private. Even though few people probably ever read my blog, I felt a sense of accountability to continue my daily Bible Blogging. Once this blog went private, I lost that sense and it has come with a cost.

I never finished reading Romans. Tonight, I couldn’t sleep, so I opened up the trusty biblegateway.com and punched up Romans 16. I’ve always liked Romans 16 because Paul is thanking and encouraging all of those who work on the Kingdom of God. I love that the people he thanks includes men and women of all levels of leadership and giftedness. In this last chapter, Paul leaves with thanks and encouragement – and one strong word of warning. He urges believers to stay away from people who teach against the church. He says, “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom 16:18)

This does not mean to not love people (something Paul admonishes us to do earlier in Romans), but this means to be smart about where we are taught. Recently some people in my life have been smooth-talked into believing things that are untrue. This slippery, slippery slope dragged them into a set of beliefs wholly untrue and deadly. Paul is right to advise believers to not get too close to a drowning man. Throw them a life vest (prayer), but there is no need to drown along with them.

This week I had a conversation with Frank, L & G regarding death and life afterwards. This conversation so clearly outlined for me the gravity of the situation. Christianity isn’t about what you believe to help you feel good at night. Christianity is about where we will spend eternity. Christianity is a battle to the death, in every literal sense of the word. It is so easy to think that we have countless tomorrows, but as our senior pastor often says, “I will see you next week, God-willing.” It sounds a little depressing, but the truth is: We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

G shared a story with us about a doctor at our church. One afternoon, while he was doing rounds, a nurse informed him that there was an elderly woman who was constantly complaining and nothing the nurses did seemed to help her. The doctor went into this patient’s room and asked her how she was doing and was there anything he could do to help.

She responded, “There is a man behind you.”

Confused, he looked behind him and, seeing nothing, said to the woman, “There is no one there.”

She shook her head. “No, there was someone there. It was Jesus and He’s come to take me home.” Within moments of saying that, she died.

The cynic in me likes to flatter me into believing that surely this woman was just seeing things. Frank asked G if the doctor often saw patients who saw Jesus before dying. Unfortunately, the doctor said that more often than not, it was the other way. Patients would claim to hear the screams of hell rushing up to great them and would be dragged away into death. Their deaths were not peaceful, but awful experiences for these patients.

I had never heard such reports of people being dragged into death. Frank confirmed what G said – saying that he flew with a pilot who was in Vietnam. The pilot said that he held many of his friends and fellow soldiers in his arms as they died of wounds inflicted on the battlefields. The pilot said that one of his friends, who was a believer, said that he smelled the sweet fragrance of warm bread from his childhood and knew he was going home. But, just as the doctor had experienced, he also watched far too many people leave this world for a more terrifying one. The pilot said that these individuals often knew that they had already made their choice and there was no going back.

Every day, I believe that I will wake up and I will go on. I believe that I will have a million second chances and that everyone and their puppy-dog will be in heaven. If that was the case, how wonderful would it be? But we are not worthy of being in God’s presence as unrighteous sinners. The only thing that makes it possible for us to be with God in heaven is the sacrifice of God’s only son.

I knew this was a big battle. I knew that the stakes were large, but when I am faced with stories like the ones that Frank and G shared with me, it reminds me that the stakes are so large and so valuable, that Jesus died for them.

But just as with a drowning person, there are rules to live by: Reach, Throw, Row, but never Go.

– Reach: Reach out to this person in prayer. Ask God to soften their hearts.
– Throw: Share the gospel with them in a compassionate and patient way. Show them the gospel every day in your life. What does that mean? It means be like God. To understand what God is like, read the Bible. The way He treats people and loves on His people are what we strive for.
– Row: Only go out to the person fully armed and prepared with proper equipment. As Paul says, put on the full armor of God.
– Never Go: Never swim out to the drowning person, unarmed. In the end, we can all be flattered and tricked into Satan’s lies. Satan does not come and say, “Hey, want to sin?” Instead, he smooth-talks and flatters us into giving up a little bit of ground at a time… until we’ve given up all the ground we had.

My New Year’s resolution is to continue blogging, regardless of whether or not anyone reads it.

I wish you all the very best in 2008.

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