What about the Seeking and Sincere?
The platoon cautiously moved down the trail as the Americans searched for the Vietcong. Intelligence reports indicated that "Charlie" had moved into the DeTung valley over the night and were setting up a major offensive. Suddenly, there was the familiar whistle and then a yell, "Incoming!" Private Jackson dove for cover as the ground exploded around him. It was an ambush and his platoon was taking heavy casualties. As Jackson jammed another clip into his M-16, he began to realize he might not make it out of this scrimmage. He had never given God or death much thought in the past, but now his thoughts were consumed by them. He prayed, "God, if you get me out of this, I promise to go to church and live a good life."
This, of course, is the classic example of "fox hole religion." On the surface, Private Jackson was "seeking God" and "sincere." However, history has shown most "fox hole" conversions produce little lasting change. There is much confusion surrounding what is "seeking" and "sincerity." An understanding of these issues will help you in your study of the heathen.
The "heathen" is not limited to some isolated jungle.
He could be your next door neighbor.
From our research, we found most evangelical Christians agree personal acceptance of Jesus Christ is essential to go to Heaven. The overall consensus was this applies to everyone including the heathen.
The question that causes the most confusion and heated controversy is, what will happen to the person who starts seeking God, but is isolated from the gospel? Is God obligated to send him the gospel? We found the subject of the heathen pivots around this issue. However, the issue of "the seeker" raises some very interesting problems. More problems are created than answered when we say God will provide the gospel to those who are seeking. Thus, it is important for you to take an in-depth look at this topic. There may be several problems you have not considered. (For more information, refer to the chapter Breakdown of View 2, Implication C.)
Are there certain factors that cause a person to want to seek God with a "sincere" heart? If there are certain factors, if they are applied to everyone in the world, would these factors cause more people to seek God? As we will soon see, some factors do influence people to seek God, and these factors are not evenly distributed. If they were more evenly distributed throughout the world, there would be many more Christians.
The reason a person chooses to do good or bad ultimately stems from the person’s will. This also applies to whether a person chooses Christ or not. There are many factors that influence the formation of a person’s will. Two very powerful influences are parental support and peer pressure. Great strength and guidance can be instilled in children during their formative years. The way parents bring up their children plays a major role in how they turn out. If a person has had solid parental support and several positive role models, he will choose, out of his free will, not to get involved in drugs, premarital sex, etc. No one forces him to make these decisions, but others influence his values. However, these influences also can work in a negative direction. A person in the inner city who is pressured to commit crimes probably will choose, out of his free will, that type of lifestyle. Statistically, a large percentage of inner-city children choose to lead a life of violence and crime.
While parental guidance and peer pressure play a major role in our value development, we are still in control of our destiny. Our response is our responsibility. We are accountable for our decisions and actions. Though influenced by others, we still choose between right and wrong. We can be conditioned, but we cannot be controlled. When standing before God, we will be unable to say our wrong choices were someone else’s fault.
A person’s decision to accept Christ is also influenced by several factors. Again, parental guidance and peer pressure play a major role. Just as a strong negative influence can lead a person to a life of crime, a strong Christian example can influence a person to desire Christ. Inversely, a Christian who is backslidden and hypocritical may offend a person and turn him off to Christianity. Proverbs says a person offended is harder to reach than a fortified city. Jesus, when speaking of the hypocritical Pharisees, said their lives were so offensive that many people were kept from going to Heaven. In Matthew, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to Heaven. This implies that if this same man did not have the stumbling block of his wealth, he may have chosen to accept Christ.
The sooner a child is exposed to a consistent and loving Christian example, the better his chances of becoming a Christian. This is why a higher percentage of Christian children are found in Christian homes than in atheist or Hindu homes. The more consistent the parents are in their spiritual walk, the better the chances all their immediate family will be Christians. Christian parents, though not always sensitive to the Spirit or the needs of their family, still influence the lives of their children.
The conclusion may be drawn that increased exposure to a Christian witness and intercessory prayer can increase the number of believers in that given area. Areas with a strong Christian witness have a high percentage of believers when compared to areas with a weak Christian witness.
When looking at the world, we may question why only 7% of the population has accepted Christ. What reasons could explain this small percentage? As illustrated above, Christian parents have a very high percentage of Christian children. Thus, it cannot be said that 7% is the "norm." Could it be that most of the people in the world are not Christians because they have not had Spirit-filled Christian parents and peers guiding them and praying for them? Is it possible that they were influenced by their parents and peers to choose values other than Christ?
Pretend that 100 years ago everyone on the Earth was a strong Christian. These Christians were very sensitive and caring parents, spending a large amount of time in prayer and in meeting the needs of their children. Two generations later we are in the present. All the original Christians from 100 years ago have died, and the people living today are their children, and their children’s children. What percentage of the world’s population would be Christians? Would it be higher than 7%? If we admit the number of Christians would be higher in this situation, then we have to conclude there are people dying and going to hell simply because of their surroundings.
Originally, we were discussing what will happen to the heathen who are "seeking." The question now encompasses more than just the person who is seeking. Everyone in his formative years may have the potential of being open to the gospel. However, as he grows older, his heart hardens and becomes less receptive. At this point, he is not unreachable, but just less responsive.
God might make a few exceptions in sending the gospel to a specific seeker. However, as a general rule, the evidence strongly suggests He will not do that for the world. Thus, now the question is, what will happen to the 3 billion people who have not "heard the gospel?" They will only hear the gospel if we take the initiative to bring it to them. Therefore, our attention must not be focused on the few with whom God might make special intervention, but rather on the billions who will go to Hell unless we reach them.
Where does all this lead? It leads to this sobering fact; people have gone and are going to Hell needlessly. There is nothing we can do about those already in Hell, but there is something we can do about those who are on their way now.
Although God seems to have chosen to limit Himself by using human vessels to spread the salvation message, He has not left us to do the job alone. The real power is not our lives, but God flowing through our lives. We are like a pipe that carries God’s power, and wherever we go, we take the supernatural, heart-changing power of God. The "written" Word, the Bible, and the "living" Word, Christ living in us, are the catalysts that draw people to Christ. It is the power of the Word of God and our prayers that will melt hardened hearts and influence people to desire God.
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