In Jeremiah 17:9 it says, “The heart (of man) is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” The last part, "Who can understand it," is an emphasis that we are blind to the extent of our own potential evil. While that probably offends some people — especially in this age of political correctness — it’s what God says about the natural condition of the human soul. People are naturally self-centered. Evidence of this is the fact that as children we have to be taught to share. We have to be taught that throwing tantrums is not right. We have to be taught that lying and stealing are wrong. We have to be taught generally that the world does not revolve around us as individuals. Because of the natural self-centeredness, we fall short of God's transcending standard of good. Jesus Christ saved us when he took the punishment on himself for the aforementioned evil (past, present, and future) when He allowed Himself to be crucified, rising from the dead three days later (that means he can save us — He is alive). If we accept what Christ did — the outward evidence being we tell him that — then, when standing before God on the day of reckoning after death, we’ll be allowed into heaven and not forced to live eternally separated from God in a place of suffering called Hell. Yes, Hell — I won’t be politically correct about anything in this blog. Hell is not a place God puts people for not worshiping Him — many Christians themselves will at times become caught up in self-worship. Rather, Hell is a place people go to for eternity after death as punishment for sin having rejected Christ’s forgiveness — again, the issue is not worshiping God — the issue is our sin. Romans 10:9: “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Upon accepting Christ’s forgiveness, one would be allowed into the gates of Heaven not because of good deeds done by the person, but because of what Jesus did. Jesus said, “…Nobody comes to the father (God) except by me." People can’t do good deeds, keep the 10 commandments, or keep the Mosaic law as a way of earning their way to Heaven. The Ten Commandments were given to make our sins known to us — not to save us by trying to follow them. If we could be saved by doing good deeds then Jesus died on the cross for our sins in vain. In Galatians 2:21, Paul is speaking of that very principle: “I do not nullify the grace of God. For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain..” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast.” Salvation from sin cannot be lost once obtained — that would imply that we have to earn our way into heaven — we already established that salvation cannot be earned. However, despite being saved from Hell, doing things in this life that we know God disapproves of still leads to negative consequences that will be sustained in this life as well as in the afterlife — the new testament tells us God will reward those who steward their gifts to help Christ's ministry. Every person who accepts Christ will give an account to God for the things they have done.
Before moving on, I need to address the question about how people were saved before the time of Jesus, how people are saved who never hear about Jesus, and how babies are saved since they haven't reached an age of sufficient knowledge. These questions can be a stumbling block for some.
Before the time of Christ, people had knowledge of sin in two different ways. The Gentile world (non-Jews) were convicted of sin via their consciouses, and when God set apart the nation of Isreal about 1500 BC for the purpose of ushering in Jesus Christ the messiah, Israelites alone were given a direct knowledge of sin via the ten commandments, although knowledge of sin via conscience was not necessarily negated. The gentile world lived by their conscience "with the law of God written on their hearts" as you'll see, and the Israelites had knowledge of sin by the ten commandments. In the book of Genesis, there is an encounter between God and Abraham. God tells Abraham that his offspring will be innumerable. Abraham believed God and He counted his belief as righteousness — Abraham then had an eternal right-standing with God. Occasionally, those who had a right-standing with God would bring animal sacrifices to Him as an outward act of faith and confession. The Israelites, though not all of them were swayed by God, gained a right-standing in the same way, by believing God — although their method of confessing sin and dealing with sin was a little different, and far more methodical. In the old testament book Habakuk it says, "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith." People in the old testament acquired right-standing with God by merely believing what God said, i.e., faith. The apostle Paul confirms this in the new testament Galatians 3:11 when he says, "Now it is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, for ‘The just shall live by faith.'" Paul, here, is quoting from the old testament book Habakuk. We can see that attempting to keep the "law" or the ten commandments does not save us from our sins, but only our faith in God during the pre-Christ era, and by putting our faith in Christ after his death and resurrection. Christ was the final sacrifice for sins which was foreshadowed by the killing of animals during the old testament period. Instead of occasionally killing animals as outward evidence of our faith, we now put our trust in Christ one time and confess our sins to him as we encounter them. Note that Paul in 2nd Romans, confirms the pre-Christ method of salvation: "As many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law, for the hearers of the law are not justified before God, but the doers of the law will be justified [this does not mean we can earn salvation]. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them, in the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ." In summary, the gentile world who were not given the ten commandments had knowledge of God via their conscience, and when God set Israel apart giving them the ten commandments, God's law was revealed in a more direct way, although attempting to keep these laws as a way to salvation cannot be done. Our merely believing what God says or faith in Jesus Christ only can do it. In Galatians 2:21 Paul says, "I do not nullify the grace of God. For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain." For those who never "hear" about Jesus, I believe God's law written in their hearts still gives them knowledge of sin, and that they may choose or reject him. Furthermore, in Acts 17 it says, "He [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to live on the entire face of the earth, having appointed fixed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord so perhaps they might reach for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." Many people who hear about Christ reject him, and God knows many of the people who don't have access to regular books, writings, or communications would not accept Christ even if they knew about Him.
Regarding how babies and children are accountable to God. God says that everybody will give an “account." Romans 14:12 says, “So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” Furthermore, in Revelation 20 it talks about how those who have rejected God and Christ will stand at the great white throne judgment and give an account for all their sin. Nowhere in the bible does it say that there is a specific age of accountability. However, the age of accountability is clearly implied but varies for each person. God revealed himself to man through his creation and through Jesus Christ as said above, and since an “account” is going to be given to God, it must imply that whenever somebody has the capability of understanding, an account is going to be given for the understanding and light retained by the person. Though, because of natural disabilities that people are born with which theoretically could serve to inhibit the ability to understand, I can only presume that they would not be accountable in the same way others are. Ultimately, God is perfect in his judgment and will not send anyone to Hell that doesn’t deserve to be there. Furthermore, consider King David from the old testament who had a close relationship with God. David made the mistake of having an affair with a woman. A child was conceived through it. Even though God forgave David for the deed, God let illness fall on the baby, who died. After David wept for the child (while he was sick) David was happy after the child died because David knew one day he would get to see the child again (in Heaven). In 2nd Samual 12:23, it says, “…His servants said to him, “What is this thing you have done? You fasted and wept for the sake of the living child, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He explained, “As long as the child was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, so that the child may live.’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” This implies that people who are not old enough to make critical decisions are not doomed to hell, but rather, God brings them to heaven if they die before the age of accountability.
Finally, I’ll move onto some interesting points, clearing up some misunderstandings and lies that some organizations propagate — making it easier for people unfamiliar with Christ to approach him. The following points (and examples of conduct) are what a lot of onlookers tend to see when observing people who claim to be Christians. Keep in mind when reading the points below there are two types of churches in existence today. There is what is known as the “apostate” church which is composed of people who outwardly profess to accept Jesus Christ (but inwardly reject Him). The other type of church is the body of people who truly have accepted Jesus Christ as atonement for their sins — however, in many cases, this group has been led astray by lies. Though they are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and cannot lose their salvation ever, they live in bondage to the acceptance of false doctrine.
1. We’re not required to go to “church” if accepting Christ as our savior. In the bible, Christians are called to have “fellowship” with other Christians. That does not specifically mean getting up every Sunday morning and attending services at some organization or building. The body of true Christians consists of all those worldwide, and is called the "church." Fellowship with other Christians can be done in several different ways — there are plenty of things to do. A pastor/congregation type of model was typically carried out but unfortunately, it's hard to find pastors that don't teach denominational gobbledygook or other bad doctrines. If one must seek a pastor-based fellowship, calling friends together to watch online sermons in a homegroup could work. The advent of the internet has broken down many barriers. Personal ministries of various kinds can also be started so that one can utilize their God-given gifts and talents for spreading the gospel, and fellowshipping in this way.
2. There’s nothing wrong with doing “work” on Sunday, and Christians today are not required to keep the old testament Sabbath day. See Romans 14:5-6 "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord."
3. We don’t have to give 10% of all our income (money) to an organization in order to receive blessings from God. In the old testament, as part of the Mosaic law, the Israelites were required to give 10% of certain resources to the service of the temple worship. At the temple worship, routine sacrificing of animals was done foreshadowing the coming of Jesus Christ to make the final sacrifice for all sin (dying on the cross). Once Jesus Christ came, died, and rose, the temple worship was no longer required so this requirement to give 10% of certain resources was implicitly done away with. For the record, tithe literally means 10%………We are now called to give as we are led to give by God and we are not to do it out of obligation. If giving 10% or more is desired that’s fine, but do it only if felt it’s the right thing to do. God is not going to bless us any more or any less on the mere premise of giving or not giving a minimum of 10% of all our income — thinking otherwise is essentially trying to bribe God who is not a vending machine. Some pastors will beat their members with a proverbial righteous stick until they start giving them what they want (including 10% of their income). In my opinion, pastors who propagate this idea are either ignorant or trying to scam people. See my blog here: The Cult of Tithing
4. WE DON’T HAVE TO SPEAK IN “TONGUES”. What in the bloody world is “TONGUES” ????… Basically, when the Holy Spirit indwelled the first body of believers, the gift of speaking in LITERAL other languages was given so that people who spoke literal (real) other languages could hear the message of Christ being preached to them. However, people try to interpret “tongues” to be a whirling dervish babble that is not understood by anybody, even the person speaking it. More about tongues
5. Water Baptism is not necessary to receive salvation from God: There are instances in the new testament of the bible where it would seem like water baptism is necessary to receive salvation. If you don't study this aspect carefully, it can be easy to fall into the water baptism trap. The first few years or so after Christ's death and ascension yielded some confusion among people, regarding Christian conduct and procedure. When God set aside Israel as stewards of the gospel of Christ due to their rejection of Him, Paul was converted to Christianity about the same time after persecuting the Christians, where he wrote concerning his gospel which is the gospel in effect today, that "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' There is no mention of water baptism here or any other place where Paul talks about his gospel in the 12 books he added to the new testament. During the first few years after Christ's resurrection and ascension, the issue can be confusing because the apostle Peter seemed to indicate a one-time water baptism was required as outward evidence of accepting Christ. It's my conviction that salvation has always been by FAITH alone (no works) -- in the old testament, one's salvation was evident by obedience to God, particularly by sacrificing animals as a foreshadow of the coming Christ. While Jesus walked on Earth, He rendered salvation to people based on their faith alone, including to the thief who hung on a cross next to Him.
6. Here are some miscellaneous things that a Christian does not need to do, which makes true Christianity look like a ridged and senseless routine. This is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list, by far. We don’t have to do “Hail Marys” or “our father” prayers. We don’t have to pray to dead people who don’t hear us anyway — which is something God actually detests (we are to pray to God, not created beings). We don’t have to dip our fingers in “holy water” before having fellowship with our Christian friends. We don’t have to go knocking on people’s doors for two years, preaching. All God cares about is whether we believe in Him and accept the one free gift He has to offer — His gift of forgiveness based on His death and resurrection. When the criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus suddenly repented, just moments before the criminal died, Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus didn’t say, “Wait a minute! Have you prayed to any of my dead servants? What good deeds did you do? Were you baptized in water?” The criminal on the cross next to Christ — and Christ’s acceptance of him — is a perfect portrayal of how easy God made forgiveness of sins, and how doing good deeds does not earn a way to heaven.