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Today, I want to address what my counselor refers to as “dichotomous thinking” or “black-and-white thinking”. This means that a person’s beliefs are absolute – there are no “gray areas”. Today, I talked to my counselor about Trump and how everything seems to be all-or-nothing with him. For example, he says that he’s drawn the biggest crowds ever at a certain event. Then he turns around and attacks someone saying that person is the worst ever. Nothing is ever in the middle. Nothing is ever mediocre in his mind. This is called “dichotomous thinking”.
I’ve seen this kind of thinking before…probably everyone has at one point.
I would like to look at a few examples of this kind of thinking in Christianity and how it does not fall in line with what Jesus taught us. Many years ago, I took part in a discussion about how people get to heaven. This group insisted that the only way to heaven was to accept Jesus as their Savior. I asked the question, “What if a person lives somewhere that is desolate and never heard of Jesus? Say he is a really good person…lived a Christ-like life…but never accepted Jesus because he never heard of him?” Someone immediately responded: “He’s going to hell. Period. He didn’t accept Jesus.” That answer just tore at my soul. If God is love, then how could He turn His back on someone who never heard of Jesus?
During the last year of my marriage, my now ex-husband insisted that he was going to heaven. Period. No ifs, ands or butts. I don’t know where he came up with this…I suspect it was either his family or his mistress (he was having an affair at the time that I wasn’t aware of). When I suggested that Jesus was the judge and not us, he told me that I was wrong. Completely wrong. Later, after I found out about the affair and confronted him, I told him that he was breaking a commandment….a clear commandment that Jesus specifically addresses in the New Testament. His response was “that sounds too judgemental to me”.
Now there are several issues here. In the first case, “dichotomous thinking” is very clear. Besides the fact that we are not the judge (see What is True Christianity, Part I, where I address that issue in detail), biblically, the person’s insistence that the man in question was going to hell can be rebutted. A few verses in John address both situations above. Let’s look at the first situation. Meditate on the following verse:
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause'”.” John 15:22-24
Think about that for a minute. “If I had not come…they would not have sin.” Jesus makes it clear in that passage that if a person didn’t know about Him, they would not be held to the same standard as Christians who do know about Him.
Now, let’s look at the second situation where my ex did know about Jesus.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.'” John 15:22-24
As you can see, once you know about Jesus, you are held to a higher standard. Jesus expects us to turn our back on sin, not wallow in it. These two situations also show how dichotomous thinking can get people in trouble. There ARE gray areas in life.
Once we TRULY accept Jesus, our hearts and souls will change and we will not continue to live in sin. This is not to say that we won’t make mistakes…we will as we are human. But God’s mercy is not to be abused. God’s mercy does not mean that we can continue to live waist deep in sin. If you have proclaimed Jesus as your Savior but still are immersed in constant sin, you truly haven’t accepted Him. Examine your heart and soul and see if you have TRULY allowed Jesus into your heart.
This question is certainly a hot topic of debate. After writing my previous post on this same topic, I was contacted by a friend of mine who didn’t agree that our salvation can be lost. She talked with her pastor about this issue since my post made her think a little more about this subject. His explanation was good. He said that if someone turns against God after becoming a Christian, they were never Christian. There is truth to this statement. According to 1 John 2:19:
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
I am glad that my friend enlightened me in this way. That makes a little more sense to me. However, I was still troubled by a few things.
First of all, God gave us free will. If, once we are saved, we are always saved, then doesn’t that take away our free will? Also, the way that some preachers are passing on the message of “once saved, always saved” sounds to me like they are saying that sin isn’t a factor since our works have nothing to do with our salvation. I do know of people who truly believe that you don’t have to do anything except to say “Jesus is my Savior”. They truly believe that they can lie, steal, cheat, or do whatever they want, but as long as they say “Jesus is my Savior”, they are guaranteed salvation because salvation is a gift, and our works have nothing to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong – I fully believe that our salvation is a gift and that Jesus died on the cross to save us. There is no doubt in my mind. What I worry about is that people are getting an incomplete and twisted message. I believe the error occurs when one or two passages in the Bible are the main focus, and the rest of the Bible is ignored. Let me explain further.
There are many passages in the Bible that point to the fact that you can turn away from God and possibly lose your salvation. First and foremost is a passage that I referred to in my last post:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” 2 Peter 2: 20
Peter also refers to Proverbs in making his point:
“Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’ 2 Peter 2:22
As per the book of Hebrews:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift….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 subecting him to public disgrace.” Hebrews 6:4-6
“We have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:14
“See that no one is…godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected.” Hebrews 12:16-17
As per the book of Timothy:
“If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.” 2 Timothy 2:12
From 1 John 2:
“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. IF IT DOES, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24
But the one that stands out most to me is from 2 John:
“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 8-9.
As far as the teaching of current pastors regarding the fact that our actions (works) have nothing to do with our salvation, the most important passage comes from James:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 2:14
“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not be faith alone.” James 2:24
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26
There are also many different places in the Bible where Jesus Himself states that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. One such verse can be found in the gospel of John:
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John 14:21
Another one can be found in 1 John 3:
“Those who obey His command live in Him, and He in them.” 1 John 3:24
Now, regarding the idea that people can just say “Jesus is my Savior” and still lie, steal, cheat, etc., the Bible specifically warns against this behavior. In fact, the warning are stern:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessolonians 2:8-10.
“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22
So, here is my opinion on this subject. Based on the above scripture, I believe that if you are a true Christian and endure to the end, staying true to God’s Word, you cannot lose your salvation. As it says in John 10:28, “no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
Is it possible to be a true Christian and then turn away from God? Yes, I believe it is possible based on the above scripture. If it wasn’t possible, why would there be so many warnings? Remember, Judas was once an apostle but then later betrayed Jesus. Is that because he was never a true Christian? Was it because he was Christian and then turned his back on God? We will never know as only God knows what is truly in someone’s heart and soul.
As far as being a true Christian, I believe that actions will show what it truly in someone’s heart. I do not believe that you can say the words “Jesus is my Savior” and you are guaranteed to enter heaven while continuing to live in sin. I believe that you have to truly give your life over to God, truly believe in your heart that Jesus died for us, and live by His commandments. I think that so many people want to believe that actions don’t matter because it’s easier that way. I also believe that people are being led astray by focusing on one, two or three verses in the Bible. If you truly want to learn the teachings of God, you must read and accept all of it, not just some of it. The Bible can easily be twisted into what you want it to say if you only focus on a few verses. I challenge all who read this post to open up a Bible and read it – not just the gospels, not just the New Testament. Read all of it. Only then will you have the true knowledge of what it takes to be a true Christian.
And that’s my opinion 🙂
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, All rights reserved.
As I read one of the letters that Paul wrote today, I was once again reminded that God’s grace does not give us permission to sin. I felt the need to address this topic once again.
As I watch the news and other shows, I am constantly bombarded by stories of betrayal, murder, theft, greed, etc. If that’s not bad enough, I also see some of these same people refer to God and His importance in their lives as they speak. I find this incredibly disturbing.
Paul addresses this issue over and over again in his letters in the New Testament.
“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” 1 Corinthians 5:11
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-17
“The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21
I would like people to think about this. Why are there so many people out there who don’t believe in God because they feel like Christians are hypocrites? Because that is exactly how some people live! Have you ever considered that because of the behavior of some of these hypocrites, others might turn from God and not be saved? Not only are these people putting their own souls at risk, but they are actually hurting Christianity as a whole because they AREN’T living according to the Bible. Yes, we all know that God forgives our sins, but the Bible also tells us that we must live in the Spirit. If we truly live in the Spirit, we cannot live in constant sin. Galatians 5:16-17 clearly states that living in the Spirit and living in sin are in direct conflict with each other. I would like to propose that not everyone who says they are Christian are truly Christian. Remember, the Bible also states that Satan himself parades around the world as an angel of light:
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
The Bible says many times to “not be deceived”. Know the truth about God. Yes, we are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ if we TRULY accept Him in our heart. This means living in the Spirit and putting aside our sinful nature. Yes, we all will make mistakes, and if we are truly in the Spirit and have left our sinful ways, we will be forgiven. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that just because you speak the words, “Jesus is My Savior” but do not leave your sinful life, that this is sufficient for God. You MUST put aside your sinful behavior, for one cannot truly believe and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior without turning from his/her sinful life.
For those of you who are sick of seeing the behavior of so-called Christians living smack in the middle of a completely sinful life, know that this behavior is not what God is calling us to do. The best advice I can give to you is to open up and read a Bible. That is the only way to know the real truth in God.