"It is up to you. God loves you but He won't force Himself on you either. He wants you to love Him but it has to be because you want to, not because someone told you that you have to. People often claim that I force my religion on people, but the stupid thing is that I can't, because God won't accept anyone who does not come to Him voluntarily."
First of all, let me set the stage here, I appreciate your article and praise God for His grace in allowing both of us to be blessed as His children. Brother, with love I just want to encourage you to reconsider and pray about this statement you write above. Here is a person who is dead in sins and ready to kill him(her)? self for they are hopeless. The scriptures clearly reveal that no one comes to Jesus on His own. God must draw them. This person rejects Jesus because he loves sin and when presented with the choice of accepting or rejecting Jesus, always chooses to reject. This person is dead spiritually. Dead men cannot climb ladders or reach out a hand to another. I know, friend, this might "seem" odd and unnatural, but this is the truth. Salvation is of the Lord. Preach the truth to this person, but realize that it is God and God alone who can rescue the suicidal from their depression. God will and does indeed come and go and He pleases and can if it does so please Himself "force Himself" upon someone. The person in hell is not comforted by the thought "Jesus loves me and died for my sin.... but cannot do anything for you until you submit".. The person in hell would say "Lord why didn't you FORCE yourself on me? Of course, we all deserve hell as you rightly say in your response. I have made this much too brief and pray that it does not come across mean or hateful. Keep on praising God brother!
in Christs love
My response is in Green:
Your letter did not come across as mean or hateful, but I will tell you that you and I have a basic disagreement about who God is. You never mentioned predestination but it seems pretty clear to me that is what you are talking about. You also did not say it this way, but it would appear you are telling me I should not tell people God loves them, because maybe He doesn't. Like I said, we have a basic disagreement on who God is.
You say dead men cannot climb ladders. I have heard that before, but you take that statement and try to conform it to spiritual things. What I mean is that you are trying to say that since man is dead in his sins, he cannot even choose to follow Christ. That is bad theology, but don't take my word for it, take God's word:
(Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV)  This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
(Joshua 24:15 NIV) But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Notice in both of these passages the people are told to make a choice to either follow God or not. If you are right, then these passages should be cut out of the Bible because they are meaningless. But these are not the only ones.
(Genesis 4:7 NIV) If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.
In this passage God is telling Cain that he must take control and master the sin that wants him. Why? If Cain is dead in his sins, and a dead man can't even grab a hold of the ladder, then why would God tell Cain to do just that? Is God just toying with Cain?
(Ezekiel 18:26-28 NIV)  If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die.  But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life.  Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.
How about this one? How can a dead man turn and choose to do what is right? For that matter if God is the one who does all the choosing, then how can a righteous man turn and do evil?
If predestination is true and God is the one who decides who lives and who dies, then there is another problem in the Bible and that is the problem of evil. We are told that Lucifer was blameless until wickedness was found in him: (Ezekiel 28:14-15 NIV)  You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.  You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
Now if God is the one who decides, then how could wickedness be found in Lucifer unless God put it there? That brings me to the idea of original sin. God told Adam that he could eat of any tree he wanted with the exception of one. God further went on to tell Adam that on the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. The way God gave this command to Adam implies a choice on Adam's part. We are told that sin came into the world through one man; Adam.
If God is the one who decides (predestination) who is saved and who is damned, then Adam did not have free choice either, and was predestined to sin. If he had no choice then it was not truly his fault, which means the curse put on all of creation was solely because God had wanted to do it in the first place, not due to Adam's disobedience. And that would mean that our sinful natures are due to God's wanting us to have them, instead of mankind's rebellion against God. In fact there is no rebellion if there is no choice.
If all that is true then this passage of Scripture is not only meaningless but cruel: (Ezekiel 18:30-32 NIV)  Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
How can God call them to repent if they have no choice in the matter? How can God claim to take no pleasure in the death of anyone, if He does in fact preordain those who will die in their sins? Or how about this passage: (2 Peter 3:9 NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Is that passage a lie? It is if God is the one who decides who repents and who does not. If we are so dead in our sins that we cannot come to Christ unless God forces us, and if He only forces some people, then that passage is a lie! Not only is it a lie, it is a bad lie. If God is the one who decides who is saved and when, then why does He have to be patient? He would not have to be, He could save those He wanted to save at any time He chose.
I am pretty sure you will throw God's sovereignty in my face, so let me address that. First I admit that God owes us nothing. There is nothing worthwhile in any of us that God should love us. He has the right as our Creator to send as many of us as He pleases to hell without any chance of salvation. He has the right to torment us for His pleasure and fun. He has to right to blame us for being who we are even if He chose who we would be. I don't disagree with any of that. God is God and can do whatever He pleases. The problem comes in when God says He is something other than what you claim He is. He claims to love everyone, not just the elect. He claims to not take pleasure in the death of anyone. He claims that the choice is up to us whether we live or die. He also claims that He is love. That He is not a liar. That He does not change His mind. That anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.
So if God is all those things and not a liar, then your theology has to be wrong. Either God does take pleasure in the death of some, whom He could save but chooses not to, or He loves everyone and gives everyone the chance to be saved. You referred to this passage: (John 6:44 NIV)  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
I have no disagreement with that passage, but I do have a disagreement with your interpretation of that passage. I believe that Jesus is telling us that unless God reached out to us, none of us would ever even consider coming to Christ. Yet hundreds of other passages show that God reaches out to all mankind. To say that all those whom God draws will come and all those who don't come to Christ were never given the chance, again makes God out to be a liar because it contradicts many of His clear statements to people to turn from wickedness and live.
Look at the parable of the Prodigal son. You say that a dead man can't grab the ladder, yet this dead man made a decision to leave the life he had chosen and return to the his father. Let me quote just a portion of the parable to show you what I mean. (Luke 15:21-24 NIV)  The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
Why would Jesus tell a parable which was so far from fact? In the parable the father does not go after the son. He does run out to meet him when he returns but it was the son's choice to return. The father did not force him. The father clearly says that the son had been dead and lost but was not found and alive. The son in this parable was a dead man who chose life by choosing to return home.
You said [The person in hell is not comforted by the thought "Jesus loves me and died for my sin.... but cannot do anything for you until you submit"..] What comfort do you think the people in hell would get by knowing that a God who claimed to be all loving had sent them there because He did not love them?
One last passage: (Acts 2:38-41 NIV)  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call."
 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Take a hard look at that passage. Peter tells these people to "save yourselves" and it says "those who accepted." Again if man has no choice, if salvation is solely a sovereign choice made by God then this passage is ridiculous. A person could only save him self by choosing to believe and a person can only 'accept' something if they have a choice.
I thank you for taking the time to write me and I hope you don't think my response is mean or hateful. It was not meant to be either. I have prayed many hours about the things I believe and am convinced that God is all loving, merciful and wants "all mankind" to come to know Jesus Christ. I will not change my message.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)