Why Do Sinners Refuse The Greatest Gift Ever Offered?
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Mike Gendron; ©2003|
|People give a variety of reasons for refusing God’s gift of salvation by grace alone. Former Catholic Mike Gendron lists some of the key reasons he has heard or observed in his ministry.|
Why Do Sinners Refuse The Greatest Gift Ever Offered?
Dazzling beauty, jubilant bliss, breath-taking glory, perfect existence and intimate fellowship with our Creator are all offered freely as a gift of divine grace. Why would anyone reject such a matchless and incomparable gift? This “free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). Who would reject a life without end where there is no sorrow, no tears, no pain and no death (Rev. 21:3)? What causes people to turn down the glorious riches of an inheritance in Christ, the promises of rapturous joy, delightful pleasures, and eternal elation in the presence of God? In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11). The answers to these questions, from a human perspective, are provided below.
Religious arrogance and personal pride are both major stumbling blocks for people when they are offered the unmerited and undeserved Gift of God. As a Roman Catholic for over 30 years, I was proud to have been born into the “one true church” which gave me the opportunity to merit the graces needed for my salvation. As Catholics, we enjoyed “the fullness of salvation” because we were the only church that had Jesus in the Eucharist and an infallible pope. This sense of pride is still common among Catholics who love to boast about their church tradition! They stubbornly reject the Gospel of grace because of an unwavering loyalty to their religion.
This behavior is not surprising since religious duties often appeal to man’s pride. However, the Gospel brings offense. It strips people of their pride in human accomplishment and removes every possibility of self-deliverance from sin and punishment.
The Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as their Messiah because of their religious pride (John 7:4-52). To believe that Jesus would offer Himself once for all sin for all time meant they would lose their prominent place of importance and be out of a job. (This is also true for the Catholic priesthood.) It is pride that causes these religious leaders to supplant the authority of God’s word for the sake of their traditions (Mat. 15:1-14).
Religious pride often produces personal pride and arrogance as evidenced by the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. He thanked God that he was not like other sinful people and then boasted of how well he was performing his religious duties. Since the Pharisee had such a high estimation of his own righteousness, he did not see his need to be justified by God. He was unaware of God’s promise: “he who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Pride and grace do not mix because God opposes the proud and the self-righteous but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). God will not endure anyone with a haughty look and an arrogant heart (Psalm 101:5).
The greatest obstacle to knowing the truth is pride, because an arrogant heart is easily deceived (Obadiah 1:3). People who think they already know the truth do not have a humble, teachable spirit and are unwilling to change their beliefs. This kind of pride leads men to reject God’s authoritative word as the source of all truth. Pride also produces divine consequences. Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord and will not go unpunished (Prov. 16:15).
Paul wrote: “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The devil uses the influences of the world system he has crafted to keep men in darkness and occupied with idols. As the master deceiver he has created many counterfeit gods and religions which all proclaim the same grace-nullifying message—you must do things to gain favor and acceptance from god(s). Unbelievers remain spiritually blind with a veil covering their heart unless they turn to the Lord (2 Cor. 3:16). Until then, they are excluded from the life of God and remain darkened in their understanding because of the hardening of their heart and the ignorance that is in them (Eph. 4:18).
Those who are ignorant of God’s almighty power do not fear Him and do not seek His mercy. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7). Like the Israelites, many Catholics remain ignorant of God’s righteous justice and His only provision for sin. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). Catholics have been deceived into believing that the sacrament of baptism has made them heaven bound. As they mature, they have no motivation to know God through His word. They remain unaware of God’s holiness and thus fail to recognize the gravity of their venial sins or their need for a Savior. In the end they will plead for mercy because of their ignorance, but they will be without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
I know an unchurched couple whose young son-in-law died a sudden and unexpected death, leaving their daughter to raise three small children. The couple became so angry with God that they wanted nothing to do with Him. As I counseled with them, I sensed the profound sadness of this perplexing irony—when believers experience a tragedy they run to God who comforts, but when a similar tragedy happens to unbelievers they run from God, blaming Him for what has happened. “They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways’“ (Job 21:14).
People who have had a painful experience with a hypocritical, legalistic or cultic member of the clergy may be completely turned off to the Gospel message. Victims of religious abuse include those who have been harmed sexually, physically or emotionally by the clergy. This vile mistreatment from those who “represent God,” will cause many to reject any form of “religion” or spiritual counsel. Fortunately, there are some who will not give up on God, but flee from the church where they were abused and seek another place of worship.
Many Catholics, throughout the world, are now questioning their faith because of the ongoing scandal of pedophile priests. Their confidence in the clergy is now shattered because of the many horrible crimes and cover-ups taking place. However, the victims of abuse should not run from God, but “take refuge in the Lord” (Psalm 118:8). The Lord redeems the soul of his servants; and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned (Psalm 34:22). There are glorious promises given to all who overcome their crisis of faith by turning to the Lord Jesus for deliverance. Let them consider the comforting and encouraging words of the Savior: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Those who trust Christ can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)
Love of Sin
Those who love the fleeting, illicit pleasure of their sins and the shadowy darkness which hides them will want to run from the light of the Gospel. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3:20). They have been ensnared by the devil and are held captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct, they count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. Forsaking the right way they have gone astray, speaking out arrogant words of vanity as they are enticed by fleshly desires and sensuality (2 Pet. 2:14-18). These slaves of unrighteousness have no desire to be set free from the bondage of sin. They love being their own god with no accountability to their Creator and Judge.
When warned that those who practice the deeds of the flesh such as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, drunkenness and carousing will not inherit the Kingdom of God, some will procrastinate. They imply, by their response, that they will turn to God after their sinful appetites have been fulfilled. But they must be told: “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Now is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). How foolish it is to enjoy temporal pleasure at the expense of eternal torment.
As ambassadors for our Lord Jesus Christ, let us be mindful of the reasons why people reject the greatest gift ever given from the greatest man who ever lived. King Jesus has commissioned us to deliver His message and leave the converting to Him. With this in mind, we can be successful every time we proclaim the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our rewards at the Bema Seat of Christ will not be determined by how many people were converted through our witnessing, but by how faithful we were in obedience to the great commission (Mat. 28:19-20).
In conclusion, we must ponder the question again as we contrast the characteristics of those who reject the Gospel with those who believe the Gospel.
|Those Who Reject the Gospel||Those Who Believe the Gospel|
|Spiritually dead in sin (Eph. 2:1)||Spiritually alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5)|
|Condemned to punishment (2 Pet. 2:9)||Justified and saved from wrath (Rom. 5:9)|
|Under God’s wrath (Col. 3:6)||Under God’s grace (Rom. 6:14)|
|Will suffer torments of hell (Rev. 14:11)||Will receive heavenly blessings (1 Pet. 1:3)|
|Unforgiven and guilty (James 2:10)||Forgiven and acquitted (Col. 2:13)|
|Controlled by the flesh (Eph. 2:3)||Empowered by the Spirit (Rom. 8:11-13)|
|Unrighteous and unjust (1 Cor. 6:9)||Counted righteous and just (Rom. 4:5)|
|No peace with God and no fear or awe of Him (Rom. 3:17)||Peace with God with awe and reverence for Him (Col. 1:20: Heb 12:28)|
|No access to God (John 14:6)||Permanent access to God (Eph. 2:18)|
|Hopeless (Eph. 2:12; Rom 5:8)||Hopeful, steadfast and sure (Heb. 6:19)|
|Helpless (Rom. 5:8)||God is an ever present help (Psalm 46:1)|
|Child of the devil (1 John 3:10)||Child of God (1 John 3:1)|
|In bondage to sin (Rom. 6:20)||Set free by Christ (John 8:31-32)|
|Sinners in darkness (Eph. 5:8)||Saints in God’s light (1 Pet. 2:9)|
|Fools (Rom. 1:22)||Wise (Mat. 7:24)|
|Born once, destined to die twice (Rev. 20:14)||Born twice, destined to die once (John 8:51; 1 Pet. 3:2)|
|Subject to everlasting humiliation and shame (Jer. 23:40)||Partakers of eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:1)|