"Whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." John 3:15
OLD PREACHER JOKE ALERT: Consider yourself warned.
One of the perks of being raised in a parsonage, was having a front row seat at "The After The Show Show." Whenever Dad would have an itinerant evangelist, guest preacher or denominational dignitary preach at our church, we always had them in our home after the service. My favs were those who preached on Sunday night. After church they would follow us home, and linger around the dinner table, sharing a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. This was always great theatre, dinner and a show. It was even worthy of missing "Bonanza."
One such night visitor regaled us with stories of his travels, and had us laughing so hard it required a bathroom break. Baptism stories were always my favorites. In those days indoor baptistries were still a novelty to some of our more rural churches. Small, lily white, wood framed prairie chapels dotted the Texas landscape. They were the legacy of circuit riding preachers who had traveled by horseback or buggy to spread The Gospel in the wide open spaces of The Lone Star State.
Post war affluence following WW2 led to a call for indoor plumbing and eventually a real-life, big city baptistry. Country church carpenters and plumbers retro fitted space never designed with indoor plumbing in mind. In time, muddy cattle tanks were replaced with small indoor tubs. Most were barely large enough for both pastor and baptismal candidate. As they entered the water, it always brought a giggle from the kiddie section, if the water spilled over the top of the glass at the top of the tub. It had a way of lapping over the glass and running down the backs of any quartet sitting in the choir loft. Enough of the history lesson, now back to the story.
The recently called seminary preacher was new to baptizing, and so was his baptismal candidate. The "christening" of the new baptistry tub was a first for both of them. This is rarely a good combination, but all went well until the filling of the baptistry. The small pipe used to bring the water to the church was tiny, and the perpetual Texas drought had lowered the pressure and the level of the water in the well. In short, the tub was taking hours to fill.
By the time church started for their highly promoted "PACK THE PEW" NGIHT, the pews were filled, but the baptistry wasn't. People had come from far and wide. They wore a "You're not going to believe this!" sense of expectation on their faces." The air in the room was electric.
Looking at the partially filled tub, and then the expectant crowd, the young preacher was inspired. He seized the day. He convinced his reluctant disciple to join him in the "water". and proceeded with the task at hand. His process was unique. He leaned the candidate backwards, onto the floor of the tub, and then rolled him around in the water, until his blue jeans and t-shirt were sufficiently damp. Then he held the poor guy's head under the water to work on his hair, nose and mouth. The candidate was gasping, coughing and snorting like a cat taking a bath. When the preacher stood him up, he asked him, "Do you believe?" The sputtering saint shouted, "I believe you're trying to drown me!" The crowd went crazy. They roared with laughter. This was as close to genuine revival, as they had been in years. They left that night with a story to tell to the nations and they spread it far and wide. They called him the "Dry Cleaning Preacher."
I warned you. Still the story contains a great question. "Do you believe?" In this day of "Easy Believism" and the equally dangerous efforts of those who cast doubt on the merits of authentic evangelism, it is a question that needs to be answered. People who do not believe will perish. Don't take my word for it. Jesus said so.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
The Greek words translated for believe and faith are very closely related. Believe is virtually the verb form of faith. Faith is not a concept to be held, but an act of the will. It involves placing trust or confidence in someone or something. To believe is not merely a one time decision, but a life of putting trust and confidence in God for His direction, protection and correction. To believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is one and the same thing. Believing involves practicing Christianity, not posing as a Christian.
"But he who practices the truth comes to The Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." John 3:21
Lawyers practice law. Doctors practice medicine. Musicians practice instruments. Athletes practice drills. In every sense of the word, they are not perfect at what they do, but they honor the label they bear. Christians who say they believe, but do not reveal what is on their label, are either guilty of fraud, or false advertising. Either they do not believe, or they do not practice what they say they believe. In both cases, they give evidence that they have "loved the darkness rather than The Light." (John 3:19).
Prayer sheds The Light on the crisis of faith. Unless people believe, they will perish. Lulling people into a false faith doesn't provide them with eternal security. Casting doubt on their salvation gives no assurance of it. Poor practice habits do not improve a person's proficiency at anything, but criticizing a person's practice of Christianity doesn't improve their fruit production. No doubt some "Christians" have chosen to offer imitation fruit. However, their condition will not be improved by self-appointed "Fruit Inspectors."
"Discernment is given for intercession, never fault-finding." Oswald Chambers
When you see a person's imitation fruit, pray for them. Stop inspecting them. Start interceding for them. Prayerless people sit in the dark. It doesn't matter if they are an IMITATOR or an INSPECTOR. Both hide from The Light, like a child who puts their hands over their face in an attempt to hide from their parents, after an act of disobedience.
Note to self: God sees you. He hears you. All the time. Stop inspecting. Start interceding. Your refusal to intercede for imitators doesn't improve their fruit. Your conceited inspection doesn't improve yours. Your prayerlessness only deepens the darkness surrounding both of you. The Light exposes their imitator's deceit, and your inspector's conceit. Get on your knees and turn to The Light.
"For everyone who does evil hates The Light and does not come to The Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:20