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When Grandma sits down at "the old spinning wheel" these days, it is likely to be in Las Vegas. Gambling is becoming more and more popular, and more states are legalizing it in one form or another to try to still the clamor of the people for it. . . Never in the history of our nation have so many lost so much to so few. Yet, as the prophet Jeremiah wrote on another subject, "My people love to have it so, and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jer. 5:31). The gambling habit has become so ingrained into the lives of the people that it is being carried over into areas that are far more dangerous than that of losing money.
People lay their money down at the roulette wheel or stake their pay check on a roll of the dice, will often then take chances with something far more precious. The thrill of "the turn of a card" lures many; because they love to take chances. And even among "non-gamblers," the same mind-set is found. Many folk who wouldn't bet on a horse race or a football game will bet their souls on the "race of life." And taking chances in spiritual matters is far more dangerous, because of the eternal consequences. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14: 12). Millions today are gambling away their hopes of a home in Heaven by taking chances on ways that "seem right unto a man," but are not the way which God tells us to take.
Let us notice in this article some ideas that are commonly accepted today, but which are a "losing bet" in the spiritual realm.
"There Are Many Roads That Lead To Heaven": -- It is a popular belief that there are many different ways to heaven, many ways to serve God, many ways to please Him. Thus, many feel that "one way is just as good as another." And they stake their soul on that chance. But Jesus warns us, "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it" (Matt. 7:13,14). This teaching is not simply a "way that seems right," it is the way which IS right, for the Lord said so. But many are still willing to "take a chance" on some other way of reaching heaven.
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (Jno. 14:6). He also said, "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments" (Jno. 14:15). And yet again, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the Will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21) Now, really, is it worth taking a chance that He didn't mean what He said?
"Join The Church Of Your Choice": -- One says, "One church is as good as another," or, "The church doesn't save." So people "join a church." And thereby, unwittingly, theyare betting their souls on a hopeless "long shot." Jesus said, "Upon this rock, I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18). How can the churches which man has built compare with His!? The apostle Paul said of the church of the Lord that it was "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). What price was paid for all of these other churches? But many fail to even examine what the Scriptures say about the church which Jesus built.
The Bible says that God, "Put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). Again: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head of the church, being Himself the Savior of the body...Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the Word...For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:23-32). Note that Christ is Head of the church, the Husband of the church and He is the Savior of it. That church is His bride. How many wives does He have? Did He really give us a choice?
The church is the body of Christ: "And He is the Head of the body, the church" (Col. 1:18). Now read carefully Eph. 4: 4-6, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in all." Do we have a choice of "Gods" to worship, or a choice of "Lords" to serve? Notice that this passage clearly states that there is only one body (church), one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. If we would please God, we have no choice with any of these, but must accept the ONE He reveals to us.
Some would insist on a "choice" by saying that Christ is working through and in all of these churches. But read again: "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:10-13). That description is pretty much what denominationalism is today. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. They were not allowed to "choose." And neither are we. Look at the question found in vs. 13: "Is Christ divided?" And remember that Christ and His church are one (Eph. 5:31,32). Too many are gambling with their souls that they can go to Heaven without being in the church which Jesus built and to which He adds the saved (Acts 2:47). Not very good "odds," according to the Scriptures!
"We Are Saved By Faith Only": -- Jesus asks, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk. 6:46) The basis on which God will accept man has always been that man "trust and obey." Note the great examples of faith in Heb. 11: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice" (vs. 4), "By faith Noah...prepared an ark" (vs. 7), "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed" (vs. 8). This pattern is repeated throughout this 11th chapter of Hebrews. People were told what to do, by faith they did it, and God blessed them. Friend, that hasn't changed.
Many claim that we are saved by faith, and then we obey. But Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the Will of My Father Who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). It isn't enough to call Him, "Lord." Only when we do what Jesus Christ says do we have promise of salvation: "He became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:9). Yet many will "stake all" on the idea of salvation by faith only. That we are justified by faith is clearly taught (Rom. 3:25; 5:1; etc.), but it must be a faith which "works through love" (Gal. 5:6).
The Bible says that we purify our
souls when we obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). And Paul writes that we are "made
free from sin" when we "obey from the heart that form of doctrine"
(Rom. 6:18). To shove all of our chips into the pot on a bet of "faith
only" is to back a losing horse. It couldn't be made clearer than it is
in Jas. 2:14-24, "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath
faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?...Even so faith, if it have
not works, is dead in itself...But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith
apart from works is barren?...Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
"Baptism Is Not Necessary To Salvation": -- Many teach that baptism is not essential to salvation, that it is "just a form" of a "church ordinance" (whatever that is). So, many ignore the importance of baptism in the process of salvation or reject it altogether. But what does the Bible say? Jesus, just before He went back to Heaven, told the apostles, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:15,16). But one says, "I think I can be saved without being baptized." Quite a chance to take, don't you think? What kind of "odds" do you have?
Note that "believe and be baptized" results in "being saved" (Mk. 16:16). Some argue that we are saved at the point of faith, and then are baptized because we are saved. But notice the order carefully: "Believe + be baptized = saved." I have seen many twist and turn and almost cry, but none yet has been able to put "be saved" before baptism. It is just not there. Do you dare to take the chance that the Lord was not telling the truth in Mk. 16:16? The apostle Peter, on Pentecost told people, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). And Saul was told, "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). In every case of conversion in the book of Acts, people heard the gospel, they believed it, they repented and then they were baptized. And only after all that, "went on their way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39; 16:34).
Wouldn't it be a pretty poor bet to think that one could be saved outside of Christ? But read with me, "Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Rom. 6:3). Notice that we are baptized "into Christ" and "baptized into His death." Is His death essential to our salvation? Then so is our being baptized into His death! And again the Bible speaks, "For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26,27). Then, until we are "baptized into Christ," we are not children of God and have not "put on Christ."
While man says, "Baptism does not save," the Bible speaks of the salvation of Noah, then says: "This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also" (1 Pet. 3:21). Read that again: "Baptism now saves you." But some people are still willing to take a chance that God will save them some other way. Friend, don't gamble with your soul. Listen to what the Lord says, and then do it. Any other course of action can only result in the loss of your soul.
When the Jews came to Pilate and requested a guard be placed at the tomb of Jesus, he told them, "Ye have a guard: go, make it as sure as you can" (Matt. 27:65). This attitude should be yours and mine: "Make it as sure as ye can." If we have a care for our safety, we won't drive 100 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road. If we have concern for our loved ones, we won't deliberately run red lights or try to "beat the train" at a crossing. And if we value our souls, we will not take chances in spiritual matters, either. As Peter wrote, "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10).
Of more value than all the money in this world, more precious than all the gems, more enduring than Gibralter is the soul of man. Jesus asked, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). If you wouldn't bet every penny you have on a risk of a billion to one odds against you, then don't take chances with your soul by trying to find a shortcut to Heaven. Trust the Lord enough to do exactly what He requires of you. That is the only way to "play it safe." And that is the only way you can win eternity with Him.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 55, No. 27, July 7, 2006.
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