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Chapter Four

A Christian Is a "Dead Man on Furlough"

When Karl Marx wrote his Das Capital, there were just a few hundred communists in the world. In 1903 he convened the Third Communist Internationale in London. They had a discussion as to "Who is worthy to join us?" Some said, "We need everybody we can get, because we are small, we have no money, and we are persona non grata from everywhere. Let's accept anyone." In that discussion a well-spoken man stood up with a different vision. He stared at the crowd and said:

"Are you out of your mind? We will never conquer the world with the partial loyalty of anybody. We are interested in total dedication or nothing. A Communist is not one who gives a little part of his substance to the cause. A Communist is not even one who is willing to die for Communism. A Communist is one who has already died, and who lives the balance of his life on borrowed time. A Communist is a dead man on furlough. If you believe that, come with us, and if you don't, get out!"

That's what Karl Marx said. Most of the group got out, leaving only about seventeen or eighteen followers. He spoke to that little group and said, "Gentlemen, you are people of destiny. You can conquer the world. History has laid its hand of destiny upon your shoulders. We will move out in ever-widening circles. We will capture nation after nation, and finally the world, and a transformed future will be ours."

Karl Marx missed the mark on Communism as being the great panacea for all human ills. He was wrong in believing that all evil was embodied in Capitalism. Evil is a human trait, generously spread among all men. It infects communists as well as capitalists and everyone in between. As long as imperfection exists, men will only succeed in replacing one evil with another, albeit some evils are more tolerable than others.
Karl Marx was not wrong in his singular vision. He rightly dismissed all the partial believers. Who needs partial loyalty? If Karl Marx did not want it, much less does Jesus. He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:24-26) Jesus taught, "No man can serve two masters." He was recruiting only worthy disciples. "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37, 38). Remember the question asked by the angel of Revelation 5-"Who is worthy?" God wanted the answer Jesus gave in Matthew 10.

It might be equally true to use Karl Marx's analogy by changing the word "Communist" to "Christian." "A Christian is not one who gives a little part of his substance to the cause of Christ. A Christian is not even one who is willing to die for Christ. A Christian is a dead man on furlough." We might add, a true Christian is one who not only sees unseen great realities, but is also governed by them, possessed by them, lives by them, and is wholly given over to them.

Religious But Not Holy

People may wish for heaven as an escape from a preconceived concept of hell. The question that must be addressed is, do most people really desire to draw near to God? It is easy to imagine that people would flock to be in God's presence. However, facts do not warrant this conclusion. We have an incident in history that indicates otherwise. When Moses gathered Israel before Mt. Sinai to receive God's law, the assembled nation found that being in God's presence was terrifying. They heard God's voice speaking. In Exodus 20:22, we are told: "Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven."

Contrary to what many might think, the people did not enjoy this experience and drew back from the mountain. "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex. 20:19). The Israelites were so terrified in hearing the Lord's voice, that they could not endure it. They pleaded with Moses to act as an intercessor between God and themselves. They felt that they would die if God continued to speak to them directly. Strangely, they could not endure being within hearing range of God's voice. Yet today, people think they can easily enter heaven without any concern of standing in the awesome presence of God. What say the Scriptures? "The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10: 30, 31). Most people would prefer to have a Mediator stand between God and themselves. This is what God's kingdom will bring to earth.
"Holiness" is not a popular Christian virtue, nor does it count for much in today's society. Holiness is one of the most under valued graces in the world-sadly, sometimes within churches. What does holiness count for today? It counts for little. Yet God's dealings with his people are that they "Might be partakers of his holiness" (Heb. 12:10). How is it that something so central to having a relationship with God is so grossly overlooked and dismissed almost everywhere?

The Israelites who heard the "voice of the Lord" immediately asked Moses to mediate between God and themselves. To this day, religion is most popular when leaders stand between God and men. That is how clergy and laity concepts were formed. The desire to see God's glory with an open face is lacking. Moses had to wear a veil after God spoke to him because his face shone. The people couldn't bear to look upon him (2 Cor. 3:13). People love to worship God-it is innate in the human heart. At the same time, people are reticent to be overly religious. It hasn't changed since Moses' time. Religion is most popular when God is a safe distance from the believer.

Evangelized But Not Converted

In Christianity Today,* (*Christianity Today, by David F. Wells, January 14, 1991, p. 28.) David F. Wells, speaking of evangelistic revivals, said "They prove hollow, and when a mere ten percent of the professed converts in a crusade are still faithful after a year, evangelists and pastors pronounce it a great success. What happens to the substantial number of people who 'decide' for Christ but find their decision was apparently empty of spiritual reality?" The vaccination against sin does not take with the vast majority. What do you do with those allegedly "saved" whose lives are devoid of "spiritual reality?" People motivated to accept Christ for a day, week, or a month, respond like fish caught in a revival net-they wriggle out of the net back into the same environment they were in before. No one likes to talk about this, but Mr. Wells found it very troubling. This is a theological conundrum for those who believe that once "saved," one cannot be "unsaved." Some who confessed Christ and were allegedly "saved," later reverted to a previous lifestyle. Is this the kind of "disciples" Jesus was seeking?

Some may have been led to accept Christ while on an emotional high without wishing to become a true disciple. Jesus never engaged in this kind of activity. He discouraged the nobleman from becoming his disciple by making the cost very high. Never would Jesus sweet-talk anyone into following him. If they loved houses or lands or mother and father or anything more than they did the Master, they were not worthy to be his disciples. Some churches confuse this matter. They have switched from making disciples from among all nations (Matt. 28:19) to "saving" souls from a burning hell.

Lowering the Standard

Facing the fact that some "born again" converts do not live any differently from those not "born again" is embarrassing to evangelical Christians. They have tried to overcome their discomfort by saying "saved people aren't good people, they're just forgiven." Isn't that remarkable? When Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome he said, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7). The epistles of the New Testament are addressed to "saints," not just people in general. So if some who are "born again" make no claim to being good or saintly, that should disqualify them from considering themselves as foot-step followers of the Master.

"Forgiveness of sins" is offered to enable a disciple to be transformed into the image of Christ. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:29: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." To be thus developed into the character likeness of the Savior is a chief desire and work of the Christian in this life and it is a progressive process. It must be acknowledged that the Lord's true disciples have fleshly imperfections that mar their performance. Paul said, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:19, 20). The point Paul makes is that "to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18). The Christian's desire to do God's will is hindered by human weakness, but, thankfully, the Father has promised grace for every trial and the needed strength to overcome.

In the following chapters we wish to understand the meaning of "saved" as it is used in the New Testament. While the word "saved" (Greek., sozo) appears one hundred and nine times, it often (less than half) means to be healed or saved from physical disabilities or harm. More frequently, it is used to denote a spiritual connotation, and it will be these usages in which we will be especially interested.

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