Paul often writes against false gospels in his letters to different churches. And sometimes the half-truths can be more dangerous than the outright lies. Will you pray with me this week against the subtle false gospel of Universalism? Universalism is the belief that everyone will be saved and go to heaven. You see universalism in the classic idea that all religions lead to God just like how different paths up a mountain all lead to the same pinnacle. And often at a tragic funeral, those who have had no faith suddenly find themselves grasping for the claim that everyone goes to heaven. Universalism is deeply attractive. But that doesn't make it true. On the other hand, Jesus who came from heaven is the only one who has the authority to teach about heaven and hell. He says, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) If you feel slightly offended and incredibly uncomfortable about this verse you are not alone. Christianity is inherently offensive because it reveals the truth that we are all sinners, no one deserves heaven, everyone deserves judgement in hell for our rebellious heart against God. But (and this is an amazing "but") God offers to those who repent and believe that their sin will be blotted out by the death of Jesus on the cross and are given entry into heaven by grace - which means receiving a good thing even though we don't deserve it. I remember my brutal realisation that some people are quite likely going to hell when I read about the life and death of the well-known athiest, Christopher Hitchens, who was very careful to make sure he didn't say anything that people might interpret as him having a last-minute change of heart towards God on his deathbed. Don't get me wrong, we shouldn't go around trying to predict who is and isn't going to heaven. Most of the time we don't know what is on someone's heart, whether they had an inward epiphany during their life that wasn't revealed to us. We can only trust that God knows the inner heart and is fair. In fact, 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God "desires all men to be saved ". It doesn't mean all will be saved but it does mean that God is knocking at the heart of everyone urging them to respond in faith - and we should likewise desire the salvation of all, reaching out and praying for them until they breathe their last. Will you pray with me this week that we and those unsaved wouldn't settle for the comfortable falsehood of Universalism? Will you pray with longing for those whose salvation is not yet clear until they breathe their last?
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