Uni and I were watching the news the other evening when Michael Vick came on to make a statement after his trial. Uni and I turned to each other and almost in unison said, “I bet he found Jesus!” And sure enough he said he had!
I know I’m not the first to notice this, but seems like everyone is “finding Jesus” nowadays. It’s hard not to be a bit skeptical. We sure can’t blame the news media for their cynicism.
Politicians and CEOs, when caught with one hand in the cookie jar, are quick to place a Bible in the other hand. Celebrities (i.e., people who are famous for being famous) find God (or some reasonable facsimile) in jail or just before their trials. These people disgust us with their behavior and we don’t really want to believe them.
But wait a minute! What about grace? This behavior is nothing new! Look at some examples from the Bible. In 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah confronts King Ahab, one of the most evil kings who ever ruled in Israel. Ahab had just committed a judicial murder and Elijah read him the riot act (read 1 Kings 21:17-24). Verse 25 says of him, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him.” Yet verse 27 tells us of his repentance. “And it came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently.” Look at God’s pronouncement in verses 28 and 29. “Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.’”
Or the story of David, the greatest king Israel ever had, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Here’s a man who committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife and then had him put to death. The whole story is in 2 Samuel 11. He covered it up and didn’t repent and confess until confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12:1-14). And David is held up as an example of faith throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
There are many other examples in the Bible and history. Many people come to faith in Christ only during or after a major crisis. “There are no atheists in foxholes,” is a well-worn saying. Death row is a fruitful field for evangelism.
So what am I saying?
-- God only saves sinners. There are no other kinds of people that He saves.
-- God only saves those who recognize that they are sinners. Christ died for our sins. If we don’t know we have any we can’t accept His offer.
-- God often has to “hit us upside the head” to get us to recognize our need. We have many motives for coming to faith in Christ and as far as I know none of them are completely unselfish. We come to Christ because we have a need.
We are not the ones to set the criteria for whose conversion is real. That is God’s prerogative, not ours.
Yes, we are to recognize when behavior is out of line with profession. I’m not advocating gullibility. But I am advocating grace.