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Taking Jesus for a Test Drive

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Most people admit to belief in some sort of God, which is consistent with what the Bible teaches (Romans 1:1-22, Ecclesiastes 3:11). Most do not know the true God in a personal way. Some have had the gospel message clearly explained to them, but they have rejected it or traded the truth for false religions and philosophies.

Many people profess belief in God but are not truly in the faith. We do not "test drive Jesus", but must humble ourselves and submit to his Word.
Used car lot, Lancaster, Ohio, 1938 photo by Ben Shahn / US Library of Congress / Public Domain
Some people think that they are Christians because they attend(ed) church and participated in rituals. Perhaps they get a twinge of sentiment around Christmas and Easter which inspires them to give an intellectual assent to Jesus. Unfortunately, many of these professing (or "former") Christians demonstrate little or no knowledge of biblical Christianity.

Easy Believism

Some folks want to make evangelism simple and pleasant. They come up with "ask Jesus into your heart", "God has a wonderful plan for your life", "say a little prayer", sales approach evangelism, and similar schemes. Some of these riders on the Owlhoot Trail do not know the real gospel message and may not be truly saved themselves. Check out this episode of Wretched Radio for examples of people who do not know (or even deny) the gospel. Such shallow evangelism leads to false conversion and people who think they are Christians, but do not understand salvation.

The Unbeliever Judges God

One approach to presenting the truth to atheists and other people who want to put on intellectual airs is to present all sorts of evidence, catering to the unbeliever's ego, allowing the Mighty Atheist™ to decided whether or not God exists and is worthy of worship. Not hardly! As shown above, Scripture teaches that people already know that God exists, but suppress that knowledge. In addition, the heart of man is deceitful and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV), or as the King James Version renders it, "desperately wicked". Do you really want to be guilty of trusting the hearts and minds of fools (Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7) above God's Word?

Knowledgeable Christians are divided on a philosophical approach called Pascal's Wager. Simply put: if we're right, they're lost for eternity, and if they're right, we have lost little in our lives, so they may as well live as if God exists. Some Christians think that is a good idea, but again, it puts the unbeliever in the superior position. It also seems to appeal to works-based salvation.

The Test Drive

In a similar way, some people give the dreadful offer of "Try Jesus". Some even say to try him for thirty days! Pretty insulting to almighty God. This attitude makes it sound like they are giving Jesus a test drive and they can move on if they're dissatisfied. Perhaps another philosophy will suit someone better, another epistemology will be fulfilling instead of the Word of God. Cornelius Van Til said, "We cannot choose epistemologies as we choose hats". I would add, "... epistemologies or vehicles". There is only one way to salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).

What is Lacking?

Easy believism and catering to the ego do not produce actual converts. Those modern churches that put on shows, preach from movies, and do other gimmicks may pack in the attendees, but they do not preach solid biblical truth. Jesus did the opposite of modern preachers, and drove away people! Being a Christian is not easy, and Jesus said that we have to deny ourselves and take up the cross (Luke 9:23). Indeed, we are guaranteed persecution (Matthew 13:21, Acts 13:50, Romans 8:35, 2 Timothy 3:12). Ever hear the word repent from these jaspers? It's in the Bible, you know, such as Luke 24:46-47, Acts 20:21, 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10. Go ahead, look it up. Repentance means to not only change our minds, but turn away from our sinful actions in conjunction with the leading and convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

For an excellent sermon, you can read or download the audio of "The Call to Repentance".

We must humble ourselves and submit to Christ, growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 4:15, Romans 12:2). Our faith grows primarily through sound teaching and the reading of God's Word. I'll allow that there are some parts that are difficult to receive, but we cannot say they are not true because we dislike them. There was judgement of the global Flood at the time of Noah, as Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others affirmed. We are sinners and deserve eternal punishment. Jesus is God the Son, the Creator of the universe. He took on human form and humbled himself before God the Father (Philippians 2:6-8, Romans 5:8). Jesus died on the cross but bodily arose three days later (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). He did this out of love (John 3:16). If we humble ourselves and receive him through faith (not by works), we will be transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and adopted as children of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:15, 23). People might think they can earn salvation by how swell they are, but Scripture disabuses them of that notion; there's no room for pride, just the grace and mercy of God.

Evidence in Good Works

Don't be disunderstanding me now! We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and not by works; we cannot earn our salvation by what we do (including rituals and such), nor can we keep it by our actions. That leads us to a spirit of fear. No, what I'm talking about is that our commitment to Christ and the Word is displayed by our works.

If you've spent any amount of time reading and hearing biblical teachings, you will have heard mention the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus also talked about bearing fruit (e.g., Mark 4:20, John 15:2-5, and others). Those who only have a superficial, emotional, or cultural acceptance of Jesus will not be demonstrating the fruit of repentance and knowledge of the Word. We must show Christian love to other believers (John 13:35,

People need to not only repent but also to have Jesus as the supreme authority in our lives. No, not everyone is riding the Sanctification Trail at the same pace, so we have to let God do his work in their lives as he chooses, you savvy that? I know full well that I'm mighty weak in some areas, and see other areas where my fruit-bearing is decent but other people are lacking. That's between God and each of us, except in cases of willful sin where we need to lovingly rebuke or correct some people, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Detailing the Chosen Car

There are people who profess belief in God but show little or no real knowledge of biblical teachings, and their lives do not reflect the transformation and regeneration of being truly born from above. Some will choose what they want to believe and reject things they dislike. This is not about disagreements regarding side issues (such as baptism of infants, for example), but foundational truths of Scripture that get chosen and rejected during the car detailing process.

To be blunt, when they do this, they are building a God they can keep on the knicknack shelf to shine up when they need him. This is idolatry, old son, and requires repentance.

Continuing the test drive analogy, one guy decided he hated God and parked the car. He bounced around with atheism, agnosticism, made some Gnostic remarks (calling God evil and a liar) — and then announced the did believe in Christianity after all, and would essentially give religion another test drive. He resumed attendance of an extremely liberal church that has little regard for the Bible. In addition, he rejects biblical truth about the global Genesis Flood, and utterly hates biblical creation (as well as those of us who teach it, and the Bible likens hatred to murder), forget John 13:35. He is his own god, and the real God is kept on that knicknack shelf. Obviously, any Scripture that disagrees with his preconceptions will have to succumb to his "wisdom" and preferences The sad fact is that far too many professing Christians justify rebellion against God and prefer the idols they made their ownselves.

Dealing with it

People need to get serous about their salvation and commitment to God. Ask yourself, "Am I really in the faith?" Sure, everybody stumbles. It has been rightly said that people may fall, but diving into sin and staying there is a different situation altogether. Christians can repent of their sin (1 John 1:9) and continue in fellowship with God and other believers. If rejection of foundations of the faith, the essential teachings, is your lifestyle, I strongly urge you to examine yourself. There is no "trying" or "test driving" Jesus, but only repentance and commitment. The teachings at this link should help.