The Two Most important Words in Scripture?

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:1-7

“BUT GOD”

WHY WOULD A LOVING GOD SEND ANYONE TO HELL?

That was a question we had the opportunity to share on an online Christian radio program; This is how we answered it.

WHY WOULD A LOVING GOD SEND ANYONE TO HELL?

The question assumes that Hell exists, so we must start there with our answer. It’s important to note that the question is asked with the issue of ‘fairness’ according to our human standards of fairness. We will speak to both. To adequately address the question, we must begin with God.

Why did God create anything and everything?

We can answer that question by glimpsing into a portion of John’s vision of the throne room of God, around which are four and twenty elders exclaiming in the words of a well known chorus:

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. – Rev 4:11

What about Hell?

Although I know of no specific passages of scripture that tell us that the existence of Hell brings pleasure to God as part of ‘all things’, we do know that God created Hell for a specific purpose:

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” – Matt 25:41

These are the words of Jesus concerning Hell, with a view of judgment day when there will be those who are sent there, what it will be like and WHY Hell was created in the first place. We are prone to think of Hell in milder terms like ‘eternal’ separation from God. Now that’s true, and probably fine with unbelievers because they don’t want anything to do with God anyway. That brings us to the next question:

How DID Hell end up a place for humans, created to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’?

For that we return to the Garden of Eden, the place created by God for mankind to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’

We are loathe to think that God created robots, and He didn’t. He gave Adam and Eve a limited free will, restricted by the command NOT to eat of the fruit of a certain tree and the ability to choose between good and evil. We know the story. There was only one rule:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.“ – Gen 2:16-17

With all the ‘good stuff’ God had given them, Adam and Eve sinned and suffered the consequences –death, physical and spiritual. Not only did Adam and Eve’s disobedience affect them, it affected the entire human race to follow them; it’s called ‘imputation.’. Every person born after the fall has been born tragically flawed by sin, just as Christ’s righteousness is ‘imputed’ to those who believe in Him. We seem to have issues with the former, but not with the latter (a bit more about that later).

What do we mean by sin?

Here we need to define two aspects of sin. The first aspect about sin that comes immediately to mind are the sins we commit connected to God’s law – that we are unable to keep in their entirety and reach God’s standard of perfection (clearly demonstrated in the OT by the giving of the law and Israel’s inability to keep it). That fact alone tells us that we deserve hell.

There is also an aspect of sin not spoken of much these days, and that is the indwelling sin nature of fallen men, hinted at earlier. That sin is expressed in stark terms:

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:7-8

“as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. – Romans 3:10-11

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Cor. 2:14

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

If that isn’t bad enough, we are told

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Eph 2:1-3

How can we be held accountable for all that sin, if Adam’s disobedience caused it? “Not fair!” we scream. I offer that in the same spirit of ‘fairness’, it wasn’t ‘fair’ of God to send his sinless Son to die for human sin! Hold that thought. And if God was really fair, he would leave us all to our ‘just’ fate – death and hell . We know the passage well:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Rom 6:23

Both types of sin are deserving of death, by God’s own decree. In fact you could say that we are all ‘born on death row’:

“ Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

In other words, what we are often told about “how worthy we are of heaven just because we have been born into this world” is not true. That teaching is, however, the picture of God’s love that is painted for us these days by many false teachers and so-called leaders in churches – a picture void of God’s hatred of sin, of His pouring out of wrath against it, of His judgment of it, and of His punishment for it. I heard one executive pastor’s wife tell an auditorium full of people that “God can’t imagine heaven without you in it! If this were true, from where does the concepts of sin, death, and hell originate?

It’s no wonder we ask the question this paper is discussing!

Having said all that, there is a remedy for sin!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Eph 2:1-6)”

The “us” are those who have repented of sin and believed in Christ as God’s remedy for that sin. When God could have left us all to the eternity we deserve, He sent his Son to die for those who believe. The result:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

In other words, those who are eternally condemned to Hell are there because they refused to believe – they refused God’s offer of salvation through the shed blood of Christ

Perhaps we should be asking “How could such a loving God sentence His own Son to dies for OUR sin?”

OR

Would it be ‘fair’ of God to ‘set the rules’ and grant eternal life to those who refuse the free gift of salvation by rejecting the Son?

The reality of a final judgment is clearly taught in Scripture. But the Bible also indicates that the people who go to hell do so because they have rejected God’s provision for salvation. The Bible says that God does not want anyone to go to hell:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Thus we conclude by saying:

1. The Bible teaches the reality of a final place of judgment for the wicked.

2. Those who spend eternity in hell, do so because they rejected God’s love and His provision for salvation.

3. It is God’s desire for everyone to come to Him by faith and receive the salvation that He offers.

C.S. Lewis, in this book, The Problem of Pain, notes that hell is the most loving thing God can do for those who would accept nothing better. It’s been said that the one who spends eternity in Heaven has only God to thank, and the one who spends eternity in Hell has only himself to blame.

Question: "Total Depravity – is it Biblical?"

Answer: Total Depravity is a phrase or name that is used to summarize what the Bible teaches about the spiritual condition of fallen man. It is the “T” in the acronym TULIP, which is commonly used to enumerate what are known as the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. Because the name “total depravity” can cause people to have wrong ideas about what is meant, some people prefer to use terms like “Total Inability”, “Righteous Incapability”, “Radical Corruption” or even “Moral Inability”. Yet what is important is not the name assigned to the doctrine but how accurately the doctrine summarizes what the Bible teaches about the spiritual condition of fallen man. No matter which name you use to refer to “Total Depravity” the fact remains that when properly understood it is an accurate description of what the Bible does teach on this important subject.

While often misunderstood, the doctrine of Total Depravity is an acknowledgement that the Bible teaches that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). It acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Or as Jesus says “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18).

The total depravity of man is seen throughout the Bible. Man’s heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and the thoughts of his heart are “continually evil” (Genesis 6:5). The Bible also teaches us that man is born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5). The Bible teaches that because unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5), he is held captive by a love for sin (John 3:19; John 8:34) so that he will not seek God (Romans 3:10-11) because he loves the darkness (John 3:19) and does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the Gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so.” (Romans 8:7).

The Apostle Paul really summarizes the total depravity of man in Romans 3:9-18. He begins this passage by saying that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Simply put this means that man is under the control of sin or is controlled by his sin nature (his natural tendency to sin). The fact that unregenerate people are controlled by their selfish, sinful tendencies should not come as a surprise to any parent. What parent has to teach their children to be selfish, to covet what someone else has or to lie? Those actions come naturally from the child’s sin nature. Instead the parent must devote much time to teaching the child the importance of telling the truth, of sharing instead of being selfish, of obeying instead of rebelling, etc.

Then in the rest of this passage Paul quotes extensively from the Old Testament in explaining how sinful man really is. For example we see that: 1—no one is without sin, 2—no one seeks after God, 3—there is no one who is good, 4—their speech is corrupted by sin, 5—their actions are corrupted by sin, 6—and above all they have no fear of God. So when one considers even these few verses mentioned above it becomes abundantly clear the Bible does indeed teach that fallen man is “totally depraved” because sin affects all of him including his mind, will and emotions so that “There is none who does good, no not one” (Romans 3:12).

There is a common misconception regarding total depravity. It does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the Law of God. What the Bible does teach and what total depravity does recognize is that even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks upon the outward acts and judges them to be good, God looks upon not only the outward acts but also the inward motives that lay behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His Glory even these good deeds are like “filthy rags” in His sight. In other words, fallen man’s good deeds are motivated not by a desire to please God but by our own self interest and are thus corrupted to the point where God declares that there is “no one who does good, no not one!”

Since Scripture is very clear that all of man is affected by sin and so much so that “no one seeks after God,” then how can anyone possibly become a Christian? The answer is that God must overcome man’s depravity in such a way that man is able to recognize his spiritual state and his hopeless condition apart from the grace of God. Man’s spiritually blind eyes must be open and the bondage of sin that renders him hopelessly enslaved must be broken so that he can respond in faith to the Gospel message and the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Some Christians believe that God accomplishes this through some type of universal grace whereby God brings man to a condition where he has the ability to choose or reject Him. Others believe that for a man who is “dead in trespasses and sins” to be able to understand and respond to the Gospel in faith, he must first be born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3). It is only after God infuses spiritual life in a dead sinner that he can “see the kingdom of God.” Those that hold this view see this as being a sovereign act of God, whereby men are born again “not of the blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13).

However even when properly understood, many people will rebel or reject the doctrine of total depravity, but that fact should not surprise us since the world generally thinks of man as being basically good. Therefore the idea that man by nature is a depraved sinner runs contrary to most modern religious, psychological and philosophical views of the basic nature of man. But the fact is that the Bible does teach the depravity of the human heart and the root cause of man’s problem is not the environment he is raised in but that by nature man has a wicked and selfish heart. Properly understood, the doctrine of total depravity will destroy the hopes of those who place their faith in any type of works-based system of salvation and recognize that God’s sovereign grace is man’s only hope. While the doctrine of total depravity destroys man’s self righteousness and any misconceptions about man’s ability to be saved through his own free will, it leaves one asking the same question the disciples asked of Jesus in Matthew 19:25-26: “Then who can be saved?” Of course the answer remains the same: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).

As the first of the five doctrines of what is called “Calvinism,” the doctrine of total depravity correctly focuses man’s attention on the rest of these “doctrines of grace” which declare the wondrous work of God in the salvation of sinners.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White.

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The above was taken directly from the GotQuestions Web site and is a good summary of the teaching. It is not intended to be judgmental, argumentative, or to persuade anyone of anything. Persuasion of scriptural truth is always a work of the Holy Spirit.

God’s Ways and Our Ways

”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I have yet to find a loving parent who would present to a child a choice between two alternatives, one of which would be extremely harmful (life terminating). Yet that is exactly what God did in presenting to Adam a choice concerning the fruit of a certain tree – ‘eat that fruit and die!’ (Gen 2:17). A wrong decision would result in physical and spiritual death, the former eventually and the latter immediately.

Concerning ‘how’ men are saved and find eternal life we come up with and love the notion that salvation ‘depends’ on human decision, as if God sent His Son to die to only to make salvation possible, when to consider such a thing, for human parents, would be entirely loathsome if not unimaginable. I actually asked a man recently if he, as a parent, would kill his child to make something, anything, merely possible and he glibly answered, “Of course not, but God did!

Concerning repentance for sin and belief unto salvation, some of us are fond of saying that God would never command us to do what we, in our own strength, are unable to do (Mark 1:14-15). I have yet however, to find any human parents who has not done exactly that, in order to demonstrate to a child, that child’s utter dependence upon them.

It seems that when it suits us, we let God be God, but when we would rather He be like us, we say He is like us. Why do we do that?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Eph 2:8-9

The best I can come up with is that we think we must understand a great mystery, or we just love to boast. It would do me well to remember Abraham’s words when, while bargaining for Sodom, he said:

“Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.” – Gen 18:27

Living in Denial

“The only reason the atheist has for ‘wanting’ to believe that God doesn’t exist is that he hates him.”

Author Anonymous

The reason the atheist can only ‘want’ to believe that God doesn’t exist is that he knows otherwise. The atheist’s hatred for God is evident from his many railings, if not directly against God, against God’s people. The wise atheist is never caught railing against God, for he would look extremely foolish railing against that which he says does not exist. His wisdom is on a very short leash however, because he is given away by his railings against God’s people.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  – Romans 1:18-20

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” – Romans 8:7

The heathen rage because they desperately want to believe there is no God, however they know He exists, and He speaks of them as objects of His wrath and under condemnation for their unbelief. Men can only ‘not’  believe in Him, they cannot deny Him.

Whosoever Will May Come

 “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. – Rev 22:17 (KJV)

That must be one of the favorite verses of evangelical Christians. We use it a lot, with special emphasis on “whosoever”, as if anyone and everyone can or is able, to actually come to Christ. It’s a great thought, but it is it true according to what we are given in Scripture? Perhaps a separate question would be helpful here. “Just who CAN come Christ?

Who can hear? Who thirsts for Christ? Who desires Christ?

CANNOT/WILL NOT

 “No one understands; no one seeks for God.” – Rom 3:11 (Those who don’t seek.)

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” – Rom 8:7 (The carnally/fleshly minded.)

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” – 2 Cor 4:3-4 (The blind man wearing a veil.)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. – Eph 2:1-3 (The dead man – deserving only of God’s wrath.)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44 (The one not drawn to Christ by the Father.)

“And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” – John 6:65 (The one not granted to come by the Father)

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” – John 10:25-26 (Those who are not His sheep.)

CAN/WILL

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matt 7:7 (The true seeker.)

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” – John 6:37 (Those the Father gives the Son)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44 (The one drawn by the Father to the Son)

“And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” – John 6:65 (The one to whom it is granted by the Father.)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 27-28 (His sheep.)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved—Eph 2:4-5 (Those made alive by God)

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” – Acts 13:48 (Those appointed to eternal life.)

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” – Act 16:14 (The one whose heart has been opened to hear and receive the gospel.)

“..even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Eph 1:4-5 (Those chosen and predestined by God for adoption.)

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” – 2Th 2:13 (Those chosen for salvation.)

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” – 1 Pet 1:1-2a (The elect according to the foreknowledge of God.)

Those are but a few of the passages of scripture that address the question “Who CAN come to Christ.?” They say what they say, and ought to be solid food for thought for all of us who name The Name of Christ.. Perhaps we will be more urgent in praying that God will call men and women to Christ, and that He will open hearts; enabling those to whom we witness to Come!

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Except where noted, all Scripture passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)

"All you need is a personal relationship with Jesus!"

Picture this conversation between a couple of guys, perhaps friends at work, or school, during a lunch break. One is a Christian (Eager ‘Evangelist’) looking for an opportunity to share Jesus. The other guy is a known nonbeliever (Lost Soul) who has been going through some tough ‘stuff of life’ – marriage in trouble or girlfriend dumped him, having problems paying bills, maybe he even was on the wrong end of an IRS audit, whatever. The list could go on and on. The poor guy is almost in tears and the moment is ripe for our eager ‘evangelist’

Eager ‘Evangelist’: “All you really need is a  personal relationship with Jesus, and everything work out OK!”

Lost Soul: “Really? I just need a personal relationship with Jesus and all my problems in life can be solved? What do you mean?”

Eager ‘Evangelist’: “Just that God loves YOU, and has a really great plan for YOUR life!”

Lost Soul: “He does? Wow!!!!!!! I love ME too!!!!!!” “I had a plan, but man, it’s totally on the skids! Are you telling me God has a better plan for my life?”

Eager ‘Evangelist’: “You’ve got it!!!!! He wants fix ALL the broken stuff, and for you to live abundantly in every area of your life!”

Lost Soul: “Way Kewl!!!! How do I get this relationship?”

Eager ‘Evangelist’: “Just repeat after me. . .”

Lost Soul: . . .repeating with sincerity the little prayer. . .

Eager ‘Evangelist’: “Congratulations! You’re SAVED!”

Well, I could have reversed the roles there, because that’s a been there done that moment. Is there truth in that? Yes, but not the whole truth of the matter. Something has been left out. I used to leave it out, and it’s left out of countless ‘gospel’ presentations every day. I might have even used the rest of the popular ‘evangelistic tool’, but the central focus was on point #1, paraphrased in the above title.

Perhaps the tool isn’t used as much these days, but the central focus of most evangelism these days is the personal relationship with Jesus that is lacking in everyone outside of Christ. While it’s true that a saving personal relationship  with Jesus is lacking, is it true that everyone outside of Christ has no personal relationship, as we so readily communicate in our witnessing?

Would Jesus agree with that assessment – that those who have not believed in Him have no relationship with Him? Let’s see.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

We love to share a verse a couple of verses before this one, as well as those after, but how we love to omit this one in our presentations! If we know that Jesus is the judge, and I hope we all do, since that’s what the Bible tells us, everyone outside of Christ because of unbelief (everybody who does not believe), has a very personal relationship with Jesus

So much for Jesus’ opinion of personal relationships, what did the great Apostle Paul have to say of the matter?

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Eph 2:1-3 (Emphasis mine)

If you missed what Paul told the Ephesian Christians, he told them that before they were the recipients of God’s saving grace through faith in Christ, they were by nature objects of God’s wrath, like the rest of mankind. I don’t think it can be any clearer than that, my friend.

To this old guy, it seems evident that every everyone, absolutely every person of the planet, lives within the framework of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – we either live under ‘wrath’ or under ‘grace’.

Think about it and evaluate your ‘evangelism’. I’ve had to evaluate mine.