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Centuries ago, there was a vacancy for a horseman to drive the carriage that the Queen of England rode in. Several applicants turned up, and they were each asked (among other things) how close they could drive to the edge of a cliff. One boasted that he could drive the carriage within a yard of the cliff edge. Another said that he could take it to within one foot of the precipice. A third said he could manoeuvre it to within an inch. But the fourth applicant asked a question before he would answer the question.

He asked, "Would the Queen be in the carriage?" When he was told that she would be, he said that he would drive the carriage as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible.

He got the job.

In matters of great importance, it does not pay to see how much we can get away with. It is far safer to err on the side of regarding fundamental spiritual issues more seriously than is necessary, than to treat them too lightly. Yet day after day we confront people who do just the opposite. They gamble with eternity, trying to find a short-cut. They haggle with God, in an effort to outsmart him. The want to receive the benefits of serving him without having to actually meet his requirements.

And nowhere have we seen this more commonly done than it is done with regard to forsaking all and living by faith.

There are people who want eternal life, but who still choose to settle for a cheap man-made counterfeit formula for salvation, simply because it does not demand as much from them.

There are others who want to have the power of God working in their lives, but who refuse to obey even the first rule for becoming a Christian. (Luke 14:33)

And there are people who say they will refuse the mark of the beast when it finally comes (in order to escape eternal damnation), and yet they cannot even forsake the "mark" in its present forms, by letting go of their wealth, and living by faith now. Faith that only exists in the future is not faith at all.

There is a saying, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and that is about all that the hagglers have... good intentions about one day getting right with God, one day forsaking all, one day living by faith. But for the moment, they continue to cling to the very things that will ultimately damn their souls.

We have tried to work with some of these people, and we have tried to operate on a kind of soft approach, which says that we will not push them in those areas where they are not willing to let go. But at least from time to time we must speak the truth, and let them know that all that they do and say has a hollow ring to it if they are going to continue to play by their own rules and not by God's rules.

At times we have wished these people luck in their efforts to outsmart God, and we have even tried to overlook their efforts to convince us and to convince God that he is "not leading" them to obey him at this time. After all, what is the point of arguing with them, and pushing them into doing something that they have not freely chosen to do? And yet, there is an emptiness in our relationship with them, and in their relationship with God which will only be filled when they let go and give in to God's total control for their lives.

How can people seriously convince themselves that they can get away with changing the rules? Obedience to the teachings of Jesus is not optional. And no amount of haggling is going to make it otherwise.

Obedience to Jesus may be optional for superficial fellowship with us and others but that's all. If there were a corner of heaven reserved for people who never quite felt "led" to obey Jesus, it would have to be a very big corner, because it covers just about every professing Christian (and even a few who are not professing Christians) that we have met these days.

The Bible says that the way to heaven is narrow, and the path to destruction is broad. Maybe it is time to stop haggling with God, to stop flirting with sin, and to forsake all, in obedience to Jesus.

(See also Convenient Doctrines.)

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