How often have you heard someone exclaim, "We are all children of God"?
If you accept the authority of the Bible, then you recognize that statement to be false. Generally, those who express this wrong belief do so under the also mistaken belief that everyone goes to heaven anyhow.
If heaven is really the mandatory end of every human being, isn't it comforting to know that Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Maummar Gaddafi, John Wayne Gacy (who sexually assaulted and murdered 33 young people that we know about), all of these are enjoying the bliss of heaven today?
Don't you look forward to meeting them? I didn't think so.
The idea that everyone goes to heaven is based on the misconception that we are all children of God, and, if you accept what the Bible has to say on the subject, that sentiment, while nice, simply isn't true.
Not everyone is a child of God; all of us are creatures of God, but one only becomes a child of God when he or she accepts, not the teachings of Jesus, but the person of Jesus.
In John 1:12-13 we read, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12 13, ESV).
Now those words by John are meaningless if we are already children of God. Let's examine this a little shall we?
"Who were born not of blood," means simply that being a Christian is not something we are born into. You can be born into a Christian home and go to church all your life. That doesn't make you a child of God.
You only become a child of God when you personally put your faith in the person and work of Christ. God has children; he does not have grandchildren.
"Nor of the will of the flesh." In other words this is not something you can work yourself into. The Bible says, "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." (Ephesians 2:8 9, ESV).
A lot of people, perhaps the majority, seem to think that God grades on a curve. Yes, we might be bad at times, but we are certainly not like any of those individuals named in paragraph two of this article, and because of that, we hope that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds and we'll somehow manage to slip into heaven.
But John 1:13 indicates that it is not by our own will or desires that we can enter heavens gates. It is by faith in Christ.
"Nor of the will of man" means no mere person can declare on their own authority who is or who isn't a Christian; no human being can will you into God's family. It is a decision you must make yourself.
"But of God" is the operative phrase. Only those who are born of God are God's children. If this were not the case, if indeed everyone was born naturally a member of God's family, this particular passage becomes meaningless.
If we are already children of God, how do we then receive the right to become a child of God?
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley was once confronted by an irate man who asked, "Mr. Wesley, why are you always preaching on 'you must be born again?'"
To which Mr. Wesley simply smiled and said, "I preach you must be born again, because you must be born again. If you missed that, you've missed it all".
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org