I never wanted to be preaching so badly as I did at that moment. I wanted to push Donovan off the fountain, take the microphone out of his hand, and explain to this heckler that he was looking at the issue from the wrong perspective. It all goes back to Charles' Stanley's illustration on faith vs. hope. I detailed this illustration back in July, but I will review it here again to demonstrate why Donovan's claim was not arrogant at all.
Suppose I see a man that I fancy. I am completely smitten with this man, and I think to myself, "Oh I just know he feels the same way! I just know in my heart he's the man I'm going to marry." The months go by. The man doesn't talk to me. But I keep right on telling everyone that I just "know" this man is my husband. Then one Sunday morning it is announced in church that the man is engaged to someone else. Huh? What happened?
Now suppose instead that this man actually begins pursuing me. He verbally asks me to marry him. He gives me an engagement ring and brings me to meet his parents. I tell my whole family, church, and friends that this man is going to be my husband. Would it be fair to say that my claim is arrogant?
Something is not true because we believe it, rather, we believe something because it is true. In the Christian faith, the primary evidence we have that something is true is God's word. At this point, a heckler may respond by saying, "Well I just don't believe the Bible." There is a lot in the Bible that people do not believe. And as I just stated, truth does not hinge upon what we personally believe. But let's go with this premise for just a moment.
After three years of street evangelism, I have noticed that the main problem people have with the gospel message is that it offends their pride. The only way around the offensive stuff is to simply cherry-pick the scriptures we like, and throw out the rest. The result is we've created a god in our own image, in our own likeness, to suit ourselves. (The Bible calls this the sin of idolatry.)
This is when I will generally reason with the heckler by asking him, "Would you say your god is a good god?" Generally people will agree that "goodness" is a quality they have assigned to their own personal god. I then ask, "Would you say that your god is trustworthy?" Again, trustworthiness is another quality that most will assign to their personal deity. Then I ask, "How do we know that someone is trustworthy?"
The obvious answer is, a trustworthy person will mean what he says, and say what He means. God is trustworthy. When He says "I will never leave you nor forsake you," you can put your faith in that. When He says, "I will be with you always," we can believe that as well. But God's trustworthiness doesn't end with pleasantries. If your god is truly trustworthy, he will follow through with those scriptures that warn, "Repent, or ye will likewise perish" (Luke 13:3,5).
Those of us who choose not to believe these scriptures are selling ourselves short. We have chosen to believe in a god that does not mean what he says 100% of the time. If I cannot trust that God is going to punish the wicked, how is there any hope for me that He will save those whom He has called righteous?
Christianity is not arrogant, for we boast not in ourselves, but rather, we boast in Christ. Donovan's claim that he was going to heaven was not based on some prideful assumption that God was going to be so impressed with him, He'd have no choice but to let him into heaven. No, Donovan's claim was based on the trustworthiness of God's word: "For there is one name under heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
If we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and if we have repented of our sins, we can boldly proclaim with confidence that we will be in heaven when we die. That might be offensive to an athiest. It might be offensive to a Muslim. It might be offensive to a Jew, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Hindu, an existentialist, or a Quaker. But that doesn't make it any less true, nor does it make us arrogant for saying so.
There is a popular bumper sticker which reads, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." A few years later, another bumper sticker was printed with this rebuttal: "God said it, that settles it, whether I believe it or not." So which God will you put your hope in: the God who means what He says, or the one whose word is not trustworthy? The Bible was written so we may know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). This is why He is our hope. He means what He says, and we can trust what He says. So let's get out there and proclaim His truth with confidence!