Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making Sense of Christianity

Many have a mistaken idea of what Christianity is. From televangelists with rolexes begging for money on TV every week, to the "prosperity gospel" messages, to Benny Hinn's crazy antics, to cults claiming the name of Christ, to hypocrites, false teachers and deceivers, to the power hungry Catholic church, it's no wonder people are confused. It's a mess out there, but our God is not a God of confusion, so let's sort through it all and see if we can figure out what a true Christian belief is.

In my experience, I've found that a lot of people have a warped sense of who God is, due to incorrect preaching that they've heard and/or creating a god in their own mind from their own thoughts, which is called idolatry. I am guilty of that one myself before I understood Christianity.

Here are some thoughts:

"We're all God's children"
"He created us this way"
"You can believe in evolution and the Bible"
"All religions lead to the same place"
"God is so loving that He'll eventually let everyone into heaven"
"God would just be evil and mean to send anyone to hell"
"We all have freewill"

These are all false, idolatrous ideas of what God like. The one true God has revealed Himself to us through His Word, the 66 books of the Bible, anything else is guesswork at best, and most likely, our own attempt to justify our selfishness by creating a god for ourselves - whether we accept or reject that made-up god.
So, let jump into the objections.

"We're all God's children"

This is a common belief because God is the Creator of all, but these words are not found in the Bible. Actually, quite the opposite. Some are children of the devil (John 8:44).

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be made adopted children of God, prior to that we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

"He created us this way"

While it is true that God created the first people the way that they were, and it was good, we have become corrupted and now live in a fallen world under the curse of sin. Being created the way that we are does not give us the right to do anything we want to. The Bible calls us to endure, persevere and overcome, not embrace our flaws. Anyone who has children can understand this, can't they? Do you allow your children to eat whatever they want or do you prepare meals that are good for them, even though they might not understand why? Do you let them do whatever they want to, or do you lead and teach them to make disciplined decisions later in life? In the same way (but on a much greater scale), we need guidance for our own good.

"You can believe in evolution and the Bible"

The two are simply incompatible. The Bible clearly states that all animals reproduce after their own kind. This means that giraffes give birth to giraffes and monkeys to monkeys and nothing turns into anything else, no matter how much time has elapsed.
Darwinian evolution seems to teach that large amounts of time are the magic ingredient to life and changing life forms, but it makes no sense. Many believe it and point to their evidence to support their beliefs, but I am not here to get into all of that. I am simply stating that you cannot believe in both, they are contradictory.

"All religions lead to the same place"

In a sense this is true, all paths lead to the same place - the judgment seat of Christ. It's where you go from there that's going to make all the difference in eternity. Religions are all alike, every one of them is works-based. That means that you've got to do something to reach toward God, something you have to do in order to appease Him for your salvation.
But Christianity is not a religion. It's a relationship with Jesus Christ, following Him and His teachings. Christianity teaches that you cannot earn your way, there are no works you could do to get you there. In His great love for us, He provided a way, and there is no other. If you believe you can do something to earn your way into heaven, you will never see it, because it is impossible to get there by your own merit.
Now, Christians do good works, but not as a means of salvation. They do them out of gratitude for the undeserved grace and love that has been given them, in a desire to be like Him, even though we will always fall short this side of heaven.

One last thought to consider: If there was any other way that you or I could get into heaven through our own works in some sort of religious ritual, then Jesus Christ died in vain. There would have been absolutely no reason for Him to die for our sins.

"God is so loving that He'll eventually let everyone into heaven"

Here's another common one, but actually the opposite is true. God is just and cannot allow wickedness in His presence. Every time God's love is mentioned in Scripture, it is mentioned in conjunction with the sacrifice on the cross. That is the expression of His great love, that He actually took the punishment for us. Reject that, and you face His righteous judgment.

Let's put it another way. Let's say you go home today to find your entire family slaughtered. You see the murderer wringing the life out of the last victim as you arrive, the police show up, apprehend the killer and take him into custody.
When the trial day comes, the man says to the judge, "Judge, I know I raped and killed that family and that it was wrong to do so. I'm truly sorry and will never do anything like that again if you'll just let me go free."
How would you feel, if the judge said, "Well, I am a loving judge, you can go home to your family."

Would justice be done by letting him go? Of course not. If he were a just judge, he might say, "Of course it was wrong and you should be sorry, but the fine must be paid in order for justice to be served."

You see, God is not ONLY loving to the exclusion of all His other attributes. He is holy, righteous and just. His love is shown to us in the cross of Jesus Christ.

"God would just be evil and mean to send anyone to hell"

This kind of goes with the previous one, doesn't it? We normally attempt to trivialize our own sins and claim that an eternal punishment for such a small infraction would be unjust. That's what makes men such hypocrites.

Let's try this analogy:
If I were to tell a lie to my dog, there wouldn't really be any consequences. If I tell a lie to my children, I might feel guilty for a while. If I tell a lie to my wife, I may end up sleeping on the couch. If I tell a lie to the police, I could be arrested. If I tell a lie to a judge, I could be jailed.
Do you see? The same infraction, yet escalating consequences as the level of authority goes up. And there is no higher authority than the eternal God.

If you see a news story that a man broke the law and got a small fine, you know that it must not have been too great of a crime. But if the news says that a man received 3 consecutive life sentences, you know it was a far greater crime.
We may think that our little sins are no big deal, but God sees them as a huge deal, as can be seen from the punishment. The punishment is eternal because we've sinned against an eternal God, and you can see how seriously He takes that transgression against Him by the punishment given for it.

Once you can understand that every one of us deserves hell for our law breaking and rebellion against our Creator, only then can we begin to comprehend the great love He has for us in providing salvation through the sacrifice given at the cross. Then you can begin to grasp the true meaning and it can make sense, whether you agree or still reject it.

"We all have freewill"

This is a tough one and many great theologians are divided on their understanding of this issue. But I've recently heard something that helped it make sense for me.
If you take a lion and offer him a slab of raw meat and a nice salad, which one would he choose? You can predict this pretty easily, he will take the raw meat every time. Why? Because that's his nature. We don't have to be psychic to figure that out!

In the same way, we humans have a fallen, sinful nature. Left to ourselves, we will choose sin every time because that is our nature. Only when God reaches out to us, changes our heart and nature can we even begin to choose anything different. It is solely through Him that we can have salvation, so that none can boast.

We can make choices, and we have a will, but it is not a free will. We are all enslaved either to our sinful nature or we submit to the Lord, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We give our lives to Him for freedom from the bondage of sin.

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