Foundations of Faith – 1. Are We In Danger of Becoming Hindus?
Exodus 20: 1
Even though the vast majority of South Africans identify with the Christian faith, we are becoming more like the Hindus who believe there are many paths to God. Just as there are many ways to climb a mountain, each religion offers its own way to God. None is better than any other.
John 14: 6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Those words would appear to be an utterly exclusive claim. But many churchgoers no longer really believe that - they agree that many religions can lead to eternal life. There is an increasing group of people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” What does it all mean? “It isn’t about orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great - and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.” More and more churchgoers, including a healthy chunk of evangelicals, take a “Divine Cafeteria” approach to their faith. We pick and choose what we want to believe.“I’ll take a serving of God’s love, but I think I’ll skip the part about hell and judgment. Give me a small serving of church and a big helping of ‘Make Me Happy’ for dessert.” How many of the 10 Commandments can you name? If you are Christian, you’ve certainly heard the 10 Commandments many times. Even if you aren’t religious, you’re probably familiar with them. Could you name all 10?
In the United Kingdom a survey revealed that many people prefer an updated version of the commandments God gave to Moses: “the majority of Britons think 4 of the 10 Commandments should be ditched in favour of more modern moral imperatives such as ‘protect the planet’ and ‘respect all people regardless of race, religion or sexuality.’ Not being motivated by greed and not committing terrorism were also popular modern additions to the list. The 4 that are judged no longer “relevant” in today’s society covered keeping the Sabbath holy, not making graven images, having “no other gods before me”, and not taking the name of God in vain. Maybe that’s why we are all becoming Hindus now. Not knowing what God has said, we feel perfectly free to revise his Commandments to fit our 21st century worldview.
That brings me to what I regard as the most important part of the 10 Commandments - the way the passage begins. "And God spoke all these words." In our attempt to get down to the “good stuff,” we rush right over these words as if they were a kind of ancient copyright notice. We flip past the title page to get to the first chapter. But that’s a crucial mistake because these words tell who is speaking. Who is speaking here? God! What did he say? “All these words." So where do the 10 Commandments come from? God! These are not “10 Suggestions for Your Best Life Now” or “10 Ways You Should Consider” or “10 Habits of Highly Successful People” or “10 Ways to Climb the Ladder” or “10 Ideas That Might Work For You.” No! God spoke all these words - therefore they have lasting moral authority. God spoke all these words - therefore we don’t have to wonder about his intentions. God spoke all these words - therefore we must take all of them with utter seriousness. God spoke all these words - therefore we must give these words our primary attention. 1.“God has Spoken and He did not Stutter!" This is what Christians believe about the Bible and its authority this way: If you think about it, this is a profound and even radical claim. We believe that God has spoken to us in the Bible, and he spoke in such a way that we can know what he says. This claim stands squarely against the relativistic spirit of this age with its claim that no one can really know the truth. Chuck Colson and the Hindus
Colson tells of speaking to a group of Hindus in India. As he shared his testimony about Jesus Christ, he found them extraordinarily attentive. They smiled and nodded and agreed with everything he said. Afterwards he commented to his hosts on how receptive his audience had been to the Christian gospel. “Oh no,” they explained, “You don’t understand. To the Hindus Jesus is just one among many gods. To them, your ‘accepting’ Christ is like them accepting another god into their list of gods. Jesus is just one of many gods to the Hindus.” A few days later Chuck Colson spoke to another audience of Hindus and had a similar experience. But this time a Hindu scholar came up afterward and said, “I believe exactly what you believe.” Chuck decided to put him to the test. “I don’t think you really believe what I believe. When I say Jesus Christ is the Son of God, I mean he is God come in human flesh. He is not just one among many or even the best of many, but he is the one true God who appeared on earth in human flesh. You must give your complete and supreme allegiance to this Jesus Christ who came from heaven - to him and to no one else.” The Hindu thought for a moment and said, “You’re right. I don’t believe what you believe. Now I must go home and think about the things you have said.” That’s the issue, isn’t it? Jesus Christ must have the first place in your life. He will not share his glory with anyone or with anything. He must be first-not simply the first among many or the best of the rest-but he must be pre-eminent in all things.
Jesus really is the difference. Are we all Hindus? No, and we’re not Muslims either. We are Christians who believe in the lordship of Jesus Christ.
2. Curing Cafeteria Christianity
Many evangelicals have suffered a loss of nerve because we aren’t really sure about what we believe. Under the enormous pressure to “go along to get along,” little by little we’ve backed away from the hard edges of the Christian faith. Inside our churches we’ve some members who are more Hindu than Christian. These folks come to church, sing the songs, pray the prayers, give their money, and sometimes they serve in leadership position, all the while believing on the inside that there really are many ways to God. Summary of liberal Protestant theology – “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” What can we do about this state of affairs? The only real answer is to teach the truth of God to fortify the souls of our people and make them strong once again. I propose to do my part in the battle by entering upon a series of messages on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. I want to focus on those doctrines that deal with the supernatural elements of our faith because those are precisely the areas most under attack in our day. To believe in God is to believe in something that is supernatural. To believe in creation over evolution is to believe in something that is supernatural. To believe in angels, demons, heaven, hell, and the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins, is to touch that which is supernatural in its essence. We as Christians must reassert the supernatural basis of the Christian faith. That conviction undergirds every message in this series. It is not enough simply to say that we are Christians. It is not enough to say that we hold certain doctrines. We must proclaim the supernatural foundation of the Christian faith. That’s important because if you remove the supernatural from Christianity, you have gutted our faith and turned it into nothing but a set of ethical instructions.
3. All Truth Is Narrow
Over and over again Jesus called people into a personal confrontation with the truth he was proclaiming.
John 14: 6 “I am the truth."
John 17: 17 “Your word is truth.”
John 18: 37 “I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.” Pilate responded in the words of a true first century relativist, “What is truth?” What a question to ask when the truth was standing in front of him! That leads me to make a very important point that I will come back to over and over again. All truth is narrow. Two plus two equals 4, not 17. Pretoria is the capitol of South Africa, not Pofadder. Nelson Mandela was the first president of the New South Africa, not Julius Malema. A pentagon has 5 sides. A trio has 3 singers. A duet means 2 performers. 60 seconds equals exactly 1 minute. All truth is narrow. If something is true, then many other things must not be true. If everything is true, then nothing is true. If truth depends on your opinion or on the latest poll, we can never know the truth about anything. That is why Christians insist on the concept of absolute truth. Without it, we have no faith to believe, only some warm, fuzzy sentimental feelings in our heart. That is not enough. We need to reassert once again to this crazy, mixed-up, confused generation exactly what the Psalmist said regarding God, “All your words are true.” All that I intend to say in this series is based on one fundamental conviction that I can state in 3 words. Christianity is true. Therefore we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a careful examination of what we believe and why we believe it. In more shocking terms, if Christianity is true, we need to believe it, and if it is not true, we need to know that so we can find out what is true. We need hard-nosed, tough-minded, open-eyed faith.
4. Truth Demands a Commitment
If you are not sure about what you believe, that’s okay. You don’t have to believe on the basis of what I say. You may have some doubts about certain aspects of the Christian faith. You may even be a Christian, a member of a church, and have serious doubts about some of the things we believe. Doubt is not a sin. The only sin is refusing the search for the truth. So the best thing we can do for non-Christians is to share what we believe and why we believe it. Jesus said to Pilate, “Everybody on the side of truth listens to me.” Are you on the side of truth? It is not enough to intellectually say there might have been somebody like Jesus 2000 years ago. It is not enough to intellectually accept that there was a man named Jesus who was born in Bethlehem. That is not enough. If you just say that and stop, you are not on the side of truth. You are just giving intellectual assent to certain propositions. There are only 3 things you can do with the truth: You can deny it, You can ignore it, You can believe it. Those are your only options. So I ask you, what have you done with the truth about Jesus Christ? What have you done with the truth about the Bible? What have you done with the truth about salvation? I am sure you have heard of blind faith. God never asked anyone for blind faith. You have heard of a leap into the darkness. Faith in Jesus Christ is not a leap into the darkness. Christian faith is standing on God’s truth and leaping from the darkness into the light. You may be in the darkness now, but there is light on the other side and it is not far away. You will never know until you take that first step. The next move is up to you.