WHAT TO BELIEVE?
I read this forum and others and it troubles me to see so many yearning for something to believe in, but because of today’s mass media, and the Internet, knowing what is true and what is not, is growing ever harder. So many of you have no doubt that there is a God, but when you see so many differing religions and conflicting views you throw your hands up in defeat.
What do you do when there are so many choices? Where do you start?
For those interested, I say don't give up, to keep looking! Why?
Ask yourself this question, how many religions did Christ Jesus start?
The obvious answer is he started one religion. At John 14:6, Jesus said, " . . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Furthermore, Jesus told his disciples at Matthew 28:18-20, to go and make disciples of all the nations . . . and to teach these new disciples everything he had taught them.
Since Jesus had told his disciples to teach these new disciples everything he had taught them. It would follow that the new disciples would then make more disciples and they in turn would teach what they had been taught. Thus there would be a growing crowd of Christians all being taught the same thing, that being, what Jesus taught his first disciples.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT RELIGIONS?
One Christian Encyclopedia says there are 34,000 separate Christian groups in the world today. Over half of them are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations. Differences among Christian faith groups are so great that some observers have suggested that a useful way of classifying Christian groups is to view them as a number of separate religions with different beliefs and practices, who share, 1. The name "Christianity," 2. The text of the Bible, and 3. Not a great deal else.
Since there are now so many denominations, sects, and cults that claim to be Christian, and since they teach conflicting doctrines and hold their members to different standards of conduct, clearly they are not all teaching what Jesus taught his disciples to teach others. The question that naturally arises is, 'How come there are now so many religions claiming to be Christian?'
Jesus foretold there would be. At Matthew 7:15, he says, "Beware of the false teachers--men who come to you in sheep's fleeces, but beneath that disguise they are ravenous wolves."
We see Jesus told his disciples to teach, but he also warned of false teachers. Also, one of Jesus disciples, the Apostle Paul, said at Acts 20:29-30, "I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves."
From the very start of Christianity there were warnings that there would be those who would speak twisted things and draw disciples after themselves. Jesus said there would be false teachers, and the Apostle Paul adds that after he was gone there would be men that would speak twisted things and draw the disciples after themselves. This would be the start of false Christian religions.
Other scriptures say much the same thing, for instance, (1 Timothy 4:1) However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons . . .
(2 Timothy 4:3) For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled;
Another scripture shows who's behind all these false religions. Second Corinthians 11:14,15, says, . . . Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.
Note that their 'end shall be according to their works,' or what they do.
At 2 Peter 2:1,2, the Apostle Peter says, “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among YOU. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects . . .
Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.”
Notice that all these false religions will cause even the true one to be spoken of abusively. We can see the truth of that scripture right here on this forum where all Christian religions are disparagingly lumped together and called 'organized religion.'
DO WE NEED AN ORGANIZED RELIGION?
Many will ask, "As long as we don't hurt other people what is wrong with serving God in our own way?"
A counter question to that is, “How can we serve God doing things our own way, when he’s given instructions on how to serve and please him?”
Another question to ask ourselves is, "When we were children and our parents told us to do something and we didn't do it, were they pleased?"
It's the same in this case. Why would we think God would be pleased if we don't follow his instructions? Above, we read where the bible warns about being splintered off into sects, so how many more ways would we be splinted if we each tried to serve God in our own way? And how would we be serving God by doing things our own way? When we are serving someone, don't we do as they want, not as we want? The bible says at 1st Corinthians 1:10, "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all say the same thing, and that there be not among you divisions; but that ye be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same opinion."
We couldn't do what 1st Corinthians 1:10 tells us to do if tried to serve God in our own way. So it follows we have to be part of an organization.
The church Jesus started was organized into congregations. This is shown in several scriptures, one example is Colossians 4:14-16 which says, "Luke the beloved physician sends YOU his greetings, and so does Démas. Give my greetings to the brothers at La·o·di·céa and to Nyḿpha and to the congregation at her house. And when this letter has been read among YOU, arrange that it also be read in the congregation of the La·o·di·céans and that YOU also read the one from La·o·di·céa."
Another scripture, Hebrews 10:24,25 says, . . . let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as YOU behold the day drawing near.
So we see the church Jesus started was organized into congregations and instructed to meet together to encourage each other to do fine works and to love one another. We also see there were multiple congregations getting the same information.
HOW DO WE FIND THE RELIGION CHRIST STARTED?
Where do we find the rules for governing Christians? Where else but in the bible.
Some have reservations about the bible. However, the bible has already helped us in partially identifying the true religion.
From what we have already learned we can see that the church Jesus started would be affiliated with other congregations. That in affect eliminates the many non-denomination church's that are not affiliated with any other church's. How could they be his church if they are not part of an organization making disciples world wide as Jesus said to do at Matthew 28:18-20, quoted earlier?
Jesus says at Matthew 15:21, "Not every one who says to me, `Master, Master,' will enter the Kingdom of the Heavens, but only those who are obedient to my Father who is in Heaven."
So the bible gives us another identifying mark of the true religion. Notice you have to be obedient. But how can we be obedient unless we know what rules we have to be obedient to? Thus God gave mankind the bible.
Ask yourself this question. If you were the almighty, and you had a bible inspired as a message for all mankind, would you allow it to be changed and polluted so people couldn't get the sense of it? It’s nonsense to believe in an almighty God that created everything and not believe he couldn’t keep that from happening.
A lot of people will make varying claims about the bible's authenticity, it's truthfulness, etc. However, when you study the bible you will find that it doesn't contradict itself as so many say it does. The historical accuracy of the bible was once widely doubted, but discoveries have verified one account after another.
There’s thousands of statements made in the bible that are true, but someone will find something they don’t believe or at first glance doesn’t ring true and they will immediately conclude the whole bible is false. If you had a companion that told you a thousand things that were all true, would you then immediately doubt their word if they told you something that seemed incorrect or false? You wouldn’t approach it that way would you? That’s what people do with the bible though. Some people don’t like reading and studying anything, let alone the bible, so some take the first opportunity to opt out. However, if you have read any of the bible or heard bible stories you will realize God doesn’t care for wishy-washy people.
Proverbs the 2nd chapter talks about searching for knowledge of God like you are searching for hidden treasures. How hard would you search if you knew there was a treasure in your back yard? Most of us wouldn’t quit looking until we found the treasure would we? In other words you have to really want to understand God’s word.
I’m getting a bit off track.
When the bible makes statements on the sciences it is correct. Isaiah 40:22 says, "There is one dwelling above the circle of the earth." This was written more than 2,000 years before men ascertained that fact.
Some will say the bible hasn't been translated correctly, but we have over 50 bibles now translated into English by 50 some different bible committees, and all these translations say essentially the same thing. The only true differences being those of theology, and not translation errors.
The bible has come down to us the way God intended so that we can read in it and then become obedient to the instructions found there. The bible alone tells us what we must do to please God. And it's in the bible that we find the means to identify the true religion from all the false ones.
Now, if you don’t know what the bible says, there’s no way you can determine which religion Jesus started. The only way to know is to read the bible and then compare what the bible says with what the various religions teach.
Different interpretations of various scriptures are one of the reasons there are so many different religions. Instead of being united in the same opinion as instructed at 1st Corinthians 1:10, people and religions have their own pet theories as to what scriptures mean. However, the bible itself says at Genesis 40:8 that “interpretations belong to God.”
Now we don’t have any prophets or apostles with us today to explain things to us, but we don’t need them since that’s one of the reasons God gave us the bible. What should be done, is let the bible interpret itself. I’ll give an example.
Revelation 20:1, says, “And I saw new heavens and a new earth–for the former heavens and the former earth are gone, and the sea no longer exists . . .”
Now taking the above scripture at face value what would you say it means when it says the sea no longer exists?
Using the bible to interpret the bible gives us an answer. Isaiah 57:20 says, “The wicked however are like the restless sea that cannot be still, whose waters throw up mud and dirt.”
By using the bible to interpret the bible we see that when Revelation 20:1, talks about the sea that no longer exists it’s referring to wicked people.
Now the question you have to immediately ask yourself is does that interpretation go along with the rest of the bible? The answer is yes, other scriptures show that the wicked will be destroyed. That interpretation also goes along with the context of that scripture that refers to a new heavens and a new earth, since the wicked won’t be there.
So, a question you have to ask yourself is, “Does this religion use the bible to interpret the bible? Or do they have a man’s interpretation?”
The question is, are you going to search for the religion Jesus started, or are you going to hope in pot luck? If you are going to search, start reading your bible.
One note of caution, don’t use a paraphrased bible, use a word for word translation. Paraphrased bible’s are the author’s interpretation of what a scripture means.