WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT RELIGIONS?
Why are there so many different religions? How can we know which is right? And is it not true that all religions lead to God?
There are bound to be many religions in the world because people are always ready to Ďworshipí in ways which they have designed for themselves, regardless of whether these methods of worship lead them to really feel or know God.
Down the centuries people have invented numerous gods and religions. But what is the point of bowing down to lifeless statues, like the great stone beetles which were often used in the ancient east? What is the point? Why do people do it? For if we make gods ourselves, we know that they have no life, and any divine aura around them is merely projected from superstitious imaginations.
Why invent religions?
What is the point of wearily treading the interminable round of religious chanting and ceremonies, as prescribed by some religions, if these activities never bring us any sense of the presence of God, or any certain answers to prayer, or any other definite evidence of His power? Why do people do these things? Why should people invest their own religions?
One reason is - because many want a religion without God. It sounds strange, but it is a fact.
The human race is really against God - this is the clear teaching of the Bible from cover to cover. We want to run our own lives and have whatever we can get. We do not want to give up our sins and serve our Creator.
And yet, there are times when we feel scared, or uneasy and insecure. At such times we want a religion that can take away the fear of death and give some sort of security beyond the grave. If religions can be devised which will do this and require very little from people, then they will always find supporters. We call such religions - religions of convenience. Many such religions thrive by selling eternal safety and security at acceptably low prices.
Even the Christian religion has been adapted and altered into a religion of convenience by some of its clergy and ministers. Some of these clergy have rewritten traditional, biblical Christianity and turned it into something entirely different to produce a religion of convenience.
Such clergy and ministers will not tell you that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and conversion. They say that even atheists will go to Heaven! Just support the Church and accept their new ideas. Give money to stop the steeple falling down - and of course to pay the ministers.
Attend if possible, but not too often if that requirement puts you off altogether. The great things is, your life will not have to change one bit, and in exchange for your support you will be able to feel that your soul is as safe as can reasonably be expected.
No matter how sincerely people may believe in these adapted versions of Christianity, they are still just man-made religions of convenience. Being sincere about fiction can never make it true.
Back in the days when Abraham was a boy in Ur of the Chaldees a classic religion of convenience had its headquarters in the gigantic temple (excavated by archaeologists in the 1930s). One of the main activities of the temple was the support of a veritable army of priestesses, whose chief purpose was to act as official prostitutes to the city.
Here was a religion which handed out eternal security and, at the same time, actually helped you carry on with your sin. It may seem to be an extreme example, but it serves to show why it suits people to organise religions to their taste.
Do all religions lead to God? How can they, if so many of them have clearly been designed by people to suit themselves? How can they, when they have been set up by those who only wanted to calm their religious fears, without necessarily seeking and finding the true and living God?
Do all religions lead to God? How can they when they often flatly contradict each other? Bible Christianity, for example, says that God is a holy God Who is a Spirit, Who inhabits eternity. He is to be thought of as being outside us.
Furthermore, we are in rebellion against Him, and there is a great barrier or gulf between us. The Bible teaches that God has made it possible for this gulf to be spanned, and it urges us to recognise our sin and to cry out to Him for pardon and reconciliation.
Now we can see how different all this is from the teaching of another religion which says that there is no separation between God and us, for God is not a distinct being at all. God is part of us, and inside each one of us all the time. There is no need to return to God, but instead we are to find Him in ourselves.
Just these few sentences will be quite enough to convince every reader that I am describing two religions which are as different as chalk from cheese. They are absolute opposites; they have nothing in common. So how can we say that all religions lead to God?
It is imperative that we never gloss over these things in our thinking. We must look for the true religion. The true God has spoken clearly, and has not left His Truth mixed up with error and falsehood scattered across a hundred and one different Ďfaithsí.
If you were God would you do it like that? Would you utterly confuse the world by trailing bits of Truth amidst piles of man-made religious mumbo-jumbo? Would you sublimely expect men and women to sort it out for themselves?
It should not surprise us to hear that there is one true religion. Nor should it surprise us that the human race should produce so many counterfeits, or religions of convenience as alternatives.
The question remains - How can I know which is the true faith? Let me give two very brief answers to this question. Firstly: true religion - the one, genuine religion - will be a revealed religion.
It must be revealed
A revealed religion is a teaching which comes not from the mind or the thinking of any person, but straight from God Himself. After all, I cannot possibly know anything about God unless He shows me Himself.
Consider these facts - we are flesh and blood, but if there is a God Who created this material world, it is logical that He must be made of a substance outside and beyond our own. We say that God is Spirit, bigger, beyond, and supersubstantial.
Therefore how can we grasp God? How can something physical comprehend something spiritual? We are like wooden toys trying to understand their maker! It is obvious that no human mind can project itself into the spiritual realm and fathom out God. As human beings we are finite and have limited powers of understanding. We cannot even understanding everything on earth, so how can we possibly understand the infinite God?
Then think of this also - we are boxed up into time, while God our Creator must be bigger than time, outside time. He must inhabit eternity. We cannot project our minds into eternity.
It is surely so obvious that if there is a Creator, He would not expect human beings to do the impossible and to work out for themselves what He is like. He would speak into their world, describing Himself, and telling them what they must do to find Him. The one and only true religion will be the one where God speaks to mankind; it will be a revealed religion. This is what the Bible claims to be.
Throughout its length it claims to be God speaking, and it is written entirely from Godís point of view. Every book of the Bible has the same message, and it is the oldest credible religious message in the world.
The Bible is about God coming to earth Himself. When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, then Godís method of revealing Himself to man was complete.
How will we know the true religion? We will see it in churches which speak from the Bible. They will not have concocted a message to flatter us or to give us some phoney sense of security, while keeping quiet about the problem of our sin and our need of conversion.
They will speak from Godís point of view, and will have a message which earnestly calls us to repent and seek the Lord. They will represent Jesus Christ the only Saviour for sinners, and in so doing they will be standing for the oldest message in the world.
Above all, we will know the true religion by the way it gets results. The signs of spiritual life and power will be only too evident. We will recognise immediately that the power of God is living in a church which holds the true religion of the Bible. It will be a church where people seek and find the Lord in a personal and felt way. There is all the difference in the world between dead religion and true living Christianity.
In a dead church people simply do not know God. They do not speak of a personal conversion. Their lives have not been totally changed. They do not feel the Lord God, His presence, His guidance or His power.
True Christianity, by contrast, is a real experience. A person begins this experience with many questions, and a sense of emptiness and need. Then as the message becomes clear, there follows a great awareness of being cut off from God and sinful in His sight. This sense of sin leads to a deep desire for forgiveness, and real seeking. Then the person comes to see that it is possible to be forgiven because the Saviour has Himself borne the punishment due to rebellious sinners.
The genuine is obvious
In true, authentic Christianity, the seeker who applies to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and conversion experiences Godís intervention in his or her life in an unmistakable way. Such a seeker is truly changed by God, and knows it. The great change which occurs at conversion shows the difference between true and counterfeit religion.
The Lord Jesus Christ said these words, Whoever really desires to do Godís will shall know of the true teaching.
If anyone feels a real desire to seek and find the Lord, and is ready to seek Him on His terms, then God will help that seeker to understand the message of the Bible, and the way to find Christ.
Begin to search for real, living faith. It begins with the matter of forgiveness and complete conversion to God. Nothing less than this is real.
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