Category Archives: Religions
What Makes the Bible Unique?
Does God hate religion?
Alex Himaya wrote a book entitled, “Jesus hates religion.” He said that, “Jesus is about love and relationship, not rules and religion.” A quick search online turns up dozens of reasons why God hates religion. “Religion has started wars.” “Religion builds huge churches but fails to feed the poor.” “Religion sees people as the enemy, but Jesus sees sin as the enemy.” “Religion keeps people from God.” “Religion is a replacement for a relationship with Him.” This popular notion sets up a conflict between religious institutions and Jesus. With the problems in many churches, the failure of organized religion to address injustice and the sheer hypocrisy of many religious adherents it is tempting to believe that God really does hate religion.
God created religion. After man sinned, God began to teach sinful man how he could come to God in worship and fellowship. This way of coming to God is religion. Man immediately began to devise his own way to approach God. Cain’s failure in worship is the earliest example of human religion. Man’s attempt to come to God in his own way is also religion. If “God hates religion” means that God hates man’s own efforts to approach him, then yes, that statement is true. The Old Testament shows time and time again that God rejects all attempts to come to Him except according to the way He prescribed. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) If religion is defined, as one author said, as “a man made path to God”, then God hates religion. But if you mean God hates the religion He gave to humanity, then that’s just nonsense. Not only does God not hate His religion, He requires men to follow it.
The argument cannot be made that God liked religion in the Old Testament but not in the New. Jesus established New Testament religion that includes rules, rituals and doctrine. Jesus established the church (Matthew 16:18), appointed its leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12), defined its practices (Matthew 18:15-17, 28:19-20; Luke 22:19-20; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13) and established its doctrines. (Galatians 1:11-12) No one can argue that Jesus is all about relationship but not rules. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14) Jesus does not hate the religion He gave to humanity.
Many religious institutions have abused the teachings of Jesus. Religion has divided people and has been a major factor in a number of wars. Religion has been used to cloak the worst kind of abuse and depravity. God hates man-centered, self-righteous and man-devised religions. God gave religion to man as a good thing enabling the sinner to come to Him. Man has misused and perverted God’s good gift, but God still loves the religion He instituted when it is followed according to His instructions. There is such a thing as pure religion which all who seek to follow Christ must participate in. None can truly say they love Christ but not His religion. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
What about Reincarnation?
Many are intrigued by the teachings of the eastern religions, including the idea of reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that a departed soul will re-enter fleshly life in a new body. After millions (yes, millions) of cycles of birth and death, the person may be able to reach oneness with the universe and escape the reincarnation cycle.
Reincarnation is not based upon the Bible. Belief in a cycle of birth, death and re-birth is contrary to clear statements of Scripture. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says of death, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” The spirit returns to God, not to the earth to enter another body. Nothing can be more clear and contrary to the teaching of reincarnation than the declaration of Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”
Reincarnation is not a random cycling of a spirit through various lives. Reincarnation serves a purpose that is the very opposite of the Biblical teaching of salvation. Through the process of reincarnation the person is given the opportunity to work out bad choices from previous lives. In the cycle of karma the bad done in previous lives affects the present life, and the choices made in this one affect the next. Through reincarnation the person is able to gain good karma until he becomes enlightened enough to break the karmic cycle. The Biblical teaching of sin and salvation is nothing like the hope offered by reincarnation. Salvation is never achieved by works, whether in this life or one to come. Salvation is always the gift of God received only through faith in Jesus. Those who are saved by believing Jesus have no need of a future life to work out their sins. Those who do not trust Jesus for salvation have no chance of ever being good enough for heaven.
Reincarnation is not another way to describe the Biblical teaching of resurrection. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The comfort Jesus gave at the death of Lazarus was, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) Resurrection is the restoration of the deceased body and the reunion of the departed soul with the newly restored body. Except for the few Biblical examples of miraculous resurrection of individuals, the resurrection will be a mass event which will take place at the end of this age. Reincarnation is the re-entrance of an individual’s soul into a new body. The reincarnated person’s new body could be anything from an insect to a holy man depending on his karma. Reincarnation gives no promise of resurrection, but instead offers the hope of eventually escaping the endless cycle of birth and death.
Reincarnation is a belief of many eastern religions that is tied directly to their other religious principles. As a result, reincarnation is not a Biblical concept. It is instead completely contrary to the Bible.
What is mindfulness? Is it Christian?
America is drowning in a flood of intellectual noise. Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, news reports, emails and text messages are just a few of the many popular means of barraging people with an excess of information. Many Americans are recognizing the need to shut down the noise and create moments of quiet in their lives. Mindfulness promises to help quiet the over stimulated minds of stressed out people. What is mindfulness? Is it something that Christians should be involved in?
Mindfulness promotes the focus upon the sensations of the moment to help to center the person in the present. Mindfulness does not teach focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness stops all other activity to become aware of the present. Mindfulness pauses and looks inward to pay complete attention to one’s senses, thoughts and emotions. It is the practice of being aware of the moment without critique, judgment or thought. A recent advertisement for local mindfulness classes said, “”Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is taught through the application of principles from classic eastern meditation. By setting aside a specific time of meditation the person learns the ability to fully experience the sensations of the moment. Throughout the day the mindful person stops for a brief time to refresh mind, emotion and energy.
Americans have intentionally divorced mindfulness from its religious connections, but the principles behind this practice are nothing less than pagan. Mindfulness comes out of Buddhism and Hinduism. As a result, it is based upon a a view of the mind and body that is contrary to the Bible. Mindfulness, and all eastern meditation, starts with the premise that every person is a manifestation of the Divine. Mindfulness involves the participant in a technique springing directly from a false salvation that believes the ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the great universal divine.
As with most relaxation techniques mindfulness does bring some physical benefit to the practitioner. It may rest the mind, relax the body and refresh the person, but it carries with it the baggage of the false religions of the far east.
The quieting of the mind and attending to the moment are praiseworthy goals. Certainly a person should pay attention to the task and people at hand. This is not mindfulness. This is diligence and courtesy.
Instead of turning to mystical practices Christians should turn to the Bible for guidance in virtuous behavior. Give your life to the control of the Holy Spirit who will produce in you the fruit of love, joy and peace. Practice Biblical meditation on verses like Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 5:16-17; Colossians 4:5-6; Colossians 3:23 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. These verses will help instill Christian virtues in your life. Practice some simple steps like turning off most of the notifications on your phone. Refuse to look at the phone every time it beeps. Turn off the TV. Ignore text messages when you are in a face to face conversation with someone. Pray. Remember that your life is given to you by God for His glory. Use your life intentionally and wisely for His service.
Why are there so many different kinds of religions in the world?
The world is filled with religions. The number of religions existing today has been estimated to be somewhere in the thousands. Man has been developing religions for thousands of years. Every major religion has splintered into a bewildering variety of sects, denomination and spin-offs. Why are there so many different religions?
A common answer to this question is that all the religions have elements of truth. As man has searched after truth he has discovered little portions of the whole truth. Each religion describes one aspect of truth. By combining the truths of many different religions a person can gain a better understanding of spiritual truth. This idea is itself a religious principle, but not one found in the monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity or Judaism. The belief that all religions contain a portion of truth originates in the Eastern religions but it cannot be true.
Certain religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, claim exclusivity. They claim the truth they uphold is ultimate truth. That which disagrees is in error. Many religions which do not make exclusivistic claims teach things that are incompatible with other religions. Christianity claims God is Trinity. Judaism and Islam claim God is One. Which is it? God cannot be both the Christian Trinity and the Muslim One. Hinduism teaches there are many Gods. Christianity, Islam and Judaism teach there is only one God. Both claims cannot be true. Christianity claims there is only one way to be forgiven of sin and have eternal life. Many other religions claim there are many ways to heaven. All religious claims cannot be true. More significantly, the core elements of religions cannot all be true. The nature of God and the means of salvation are central principles of most religions. From a logical perspective the possibility exists that all religions are wrong. The major tenets of all, or even most, religions cannot all be right.
Religion is not the result of man’s search for truth. The many different religions exist because of man’s rejection of truth. In Genesis 4 there were only four people on the planet and they all knew God was real. At least half the human population had spoken face to face with God. No one denied the existence of God. Everyone agreed on major tenets about God: He is real, He is creator, He is in charge, He is to be worshiped. Yet even with a tiny population and much first hand information there were still religious differences. Cain and Abel came to worship God. Abel brought a prime lamb for sacrifice and Cain brought some vegetables. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, which led to Cain killing Abel. Cain’s offering was nothing more than a new worship, a new religion, which rejected the truth revealed by God. The first religious division was the result of disobedience to God.
Making this problem worse is the intentional effort of Satan. He is described in the Bible as the god of this world who blinds the eyes of men lest they see the light of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan and the fallen angels masquerade as messengers of the light. (1 Corinthians 11:13-15) Demonic forces work to confuse and mislead men. (1 Timothy 4:1). Satanic manipulation moves men to devise and proclaim false religions. Satanic and demonic influence have added to the multitude of religions in this world.
The world is confused by an abundance of different, disagreeing religions because men refuse to believe and obey God. Romans 1 says that God’s existence and glory are seen in creation. Men refuse to acknowledge Him or give thanks to Him. They prefer to worship creatures instead of the Creator. Satan hates man and God. The devil actively works to create more confusion and to promote more idolatry. The vast numbers of religions come directly from the huge number of people and societies that have replaced the worship of God with the worship of other things.
What is Gnosticism?
Over the last couple decades the religion of Gnosticism has risen in popularity. Periodic discovery of fragments of gnostic writings help keep Gnosticism on the radar. Despite the renewed interest this belief system is very difficult to define.
Modern day gnosticism is the product of centuries of development since its early days in the first century after Jesus. Unfortunately, the earliest forms of gnosticism have been lost to history. No examples of gnostic teachings exist before the 150’s. Gnostics existed before 50 AD leaving a gap of one hundred years. The earliest hints of gnostic teachings come from the New Testament book of Colossians. In the second century some of the church fathers wrote books against gnosticism which summarize some gnostic teachings. The earliest existing gnostic writings are found in the Gospel of Thomas and the works of Valentinus.
The other challenge to accurately defining the beliefs of the gnostic is the wide variety of beliefs found in gnosticism. Like modern day Christianity gnosticism was not a single set of doctrines in which everyone believed the same things. Though it did not have a uniform set of beliefs, Gnosticism did have some basic tenets held by most gnostics.
The gnostics view the physical things of this world, its material elements, as inherently bad. The physical things are trapped in this lowest plane of existence, unable to reach the highest celestial plane. The spiritual and immaterial elements, such as the soul, are not evil. Through knowledge the soul can transcend the physical to reach the plane of the Highest.
In Gnosticism the God of the Bible is a great, immaterial being responsible for the creation of this world. The Creator is not the only god, nor the highest god. He is the product of the infinite being that existed in the very Highest plane. The Creator shares the celestial planes with other great immaterial beings.
God erred in His creation. In later versions of gnosticism God is seen as the enemy. The earlier expressions seem to describe Him as well-intentioned but mistaken. God’s errors in making the world are the reason the physical is base and cannto ascend to the higher planes.
Jesus is the product of the Creator. He is not the Son of God. He is not the Creator nor is He equal with the Creator. He is a great being, akin to the other great spiritual beings. Jesus existence in the world was not a physical existence. Jesus was a spiritual being that took up residence in the flesh without becoming man. The death of Jesus’ flesh was a tragedy but Jesus did not suffer. His soul escaped the flesh before the cross and ascended up to the Highest.
The goal of man is to escape the material and ascend upwards through a hierarchy of spiritual planes to reach the very highest. Salvation, reaching the Highest, is achieved by enlightenment. Gnostic enlightenment is a mystical event suddenly revealing truth to the intuition of the individual. The increase of understanding through enlightenment lifts the soul of man higher and higher until he is able to reach the Highest.
Gnosticism is a belief system that views the physical as evil. Salvation is achieved by understanding mystical truths about creation, man and destiny. These truths are revealed to the soul of the gnostic and allow the soul to escape the material plane to reach the Highest.
What about yoga?
Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise in America today. A recent article on meditation may have prompted some readers to wonder if Christian’s should include yoga as part of their exercise routine.
Yoga began as part of the spiritual practices of the eastern religions. The classic yoga positions and poses were not designed to stretch and strengthen muscles. They were designed to carefully position and align the individual’s seven chakras. In eastern mystical religions, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, the chakras are a person’s energy centers. An individual’s spiritual power flows from the chakras. Misaligned or blocked chakras result in illness, poverty and powerlessness.
Yogic meditation is a way to realign and open up the person’s energy centers. A properly aligned chakra enables self-expression, increases intuition or taps the hidden power within. This spiritual practice is still a vital part of many mystical religions in America and the Far East.
Yoga’s unique, challenging poses have an undeniable physical benefit. Stretching the muscles and holding a pose requires a degree of muscle control that can not fail to increase health and strength. These physical benefits can be received without any involvement in mystical practices. If yoga is practiced without resorting to mysticism then no Biblical prohibition would forbid the Christian from participating.
If yoga is practiced in conjunction with the religious principles then it would be wrong for a Christian to participate. The practicing yoga as a means to align the chakras, make some connection with the divine or tap into a hidden source of strength is engaging in pagan spiritual practices. Christian’s must have no part of the religious practices of false religions. (2 Corinthians 6:15-17)
Mystical religions present a view of God, man and salvation that contradicts that of the Bible. The mystical religions believe man is a manifestation of the great Divine Reality. The divine reality is the source of everything. The goal is to be rejoined with the divine. The individual draws closer to this goal through meditation, including yogic meditation.
Mysticism changes the truth of man’s spiritual existence. The problem of humanity is not a misaligned or unenlightened spirit. Man’s problem is a broken spirit that has rejected the One true God. The solution to the spiritual problem of man cannot be found in realignment or in becoming one with the Divine. Man is unable to solve his problem.
Man’s spiritual need was met by Jesus. When a person trusts only in Jesus to forgive her sin and reconcile her to the Father, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence within her. The spiritual problem is repaired by God. Jesus fully satisfied the justice of God upon sin. Those who trust Him are made the children of God and have all the benefits of eternal salvation. No human exercise will improve upon what Jesus has completed.
If yoga is treated as nothing more than an exercise routine it presents no spiritual problem, though it may present some physical challenges, to the child of God. If relied upon for salvation or spiritual gain yoga is worthless.
Who are the 144,000?
You might know someone who claims to be one of the 144,000. Probably you have met someone who claims to know who the 144,000 are and how to become part of their number. Are the 144,000 found in the Bible? Who are they? What will happen to them? Can you become one of their number?
The 144,000 are mentioned in the book of Revelation and can be found in two chapters- chapter 7 and chapter 14. The Bible does not give many particulars about this group. The book of Revelation does not give the least hint that a person can do anything to become part of their number.
In Revelation 7 the 144,000 are described as the servants of God with a seal on their foreheads that indicates they are His and protected by Him from the tribulations about to come upon the world. They are called the 144,000 because that is the exact number of individuals sealed unto God in this way. “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” (Revelation 7:4) These servants of God are of the descendants of Israel. Twelve thousand will be chosen from each one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Only biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be in this group.
Revelation 14 adds a few more details to their description. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” The one hundred forty-four thousand are pure Jewish men who have devoted themselves to God. They are marked out by God and are the first ones in the tribulation to trust Jesus for salvation. They are saved, sealed by God and sent out serve Him.
This group of men live completely dedicated to God. Contrary to how some present them, they men do not earn their place by their holiness. They are first chosen and sealed by God. Following their selection they then live Godly lives in a very wicked, dangerous time.
The selection of these men takes place during the time of the tribulation. No one today can claim to be part of this group. Only after the rapture of the church and the rise of the anti-Christ will God choose these men.
The brotherhood of 144,000 men does not receive a special place in the highest heaven that has been reserved for the very best. They are servants chosen by God to minister for Him during the tribulation. The 144,000 will remain faithful to Jesus throughout the tribulation. At the end of the tribulation they will stand on Mt. Zion with Jesus at His return. They will serve Jesus during His conquest over the armies of the antichrist and His establishment of the millennial kingdom.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a familiar sight on many doorstops. The witnesses seek to introduce others to their church and their beliefs through a series of pamphlets and Bible studies. They claim to be a Christian denomination and to uphold the major doctrines of Biblical Christianity. Are the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian belief? Are they consistent with historical orthodoxy? Are their beliefs in line with what the Bible says must be believed to be saved?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a Christian church by any historical definition of the Christian orthodoxy. None who hold to the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are genuine Christians. What is the basis for making such a bold declaration? First, and most significantly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian because they deny truths which the Bible defines as necessary for salvation. The first and second epistles of John state in very definite language that any one who denies Jesus is the promised Savior and Son of God is not saved and is not of God. The official teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses about Jesus is that He is a great spirit being, the first spirit created by Jehovah (they also deny the Trinity). Jesus was a god (note the small “g”), but not the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is not eternal, not equal with the Father nor possessor of the infinite glories of Jehovah. In Jehovah’s Witnesses theology Jesus is the greatest of created beings. They also teach that when Jesus came to the earth, he gave up all his divine nature. In their Bible studies they teach, “He was not a spirit-human hybrid.” Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus is God, that Jesus is God made flesh and that Jesus remained fully God while taking to Himself full humanity. All of these truths are crucial for salvation. One cannot be saved without first believing Jesus is God the Son and God become man.
The errors regarding the person of Jesus are sufficient to keep from salvation any who believe their lies, but Jehovah’s Witnesses compound their heresies about Jesus with heresies about salvation. According to their teaching, Jesus’ death does not wash away all sin forever. Jesus’ death makes it possible for men to be saved, but does not accomplish salvation for them. According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses salvation is gained by faith in Jesus, by participation in God’s visible theocratic kingdom (the Jehovah’s Witness organization) and by steadfastly maintaining confidence that Christ made salvation possible. They teach that none are securely saved until the survivors of Armageddon chose to turn to God and submit to His rule. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a salvation that is a mixture of faith and works. Their inclusion of lifelong good works as essential to salvation is a denial of the gospel. Galatians 1 describes this kind of gospel as no gospel and its teachers as ones who are accursed for their falsehoods.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are false teachers who must not be heeded or encouraged in their false doctrines in any way. This does not mean they are beyond the hope of salvation. Those who will repent of their false doctrines can turn to God and find pardon for their sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ.