Sojourner's paradigm challenges atheists and skeptics to make a shift in the way they examine and approach the claims of the Bible and Christianity. It is best to first watch the gospel message video and read the foundational truth of God. Other blogs speak on a variety of topics.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Do all faiths worship the same God? Sure there are doctrinal differences, but aren’t they basically worshipping and praying to the same God? This question was put to me recently. Here was my response.
It all centers around the identify of Jesus Christ and what he did for those who trust in his Lordship. Let me explain.
Jesus made his identity and divinity clear through his miracles, fulfillment of prophecy, and the Father’s acknowledgment. Jesus is our final and full revelation of the Father. As he told Philip,
9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? John 14:9.
The book of John is replete with a demonstration of Jesus’ diety. “I am” the “resurrection and the life”, “the good shepherd”, “the true vine”(connecting us with the life of the Spirit), “the light of the world”. There are several more. A couple of my two favorites: “Before Abraham was, ‘I Am’” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This last one helps us define the essence of who He is. The former identifies him as part of the God-head from the very beginning of time.
Colossians paints a vivid picture of the identity of this Jesus.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Col 1:15-20)
Here is another reference from Colossians. “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in human body.” (Col 2:8)
Let’s examine Jesus’ claim that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Take a look at the passage from John 14:4-7.
4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
When Jesus said he was the way, what did he mean? He was explaining the way to God and his heavenly Kingdom. We humans tend to want a map or GPS or something showing us the way to someplace. That was what Thomas was asking. But Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t just giving them/us a path to a destination, but he was giving himself to them/us. He is the way to the Father. We get to know him through his Word (John called him the Word) and we discover the “way” to God and his Kingdom. By saying that he was the “truth” he was saying that all of God’s revelation is wrapped up in and through him. When he said that he was the “life”, he was indicating that they would find their new life (as he said to Nicodemus, ‘you must be born again’ – born from the Spirit.) in Him. The Bible is replete with showing us our depravity and just how messed up we truly are. We are all marred by this malady of sin. And because of this malady, we have been separated from God the Father. As Isaiah repeated God’s words, “ It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Is 59:2 NLT)
Big problem! He also said, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Is. 64:6 NLT)
So although God, being all-knowing, can hear anyone’s prayer, they might as well be praying to the wind.
Everything centers around Christ. We can’t sweep him under the rug and pretend he doesn’t matter when it comes to our worship of God. It is easy to lose sight of that in a culture which tells us that anyone’s belief is as good as anyone else’s.
“My faith” is truly meaningless if it is merely “my faith.” Faith in what? Faith in my faith! True biblical faith means believing God and taking him at his word. It involves trust in what God says is true. That is what saved Abraham. That is what saved Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Rahab, all the prophets, and all who place their hope and trust in God, and not in themselves. Did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day have faith? Jesus condemned their so-called faith. Their faith was in themselves living up to a set of laws and regulations (most of which were man-made). This is still what Judaism tries to do. There may be some who truly believe and trust in God and desire to do his will. I truly believe that such a person, when exposed to the full-revelation of God who is Jesus, will realize his or her own depravity and need for mercy. They know they cannot stand before God on their own merit. They need God himself to save them. They will recognize God’s grace coming through his propitiation of their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have seen several testimonies of former Jews, even devout Hasidic Jews, who give this very testimony. It was Martin Luther who recognized his own depravity and finally placed his faith and trust in Christ and not in his own ability to obey the rules of the church. I read a book by Mosab Yousef called “Son of Hamas.” He was the son of the founding leader of Hamas. Over time he finally recognized Christ as his true savior. He turned his back on Islam. He had memorized the Koran and warns all who will listen of the deception of Islam. There’s also a movie out about his dealings with Israel’s spy organization. It’s called “The Green Prince.” Google him.
Even church-goers who attend a bible-believing church, may sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, thinking they are okay because they perform as a Christian, participating in the rituals and even being “baptized.” But many have never truly placed their hope and trust in the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. They think they are in control and can make it on their own. They are their own way, truth, and life, calling the shots. They pray but their own sins have not been dealt with through faith in their Savior, and so their prayers go unanswered.
From a full systematic theological approach, I have come to realize that God himself must make it possible for someone to come to a saving faith in Christ. He must open their eyes and ears to hear and respond to the truth. Otherwise, we are still the ones calling the shots. We may listen to a sermon and say, “that sounds good to me. I choose that.” It’s more like choosing a flavor of ice-cream. They are still relying on their own initiative. They believe God must respond to them rather than the other way around. The mark of a true answer to call is one who says, “your will, Lord, not mine.” That is why Jesus warns us that…
“22 Many will say to Me on that day, (judgment day) ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ’ (Matt. 7:22-23 NASB)
We marvel at these stern words of warning.
So you see, belief is not really what saves you. It is not adherence to rituals or rules which saves you. Works do not save you. It is God’s grace through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice which then changes your heart from the inside out which allows you entrance to the throne of God.
So does everyone pray to the same God? No. Some may pray to an entity they have conjured up in their own minds which fits their own notion of who God is. Their sin-filled heart keeps them from a relationship with Jehovah God. They must be “born again”. The Holy Spirit must enter their heart and change their motives from self-fulfillment to submission to God’s Lordship. This is even true of many in the Christian “faith”. Only those who worship and approach him through the one mediator between God and man, are worshipping the one true God.