- Religion and Philosophy
The Gospel and Why the Right Belief Matters
Is there only one way to God and/or heaven?
Many religions, particularly Christianity, are mocked because people have a hard time believing that God would condemn anyone for not believing in the right deity/religion--namely Jesus Christ/Christianity. However, God doesn't judge individuals to go to hell necessarily because they hold to the wrong belief system--believing in the wrong deity. The truth is that the common belief that one is righteous and is deserving of God's favor by their own merits that their "good" deeds outweigh their bad deeds is a damning belief, and God rightly condemns the world who trusts in their own righteousness. Time and time again people tell me that they are going to heaven because they are not that bad. Such people overlook the fact that God is just and has a holy hatred towards all sin, small and large, from lying to murdering. He doesn't merely hold murderers and rapists accountable to their sins but He holds anyone who sins accountable (i.e., everyone). God sends people to hell because of their life-long rebellion against Him; we don't know how sinful we are just as a fish doesn't know how wet it is. The Bible is clear on these matters, and we know them to be true in the deepest parts of our heart. Think about our fear of death. It happens to everyone, yet we all fear it. Why? Because we have a subconscious-expectancy of judgment. The Scripture and our conscience are testimonies against us--against our sinful nature.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18-23 ESV)
So the dilemma that the world faces is that we all have sinned against God and are in need of a pardon or forgiveness since God must judge sin--all wrong-doing. We hold the judges in this world to a standard that demands justice of wrong-doing. Let's say a person commits a heinous crime such as murder but was not caught. Then, many years later, new evidence was found that proved his crime. However, the man goes before the judge and says, "Your honor, I did this crime many years ago, but I regretted it since. I have turned my life around by becoming a philanthropist and giving to the community." We would be appalled if the judge took pity on him and forgave him of his crime because of all the good he has done. It's the same with God. He keeps record of every word we speak, every action we make, and thought we conceive. Our goodness will never outweigh the wrong we have done.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Over all, God does not condemn anyone merely because they didn't believe in the right religion/god (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.), because we know that there are many different beliefs in the world. How are we to know the right one? If we believe that there is a God then we must believe that He is good and perfect in every way. He must be just and serve justice to those who are unjust (those who have broken God's commands). But the same God who commanded to not murder also commanded not to lie, not to covet, not to take His name in vain, and not to steal. We all have broken a wide variety of laws, but the reality is that our sin goes much deeper than that. We have only scratched the surface of our nature and sin. Thus, we all without exception are deserving of God's judgment in hell which the wrath of God is poured out on the ungodly (you and me both). That is, of course, unless we receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Reconciling Back to God
On the other hand, one can receive eternal life because of their belief in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. For God has declared that the righteous are justified (to be declared righteous even though they are sinful) by faith--faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Salvation is an unmerited, unconditional gift from God that can only be received by faith and can never be received by doing what we believe to be right and good; "for the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23; "death" meaning physical and spiritual death). Why Jesus and not Buddha, Allah, Brahma, or Vishnu? Because He accomplished that which was humanly impossible. He lived a perfect life (a life totally given to God in every way in which He never sinned), gave his life to make atonement for sins, and was resurrected from the dead so that those who believe in Him would have eternal life through the forgiveness of their sins. We die because we sin. Jesus died because He became the sin bearer. Every other religion says that their god rewards people based on their good behavior, thus making them his debtor. However, the Bible says that God is no man's debtor. How can He? Everything we have has been given to us from above. "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven" (John 3:27).
This dilemma was reconciled 2000 years ago when Jesus came into this world. He came to 1) tell the world the absolute truth about God, 2) destroy the works of the devil (who hates us all and desires for everyone to receive justice as he will receive it) and 3) make atonement for sins, satisfying the wrath of God. This was God's plan from eternity past--to reconcile the world back to Himself that which fell away from Him since the days of Adam and Eve. This is what separates Christianity from all other belief systems.
Forgiveness is only accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which He bore the sins of those who would believe and trust in Him--making Him Lord and Savior of their lives. When He did this, Jesus received the wrath of God that was due to us--the wrath that we would have justly receive in judgment in hell.This sacrifice extinguished the enmity between us and God, reconciling us to Him with favor and love.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)
Trust in Him today and be forgiven. He commands everyone everywhere to repent and believe/trust in Jesus Christ. To repent means to change your mind and to turn away from your former ways of life in order to turn to Christ by stop trusting in your own deeds to be righteous. We must humble ourselves and recognize our need for God in every aspect of life. Do this and become a disciple of Jesus by finding a good church and profess your faith to them. They should help guide you in your walk with Jesus through fellowship, discipleship, and reading the Bible.