The offer of Christianity to anyone who will embrace it is, unarguably, the best you can find in all of the universe. With Christianity, one receives forgiveness of sins, a legal declaration of being perfect, a relationship with Almighty God, a constant guidance from the Holy Spirit, a holistic transformation that only God can do for us and an eternal life of joy in Heaven. With all of these promises, we come to the question, "Why are Christians very few in number despite these?"
One complaint hurled against Christianity that people say turns them off from it is the seeming exclusiveness. "Why can't Christianity be more inclusive?" a lot of them ask. Why can't it embrace homosexuals, atheists, drug addicts, people of other religions, etc? The message is clear, those who won't believe in Jesus as well as those who practice things God is against with will be disqualified of Heaven and will be condemned for eternity in Hell (John 3:18 / 1 Corinthians 6:910).
One answer as to why Christianity is not inclusive is because Almighty God, the Creator of everything including us, in exercise of His authority and holy character, has set the standard as to how a person may enter Heaven. Matthew 5:48 declares, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Perfection means being sinless. Now, who among us hasn't lied, stolen things, looked with lust at someone, coveted something others own, etc.? None of us can say that we have not offended any of God's Laws. That disqualifies all of us for Heaven. What we rightly deserve is Hell. But God, in His mercy, provided for a way out of the punishment that awaits all of us. He gave His sinless only begotten Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us so that a payment for our sins can be made available. And if we repent of our sins and completely trust Christ and His finish work on the cross for our salvation, we will be forgiven of our sins. Not only that, the perfection of Jesus will be credited to us, making us perfect and now very much qualified to enter Heaven when our life here on earth ends.
A second reason why Christianity is not inclusive is because it is based on truth. Let me explain. For example, if I ask, what is the sum of 1 + 1? The answer, of course, is 2. Now everyone who answers "2" has subscribed to the truth. But anyone who answers differently is wrong, and therefore, excluded from the group of people who knows the answer correctly. Christianity works the same way. It is based on truth. In John 14:6, Jesus said that He is "truth". That means He has set what is "truth". Every truth that's out there came from HIm. There can never be two truths. The sum of 1 + 1 can' t be both 2 and 3. One truth that the Bible tells us is that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father. He is not just one of the ways. Christ was straightforward with it... He is the ONLY way (John 14:6). That means there can't be other ways to get to Heaven, not religion, not good works, not by the five pillars of Islam, not by any self-proclaimed "savior" out there, not by the ways of Buddha and Hinduism. Only by Jesus. This is the reason why statements like "All religions ultimately lead to Heaven" or "All of us are God's children" are wrong. God, the ultimate source of truth and the provider of standards, has decreed with full authority, that there is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we can be saved. And that name is Jesus (Acts 4:12).
But despite the exclusiveness of Christianity, the offer for salvation that it gives is to everyone. John 3:16 tells us that "whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." John 1:12 also declares, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Yes, Christianity is exclusive. But everyone is invited so that they also can be part of the exclusive partakers of its offer. The Bible is very clear that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and that He finds no pleasure in the death of a sinner but that he lives (Ezekiel 33:11). God wants Heaven for us, His created beings, that's why He went to the cross to make that possible. But the choice is ours to make and not God's in keeping with the free will He has given us. Just like during the flood in Noah's time. The invitation to enter the ark and be saved from the flood was given to everyone. But sadly, only the family of Noah grabbed the offer and so, the rest of mankind died. Let us not make the same mistake.
We are given such a great opportunity. Choose Christ then you'll receive everlasting life in Heaven; choose sin and you damn yourself to everlasting suffering in Hell. The correct choice is such a no-brainer!
A few weeks back, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church, visited the Philippines. While here, he had an event at the University of Santo Tomas, the biggest Catholic university in the country, which was his "Encounter with the Youth". During this event, a girl named Glyzelle Palomar, a former street kid, asked him this question... "Why does God let children suffer?" Francis' answer to the question was this... "Look out for this fact today: she, Glyzelle, is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. And she was not able to express it in words but, rather, in tears." He then veered away from that question and talked about how people should cry more so that questions like what the girl posted could be understood.
Was the girl's question really unanswerable just like what Pope Francis said?
It seems that the head of the biggest religion on planet Earth does not own even a free copy of the world's biggest selling book of all time, because if he owns one, then he could read from its pages the answer to that question. Actually, the Bible's theme revolves around this question and even talks about how God solved this problem.
Romans 8:22 tells us that suffering is a common experience in this world. Why is this so? Well, we have to understand that at the onset, suffering was not even a word that this world knew because the Bible informs us that when God finished creating all of the universe, He declared everything that He had made as "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Now, what does it mean to have a world that's "very good"? It simply means that all forms of suffering like calamities (both man-made and natural), sickness, death, etc., were not present in God's original creation. And what changed everything? The book of Genesis tells us that the decision of Adam and Eve to go against a simple command by God turned things around. Sin destroyed the perfection of God's creation. The curse of sin brought sufferings to this world. Calamities, sickness, crimes, death, etc., now defined the experience of man. Even thorns in plants and flowers weren't present before that great Fall (Genesis 3:18).
The sad thing is, we followed the rebellion of Adam and Eve. We, too, are going against God everyday by the sins we commit ourselves. We lie, steal, hate, dishonor our parents, covet, and make God an insignificant figure in our life. And because of that, we further bring curse to this once perfect world of ours. Not only that, we also now face an eternity of torment in Hell because that is the punishment for the sins we have committed against Almighty God (Romans 6:23).
This is the answer to the question asked by the girl to Pope Francis!
How great it could have been if Pope Francis knew his Bible more. If he was just able to answer the girl's question from what God's Word had declared, he could have also shared to her and the many people watching him at that moment what God did so that a perfect world could be ours again. He could have declared how we can receive forgiveness for our sins. He could have declared the Gospel message.
Two thousand years ago, God sent forth His only begotten Son, Jesus, to our fallen world. Jesus lived a sinless life and yet, after thirty-three years of living a perfectly holy life here, He was nailed to a cruel cross just like criminals in His time. He allowed this to happen to Him so that a payment for our sins can be available and we can receive forgiveness from the Father. We committed the sins but He willingly provided a payment for them with His life's blood. Then after three days of being lifeless, Jesus rose from the grave, conquering death, so that we can also someday conquer death. All of these we can receive if we just repent of our sins and trust only on Jesus and His finished work at the cross for our salvation. That is the Gospel. That is our way out of this fallen world.
(For more on this topic, read the following related articles: Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people? / Is there a difference between the OT God and the NT God? )
One of the complaints of people against Christianity is that they observe a difference between the God in the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. They would say that the OT God seems to be a tyrant that just kills people whenever He wants to. And then you see God in the New Testament as more forgiving and gracious, to the point where He seems to just close His eyes to people's sins. God seems to be evolving if you look at their observation. And because He changes, then it just means that God also commits mistakes. The portrayal of Him in the New Testament seems to imply that He has corrected His mistakes from the Old Testament.
Has God really changed?
Well, the Bible is very clear that God never changes (Malachi 3:6) and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God is completely sovereign and perfect, so there is no reason for Him to change His ways because a perfect God will only have perfect actions. When you read passages in the OT that talks of God ending the lives of people, God always has a reason for that and all the time His reason is because of the wickedness of those people. Psalm 19:9 tells us that God's judgment is true and righteous altogether.
When it comes to God's patience with people, that has never changed. In fact, His patience and mercy for people has been showcased even in the OT, as evidenced by this verse from Lamentations 3:22 that says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." In Ezekiel 18:23, it is clear that God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked and the reason to this is because He does not find pleasure in seeing people going to Hell for their sins. This was again voiced in the NT in 2 Peter 3:9 when it says that "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
How about God's hatred of sin? It seems that God hates sin more in the OT but is more passive in the NT in dealing with it. That is so untrue! God's hatred for sin in the OT is the same hatred he had in the NT. Remember the couple in the book of Acts that God killed because they lied or the king in the same book that he killed while delivering a speech because he glorified not God but instead became proud of himself? I don't see there God becoming more allowing of sin, but instead, I see Him as being consistent from who He was in the OT.
And if you say that God was more gracious and merciful of sinners in the NT than in the OT as proven by how He gave Himself a ransom for sin when He died on the cross, you have failed to see the other side of the coin in that instance. Yes, Jesus' sacrifice at the cross was a show of love, a show of grace for sinners like you and I. But you have to also see God's hatred of sin there. In His hatred of sin and in His demand for justice, He willingly poured out all of His wrath on His one and only Son so that justice is served. Now if that is not hatred of sin, I really don't know anymore what you can call that. And mind you! The history of this world is not yet over. One day, God will finally put an end to sin and give every sinner his/her deserved punishment in Hell.
Now this is the grace of God. He is giving you two choices. Its either you let Jesus pay for your sins by His death on the cross through your repentance and faith on Him, or you pay your sins, yourself, by going to Hell for an eternity of unthinkable punishment either when your life ends soon or you live long enough to witness God coming back to earth at the end of history to get the justice He demands. You make the choice.
Recently, I heard a pastor preach and said that, "What's important to God is what's in a person's heart, and so, even if an act is questionable in your eyes, if the intentions for doing an act is good, then God approves of the act." The pastor goes on to imply that this is the reason why we should not judge any man's acts as we can't see anyway the intent of his heart.
Did the said pastor preach correctly? Is God really just concern about the intent of the heart in actions that are taken?
At first glance, we might say, "YES", the statement made by the pastor is correct. But careful analysis of it, coupled with an examination of the Bible will lead us to the conclusion that the intent of the heart is not the only basis for God's approval of our actions.
Let me say first that there are many instances that, yes, our actions are governed by good intentions from the heart that people may applaud. But that does not mean that the actions are morally correct. Take, for example, the person that lies to protect another person. The intention for lying is good but the act of lying is wrong in God's sight as He commands, "Thou shalt not lie" (Exodus 20:16). The same goes for the person that steals so that he could feed his starving family. If good intentions is the only criterion for God's approval of our actions, then same-sex marriage will be right because same-sex couples say that they do it because of love. But we all know that God disapproves of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Job 34:12 clearly states that, "...surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment."
So, what is God's criteria for approving our actions? The Bible tells us that our heart must be in every action that we do (Colossians 3:23 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men"), but it does not stop there. God wants that in doing things from the heart, the intent for an action must always be in accordance to TRUTH, and the Bible is our source of truth. This is why the psalmist pleaded, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day (Psalm 25:5)"; "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. (Psalm 43:3)"; "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name (Psalm 86:11)".
Psalm 51:6 tells us this... "Thou desires truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." What does God look for in our inward parts (heart)? It's so clear... truth. The verse also shows us that if truth is behind every intentions of our actions, then we will always act in wisdom. You can even see God's preference for the marriage of heart intentions and truth in the worship we render Him as He declared in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This makes a lot of the things we do in worship services unapproved. If corporate worship practices do not have any biblical basis, then we really do not worship in spirit and in truth. If songs we sing in corporate worship do not mirror what the Bible declares of God then we also fail to worship in spirit and in truth. Colossians 3:16 declared, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Songs we sing, from this verse, must result to teaching and admonishment. How much of the songs we sing in church teach and admonish? Sadly, very few, therefore, we sing not in truth.
Truth must be central in the actions of any Christian. Even the preacher must be sure that he correctly handles the Word. This is the reason why messages should be the product of strict exegetical Bible study. Evangelism must be done biblically and not out of craftiness. Even the Gospel message is under attack in our time. So many Christians share it in a watered-down way, lacking the emphasis on sin, righteousness and judgment that Jesus and His followers gave it.
Why does God want truth to always be the rock where our intents for actions are anchored? The answer is simple... Because He is Truth (John 14:6)! This means that every time we do things in truth, we honor Him. And when actions are not in accordance with truth, we dishonor Him.
God wants our actions to always be anchored on truth because if we do this, we will be free from His judgment and we will declare to people around us that we are Jesus' followers. This is what is being implied in John 8:31-32, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
May God help us to always do things heartily in truth!
Here's a great video from Acts 17 Apologetics (http://www.acts17.net) that explains clearly what really is the Gospel message. We encourage you to pass on the link to your unsaved friends and relatives right after watching the video below.
Recently, a regular volunteer with Living Waters Asia attended a Bible study at her work. During the said event, the Bible study leader mentioned that water baptism is a requirement before one receives the gift of salvation. Most of the people that teach this often use Acts 2:38 as their basis which states, " Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Let's go to the Bible to see if such teaching is true.
In Titus 3:5, we read this... "Not of works of righteousness that we have done but by His mercy He has saved us". "Works of righteousness" are things men do to appear holy or righteous in other people's eyes like praying, going to church, giving alms, joining ministries, etc. The verse above clearly tells us that this will not save us. Only because of God's mercy that we are saved and not because of anything that we have done that is pleasing in other people's sight. This is consistent with what Ephesians 2:8-9 declares that it is only by the grace of God that we are saved through faith and not of good works that we have done which we may boast of.
But the question is, "Is water baptism a 'work of righteousness'?"
In the Gospels, we read the account of Jesus' water baptism. John the Baptist at first, did not want to baptize Jesus because he felt that he was not worthy to do it for he knew well who Jesus is. But this was what Jesus told him..."Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15). Jesus was saying that in getting baptized by water, He will be able to fulfill one of the many righteous acts He must do. So, it is clear from this passage that water baptism is a "work of righteousness" which Titus 3:5 tells us will not save us. Water baptism is a public declaration of someone who is already a Christian that he/she has decided to follow Jesus in his\her life.
So the next question is, "What then is the baptism that Acts 2:38 was talking about that seems to be a requirement for salvation?"
In Mark 1:7-8, John the Baptist said this... "There comes One after me who is mightier than I... I indeed baptize with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." From this text, we see that Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. When does this happen? At the moment of conversion, we are spiritually baptized to God's family with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If we are not spiritually baptized to the family of God, we cannot receive the gift of salvation. And so, it is clear that the baptism mentioned in Acts 2:38 is not water baptism but the spiritual baptism that happens upon conversion.
Eternal life is a free gift, and the Bible is consistent with that declaration. God knows that on our own, we cannot attain the required goodness to get to Heaven. He solved that by offering His own goodness to us and offering His own blood to pay for all of our offenses against His Laws when He died on a cross 2,000 years ago. We need not attempt to do the impossible anymore... to attain goodness as God defines being "good" (sinless perfection). All we need to do is acknowledge our own sinfulness, repent and trust Jesus as the only source of salvation, and as God has promised, we right away receive from Him the promised eternal life.
If you've read our recent Ministry Updates, you might have read of our outreach at Antipolo City to people who were trooping to the Antipolo Church as a religious devotion. We had the chance to converse with several of these people, asking them what they expect to gain as a result of their religious devotion. For most of them, they said that they expect their sins to be forgiven as a result of what they'll be doing that day, eventually making them "good enough" to get to Heaven. This brings us to the topic for this article: Can any person achieve the goodness required by God so that he/she can be fit for Heaven?
To answer this question, we must first understand a few things. First of all, we must understand that God's standard for goodness is not the same as ours. As humans, when we judge our own goodness, we do it by comparing ourselves with other people. Of course, an average person will look so good when compared to illegal drug peddlers, rapists, murderers, etc. But we must understand that come Judgment Day, our goodness will not be compared to other people. We will be compared to God's holiness. The Bible instructs us to be holy as God (1 Peter 1:15-16), and Matthew 5:48 tells us that God is perfect. Now that's a big problem to be compared to God.
But the problem gets even bigger! The Bible tells us that there is no one person that has ever lived that is "good" on God's standard (Romans 3:10, 23). And actually, we do know that as we all have lied, stolen things, looked with lust at someone (equal to adultery in God's sight), hated someone (equal to murder in God's sight), dishonored our parents, rendered worship to gods of our own making, blasphemed God, coveted things others possess, failed many times to give one day of a week to God and deprived God of first place in our lives. So the question should not be, "Am I good enough to get to Heaven?" Instead, we should be asking "How bad have I been in God's sight?" And because we are to be compared to God's goodness on Judgment Day, the answer to the second question is "very bad!"
This now means that no matter how much we try to be good on our own; even if you give every bit of your wealth to charity, engage in every religious rite, we will never ever be as good as God. We will always be disqualified for Heaven for we have already sinned against God. Our rightful place will always be in Hell (Romans 6:23).
So is there really no hope for us anymore? Thank God, He made hope possible through Jesus Christ. When God's Son came to earth, He did what we failed to do, and that is He fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). He did this by living a perfect life. Not even the great tempter, Satan, with all of his worldly offers could make Jesus give in to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). 1 John 3:5 affirms that Jesus lived a sinless life in all of his 33 years here. Then, despite the perfect life He lived, Jesus died a cruel criminal's death by dying on the cross. Why did He allow Himself to go through this humiliating ordeal? 2 Corinthians 5:21 gives us the answer: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." By dying a sinful person's death despite having no sin, He can change places with us. Give your sins to Him and let them be crucified with Christ at the cross. Jesus, in turn, gives His perfection to you which is what 2 Corinthians 5:21 is implying when it states, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Jesus Christ already did all the paying for us. All we need to do is to repent of our sins (turn away from them) and put our complete trust (faith) on Him for our salvation. As a result, Jesus' goodness will be transferred to us, making us so qualified of Heaven now.
So the answer to the question of this article is "No, we cannot be good enough for Heaven on our own, but through Jesus, we will be so fit to be with Him in His Kingdom!"
The title above is one of the most repeated existential questions that man has sought answers for ages. It's a question that deals with the fairness of life. All around, we see this scenario: Bad people like criminals enjoying the good things in life while honest people who will never cheat their way to the top having such an unenviable life of struggles upon struggles to keep oneself afloat. If this is really the reality of life, bad people will declare life as "good" while good people will detest life. And again, if this really is the reality of life, then it will paint God as unfair or, worst, bring people to the conclusion that He does not exist, because, as atheists ask, "How can a loving God, if He does exist, allow such a thing?"
First of all, we must understand that the scenario above is only half true. Why is the scenario wrong? Because we also see "good" people being rewarded for the honest life they live and "bad" people getting what they rightly deserve. Even if a bad person gets away many times for his evil ways, time and again, we find their "luck" eventually running out and leave them paying for their injustices.
And why is the scenario mentioned also partly right? Because the Bible clearly tells us is Matthew 5:45 that God, "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The Bible is saying that God does allow even bad people to experience His goodness and His own people to experience the difficulties of this world.
So instead of asking "Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people and bad things to good people?", asking "Why can't God just give good things to everyone?", in my opinion, is a better question to ask.
To answer the second question (Why can't God just give good things to everyone?), we must go back to the very beginning of time, to the time when God created everything in six days some 6,000 years ago (Yes, I'm a young earth creationist). If you go back to Genesis chapter 1, we find that God intended to give just good things to man for everything that He has made was "very good" (Genesis1:31). He had no plans of giving man diseases, hardships, natural calamities and even death. What He wanted was that man enjoy the beautiful world He had created. But man sinned against Him when Adam and Eve disobeyed a very simple command. Because of that, the world was cursed. What were absent in the world He made (diseases, hardships, natural calamities, death, etc.) now abounds. Sin has also become a way of life for man. The Bible says that everyone are sinners (Romans 3:23), so technically, all of us are "bad" people and no one from among us can declare himself as "good". We, again and again, offend His Laws, bringing more curse to this world. So in truth, we are the ones responsible for what we experience in this life. God had no choice. We, in exercise of our God-given free will, everyday decide to pollute this world with sin, and because of that, we experience the consequence. Not only that, we also sentence ourselves to an eternity of punishment in Hell for that is the payment for sin (Romans 6:23).
Someone asked, "I'm not as bad as other people like criminals, so why can't God be 'fair' and just give His punishment to those who are really 'bad' people?" Well, I advice you not to demand that God be "fair" because if He does become one, we should all get right now what we rightly deserve, and that is Hell, for again, we are all criminals in His sight as we have all offended His Laws.
With the point in the previous paragraph in mind, we can now answer the first part of our original question, "Why do good things happen to bad people?" First of all, we must see that there is a reason for us to be thankful that despite our sins against God, He has not yet fully given what we deserve (Hell). And the Bible is very clear as to why. Lamentations 3:22 says that "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." God is applying His mercies on unrepentant people, that's why they are still in this life. And not only that. He also allows them to experience some of His goodness. And why does He do this? Romans 2:4 tells us that God's goodness leads man to turn away from his sins. That's the grace of God. He gives sinners the chance to get right with Him because He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) but His will is that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
And why do "good" people experience "bad" things in life? Again, no one is "good" if God will be the judge as we all are sinners in His sight. But He also has made a way for us to be good and that is by the transfer of Jesus' goodness to us which leads to us becoming His children. I will explain towards the end of this article how one can be "good" in God's sight and how we can become His children.
The bad things happening in the life of a child of God is not because God is punishing them or something. Yes, there are times that God allows sufferings to come to His child because of a misstep he takes. But this is not to punish him but instead, to bring discipline to him, and the reason to this is because God loves him (Hebrews 12:6). Sometimes He allows sufferings as trials that will eventually make His child a stronger person as well as bring him to a closer communion with Him. But for sufferings that come to a Christian that are not because of discipline or as trials, he experiences them simply because he is still in this sin-cursed world. This is not his world as a child of God. Heaven is the place intended for him. But while he is still here, this world will be against him. The Christian knows and understands this fully that's why he accepts, with God's grace, whatever hardships from this world that God allows to come to his life. He also knows that the sufferings of this world is just temporary and will be so insignificant when God finally calls him to Heaven to experience the magnificence of the place someday (Romans 8:18).
God offers to everyone what He has already in-store for His child. What God wants to give a sinner is not a fair deal as again, if we want God to be fair, then it's Hell for us now. God wants to give sinners His grace. His favor that we do not deserve that we can receive through Christ and His sacrifice at the cross. We only need to come to Him in humble repentance and faith in the finish work of Christ, and after that, you right away receive His promised salvation and eternal life in Heaven.
This is the main difference between the atheistic worldview and the Christian worldview when it comes to answering the main question of this article. Atheists, in answering the question, will just tell you that there really is no God if we observe that such a scenario does exist. They offer no real explanation. The Christian worldview, on the other hand, not only explains why this scenario is happening, but at the same time, offers hope to someday experience everything that's good in Heaven.
Yes, I'm a Christian theist and I'm happy about it. Before I explain that statement, allow me to distinguish a Christian theist from a mere theist.
A theist believes in the existence of a god or gods. He may or may not believe in the Christian God. He chooses who to believe as god or gods according to how he personally perceives the character of that god. A Christian believes the existence of God who created everything in the universe as He was revealed from the Bible. This Creator-God made man the crowning glory of His creation and gave dominion to the world He created. But man sinned against God and therefore brought to himself and the whole world a great curse. Man was now destined for punishment. But God, in His mercy, sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to provide for a payment for man's sins. The Christian theist, because he understood how he has offended God, gets right with Him through repentance and faith on the finish work of Jesus at Calvary. He then lives his life for the pleasure of God.
Now, why am I happy that I'm a Christian theist? Let me give my reasons one by one.
First, in believing in the biblical God, I do not put myself in a possible state of regret. What do I mean by that? Because I chose to believe in the God of the Bible and through reading of His Word have understood His full character (that aside from being a loving, gracious and merciful God, He is also holy and just), I get right with Him for all my offenses against His Commandments through the way He has provided which I have stated earlier. I then live according to how He wishes that I go about life which He clearly states in His Word. If, when I die, there really was no God and therefore no afterlife, then I have nothing to regret because, first, it was my joy to live for this supposed non-existent God, and second, I really do not have any chance to feel regretful as I don't exist anymore after this life.
Contrast that to an atheist who adamantly believes that no god, including the Christian God, exists. He lives life according to how he wishes to live it, devising his own standard of morality according to how it suits himself. If he enjoys lying, cheating, having sex with numerous partners, etc., then there's nothing wrong about it because, in the first place, there's no God out there that he'll someday give an account to. Then the atheist dies and finds out there's life after death. He also finds out that yes, the Christian God exists and He has accounted for every time the atheist has offended His Commandments that He had made known through the Bible. The atheist now finds himself in big trouble. He wants to correct his mistakes but it is too late. He then spends his eternity in Hell together with those that disregarded God in their lives.
Now, be the judge. Who has a bigger problem between the Christian theist and the atheist if any one between them ends up wrong with their belief?
Second, a Christian theist lives for a higher and eternal purpose while an atheist lives for himself and for now. When a person becomes a Christian, he becomes selfless. If you find someone who calls himself a "Christian" but is selfish in his ways, that is not a true Christian. The true Christian, from the moment he became a child of God, starts to go through a lifetime of divinely engineered transformation that makes him God-centered from being self-centered. To be God-centered means to live for the pleasure of God. He desires to obey God in his life even if at times, obeying God is difficult. All he knows is that his obedience is done for the One who loved him so much that He gave His life for him at the cross. He lives, not for the purpose of making himself known to others, but for the purpose of making God known to others through his life. And because the purpose for his actions is to please God, others benefit from his ways because he obeys God's command for him to also love his neighbors. He also understands that although obedience to God in this life is not an easy task, what awaits him in Heaven will someday outweigh the hardships of this life.
The atheist is different. He lives solely for himself. He engages in what feels good for him even if others don't see their actions as "right". His actions are not as far-reaching as the actions of the Christian theist. His concern is for his own happiness in this lifetime. And even if he does good things for others, he does these things so that he'll feel good about himself. Sometimes he does good things because others around him tell him to do so and not doing so will give him a bad reputation. In the end, when the atheist dies, so does every enjoyable and good things that he has done in his lifetime.
Third, a Christian theist has a better understanding of life and the circumstances that come along it. A true Christian believes the Bible when it declares that God is sovereign. He also understands what it means for God to be sovereign... that God has a purpose for both everything that He allows to happen and events that He orchestrates to come to past. Although a Christian would, at times, feel disheartened when trials come his way, the moment he looks at things with eyes of faith, he is strengthened to continue trusting in God. And although he may not fully understand at the time of his trial God's purpose for giving it, he still has peace in his heart that God knows what He's doing. This is what the Bible describes as the "peace that passeth all understanding." And this peace, for the Christian, is true for he has experienced it. Instead of asking "why did this happen?", the Christian asks God "what do you want to be accomplished through this trial?"
The atheist's hope during circumstances is on himself and on others. Well that's a lot of help already considering the many abilities of man, right? Yes, until man reaches his limits. The abilities of man will not in any way match even an ounce the power of the sovereign God the Christian theist believes in. You can even add what technology can offer as help and yet, there are circumstances that will still leave a person helpless. Another consideration is that whatever abilities man has, God was the one who gave them to him. Therefore, God also has the power to take them back just like what He did with king Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel. And because the atheist does not believe in an all sovereign God, he will always have no explanations for why circumstances come to his life or to other people's lives. Questions of "why?" will never have an answer for the atheist.
Fourth, the Christian theist has an easier task of proving God's existence than the atheist proving that He does not exist. The burden of proof is not on the Christian theist. It's on the atheist. Why? Because the atheist must search the whole universe to really prove that no God exists. He needs to look at every corner, under every rag that's on earth, every closet, every building, every star, planet, moon, galaxy, etc., to come to the conclusion that "yes", there is no God. Until he has done that and has proven 100% that no God exists, the atheist actually remains an agnostic (not sure of God's existence) rather than an atheist (someone who is 100% sure that no God exists). That's one great task considering that up to now, they haven't even proven that the evolution of man is a fact. If man really came from apes, and that if the missing link is found, all doubts for evolution will disappear, then you can expect millions of in-between species out there of apes and man. But why, until now, all they have to show are dummies in science museums? And the evolutionary atheist claims that everything is material. If that's the case, how can they explain how chemical soups after the big bang were able to create non-material things like laws, logic and the sense of right and wrong. If everything is one big accident, then how come they have a natural desire to love and care for people like family members who are, in the first place, "just accidents"? Ah! These, my atheist friends, are transcendent attributes of God. So when you use logic, you are actually proving God to me as chemicals do not produce logic. You really have a great task ahead of you in proving that God does not exist, my atheist friend.
The Christian, on the other hand, does not need to search the whole universe to prove that God exists. Only one proof of Him will settle things on the Christian theist's part. The design and order in the world are enough proofs that God exists. How can order and design come out of such a chaotic explosion? Even mathematical probability has proven so many times that order and design in all of the universe is impossible from a big bang. As what was mentioned in the previous paragraph, non-material things like laws, logic, sense of right and wrong are other proofs for the Christian theist that God exists.
But the most important proof for the Christian is experience. We, Christians, have experienced God in so many ways. I am not talking about the "to see is to believe" kind of experience. I'm talking about the kind of experience that only God can give a person. First, was when He removed the guilt for our sins when we became His children. Then, when He slowly brought change in our lives from sin-loving people to God-loving people. Then, God continues everyday by how He helps us in trials and sufferings. Every promise He has from His Word comes alive as we continue to trust Him. The experience is true. One that atheists have not experienced. This is the reason why atheists will never understand why Christian theists will not turn away from believing God's existence no matter how "intelligent" atheists think their arguments are against God's existence. This is why Ray Comfort said that "a person with knowledge is at the mercy of someone who has experience."
Let me give you Ray's illustration. A child was told by his mother not to touch a flat iron attached to an electric outlet because it will burn his skin. The child, at that point, has gained knowledge. But out of curiosity, the child touched the flat iron. He felt how it burned his skin. At that point, he not only has knowledge. He now also has experience. Suppose a scientist comes and with very scientific explanations tries to convince the child that the flat iron is not really hot. Do you think the child will believe the scientist? No, of course! His experience has proven that the flat iron is hot.
Atheists! We have experienced God! You may think of us as crazy for believing what you claim to be such "unscientific belief". But that's okay. We know we're right in believing God because we have experienced Him. We will also pardon you for not believing us because we know that you will never understand us because you haven't experienced God. But we do hope that one day, you will come to the point that you'll desire to also experience God. I'll pray that day will come to you because I can assure you that if you just humbly come to Him with repentance and faith, He will never fail to make you experience Him in the same way that Christians have experienced Him. Then, and only then, will you understand why I'm happy that I'm a Christian theist.
Jesus once said that the greatest of all the commandments is that we love God above all. The second is that we love our neighbors. As Christians, we always highlight the lack of love people have for God. But a lot of times, we fail to realize that we also lack love for our neighbors. This causes a lot of people to doubt whether we really have genuine faith on God. It is for this reason that James challenged Christians to back their faith with works, not for salvation, but because we already have the gift of salvation.
Why is a true Christian expected to show good works like love for neighbor? The answer is simple. On our point of conversion, God has started work in our once wicked hearts, slowly transforming it to the kind of heart Jesus exhibited when He was here 2,000 years ago and which He continues to show to humanity. This means that acts of kindness should be a natural for us, making Christ evident in our lives. Every time an opportunity to do good presents itself to us, we, Christians, must right away jump forward to do as required.
Last week, the Philippines experienced the fiercest typhoon in recorded history. Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as "Yolanda") for just a few hours, brought tsunami-like destruction to several provinces in the Visayas islands. As of this time, about 10,000 people in Tacloban City alone have been estimated to have died because of the typhoon and millions displaced, injured, sick and hungry in every area that felt the rush of destruction of Haiyan. Many of those that have died are still lying on streets waiting to be identified and picked-up. The stench has been described in these areas right now as sickening due to the dead bodies. All of these sufferings after several of these cities also experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake just weeks before.
Last night, my heart cried as I watched survivors talk about the pain of losing loved ones and the torture of not having a roof over their heads and food and water to replenish hungry and tired bodies. Looting and other crimes are happening as I write in these typhoon ravaged areas because of desperation. I even expect several to be already contemplating suicide because of how they are suffering right now.
Christians, we have right now, a chance to show Christ in our lives. Christian churches must now back-up their exhortations of obedience to God with a show of genuine concern for people. If after seeing pictures and watching videos of what has happened to the Philippines and how Filipinos in the damaged areas are experiencing pain and hunger, extending a helping hand does not even cross your mind, I have every reason to doubt if Christ really is already in you.
We can give financial help to aid rescue and humanitarian work to credible charitable institutions. We can give old clothes we have. If you have extra groceries in your pantries and medicines from your medical kits, why not give them all out to the survivors. Contact churches in the areas affected. They can help distribute what you can give to those that need them the most.
But the most important show of love we can give is the Gospel. If you are packing goods to give to survivors, why not include Gospel tracts in the packages. And if you can, why not go where survivors are and preach the Gospel to them, emphasizing that God's original world was not like what we have right now (full of pain and suffering), and that it was because of sin why we have this world right now. Let's show them that we all have a contribution to the cursing of this world as we all continue to offend God's Laws and because of this, a greater suffering awaits us in Hell. And then give them the great truth that God wants to remove us from this kind of world and bring us to His world in Heaven. Declare what Jesus did at the cross of Calvary. Trumpet to everyone that this is the greatest hope God is offering everyone and we can receive it if we will repent of our sins and trust Jesus for our salvation.
So many of those who call themselves "Christians" have damaged the true image of God's children with their insensitivity to people who need help and kindness. Let's be sure that we don't add to the damage already done. Today, in light of the disaster in the Visayan islands of the Philippines, more eyes are nailed at Christians, looking for proof of Christ in our lives. Let's all show what kind of change God has done in our lives and help those who are suffering.
Dennis Aglosolos, the Director of Living Waters - Asia, will be answering questions.