I woke up yesterday feeling miserable- painful sinus congestion causing a horrible headache, body aches, and a very tight chest from coughing all night (before anyone chastises me, I went to the doc’s and got checked out). I spent the day at home in bed so our wonderful church secretary didn't have to listen to me being miserable all day. :)
So after sleeping a bunch, I tuned into Netflix hoping to catch up on a show I really like, "Everybody Loves Raymond" (ok, so I'm just a few years behind on my tv watching)...
Anyways, as I was watching an episode, Robert Barone, the rather large, and gloomy older brother found himself in a sticky situation. Rather than just taking the easy way out, he chose to take the moral high ground. As one of the other characters tried to make him regret that decision, Robert remarked, "I sure hope there really is a heaven." In saying this, Robert was implying that he was hoping that choosing the right thing, instead of what he really wanted, would get him into heaven, because then it would have been worth it for what he just gave up.
Hopefully you see where I'm going with this example. In Sunday’s message, we busted our final myth in our Biblical Mythbusters series: "All Religions Lead To God; All Roads Lead To Heaven." We saw that the various world religions fall short of getting us to heaven. The sentiment Robert Barone was expressing is similar to all those religions. It’s one we’ve seen everywhere, and one that way too many people believe- "If I'm good enough, I'll go to heaven."
Just like the other religious beliefs we looked at, this 'good-enough' theology, known as Moralism, teaches something quite contrary to what God teaches through Scripture. Moralists profess that it is the good you do in life that determines your eternal destiny, not what you believe. In fact, you can believe whatever you want, as long as you are 'good'.
But this notion is completely contrary to what we claim to believe as Christians. Re-read the Scripture texts from Sunday’s sermon: John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9. We read over and over again that there is only one way to heaven- by faith in God through Jesus Christ…nothing else! You see, it’s not about your religion- it’s not about being Christian. It’s about having faith in and following Christ. Can that be done without religion? Absolutely! Can it be done without Church? It’s possible, though it’s tough. Can it be done without faith in God through Jesus Christ? Scripture teaches us no. Can it be done by just “being good?” NO!
Just being good enough…that isn’t good enough, not for heaven. Matthew 7:13-14 says, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way…” I seem to remember hearing something about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
There are days I wish that all it took to get to heaven was “being good enough.” But Scripture doesn’t teach that. And I know, deep down, that I could never be “good enough” to deserve heaven. God knows that too! Thankfully, God doesn’t require us to “be good” to get into heaven. We have to believe, to have faith in Jesus Christ. And if we want others to enjoy heaven as well, then we have to share that truth with them- the truth of Jesus Christ as communicated through Scripture- nothing else! No moralist theology; no “just be good” platitudes; no other religions. For “there is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” That’s what we must believe. That’s what we need to tell everyone! So…do it!
Sermon Notes for “Biblical Mythbusters: Myth #5” from Mar 9, 2014
Myth #5: “All Religions Lead To God; All Roads Lead To Heaven”
Existential Questions are those questions concerning the essence of what it means to be alive
Who we are? Why are we here? What is my purpose in life? What happens when we die? Is there a god?
These questions are an essential part of the human experience
Where religion comes in: religion is man’s attempts at figuring out how to answer these questions
By some estimates, there are 4,200 religions in the world; 21 main world religions
Christianity is the largest; Islam is second; Atheism (not professing any faith) is third
Various world religions seek to understand life, death, divinity, all with their own views of God, moral values and worship practices
If there are so many religions, are any of them true? Which ones? What about all of them?
Religious Pluralism: the view that all religions are equally valid paths to God or to ultimate reality
Two approaches to busting this myth: Comparative Religion & from within our own Christian Faith
1) Comparative Religion
Many religions share common beliefs and moral values, but there are fundamental and irreconcilable differences between them concerning:
Who God is, how God communicates, what it means to be human, our need for salvation and reconciliation, the destiny of humanity, issues of life after death, the purpose of life, etc
Differences in view of the divine: monotheism (one God), polytheism (many gods), atheism (no god)
Whether God is in the world or beyond it, or both; knowable or identifiable or not
Even trying to reduce the world religions to a single ethical belief system fails because of different views of reality and differing purposes for moral living
Right living is motivated by:
Christianity: honoring and glorifying God because of His love for us
Hinduism: karma and desire to move from samsara and dukkah into nirvana
Mormonism: desire to become a god of your own planet and bring family with you
Islam: desire to worship Creator Allah, and view that life is a test determining one’s afterlife
Most religions differ on what they consider to be essential beliefs, nonnegotiables
Jesus as God; Allah as the only one to be worshipped; reincarnation; no divinity; nothing apart from what can be observed through science and reason
Logic demonstrates the impossibility of all religious claims being true at the same time
Christianity claims Jesus is God incarnate; Judaism teaches Jesus was only a good Jew and a great teacher; Islam teaches Jesus was a great prophet, but not divine
They cannot all be true because they claim completely different identities for Jesus
2) Christian Faith
As Christians, we claim certain beliefs that make us different from other religions, chiefly our view of Jesus
To be a Christian means claiming Jesus to be your God, you believe the things He did, you trust God to guide you and lead you, and you seek to glorify and worship God
Also means that you believe the things He said and taught, and that we said about Him in the Bible
Matthew 7:13-14; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9
Scripture teaches there is no other way to heaven than through faith in Jesus Christ
To claim that other religions are just as valid ways to God is to claim that their Bible is wrong!
Religious pluralism- believing all religions lead to God- destroys our beliefs as Christians, makes a mockery of God, and serves no other purpose than to make us popular with society.
As Christians, we need to have a discerning spirit with regard to this, and many myths and popular beliefs
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.