Faith in God or faith in people?
Many reject God and believe in Him when they disappoint people. Read why such an attitude doesn’t make sense
There are many reasons behind people’s rejection of God and Christian faith. Some reject God because of science. They think science has proven God belief to be nothing but wishful thinking. Others abandon faith in God because of all the suffering that exists in the world. Whereas, some people justify their decision based on the injustices done in the name of God throughout history. For instance, years ago, I myself, used to justify my atheism with these same excuses. At the time they seemed like good arguments, however, now I think they are poorly justified.
A person may also reject God if he is personally disappointed with some of the people or spiritual leaders nearby. However, it is absurd to abandon faith in God if others have been deficient, or have fallen and acted wrongly. We are not asked in the final judgment what others have done, but what we ourselves have done. We only have to make an account of our own lives, not others, as the following verses show:
- (Rom 14:12) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Forgiveness is a similar thing. Many have experienced injustice in their lives, but Jesus taught that unless we forgive, God will not forgive us. In the end, the matter is pretty simple. The wrongdoers make an account of their own lives, but even those who have experienced injustice are obliged to forgive. No one says forgiveness would be easy, but it is God’s instruction to us, as Jesus and the apostles taught:
- (Matt 6:14,15)
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also
In any case, we will now examine this topic in more detail. We start about disappointment towards spiritual leaders. Topics covered include:
• Disappointment towards spiritual leaders
• Would society be better off without Christianity?
• Eternity and hell
Disappointment towards spiritual leaders. When people abandon God, it is sometimes because of their disappointment in spiritual leaders, especially, their falls. Typical things people fall for are sex and money. It is thought that if even our leaders cannot resist falling, what reason is there to believe in God at all? People associate these two things together.
But but. Who will survive in this world without fall and without sin? No one. People can always fall, as the Bible tells about the fall of Peter (It is important to remember that Peter was given a new beginning and mercy. God is usually more merciful than people. He is the God of new beginnings). We are not in heaven yet; we have a sinful body and evil still has its grip on us in one way or another (The Romans, chapter 7). That is why we are flawed. No one can live an entirely sinless life here on earth, which is why you should put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, instead of people. Having faith in Him is the core of Christian belief, not having faith in people:
- (Acts 16:30,31) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.
Furthermore, Jesus and the disciples’ teaching about this should be kept in mind. People can be flawed, of course, but it is important to highlight real Christian behavior. It does not include, e.g., spiritual exploitation or the controlling of others. Jesus and the disciples both taught so. Real leadership is following the Christ without oppressing or manipulating others. There are no perfect leaders, of course, but we should still respect them. A proper example of good leadership can be found, e.g., in the following passages. Another good example is the earthly life of Jesus:
- (Luke 22:25-27) And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority on them are called benefactors.
26 But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves? is not he that sits at meat? but I am among you as he that serves.
- (2 Cor 1:23,24) Moreover I call God for a record on my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet to Corinth.
24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.
- (1 Cor 3:5-8) Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.
8 Now he that plants and he that waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.
- (1 Peter 5:1-3) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
- (1 Tim 4:12) Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
- (Phil 3:17,18) Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an ensample.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
What about greediness, which often shines through the media? There is plenty of teaching about it from Jesus and the disciples. It is true that some Christians might fall for greediness, but they have failed to follow the clear guidance of the Bible. For example, Paul wrote that the shepherd of congregation should not be greedy. Similarly, there are other verses talking about this:
- (1 Tim 3:1-3) This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
- (Luke 16:11-14) If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
- (Luke 12:15) And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
Sexual abuse – of children or others – is something that is not a part of real Christianity. This is brought up by the media at times, but as already mentioned, sex should only be between a married husband and wife. This makes any other sexual relations wrong. This is a clear message of the Bible:
- (1 Cor 7:1-5) Now concerning the things whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render to the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife to the husband.
4 The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
What about shortage of love? That is also not a part of real Christian behavior, yet it can be seen in some Christian circles. We are not in heaven yet, which is why it is not always so easy to express love. Sometimes, people can get offended, even when no attempt was made.
What could be the reason behind this lack of love? The most crucial factor is the congregation’s spiritual state, which is far from the early congregation’s state. If we, e.g., look at Paul’s life; he went through a massive inner change. A man who was violent and cruel learnt to love people. Without this change, Paul could not have impacted the people and the antique society as much as he did. It is certain that all that love could not have exuded from Paul, had he not been given the ability to love by God:
- (2 Cor 12:14,15) Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not your's but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
- (2 Cor 2:3,4) And I wrote this same to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly to you.
- (Rom 9:1-3) I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
- (2 Tim 3:10,11) But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
- (Phil 3:17) Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an ensample.
Love is the most important thing (1 Cor 13:13: And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity). Criticism for congregations today comes from their lack of love. That is why we need new outpouring of the Spirit to prompt inner change in people, as was the case with Paul.
The following examples illustrate how the fullness of the Spirit and its primary effect, love, were not something that only existed during the time of the apostles. D.L Moody and Pentecostal apostle, T.B Barratt, were well-known spiritual influencers who made a vast impact on the world. This cannot be accredited to their talent, since they had received baptism of the Spirit and with that, love. We need this today as well. Barratt’s story also reveals how he learnt to recognize his wrongful inclinations right before receiving baptism of the Spirit.
D.L Moody: The blessing came over me like a lighting strike. I remember, how I walked the streets of New York and right there on the street the power of God seemed to come over me in such a miraculous way that I had to pray for God to hold back his hand. I was filled with the feeling of God’s goodness, and I felt as if I could have taken the whole world to my heart. (1)
T.B. Barratt: It took place yesterday, Sunday, October the 7th, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and now I will tell you all how it happened. My soul is burning! I feel as if I was the happiest man in the world. Everything has become new. I am full of joy, peace, and love towards God and all people! Through the days he has led me, my heart continually shouting, “Forward! Forward!” Since my difficult illness over 20 years ago, there have always been forces, good forces, which have driven me forward. The question of sanctification has been my dearest subject; I have fought for it, even though I have not experienced it. (…)
But how wretched I felt in my own eyes before the purity and holiness of God! I saw my own ambition, selfishness, stubbornness, and carnality. Oh, my God, I saw so much, so much that would grieve the Holy Spirit! I was broken and bent to the ground over and over again. (2)
“Spiritual Violence and Victims of Religion”. There is often talk in the media about spiritual violence and victims of religion, but these are contradictory sayings. In reality, there is no spiritual violence because if people are spiritual, there will be no abuse. It’s just question of people who act wrong.
Furthermore, it is contradictory to talk about victims of religion because it is not religion that causes victims, but the misconduct of people. It would be good to distinguish between the two.
Is it a question of Christian faith?
- (Matt 7:16-23) You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Why by their fruits you shall know them.
21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
- (Luke 13:3) I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
Wrongdoings in churches and in religious groups today, and their injustices in the past, make people associate these wrongful acts with faith. In my former years as an atheist, I was also guilty of making this association (as atheists of today tend to do). I could not differentiate between the two, or understand what was, e.g., the original teaching of Jesus and the disciples.
These days many people are just as clueless as I used to be. They do not understand that, e.g., the Catholic church, which has been guilty of many crimes, such as sexual exploitation of children, has mainly completely abandoned the Christian faith represented by Jesus and the disciples. This comes apparent, as many Catholics basically have more faith in merits of saints and in Mary than in the grace that comes through Jesus alone. Orthodox church has also gone through a similar shift. There, Mary, saints, and icons have replaced faith in Jesus. Replacing Jesus seems to have become the general direction in the religious sphere. The older a church is, the further it has sailed from God and the Christian faith taught by Jesus and the disciples. This was not clear to me when I was an atheist, and it seems that people who criticize Christianity do not understand it either. We are dealing with two completely different concepts.
On the other hand, religious sects are in a category of their own. All small Christian congregations are often arrogantly referred to as sects, but that is not true. (It needs to be noted that the early congregation was first also called a sect. Acts 24:14). We can consider sects to be nothing but movements which have abandoned fundamental principles of Christianity. Moreover, they contain other aspects which go against the teachings of Jesus and the disciples, such as the following:
• Unbiblical revelations, which the movement’s “guru” or leader receives through spiritual guides or angles, are common. An example of this is Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church.
• Salvation is only possible through a certain movement. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have acquired this doctrine.
• Any teaching that comes outside the movement is prohibited, and there is a strong us-versus-them -attitude. The group might consider themselves as the only real followers of God.
• Isolation of the members from society or from their family. Paul wrote (1 Tim 5:8): But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
• Overemphasis on sexuality or forbidding it completely.
• Rules on clothing and food, and law-minded teaching telling people that they can affect their state of salvation through their own acts.
• Authoritarian understanding of leadership. For instance, in Moon’s Unification Church, its leader Sun Myung Moon also had authority over his followers’ marriage, meaning that he decided who could marry who. This kind of overpowering is entirely against real leadership. According to the Bible, people should respect their leaders, but total subjection only belongs to God. Real shepherdess is not ruling as king but leading with one’s example.
• Waiting for the end of the world and having accurate prophecies and dates for it. The group believes they are the only people who are going to survive the coming turmoil. According to the Bible no one can know the exact time and date of the Second Coming of Jesus (Matt 24:36)
• Leaving the movement is difficult. Members are too afraid to leave.
• The group demands total dedication having their members give all their time and fortune to the movement and not allowing them to go anywhere else.
• Leaders do not bear good fruit. They are not an example of humbleness, love, and sincerity.
- (Isa 28:12,13) To whom he said, This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
13 But the word of the LORD was to them precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
One of the biggest reasons young people turn against the Christian faith is the bad example of parents. A disappointed teen might say: “If God is anything like my father, I don’t want anything to do with Him. I don’t want to become like my father”. Or, alternatively, receiving a positive example from parents will make children more open to accepting God. Example set by parents and children’s openness to God are connected.
Therefore, the power of example is one of the major factors in determining whether children will be interested in having a spiritual life. Actions speak louder than words, and a parent not following their own principles in life sets a bad example – by being dishonest, not loving their partner, gossiping behind others’ backs, breaking traffic rules, or by neglecting their children –their children are unlikely to later value faith and its principles. Instead, children might turn their back on these things if they see their parents’ negligent attitude, and even hypocrisy.
On the other hand, if parents do set a good example for their children – respect other people and spend time with their children – it will have a positive impact. It will most likely have a much bigger impact than any encouragement and advice alone.
Not being able to see one’s own mistakes is a poor trait possessed by many parents. They might try to appear perfect but at the same time judge other people, while not seeing the mote in their own eye, even when it is obvious to their children, also. Moreover, these parents might be afraid to admit their faults and apologize, because they are afraid of losing any remaining respect and admiration.
The situation is quite the contrary, however. Trying to justify oneself and appear more perfect is one of the most guaranteed ways to lose authority over children and their respect. Children are very aware of our mistakes, and if we, despite everything, attempt to hold a perfect appearance, we will seem like hypocrites in the eyes of our children.
This will all be turned on its head if parents become humble and apologize to their children – e.g., for losing one’s temper, or for having mistreated the children. This, if anything, will make children side with their parents. When we stop trying to pretend to be something that we are not and, instead, genuinely admit our mistakes and our struggles with them, our children will appreciate the honesty. In this way, they will be more open to accepting things that we value.
What about parental legalism? Children might reject God solely because of the negative image they have received of the Christian faith.
Scolding, nagging, criticism, and overemphasis on self-control by parents is typical for law-mindedness. Life becomes marked by orders, bans, rules, and norms. Parents are often more focused on sin and mistakes than being forgiving. What about the image of God they are creating to their children? In such families, God is usually seen as this demanding judge; He does not love us if we are not good enough to deserve His love. God will no longer be this smiling and loving figure in the home, since He has become angry, impatient, distant God who is constantly disappointed in us.
Usually, parents’ law-mindedness is rooted in their own experiences. If they have also grown up without unconditional love, they are likely to transfer their childhood experiences on their understanding of God, and how they raise their children. Fortunately, many parents are later freed from this rigorous false image of God when they finally discover grace. This will also have a positive impact on how they will raise their children.
That is, sometimes parents might possess a misconceived image of Christianity. They might see it as a set of rules and, thus, are inclined to put forward spiritual requirements – “you should, you must” – for themselves and for their children. They might consider the love of God as something that is conditional and dependent on their success in life.
The love of God is never conditional, however, but unconditional. He is a loving Father through Jesus, even when we are not perfect or when we fall. Similarly, we are saved through the grace of God alone, and will remain under His grace after salvation. In fact, the whole core message of gospel is telling us that can receive love which we do not need to earn – it comes through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, when raising children, it is good to stick to the love, grace, and care of God, and not be too concerned with the requirements that have already been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. We must focus on the redeeming and merciful side of God, instead of being too concerned with sin and mistakes, to keep us on the right path. A well-known preacher from the 19th century, D.L Moody has stated:
Many mothers give their children a wrong or misleading view of God. Many times have I heard parents saying to a child, "God loves you if you are nice, but if you are bad, he won’t love you.” This teaching is wrong. God always loves children. We can see that a child who has gotten the wrong kind of idea of God may think, as an adult and when faced with temptations and the wrong tendencies, that this is evidence that God hates him or her. God loves sinners, and He is not indifferent to a person’s bad ways. (3)
What about law-mindedness in congregation? It has a lot of similar aspects as mentioned above, meaning that grace and the atonement of Christ are almost completely forgotten (preaching can often be a mixture of law and grace), whereas Christian deeds, obligations, rules, and duties are very much focused on.
Surrendering oneself to God is important, of course, but that alone will not bring salvation, as salvation is brought to us by the grace of God through Jesus Christ only. Similarly, diligence, such as evangelical work, is important, but spiritual work should be motivated by one’s love for God and people, and not from others’ encouragement, or because it is something that must be done. If people work on things that they do not have the passion nor drive for, it can very easily lead to depression and burn-out. It is rather difficult to do spiritual work if one does not have the motivation behind it.
Some might neglect rest and taking care of their relationship with God because of spiritual work. If this happens, it will naturally lead to burn-out, as well. That is why it is important to take care of one’s rest, relaxation, and make sure that one is active and happy in their everyday life. Balance between work and rest should always be kept. Furthermore, spiritual work should never be done in a way that neglects everyday obligations for the family and relatives. To God family is important (1 Tim 5:8) and we should respect that.
It is also important to emphasize that law-mindedness (meaning that we try to achieve or maintain the acceptance of God through our actions) is not what real Christianity looks like. It is heresy that reformers and the first apostles, alike, stood up to. We are not saved through our actions, or stay saved because of them, we are only saved through the grace of God and by having faith in the fulfilment of Jesus on the cross. This was taught well in the Galatians by Paul. He taught that we must look to the work of Jesus on the cross, instead of our own actions. This is the right way. Moreover, when people understand grace correctly, it will make spiritual growth happen. Law-minded preaching that does not shed enough light on the gospel, leaving people in bondage and discouraged, will hinder spiritual progression, whereas understanding grace will make people change.
- (Gal 3:1-6) O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have you suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Sexuality. Now, we move on to discuss sexuality. It is commonplace for the media to have a condescending attitude towards Christian faith and its morals and, especially, towards Christian sexual morality, according to which sex should only be between a married man and a woman. For example, supporters of free sexuality disdainfully talk about sexual abstinence before marriage. These “open-minded and progressive” people try to explain how abstinence causes guilt, shame, and forces people to oppress their feelings.
These blind guides do not consider, however, what reckless sexuality can cause: teenage pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, and children having to grow up without their other or both parents. People also like to overlook economic costs reckless sexuality can bring on society. Costs can rack up to hundreds of millions or even billions of Euros, all because of the actions of selfish people. (e.g., children becoming marginalized will be costly to society. Etelä-Suomen Sanomat (a Finnish newspaper) reported on October 31, 2010: Almost billion euro used in institutional care for children and youth, Problems with children experienced strong rise since early 1990s... The institutional care of one child can cost up to EUR 100,000 per year.../ Similarly, Aamulehti (a Finnish newspaper) reported on March 3, 2013: Marginalized teen costs 1,8 million. Even one successful rehabilitation back into society is a huge plus.) That is, increased amount of broken families, and increased preference of wrong models, will increase the amount we have to pay for housing allowance, income support, and for other benefits to better the situation. On the other hand, following the teachings of Jesus and the disciples in this regard should have an opposite effect, meaning that less families would break apart, further resulting in less need for societal support. This is how Christian faith and the teachings of Jesus and the disciples protect us from several negative phenomena and decrease societal costs.
What about homosexuality? Many might be okay with God in terms of Christian emphasis on life-long marriage. However, they might reject Him because of opposition to homosexuality. They think that what the New Testament and the Bible teaches about homosexuality is discriminatory.
What to say to these people? There are two points that should be kept in mind:
Right and wrong. Essentially, it comes down to what is right and wrong, rather than being a matter of proving one’s superiority over others and being able to point fingers at others. That is, since extramarital affairs outside of heterosexual marriage are wrong in light of the Bible, it also goes for homosexual affairs (1 Cor 6:9,10: Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.) People might justify both with love, but that does not make it right, no matter how many people you see marching for it and speaking about love. If we change a few aspects about the moral law, what stops us from doing the same with other moral questions as well, such as theft and murder? We walk on a fine line, if we start to change moral law based on Gallup polls.
What about deliverance from homosexuality? Some might be disappointed if they are not instantly delivered from this inclination. However, instant deliverance is rare. God could, of course, remove our desires right away, but this is not usually the case. Everyone must fight their desires as part of the spiritual growth, which makes us all be in the same boat. This fight will last our whole lifetime. We have sinful flesh, and sinful tendencies are a part of that flesh. Homosexual desire is no different to any other desire and tendency.
Love. Another thing that needs to be separated from the former is the correct way to approach homosexuals and other people. I am sure we can do better as a congregation in this regard, and many would agree. It is important to note that Jesus, the perfect image of God, was a friend to all sinners during His time here on earth (Matt 11:19), and He, as well as Father God, will always be that. God has always loved homosexuals and other sinners, even when congregations fail to correctly talk about it.
The following prophecy relates well to our topic. It came to Wendy Alec who, with her spouse, founded the first Christian TV-network in Europe, the GOD TV. The prophecy brings forth the good plan God has for homosexuals:
My dear, don’t you know? Can’t you see? When searching for love, you really search for Me.
My dear, I say to you, although the congregation follows the principles of the Bible, it does not often function as the instrument of my heart and grace. I stand before you with my arms stretched out for you, not with judgement but with mercy, my dear son and daughter. Now, I stand before you, not cursing but redeeming, loving, and missing your company relentlessly.
I was there when your body encountered its first abuse. I was there when you were mocked and your friends rejected you, when the mockery hurt your vulnerable heart – the same heart I designed to love and worship Me, the heart that is meant to reach out to Me. I was there when the father of lies began whispering into your heart: You are not like other men; you are not like other women… you believed the lie. You found others bound by the same lie, struggling with the same fight, and so the lie was implanted in your life and became a lifestyle.
I feel your crumbled soul. I was there when your heart was crushed and scarred when others did not understand. Truly, I am the one who sees and knows. Wasn’t I misunderstood and rejected, too? Wasn’t I mocked and abandoned by people, too? Oh, my son, daughter, please forgive my congregation. Forgive my followers who condemned you. They do not truly hear the voice of My Spirit, although they know My Word. My voice is quiet, full of mercy, and redemption.
I reach out to embrace you and to have you with Me when you search for fulfilment for your body and soul. I embrace you, I cry for you, my son and daughter. I cry for you, as I cannot hold my tears. I cry when I see you cause something irreversible to yourself when you break against the eternal law set by My Father, for the consequences of breaking the eternal law cannot be reversed. My judgement is my grace. Take heed, my dear, take heed and listen to my voice.
Oh, my dear, do you think I cannot see you searching for ointment for your human heart, ointment that only I have. You cannot find peace for your restless soul from anyone else in the Heavens and on earth. (4)
Accusations. When critics attack Christianity and congregation, it is often due to shortage of love, as we mentioned earlier. The critics blame Christians for not loving their neighbor, which is partly true. We need to take their word seriously, although at the same time, we need to keep in mind that people are not able to change themselves too much on their own. Only God can make real change happen within a person:
- (Rom 5:5) And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
Critics are usually guilty of the same lack of love in their criticism. Their writings and speeches often read a deprecating and an arrogant tone. We can see it in their use of derogatory terms, such as fundamentalist, overly charismatic, fanaticism (how many people have written about “fanaticism” in ice-hockey, e.g.,?) etc. We are going to look at a few of such terms and some other opposing claims against Christianity.
The name fundamentalist is a common insult. Usually, it is used to refer to a view that takes biblical scriptures seriously.
However, it is important to note that Jesus, who must have been wise and perfectly good, also took the scriptures seriously. He kept referring to them. Thus, when critics use this term, they also look down on Jesus by taunting Him, the perfect son of God:
- (Matt 21:16) And said to him, Hear you what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise?
- (Matt 12:3) But he said to them, Have you not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him;
- (Matt 21:42) Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
- (Matt 22:29) Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
- (Luke 24:27,32,44,45) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
44 And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
What about the name creationist, which is used to refer to the view according to which God created everything a few millennia ago? Many mock this view, but we can understand from the words of Jesus that He taught this view. That is, He referred to how man was created in the beginning of the universe not long after the initial creation:
- (Matt 19:4) And he answered and said to them, Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
- (Mark 10:6) But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
Who has a correct understanding; Jesus or scholars of today who believe in old earth and life in it? In this area of study, many are unaware of how many aspects suggest to short time periods and that humans have lived on the planet for as long as, e.g., dinosaurs have. We can see it based on the following factors. They show that Jesus knew a lot more than scholars of today:
• Coal deposits are often regarded as ca. 200-300 million years old, i.e., they are supposedly much older than dinosaurs. However, these “300-million-year-old” coal deposits have revealed human objects, even human remains (Glashouver, W.J.J., So entstand die Welt, Hänssler, 1980, pp. 115-6; Bowden, M., Ape-men-Fact or Fallacy? Sovereign Publications, 1981; Barnes, F.A., The Case of the Bones in Stone, Desert/February, 1975, p. 36-39.) Erich A. von Frange has listed more items found inside coal deposits in his book Time Upside Down (1981).
• Clear human footprints have been found in supposedly 200-300-million-year-old strata. This means that humans should have lived even before dinosaurs. Who would believe this? Next, we have an example from a science publication that will bring this issue to light. Or, in fact, there would not be a problem if people only accepted short time periods and that humans have been on the planet for as long as other organism have been.
If man (...) existed in any form as early on as in the carboniferous period, geological science is so completely wrong that all geologists should give up their jobs and take up truck driving. So, at least for the present, science rejects the tempting alternative of a man having left those footprints. (The Carboniferous Mystery, Scientific Monthly, vol. 162, Jan 1940, p.14)
• Radiocarbon found in these strata indicates that they cannot be that ancient. For instance, coal should be hundreds of millions of years old, but samples taken from it, and from oil and natural gas, have shown the existence of radiocarbon. Since the half-life of radiocarbon is only 5730 years, this substance should not be existent after hundred thousand years, not to mention after millions of years. The fact that we can still find it in coal and oil, suggests that they are rather young substances.
What about dinosaurs? Radiocarbon measurements have also been done on the remains of these large animals, which may still contain some soft tissues. For example, you can read here, http://newgeology.us/presentation48.html, how a German research group reported existent radiocarbon in several dinosaur fossils. These kinds of discoveries show us that millions of years cannot be accurate.
Charisma or being overly charismatic are terms that occasionally pop up in the media, often in a negative sense.
It is good to ask once again, what did Jesus taught about this and how did He act. Didn’t he heal the sick and expel demons? He helped people become better in this respect. Jesus also urged His followers to do the same, as can be seen in the following verses:
- (Matt 10:8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give.
- (Luke 9:1,2) Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
Similarly, Paul urged to pray for spiritual gifts:
- (1 Cor 14:1) Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy.
It is true, of course, that people can misuse anything in their carnality and wrongful focus. Such things could include the following, for example. Nearly all congregations have teachings about these topics, in order to avoid misuse of spiritual gifts. Paul also gave guidance on using real spiritual gifts, e.g., in the Corinthians.
• Overemphasized prosperity doctrine
• Too much focus on devils and demons, and expelling non-existent demons
• Quitting medical treatments prematurely
• Overemphasis on the gift of prophecy and misusing it
• Emphasizing laughter and joy
• Showing off and becoming proud
• Accusing people of sin and not having faith if they do not heal. Sometimes this could be the case, but usually it is not.
What is the purpose of spiritual gifts then? If they are used correctly and they come from God (It is important to note that miracles also happen in occultic circles. For example, pharaoh’s magicians performed similar miracles as Moses), they should help people; help them become free from their burdens, sickness, and anything that could keep them in bondage. The purpose of these gifts is to bring aid to other people.
Why do some people have such a cynical approach towards it? The reason is a naturalistic worldview and not having faith. A good example is the existence of demons and devils. Many do not believe these forces exist.
However, psychiatry and crime, e.g., are familiar with acts without any reasoning. Similarly, it is common in spiritism for a spirit to enter a person and make that person talk in a foreign voice. The person might not even know what they have said in their state of trance. When being informed of their words, they might be surprised of what they hear.
The former does not mean that evil spirits would always live inside people. Perhaps, in most cases foolish acts are a result of external pressure. However, people can resist evil forces in the name of Jesus Christ if they surrender themselves to Him.
We are going to look at a quotation related to this topic. It deals with the Western world’s inability to understand the existence of supernatural forces. However, in Africa and in Third World countries, where witchcraft has gone on for centuries, these matters are taken very seriously. People in these countries need help with this issue, whereas the Western world needs help in opening our spiritual eyes. Social work and biblical teachings alone, no matter how pure they are, are not enough to help people:
Doctor Charles Kraft, my colleague from Fuller’s theological seminary, tells what happened to him in Nigeria. He tried to teach, what the Letter to the Romans has to say, to a small tribe. After a few months the same people came to him and explained very politely that his teachings are good, but did not cater to their needs at all. They needed wisdom for their nightly battles with bad spirits that were tormenting them. Doctor Kraft had to admit that, unfortunately, he never received training to act against bad spirits. (5)
Politics. As stated earlier, many attack Christianity and Christians because they see lack of love. This is often the case surrounding homosexuality, e.g., or a case of disappointment towards a congregation.
What about politics? Some people who call themselves Christian might tarnish themselves with political opinions and support for unrighteous decisions. For instance, a negative stance towards any immigration can be viewed as such. People forget that Jesus, for a brief moment, was refugee, Abraham was an immigrant, and Jacob’s descendants spent a long time in Egypt.
It is true, of course, that immigration can lead to some issues, and it is difficult to separate terrorists from regular people, but we can be certain that God wants us to help people in need. Sometimes non-believers can even be more righteous in this regard. Jesus taught that during the last judgement, one crucial factor will be our attitude towards foreigners and those in need;
- (Matt 25:31-46) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in:
36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink?
38 When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you?
39 Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you?
40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
What about friendliness towards Israel? Some might be offended by it because they think the Palestinians are under oppression.
In this matter we should be careful that our support for Israel never supports unrighteous and wrongful political acts. It should not be a part of our friendliness towards Israel, and our compassion should extend to the Palestinians, as well. You can pray for both, the Israelis, and the Palestinians.
Viable options in the Middle East are running out, however. Some have suggested going back to the borders of 1967, but that could be the death of Israel. Its area would be so narrow, it would be difficult to defend. On the other hand, the Western world does not understand that the Palestinians suffer because of their own leaders. Many Palestinians, especially the minorities, think that their position under the rule of Israel is better and more secure. In areas belonging to Israel, democracy, and human rights function far better than in the Arab areas.
On the one hand, we have evidence of what happens when Israel retrieves from an area. When Israel retrieved from Gaza, it did not bring peace, by any means, as missiles were fired at several areas of Israel. This shows that letting go of land areas does not bring solutions if there is no political will for peace.
Would society be better off without Christianity?
- (Rom 5:12) Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
- (Rom 3:23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
As noted, people who criticize Christianity often attack it because of all the cruel things that have been done in the name of God. I used to use this argument as well, thinking it was a good reason not to believe in God.
The problem with my old rationale – as with other critics’ justification – was that I was not able to distinguish two different concepts: did people follow the teachings of the good shepherd, Jesus, or not. When Jesus taught us to even love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48) and our neighbors (Matt 22:34-40), it is not His and Christianity’s fault that some people refuse to follow this command. It is the wrongdoers’ fault. The recurring mistake of many unbelieving, atheist, and unprofessional journalists is, as was mine, that they do not consider this when evaluating history or the events of today. If people would only follow the teachings of Jesus, like the Sermon on the Mount, it would lead to good things, making people’s lives easier.
What about the state of our world? If the congregation has issues, the world’s state is looking much worse. In fact, all the wickedness in the world testifies to one fundamental Bible teaching: the Fall of Man. We live in a fallen world, which is far from paradise. We can see this through wars, injustices, evolving weapons, caste-systems, infectious diseases, famines, poverty, oppression by authorities (in many developing countries people are afraid of the police and the government), rapes, domestic abuse, foul language on the internet, bullying in schools, bullying in workplaces, human trafficking, drug traffic, alcoholism, and through countless of other problems. This is illustrated by the fact that, e.g., in Finland, according to the statistics of the National Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2015 a total of 114 789 child protection reports that concerned 66 000 children were made (some children were reported more than once). Similarly, Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, (7/5/2017) reported that “on average one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence by their former or current partner.”
Moreover, the worsened state of children becomes apparent from these pieces of news: they were 20 years apart. As Christian faith and the institute of marriage have lost their significance, the state of children has gotten worse every year. These many examples show how forgetting the teachings of Jesus will lead us to a state worse than before.
Children’s distress and problems are increasing. One reason could be the recession of the past years.
Family counseling is taking more families who need help with troubled children and their unsocial behavior, out of the ordinary disruptiveness, sadness, and difficulty getting adjusted.
Your typical customer is a 7-8-year-old boy who is disobedient, aggressive, restless, snatches things, and bullies.
Children are left alone for too much. Even a 10-year-old could be thinking about suicide (Helsingin Sanomat 16/12/1996)
Almost billion euro used in institutional care for children and youth, Problems with children experienced strong rise since early 1990s... The institutional care of one child can cost up to EUR 100,000 per year... (Etelä-Suomen sanomat 31.10.2010)
Is society then better without the Christian faith? Many would think so, but have they thought it through? Have they considered what it would mean to abandon teachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount?
The alternative for moral given to us by Jesus and the disciples is everyone doing whatever feels right and good to them. However, people forget that this was exactly what Hitler and other dictators did. When people do not have Christian moral, something else will replace it, which usually leads to selfishness and suffering. It does not lead to love and better interaction between people.
The past centuries convincingly show us what happens when atheism takes over and societies abandon God. There were many such atheism-based societies in the 20th century, because around a third of the human population lived under atheistic communism. These states prohibited Christian teaching to children, destroyed tens of thousands of church buildings, suppressed political opposition, and killed tens of millions of people in prison camps. Is this the kind of society atheists want? That is the direction we are headed to if we reject Christian faith and oppose the good teachings of Jesus and the disciples.
So the Christian faith is a good and positive thing. Where the Christian faith is valid and where the teachings of Jesus are sought to be followed, things are better. Then there are less social problems and crimes. Indeed, this has happened during many revivals. When someone, or larger groups, turn to God, it should bring about positive change.
Our next example tells about this kind of change in the 19th century. Charles G. Finney tells about such a case in his book Ihmeellisiä herätyksiä:
I have told that the moral situation changed greatly through this revival. The city was new, economically prosperous and enterprising but full of sin. The population was especially intelligent and ambitious but as the revival swept through the city by bringing large crowds of its most remarkable people, men and women, to conversion, there happened a very miraculous change concerning the order, peacefulness and morality.
I had a talk with a lawyer many years later. He had been converted in this revival and was a general prosecutor in criminal cases. Because of this office, the criminal statistics were thoroughly familiar to him. He said about the time of this revival, “I have examined documents of criminal law and noticed a surprising fact: while our city has grown three times larger after the times of the revival, there has not been even a third of the indictments than there were before. So miraculous an effect did the revival have on our society.”(…)
(...) Both public and personal opposition gradually abated. In Rochester I did not know anything about it. The salvation had its own great visitation, the revivals were so powerful and moved so widely, and people had time to become acquainted both with themselves and the results of them to such an extent that they feared to oppose them as before. The priests also understood them better, and the wicked were convinced that they were acts of God. This idea of them became almost common, so clear was the sane nature of the conversions, so really transformed, “new creations”, were the converts, so thorough a change occurred both in individuals and in the society, and so permanent and undeniable were the fruit.
Another example from Africa. I’ll take a quote from Stanley Jones ’biography. In this book, he spoke of the influence of the Christian faith in the Congo. The example shows that if the Christian faith is genuine, it has a positive effect on society:
Asking for a revival for his tribe, one chief said:
- We are grateful for the leaves and fruits of Christianity - education and hospitals - but in fact we need the root - the renewal of the moral character. That phrase should be attached to the wall of every religious center in the world. And that was said by the chief, who came directly from the heathen ...
Moise Tšombe told me as Prime Minister of Congo:
- The only hope for Africa is, I understand, the Christian Church. Where the church is strong, we have few, hardly any, problems; where the church is weak or non-existent, we have nothing but problems.
Elsewhere, the foreigner said to me in Congo: - It is the missionaries and Christians who have kept Congo together. They have built islands of good will and service in a sea of hatred and selfishness. (6)
Eternity and hell. When some people turn their back on Christianity, they might be especially critical towards the idea of hell. They consider it close-minded to talk about judgement and eternal hell after this life. They explain that people should not be threatened with non-existent hell.
However, it is not a matter of people’s opinions or Gallup survey results whether hell exists or not but a matter of truth. Jesus was the one who brought up hell the most, yet we cannot deny that He was loving. He also said that He is speaking the truth and that He is the truth. If it really is the truth, wouldn’t that change everything?
- (John 8:46) Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?
- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
The options for what lie beyond this life are sparse. The most common views about the afterlife have been:
• Heaven and hell. Buddhism, e.g., also believes in heaven and hell.
• Rebirth on earth over and over again. This is a fundamental teaching in Hinduism.
• The third option is that humans’ lives end in death. This is an atheistic view.
One of the above must be true. If it is not the teaching of Jesus, then it must be one of the other two options. However, we have reason to believe that Jesus was more knowledgeable than anyone else; especially if He is the son of God from heaven. Jesus also said:
- (John 8:23,24) And he said to them, You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.
Why talk about hell amid all the other points? It is simply because of love. It is quite like warning people about thin ice: “Do not go any further, I don’t want to see you get hurt!” Furthermore, the core of Christianity is to save everyone from hell. People can receive forgiveness of sins as a gift, as it was the reason why Jesus came to this world:
- (Luke 19:10) For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
- (John 3:16,17) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
- (John 12:47) And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
It is important to note that God does not save people against their will. God has prepared salvation and grace for everyone through Jesus Christ, but if someone rejects this salvation, God will accept it. In that case, the person themself must pay for their sins in hell, because they have rejected the only way to salvation. Arthur W. Pink, a late puritan preacher, has accurately explained how God offers his grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. This offering should not be considered cheap.
If God offers you a Savior, who can save you from the punishment you deserve, and you do not accept Him, then surely it is justified that you are left without a savior. Or is God obliged to arrange another savior for you, since you don’t like this particular Savior? He has given an invaluable and honorable person, His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sins and so, completed salvation; and this Savior is being offered to you right now. If you refuse him, is God then unjust if He doesn’t save you. Is He obliged to save you in the way that you have chosen, only because you don’t like His way of saving? Or do you blame Christ for unfairness, when He doesn’t come to save you, when you don’t want Him, although He offers Himself to you and appeals to you that you would accept Him as your Savior.
What if He does exist after all? Great Britain has a well-known atheistic campaign that had buses circle around the largest towns in the country. On the sides of the buses it said: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”
The same campaign also took place in Germany. There a confident message was put on the buses: “There is no God. Happy life does not require faith.” Christians did not stay put, however, as they rented another bus that asked the question: “What If He does exist after all?” For the amusement of the media, both buses were often parked next to each other in the same cities. The existence of God was heavily discussed.
This is a good place to discuss one’s personal relationship with God. What if He exists and eternity is real? What if we are all accountable for our actions without being able rely on other people’s doings? This is meant for all who criticize Christianity, and for everyone else, also. Do keep in mind that we all must stand before God one day and be accountable for our lives! At that point no one can rely on other people’s actions and what they have done wrong. Everyone is responsible for themselves only:
- (Rom 14:12) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
But remember that anyone can be forgiven. Anyone can receive grace, but they must turn to Jesus Christ, because only through Him can one be with God and receive the gift of eternal life. Do not reject Jesus Christ, instead, turn to Him and welcome Him into your life:
- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
- (John 10:9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
The prayer of salvation: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1. Dwight L. Moody – biography
2. Martin Ski: T.B. Barratt - Helluntaiapostoli, p. 108-110
3. D.L. Moody.: Kristinuskon rikkaus, p.88-89
4. Wendy Alec: Tuntemattoman profeetan päiväkirja, p. 48,49 (Journal of the Unknown Prophet)
5. John Wimber, Kevin Springer: Ihmeet ja merkit (Power Evangelism), p. 60
6. E. Stanley Jones: Pyhiinvaeltajan laulu (A Song of Ascents)
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!