Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

How do I know if your interpretation of the Bible is correct?

This is like asking a student who has solved a math problem: "Other students have obtained other answers. Why should I trust your answer?"

Well, check his solution for yourself!

In the same way, you are encouraged to read the Bible yourself and cross-check what I say with it. Just as there are principles to decide whether mathematical steps are correct, there are rules for Bible interpretation. These rules follow from the Bible itself. The Bereans cross-checked the preaching of Paul with scripture, and God commended them for it (Acts 17:11). Although the Bible is deep enough to exercise the sharpest minds, one does not have to be an expert or genius to understand it. The Bible was written for ordinary people to read, understand and practice it (Deuteronomy 5:1). So stop wasting your time with worthless entertainment. Start reading the Bible, asking God to help you understand it and check if what I say matches with the Bible. Tips for understanding the Bible

Isn't sincerity enough to access God? Is it really necessary to believe in Jesus Christ?

It would be foolish to make assumptions. The Creator is the only one who can tell us how we can access Him. Since the Bible claims to be the complete message from the Creator, do check what it has to say!
 
I prepare high school students for engineering. I've yet to come across a student who is sure of being admitted into a particular university simply because he is a sincere student. All students recognize that each university has certain eligibility criteria and admission procedures, and that students must adhere to these in order to be offered admission.

If we accept definite procedures in every walk of life, it is strange to expect God to admit you to heaven only on the basis of your sincerity, especially when God has clearly put down His procedure in writing. What is His procedure? It is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

This is what Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd...I am the door; if any man enters in through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" - John 10:11, 9, 14:6

All that you’ve said seems fine, but it is difficult to believe without seeing.

That’s exactly what a disciple of Jesus said 2000 years ago.

Let’s pick up the story from John’s narrative.
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace to you. But Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. So he said to them: Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not ever believe. – John 20: 19, 24, 25
Although Jesus was not present when Thomas expressed these feelings, he knew!
“And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace to you. Then He said to Thomas, Bring your finger here, and look at My hands; and bring your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my God!” (verses 26 to 28)
Now see what Jesus says:-
Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those not seeing and yet believing.” – John 20:29
For those of us who are from India, it is of interest that Thomas was the first person to get the message of Jesus Christ to India. The image shows Thomas' tomb in Mylapore, South India.
 
John goes on to say:
“And truly Jesus did many other signs before His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” - John 20:30-31
If you think you don’t have the necessary faith, cry out to God. Mark records the case of a man with a demon possessed son who begged Jesus to help:
“And often the demon has thrown my son both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said to him: If you are able to believe, all things are possible to him who believes. And immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief! When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, Deaf and mute spirit, I command you, Come out of him and enter him no more. And the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as if dead, so that many said, He has died. But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose." - Mark 9:22-27
The invitation has been open for 2000 years, and is still open today, but will not be available forever. Dear reader, if you have not put your trust in Jesus as your personal savior and Lord, only a heartbeat separates you from hell. While you are alive, the opportunity is open.

Isn’t it dogmatic to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, and everything else is false?

When the Michelson-Morley experiments (1882-1887) gave a null result, Fitzgerald, Lorentz, Einstein, and many other scientists gave various explanations. Guess what my physics professor said in class: all of them were wrong, and Albert Einstein was right. So dogmatic and arrogant! Why should we believe relativity and reject everything else? The answer is very simple: Einstein's theory had much better evidence of being true than any other theory.
 
The Lord Jesus said that he was the only way to God (John 14:6) and that other people who claim to be saviours and avatars are "thieves and robbers" (John 10:8). You are doomed unless you repent and believe in Jesus. You may find this arrogant, judgmental, dogmatic, narrow minded and a thousand other things, but none of them are relevant. The only relevant question is:
Are Jesus' statements about himself true?
 We believe stuff because it is true, not because it is polite or politically correct. As explained below, it is only Jesus Christ who solves the basic problem posed by human nature. Thus, demanding access to heaven without Jesus Christ is akin to demanding round squares or straight circles.

What are the signs of salvation?

True salvation is accompanied by drastic change (2 Corinthians 5:17). Some of the signs are:-
  1. A great desire for learning spiritual truth from the Bible (1 Peter 2:2, Acts 2:42 - apostle's doctrine)
  2. Insightful understanding of the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
  3. A great desire for fellowship with other true disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:26-28)
  4. An eagerness to obey God; this would include being baptized and joining a local church
  5. A sense of belonging to God (1 John 3:1, 2 Timothy 1:12); a great desire to know Him more (Philippians 3:10)
  6. A great desire to serve God (Philippians 3:14), to tell others about Him (Acts 9:20)
  7. Development of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
  8. A loathing for sin or a sensitized conscience (Acts 2:37, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 3:9); higher standards of (and a love for) purity and holiness (1 John 3:3)
  9. Dependence on God through prayer (Acts 2:42)
  10. Others around you point out that you have changed (Acts 4:13).

All these signs begin suddenly after you are born again. There is also a gradual growth over time.

I've repented and believed in the Lord Jesus, but nothing seems to have happened inside me.

When a person repents and believes in Christ, God accepts him and gives him a new birth (John 3:3-7, John 1:11-13). He becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). So something has gone wrong in your case. But don't be alarmed:-

First: Believe God's promises. He has promised that He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but He wants all to come to the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). God's promise of salvation is to all (Matthew 11:28, John 3:16, John 7:37, etc). So do not suspect that you are outside the scope of salvation.

Second: Examine your own heart for wrong approaches:-
 
Belief sans repentance: Do you believe the gospel (that is, The Main Message) with all your heart? God does not want a mere mental assent but committed belief. Have you truly repented? Are you willing to submit to Jesus' lordship in your life?
 
In June 1859, Charles Blondin, a famous tightrope walker, strolled high across the mighty Niagara Falls several times. Once in a sack, once on stilts, once even carrying a stove and cooking an omelet! The rope was stretched 160 feet high, over rushing water, from bank to bank. He crossed over blindfolded pushing a wheelbarrow. The crowd that had gathered on the side cheered wildly. Charles then asked a question. “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world! You can do anything!” they shouted.
“Okay, then. Who would like to get in the wheelbarrow?"
No one was willing.

It is not enough to agree that Jesus is God; you must commit to Him – "get in the wheelbarrow".

Imagine you were in a situation where becoming a disciple of Christ would have severe personal consequences - you would be disowned by your family and harassed otherwise. Would you still choose to follow Christ? He is looking for that kind of commitment.
 
Idols: The rich young ruler wanted eternal life, but he also wanted to keep his wealth. He ended up departing from Jesus sadly (Mark 10:21-22). For others it may be a relationship, prestige, comfort, etc. If you are holding on to anything, you cannot have Christ. He accepts you only if He is more precious to you than anything or anyone else. Paul says that he counted all the things that he was previously proud of as loss to obtain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).
 
Prerequisites: Some people put preconditions for submission to Christ: "I need some supernatural experience, some problem in my life to be solved, math-style proof that the Bible is true and Jesus is God", etc. God wants child like faith (Luke 18:17).
 
Wrong motives: Some people come to Christ for an emotional thrill, a dramatic experience, healing from disease, financial prosperity, etc. He may give you all these things, but He invites you only for eternal life. God is worthy of your worship and submission because of who He is and what He has already done, not because of the blessings He may give you!
 
Third: Pray to God, claiming His promises. Tell Him to show you anything wrong in your approach. If you feel you "cannot believe fully" ask Him to deal with it (Mark 9:23-24). To make sure that you're not misunderstanding the gospel, repeatedly read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans and Galatians from the Bible. Try your best to live the way God prescribes in the Bible (you won't be perfectly successful, but don't let that make you stop trying). This is not to "earn" salvation (that can never be done - salvation is God's gift), but godly living is a characteristic of sincere seeking (Acts 10:1-2).

Fourth: Try to get in touch with a local church in your area. You may find people there who are able to help you. Attending their meetings will provide opportunities for you to respond to God.

Fifth: Be patient, persevere and don't panic. Have the attitude of the woman who wouldn't leave without receiving from the Lord Jesus (Matthew 15:22-28). Others have been in this situation. John Bunyan had a great struggle before he got saved. Later, looking back on his life in his novel, The Pilgrim's Progress, he symbolized his struggles with "The Slough of Despond". John Wesley claimed to have faith in Christ and tried his best to live a good Christian life, but it was only many years later that he got saved.
 
Sixth: Make sure you don't walk away. A most fearsome fate awaits those who have tasted heavenly things and then gone back to the world (Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27). 

If Jesus is the only way, what about all the people down through history who never had a chance to hear about Jesus?

Even if God did not give everyone the opportunity to believe in Jesus, it would not be unfair on His part. The Bible stresses over and over again that salvation is a gift from God, not a right. You are getting to read about Jesus not because it’s your right but because God is being merciful and gracious to you.

But what about people who did not have the Bible or grew up in a community in which no one else was a Biblical Christian? Who would tell them about Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible or The Main Message (the gospel)?

  1. They have the witness of creation to point them to God (Psalm 19: 1-3, Romans 1:20). The nature around us points to a wise, loving and powerful Creator
  2. They have the witness of their own conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Our intuitive sense of right and wrong itself suggests that there is a Creator to which we are morally accountable.
  3. Some of them would have been exposed to the Jews. The uniqueness of the Jews suggests that there is a God, and the Jews hold some special place in His plans. See Evidence for God for elaboration of these points.
  4. There are vestiges of truth in some of the mythologies of ancient cultures. This would be a starting point for a sincere seeker to find the truth.
  5. God made the stars for signs (Genesis 1:14). Thus, stars communicated to the ancients the purposes of God (this truth was perverted into astrology at the tower of Babel in Sumeria). Hence, people could understand something about God even by observing the stars. When Jesus was born, he had visitors from the east, who came looking for him based on a star they’d seen (Matthew 2:1-3).
  6. God created angels to help humans (Hebrews 1:14). We have an example of angelic help for a seeker of God in Acts 10:1-6. A Christian friend of mine narrated to me how he tried to explain The Main Message to an old lady in an island near Hong Kong. He was surprised when she told him that two weeks prior to his visit, a stranger had appeared to her telling her that on this day, a foreigner [this friend of mine was British] would come and tell her about the true and living God. Yes, angels are at work today as well. The Bible calls them “ministering spirits”.
  7. They have a God who is ever eager for people to come to Him. God will reveal Himself to those who sincerely seek Him (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11, Matthew 7:7-8). In the Transformation page, several of the examples given are people who "normally" wouldn't hear about Jesus Christ, but came to know Him because they were seeking the truth. In Muslim countries, where Christian missionary activity is impossible, Jesus is unilaterally drawing Muslims to himself.

A few Biblical examples:- 

  • In Acts 8:26-40 we read of an Ethiopian official. He was seeking God, but apparently there was no one in his own country to help him. When he was returning home from a trip to Israel, God sent Philip to him. The Ethiopian was reading the same passage of Isaiah that I’ve quoted in The Main Message. Philip explained to him everything about Jesus, and he believed.
  • Similarly, Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48) was a Roman centurion seeking the true God. Due to his pagan Roman background, there was no one in his own community to tell him about the true God. But God sent Peter to him. When Peter told him and his family The Main Message, they gladly believed it. The image shows Caesarea, where Cornelius lived.
  • In Acts 9:1-20, Paul, a religious zealot who had no knowledge of Jesus Christ gets saved when he has a personal encounter with Christ.

According to the Bible, all humans today are descended from Noah, who had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. From information given in the Bible (Genesis 10:1-32) and extra-Biblical history and geography, it is evident that these three sons of Noah are the ancestors of the Africans, Asians, and Europeans respectively. So then:

  • In Acts 8: the Ethiopian eunuch, an African, a descendant of Ham
  • In Acts 9: Paul, a Jew, a descendant of Shem
  • In Acts 10: Cornelius, a Roman, a descendant of Japheth

All humans are brought together to God through Jesus Christ!

To summarize: If a person is seeking the truth sincerely, God will reveal Himself to that person. 

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, consists of visions that God gave to John about the future:

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one was able to number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [Jesus Christ], clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” – Revelation 7: 9

Dear reader, will you be there? Don’t bother about all the heathen and the pagans in distant lands. God will judge them fairly! God will not hold you responsible for their souls! But He will hold you responsible for how you respond to the good news about Jesus Christ that you are getting an opportunity to read now!! There’s no point worrying about others when you yourself refuse to receive Jesus Christ.

What will happen to mentally retarded people and those who die in infancy? They cannot believe in Jesus!

The Bible says that "sin is not imputed when there is no law…by the law [God's rules in the Bible] is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 5:13, Romans 3:20). This means that God will not blame infants and mentally challenged people for something that they have not thought, said, or done deliberately, because the question of law does not arise for them (they can neither keep nor violate the law).

"Shall not the judge of all the earth do righteously?" This is what Abraham asked of God in Genesis 18:25. It is a rhetorical question whose answer is "yes". Angelic observers, who can perceive much more than we do, testify that God is just in His judgments (Revelation 16:5). God will treat infants and the mentally challenged reasonably and justly. In fact, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left the glories of heaven to come down to earth, lived a hard life, and then went through a most excruciating death – all out of love for humans. What makes you think that such a loving God will treat infants or the mentally challenged unfairly?

The Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity, but to satisfy our spiritual needs. So it does not elaborate on those categories of people who cannot read it. But it is very clear about you and me, who can read it! You are not mentally retarded or an infant. You have been given the offer of pardon in Jesus Christ. The Son of God left heaven, came down and died a most demeaning and horrible death just so that this pardon could be made freely available to you. If you choose to refuse it and face God on your own, you will get the only logical alternative: infinitely severe, infinitely demanding justice that will take you to dreadful task for every single bad thing you've done.

Jesus paid for our sins, so once we believe on him, we can sin as much as we like. Sounds pretty cheap!

The Biblical author Paul addresses this question in his epistle to the Christians in Rome:-

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." - Romans 6:1-4

God is not interested in those who would merely give a mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus' person, death and resurrection. You need to come to him not only in faith, but in repentance, that is a turning away from your former life. God accepts you only if you agree to make Jesus the Lord of your life, which means that you now live your life according to his pleasure, not yours. If you have truly understood the immensity of what the Lord Jesus has done for you, you will be grateful and do what pleases him. The Bible teaches that a true Christian is one who has become a child of God, via a new birth (1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 3:2). A true child reflects the nature of His Father and Master (1 John 2:6), and thus does not continue in sin (1 John 3:6). We are to identify people by their actions (Matthew 7:16), not their empty claims! 

No, God is not some cheap old vulnerable idiot. What made you suspect He is?

"Do not be led astray, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." - Galatians 6:7  

Are you saying that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell?

Yes, rather, I'm just reporting what the Bible says: Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Those who do not lay hold of him will face God's condemnation and wrath for all their sins (John 3:18, 1 John 5:12, Revelation 20:15). Thus, the vast majority of humans are headed to hell. [The 19th century German artist Herr Schacher, along with Mrs Charlotte Reihlen tried to illustrate this with a painting, shown here.] You may feel like disagreeing because you think:-

  1. "This is too bad to be true." But there is no such thing as "too bad to be true". Things happen because they have causes, not because they are not all that bad. If the cause is "a sinful man who refuses to accept God's solution for sin" the effect can only be "suffer the consequences of one's sin: eternal hell"
  2. "The majority cannot be wrong." But the truth of a belief is not determined by how many people believe it;

Truth is substantiated by logic and evidence, not the feel good factor or majority opinion.

"Aren't you being disrespectful and hateful?"

Won't heaven be tainted by imperfect people entering in?

In contrast to false gods who promise favors in return for appeasement, the Bible presents Jehovah, the one, true, creator God as one who loves humans and wants to be their heavenly Father. He wants humans to enter into a relationship with Him that will last forever. We get to know Him while we live here on earth, and then spend eternity in heaven with Him and others who have turned to Him (John 17:3, Psalm 23:6, Revelation 21:3-4). If humans are to have loving fellowship with God in a perfect heaven, the following issues have to be addressed:-

Problem 1 - Eligibility: As sinful humans, we fall infinitely short of God's infinitely high standards and are thus not worthy to enter heaven. How can God let us in?

Problem 2 - Enjoyment: Even if you're allowed entry to heaven, will you really enjoy it? You love watching porn on earth. Well, there's no porn in heaven. If God wants to talk to you, would you find it interesting? Would you not prefer to watch TV or read some celebrity gossip? What if all of us enter heaven? We all have arguments, lose our temper, covet what others have, harbor bitterness and pride, and lust after others. Won't we spoil heaven? Either imperfect people should not be allowed into a perfect heaven, or if they are allowed, it will no longer be perfect!!

In response to Problem 1, virtually all religions teach that in order to go to heaven, or attain salvation, one has to do good works. The Bible rejects this as inadequate 

The Bible presents God's solution to Problem 1: The Son of God himself came down as a man in the person of Jesus Christ, and He bore our sins - he paid the price for them. He underwent what we deserve, and so access to heaven is now available as a free gift for those who repent (turn to God) and put their trust in Jesus Christ. Learn the details:-

Most religions ignore Problem 2. Here is the solution that God offers in the Bible: When a person repents from their sins and believes in Jesus Christ, God implants in them a new nature via a new birth (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 1:11-12, Galatians 2:20)

Thus, a disciple of Jesus Christ has two natures:-

  1. The sinful nature inherited at birth
  2. The Christ-like nature implanted in him when he was born again

The sinful nature is crucified, powerless to dominate the true Christian. But it is the responsibility of the Christian to starve his old, fleshly nature and feed the new spiritual nature. This is why you may find disciples of Christ keeping away from alcohol, most TV programming, night clubs, etc. If the new nature was absent, this would be nothing other than the usual "I'm religious so I don't get to have fun" syndrome. But the new nature makes a world of difference. It causes the Christian to delight in poring over the pages of the Bible, discovering Christ through them. The true Christian feeds and drinks on Christ (John 6:53-56). He loves to spend time in prayer and worship, not as a duty but as a passion.

Eventually, true Christians die (like anyone else). But as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52-54, 1 John 3:2 and Revelation 19:8, we Christians will be resurrected. Our bodies will be transformed and will reunite with our soul and spirit. We will be taken to God's presence. Our corruptible body will become incorruptible. We now have a sinful nature but then we won't, since we shall be like him! A time is coming when we will have no trace of sin, only our new Christ-like nature. Then we will be truly fit for heaven. Thus:-

  1. When we first repent and believe in Christ, we are justified - saved from the penalty of sin.
  2. When we live our Christian lives on earth, learning to feed the new nature and starve the old, we are sanctified - saved from the power of sin.
  3. When we are resurrected at God's appointed time, we will be glorified - saved from the presence of sin.

There is no room for any human to boast - it is all of God. It is God who takes a vile sinner, redeems him, transforms him and strips him of all trace of sin and conforms him to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thus, we will be made perfect, and will enter heaven without defiling it – nor is God's justice compromised, since the Lord Jesus bore all our sins.

Only the Bible provides the answer to our needs: eligibility to access God, and a new nature to enjoy Him.