As I was listening to a Christian radio station, they interviewed a random woman on the street who said, “I think the writers of the Bible just made it up to get people to follow them.”
And I laughed out loud at the thought of that. I wanted to ask her if she ever read the Bible, if she knew what it teaches. Because if she did, she would have to wonder why anyone would make up some of the things we find in the Bible, thinking it would make people go, "Oh yeah, that sounds great to me!"
If you were going to make up a religion and try to get followers, you certainly wouldn’t tell us that . . .
1. We are sinful and cannot rescue ourselves. (How judgmental, discouraging and helpless sounding is that?)
2. We need a Savior to rescue us. (How humbling!)
3. Some of the early leaders of the faith were persecuted and killed for it, and we also should expect to be persecuted and hated by the world. (Who in their right mind would want that? Stephen was the first recorded martyr, stoned to death. Daniel was thrown to the lions yet, thankfully, miraculously spared. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace, yet also spared. John the Baptist was not spared but was beheaded. As history teaches, Peter was not spared but was crucified upside down. John was banished to the island of Patmos to live out his time. Paul was beaten and stoned and left for dead. Christians were fed to the lions and used as human torches in Roman times. Even today, they are being beheaded for their faith. God bless them and their families! And Jesus, the One on whom our faith rests, wasn’t spared. He was mocked, whipped, and crucified, even though He was innocent. Yet what makes Him different from the leaders of other religions is that He rose from the dead.)
4. We cannot live sexually immoral lives and we must keep sex within marriage, with marriage being defined as between one man and one woman. (This would strike terror and anger in the hearts of most people nowadays in our sexually-promiscuous culture, and it’s certainly not a way to get followers.)
5. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus, meaning that we are to “die to self,” to pursue the Lord’s plans and desires instead of our own, to constantly clean up sinful areas in our lives, and to seek righteousness. (Does this sound like something we naturally desire?)
6. We cannot seek revenge or hold grudges, but we must forgive instead. (We are to turn the other cheek and let God avenge all wrongs. This certainly does not fit with the natural inclination we all have to “stick it to them” and “give them what they have coming.”)
7. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Seriously, does this idea appeal to the people of the world?)
8. Some of the prominent figures in the Bible made horrible mistakes. (David had an affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed in battle to cover up the affair. Abraham was afraid God wouldn’t fulfill His promise so he slept with the maid in order to produce the promised heir. All the disciples fled in fear when Jesus was arrested. Not so faithful now, are they? Revealing the big sins and mistakes of the God-fearing people before us isn’t the best way to convince others to follow Jesus, is it? The only reason to share these kinds of mistakes in the Bible is because it is the truth. And because it shows how God still loves and redeems sinful people who turn their hearts to Him.)
9. We are supposed to put others above ourselves, carry each other’s burdens, and humble ourselves before God. (So contrary to our sense of pride and our natural desires to elevate ourselves!)
10. We are to give money back to God, use our resources to help those in need and for God’s purposes, and not let money rule us. We are to build up our treasures in Heaven, not on earth, working for invisible, eternal rewards that we won't get to enjoy on this side of eternity. We are to seek God's Kingdom and righteousness over material gain. (This alone would keep many people from following Jesus. It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.)
11. Our weakness is where God’s power shines. God draws near to a humble heart that cries out to Him in pain and in need, but He is repulsed by a self-righteous heart that follows all the rules but doesn’t need Him. He is attracted to our neediness but repelled by our self-sufficiency. The lowly will be exalted and the proud will be brought low. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. (Doesn’t sound logical or appealing, does it?)
12. We need to be willing to stand up for Jesus in the face of opposition. And we have to be ready to die for our faith, if that is the position we are put in. (Whoever denies Jesus before men will be denied before the Father by Jesus. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will keep it. Does this sound like something you would “make up” to convince people to follow you? Note: This is far different than a major world religion that teaches their followers to kill for their faith. Christians, on the other hand, are to be willing to die for ours, if it comes down to it.)
Does this sound like the recipe for a religion that appeals to people? Is this what you would fabricate in order to get a lot of followers?
Why include these kinds of things in the Bible? If this is what it means to be a Christian, why would anyone in their right mind choose it? Given the hard, “unreasonable,” and unappealing aspects of Christianity that go against all natural human inclinations and selfish desires, why does anyone choose to follow Jesus?
The only real reason that I could think of is because it is not made-up at all. It is the truth. Jesus is the only way. He is the answer that to all the questions we are asking.
In Him and in the Bible, we find our purpose. We are here to know God and to find Him so that we can spend eternity with Him.
In Him and in the Bible, we find the truth about ourselves and our worth. We are sinners, but we are so completely loved by our Creator that He would send Jesus to die in our place (because sinful people can’t save themselves) so that we could go to Heaven. And all we have to do is accept His free gifts of love, forgiveness, salvation and grace, instead of trying to earn them. He’s already paid the price, we just have to accept the payment on our behalf. The only other alternative is to pay for our sins ourselves, which means eternal punishment. (For more on this, go to “First Things First: Do You Know Jesus?” in the 2013 posts, also reposted as "Starting Your Own Relationship with Jesus Christ (And Why We Need Him!) in the next post.)
In Him and in the Bible, we find the truth about where we are going and what happens after this life. There is a Heaven and a Hell. And we will go to the one we chose in this lifetime. If we chose Jesus, we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. If we chose to live life without God, we will get what we asked for – an eternity without Him. That is called Hell.
In Him and in the Bible, we find the only hope that can really sustain us. Life will be hard, but God walks with us through it and will help us grow through it. And the pain won’t last forever. Someday, He will make all wrongs right, will dish out final and supreme justice (and give the people who asked Him to stay out of their lives exactly what they wanted), and will reward the faithful who have chosen to follow Him in spite of persecution and trials. Someday, He will restore all things to the way He intended it to be. And those in Heaven with Him will have eternal rest and peace and joy.
This is why I follow Jesus!
The thing is, we all have faith in something. We all stake our eternity on something. But no religion or self-made version of God can compare to a genuine relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father. There is no one else to turn to because only Jesus (only the Bible) is the truth. The only One worth believing in and the only One that will fill the hole in our hearts. I think the more difficult teachings of the Bible, of Christianity, are the very things that support the fact that it is true. Because no one in their right mind would make that stuff up and think that it would draw followers! Only the truth can do that!