Does it Really Matter What We Believe About God?
I could not begin to tell you how many times I have heard the argument that it doesn't matter what a person believes about God so long as they believe. Heck, even in one of my favorite movies, Serenity one character says to another, "I don't care what you believe, just believe in it." While at fist that may appear to make sense that it doesn't matter what we believe, I am going to attempt to show you that it matters a great deal what we believe about God and why it matters. A lot of people use the phrase, "all roads lead to Rome" when talking about God, but all roads don't lead to Heaven or else God would not have said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14
What you believe about God impacts every aspect of your life, or at least it should. What you believe about God changes everything! What you believe about God impacts the way you live your day to day life, the way you make decisions, the way you raise your children, the way you perform your duties at your job, what kind of attitude you hold toward others and life in general, the way you treat other people, the way you spend your leisure time, and more importantly, whether or not you are saved; a false belief in God is to believe in a false god.
According to ancestry.com there are 38,313 men named James Smith in the United States of America, still living. Imagine with me that there was a disease that would slowly and painfully kill anyone who contracted it and one of those 38,313 men had developed a cure for it. A quarter of those 38,313 men claimed there was no disease and no need for a cure, and all the rest claimed to be the only one to possess the cure, would it matter which man your trusted to save your life?
For the sake of this illustration, the disease is real and one of the 38,313 James Smith's actually has a cure. Some of the other men may have something that will hide the symptoms of the disease for a while, but only one man has the cure. When someone says they have the cure from James Smith we have to be sure they are talking about the correct man because unless all of the details are correct you have got the wrong man.
In a group of 75 people there is a 99.9% probability that two of them will have the same birthday, so whatever the correct James Smith's birthday is, there would be over a thousand other men who share a name as well as a birthday with him and that doesn't narrow it down much. If you know he lives in Texas it narrows it down to a hundred or so. If you know the man who has the cure is a doctor, which would make sense, that narrows it down even more, but you have to be sure if he is a medical doctor or just has a PHD in something. Not everyone who has the word doctor in front of their name knows about medicine and how the human body works.
For the sake of this argument I will say the James Smith who has the cure lives in Dallas, Texas, was born on the 25th of June and is a doctor of internal medicine, practices at Life Care Hospital of Dallas. Now if you think the James smith with the cure works at the VA than you have the wrong man, or if you think the man who has the cure is a veterinarian or a PHD, or lives in a city other than Dallas, Texas than you will not find the James Smith who has the real cure and you will die a slow and painful death. It doesn't matter how sincerely you believed the James Smith in Denver, Colorado had the cure, it will not save you. Faith cannot change fact, but facts should change faith.
If you don't believe the correct things about God than you don't actually believe in God; you believe in some false god that doesn't actually exist, and no false god can offer salvation. Salvation can only come in and through Jesus Christ the Lord.
In Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes said he knew a man who thought he was a gourd and nothing anyone could do or say would convince the man otherwise. No matter how much this man believed he was a gourd it did not change the fact that he was in fact a man. I could think that my '08 Honda Pilot is a Rolls Royce, but that doesn't make it so, and I could think I am the queen of England but I would still get shot if I tried to barge into Buckingham palace.
Whenever I hear someone say it doesn't matter what you believe about God so long as you believe, I remind them of the September 11th terrorist who crashed airplanes full of civilians into buildings because they believed that was what their god wanted them to do. Those men, misguided as they were, had more faith than many Christians ever will, but that doesn't mean that what they had faith in was true, nor does it mean that God will reward their behavior.
The Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas had faith in their leader, so much faith that they would rather burn up in the fire than surrender to the federal government. For those of you are not old enough to remember the Branch Davidian group or its leader David Koresh, and for those of you who may be from somewhere other than the United States (I recently realized I have listeners in Australia and Ireland), I will give a brief overview of the group and its leader. The Reader's Digest version, if you will.
David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell and later legally changed his David Koresh. David because he believed himself to be the spiritual descendant of King David and a messianic figure, and Koresh because that is the name the Complete Jewish Biblical gives to Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who was considered by some to be a Messiah for freeing the Jewish people from Babylonian captivity. Howell allegedly liked to have illicit relationships with underage girls and got a 15 year old pregnant when he was 22. Howell was later booted out of his mother's Baptist church when he told the pastor it was God's will that he marry the pastor's underage daughter.
After getting booted from his mother's church, Howell joined the Branch Davidians, a pseudo-Christian cult. Eventually, Howell was able to rise to power within the organization and become its leader and prophet. Though he had gone by David Koresh for years, Vernon Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh in 1990.
Both before and after the ATF siege on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas in 1993, there were allegations of weapon violations, attempted murder, and child abuse. Some of the people who defected said when some families joined the group Koresh would claim the wife and or daughters for his wives. There were also allegations of extreme control of members by Koresh and threats of violence if they were to deviate from his teachings. Some of the allegations were substantiated and some were not, but a lot of the interest for investigation into the cult dwindled when the majority of the group died in a fire and the rest were either shot or arrested.
When the ATF went in to investigate weapons violations and to serve an arrest warrant on David Koresh, the Branch Davidians opened fire on them. Once ATF agents were killed it became a matter for the FBI and they took over. After a 51 day standoff between the federal government and the Branch Davidians, the FBI tried to gas them out using tear gas. Shortly after gassing the compound it caught fire, and what caused the fire is still debated today, even though independent investigators said the fire was started from within the compound. Even when the fire was raging, few people fled the compound.
Once the ashes had cooled and bodies were removed, it was apparent that Koresh died from a gunshot wound, though it isn't known if he shot himself or if one of his followers shot him. The only thing known for sure is that Koresh wasn't killed by a government bullet; the round came from inside the compound. In the investigation after the fire numerous illegal weapons were found in the charred remains of the building.
I it is likely that some people were just too afraid to leave, but many completely believed in Koresh and his message. Any rational person knows David Koresh was fraud and not a prophet and his message was not in line with the Bible. No matter how much some of the followers, and/or even Koresh himself believed the claims Koresh made, it did not and does not make them true. Some of the surviving members of the group still have undying faith in David Koresh that no evidence can shake.
In the Old Testament in the book of 1 Kings we read about a feud of sorts between Elijah, the prophet of God, and the priests of Baal. A lot of people were on the fence as to whether they should believe and serve God or Baal so Elijah asked the people how long they would go on limping between two opinions and said that if Baal was the true god they should serve him, but if the Lord is God than follow him.
The people didn't answer Elijah so he challenged the 450 priests of Baal to a test to see whose god was God. Two bulls were to be brought and the priests of Baal were to cut their bull in pieces and place it on an alter but not set fire to it. The priests were to cry out to Baal to have him call down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. When mid-day came and the alter was still not on fire, Elijah mocked the priests of Baal, and in response they cut themselves with swords and lances, making a bloody spectacle of themselves while calling out to Baal. Baal, of course, never answered, mostly on account of the fact that he doesn't exist.
When it was Elijah's turn, he called the people and had them follow him to the alter of God that had been torn down. Elijah repaired the alter using twelve stones, one stone to represent each of the twelve tribes of Israel. When the alter was repaired, Elijah cut the bull into pieces and placed it upon the alter. Elijah then had a deep trench dug around the alter.
Elijah asked for jars to be filled with water and poured over the sacrifice, and when that was done he asked for it to be done a second and a third time, completely soaking the sacrifice and alter and filling the trench. Now, an important thing to keep in mind is at that time Israel had been in a severe drought for more than three years and most of the rivers and streams had gone dry. The fact that Elijah was willing to waste so much water shows that he knew God would provide for the people when they returned to Him, and Elijah also knew that no man could set the alter on fire when it was that wet and the people would know it was God that had done it.
Once everything was sufficiently wet, Elijah called on the Lord and fire came down from heaven, consuming not just the sacrifice and the wood, but the water, and the dust and even the rocks. At this point everyone knew the Lord was God and began to worship Him. To make sure they would no more lead the people astray, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal rounded up and put to death.
The Bible makes it clear that we must believe correct things about God and that believing any old thing about God doesn't cut it. Jesus told the people that simply believing in God wasn't enough; they must believe that He was the Messiah.
John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
A little while ago I mentioned that what a person believes about God influences every aspect of their life, especially if a person is devout in their faith and if a person believes absurd things about God than they will do absurd things, like with the Branch Davidians.
The Heaven's Gate cult was another of the American cults to make world news in the 1990s. Heaven's gate convinced some the male members to undergo castration and some of the female members to undergo double mastectomies so they would look as sexless as possible. The group believed God is actually a highly evolved extra terrestrial being and Jesus, also an extra terrestrial, was riding on a spaceship behind the comet Hale-Bopp and would pick up their spirits when he flew by. Most of the group members dressed in matching uniforms and committed mass suicide by ingesting poison.
If a group of people believe in a god that has no qualms about theft rape or murder than you can be sure that at least some members of faith would freely do those things. Some religions worship a god that puts no value on the lives of women and allows men to treat them any way they want to, and a lot of the men of that religion act accordingly. If people believe in a god that values the lives of animals over the lives of humans than at least some members of the faith would be more than willing to murder people to save chickens, cows and pigs from the slaughter house. If people believe in a god that has no restrictions on adult sexuality than all types of sexual practices will emerge, even those not found in nature. Now to be fair, there are plenty of people who believe in the God of the Bible, know sexual immorality is a sin, and still do it, but more would do it if they didn't think it a sin. Seriously, Facebook now has 51 gender options! I don't even have a clue what most of them are.
Some people make their own version of God to justify the things they want to do that are not supported by the Bible, and to justify this they cherry pick the Bible, taking some verses wildly out of context to justify their claims and ignoring the rest of the Bible. Some of the things people attempt to justify with out of context verses are so fare removed from the Gospel that I fail to see how anyone could do them and still claim to be Christian. One of the many examples is when people try to justify hating and/or hurting another group of people. I have even heard arguments that adultery isn't always against God's laws, despite the fact that it is forbidden and condemned throughout the Bible. No where in the Bible does it say you can have an affair if he isn't nice to you or if she ignores you, it says no to all extramarital affairs.
Sexual relations outside of marriage is another thing people try to justify with the Bible. despite the fact that it is condemned throughout. Fornication doesn't appear to hold the same weight as adultery, but it is still a sin. Some people commit sin knowing they commit sin, other people, however, attempt to create a god in their own image so they won't feel guilty about the things they are doing that are wrong. The problem is, a god created in our own image is no god at and can't save us. At least when we do wrong while knowing it is wrong, our conscience can entice us to repent and return to God. When we convince ourselves that God is happy with our sins there is no apparent need to repent.
Mark Twain said, "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” and I have found that to be true, even when is ourselves we are fooling.
Some people wrongly believe that Jesus wasn't born a virgin birth and that God came down in human form and Jesus was conceived in a worldly manner, taking away much of the divine and miraculous nature of who Jesus is. Also, if Jesus wasn't born a virgin birth than He would not have fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, and if Jesus did not fulfill all of the prophecies about the Messiah than he was not the Messiah.
Just like what I mentioned earlier about if all of the attributes of the man who created the cure don't match the man you are getting the cure from than you have got the wrong man, if the one claiming to be the Messiah didn't fulfill all of the prophecies about the Messiah than he could not be the one the prophecies were talking about.
There are even some religious organizations who claim to be Christian but don't believe that Jesus was always God or that He always existed or that He is even divine, just a helper to God and that He and Michael the archangel are the same being. Others believe that God used to be a man just like any of us and worked his way to becoming a god.
Again, if you don't believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior than He isn't. What I mean by that is, if you don't believe that Jesus can save you, or if you don't believe He can save you without your help than you don't actually believe Jesus and you don't accept the sacrifice He performed on your behalf. God saves all who believe in Him without their help, but never without their consent. If a person doesn't believe in the only God who can save then and doesn't accept the free gift of grace than it is not forced upon them and they are not forced to go to heaven but are free to go to the other place.
There are people who are not satisfied with being saved from their wretched and fallen state to live with God for eternity, oh no, they want to be gods themselves and rule their own worlds and become the saviors of their own created people. Satan, who was the highest of all the angels, was cast out of heaven because of pride. You see, just like the people who want to be gods, Satan was not happy with being a servant to god and wanted to be a god himself. Now some people might say, "But, but, hold on just a minute Gene. We don't want to supplant God, we want to be a god under God, and since He is always increasing, we will eventually be at the place where he is now and He will be higher."
I am not afraid to call that what it is, blasphemy of the highest order. I may make a few people mad by saying this, but if you think God was ever a man or if you think you will ever be god, you are sorely mistaken and need to repent and follow the God of the Bible. If you believe that God was ever less than He is right now or that He will ever be greater than what He now is than you don't believe in God at all. The Bible tells us (Hebrews 13:8) that God is the same yesterday and today and forever. According to the Bible, God was always what He is and always what He will be and there was never and will never be a time when He was not or is not God.
If you believe that you will ever be God or if you will ever be a god where God is now than you don't believe in God. 'Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides me" (Isaiah 44:6).
Some people, even some who claim to be Christian, want to work their way to heaven and they think the better they can be on earth and the more "good works" they can accomplish while on earth the better their standing will be when they die. First off, our works are like filthy rags, according to Isaiah, so trying to pay off our debt with our filthiness is like walking into a dealership and expecting to buy an Aston Martin with stuff found in the sewer.
Second, Jesus doesn't want us to work for what He already died for; He wants us to accept it and be grateful for it. I am afraid that most of the people who are trying to work their way to heaven are going to get a big surprise when they die, and not a good surprise.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Notice that Jesus doesn't say, "Well, you were a little confused but since you did good works in my name, I will let you into heaven." He said He would tell them He never knew them, would call them evildoers and cast them out of His presence.
I think the reason some people don't accept grace is they think it is just too simple. With people, if something appears to be too good to be true than it almost always is because people are not the most honest and reliable creatures. When God offers something it is exactly what He says it is. Still, working for something that is advertised as free makes no sense; it would be like insisting on paying for a house that was left to you when your great uncle passed away when all you had to do was accept it.
After the children of Israel cursed themselves to wonder in the desert for forty years they grumbled against God and against Moses because they were tired of the mana they were given so God sent poisonous serpents among them. When the people cried out and asked God to save them from the snakes, Moses made a brazen serpent and put it on the end of a pole and anyone who would look at the snake after being bit would live. Though it doesn't explicitly say it in the Bible, I would be greatly surprised if there weren't people who thought it was too easy and said, "That is just stupid! I'm not going to look at a snake on a stick, there is no way that would work. I am going to try to make some medicine."
It matters a great deal what we believe about God. If we believe in Jesus and believe in correct things about Him we will become better people as a result and it will impact our live, our attitudes, our relationships and all other aspects of our lives. If we believe in the Jesus of the Bible and not some made up version that contradicts it our lives will be better and we can say with assurance that we are saved because we have been purchased at a great price. Jesus loves us enough to die for us so we should love Jesus enough to live for Him.