Monday, July 31, 2017

How can we be sure that Christianity is the right religion?

/sermon by Mike Enns/

Greetings      -Today is the next Sermon to our serious „you asked for it“
-The Question today is: How can we be sure that christianity is the right religion?
-I think it is a question every christian has or should ask himself. So I think it is a very good question to talk about.
→ Yet giving a good answer to a good question is not always easy. But I'm a very pragmatic guy and did the most reasonable think: ...I asked the question somebody else of course.

I asked this question a couple of other christians I knew and the answers were suprising... Suprising because everyone answered me something different. A lot of the answers had things in common but non were the same.
- I heard we can be sure that christianity is the right religion because:
-The only relegion where we can be sure to be saved.
-only religion where we are saved by mercy alone and not our merits or deeds.
-somebody told me he believe in christianity because it is the only religion that makes sense an is historicaly convincing
-and somebody even told me it would be rude not to accept the sacrifice of God, his son himself on the cross for us and be sure about it.

So there is no easy, universal answer......All of them were corect of course, but all were different. But there was one thing the answers had in common. People were very confident.
So how can we as well be confident in our answer. How can we be sure as well that christianity is the right religion?

Well I think the reason why there are so many answers is that you can be sure in many different aspects. But They mainly split in 2 perspectives.

The first is the spiritual. Were we believe. Believe in God's word, his actions for us and our expierience with him. That is very good and God wants us to believe in him but when other non christians talk with us about this topic they often expect the other perspective.

2.That are the Facts. Hard empirical data. Historical proof. Real evidence.
-which is not suprising people love facts and evidence. Me too. I'm in a science field after all. Even random once.
-Did you know that the Eiffel tower has 1665 steps?

Anyway...Our answers are a mixture between facts and and spiritual beliefs and people might not understand the belief part when we talk to them from that perspective or even call us stupid.
In this sermon I will focus more on the factual side. I think the question was asked with that in mind.
But before that I want to establish that the other side is just as important.

Even if other people don't understand
-That is ok.God wants us to believe. Even if we are called stupid.
That can happen. It happened to me a couple of times and I know it will again. I don't know if you have experienced it but you probably know it can and even God knows it.

1 Corinthians 1, 18-25       _read carefully it is a powerful text.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[
a]
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

For the people who do not believe it is foolish and stupid to believe and always will be.
The death of Jesus Christ, God's son, on the cross for our sins and his resurrection is stupid for people who do not believe. It is not provable and not understandable by human means. It is a miracle God did for us in his mercy. He conquered death so we can live.
That is the very essence of what we believe. Not understandable with facts and the laws of nature. 

Humans can't comprehend it.

So however much we love facts and data we as christians believe that God is bigger than them.
-Because he destroyed the wisdom of the wise and frustrated the intelligence of the intelligent by overcoming these things. That is the victory of the cross we celebrate every Easter and we believe in.

And it is good we believe because God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what was preached.

When I saw this question of: „How can I be sure that christianity is the right religion?“, one of the first things I thought about was a story from the bible where someone is very similar in doubt and wanted to be proofen with facts.
You can find the story in John 20:24-29.
It happened just after Jesus ressurected. He appeared to a few of his apostles but Thomas missed out on that so the others told him „We have seen the Lord“ full of excitement. And do you know what Thomas told them?....
-“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later jesus appeared in the house where all his disciples where and led Thomas do just that but what Jesus told him afterwards is really interesting....
-he said to him: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I said it before. God wants us to believe and we as Christians do. This is something we should always be aware of and undertand. That is not something non christians, especially atheists understand.


2.But because we haven't seen Jesus and believe does not mean we are blind.
-That reminds me of the of a story of a missionary who went to distant tribes to evangelise. So he went to the people and told them that through believing in Christ they will be saved. But there was a problem because the translator told him they do not have the concept of belief in there language so he can not translate it. You have to explain it.
So the missionary was very puzzled. He never had to do that before.
He looked around an noticed a cloud going in front of the sun and he knew how to tell them.
So he pointed at the sun and said do you see the sun? - No came the answer
Then he asks if he knows that the sun is there? -Yes of course came the answer.
That is belief. The missionary told him. You do not see the sun and yet you know it is there

God gave us eyes to see and a mind to think so we should use them and that is for the other perspective.
The facts and proofs we humans love so much.
We can not see the sun yet we can see it's light, the trees it let's grow and the fruit it brings.

Similar we can see all the fats and proof surrounding our sun we believe in so we should do that.
It also helps us understand what we believe in.

First. I have a question for you. Do not be afraid to answer. It is very important.
-How heavy do you think I am?    86
So now we can go and sing about that I'm ...kg and have sermon every sunday that I'm ….kg and can convince millions of people that I'm ….kg It does not change the fact that I'm ...kg.
It does not change the fact there is only one truth.

When we talk about why we believe in christianity and not in any of the other religion I have often heard that it doesn't matter in what we believe. They are all the same anyway or it is all the same God anyway. Allah, God. There is no difference.
Or If God loves the people how can he let so many become lost so he probably excepts the other religion too as long as they belive in him.
I have also heard it doesn't matter what you believe as long as it works for you and you are happy or a good person.

This is absulute Nonsense. A higher form of Nonsense.
No matter how much I believe that I'm ...kg or how happy I am that I believe that I'm ...kg or how many people believe that I'm ...kg.  The only thruth will be that I'm ...kg.
Ok. Enough about my weight. Here is a quote for you.

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” People do believe in that.
That is a quote from Adolf Hitler by the way.

There is only one truth The only truth is our God and savior and the only way to him is his son jesus christ.
Nowadays it's all about tolerance and you are called intolerant when you try to convince someone of something else. Everyone their own. Whatever fits them.
Even Christians and churches change their believe to better fit their needs. For example start mixing evolutionary theory with creationism. That is not right.
God and his word is the only truth.

But other religions claim that too so what is the difference? Why do we believe in Christianity and not any other religion?
Let's talk about these differences.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, Gnosticism, Naturalism and many many more. As much as you can imagine. Why is christianity different than other religions.

First of all. I don't think christianity is a religion like the others at all.
-There is no scholarly consensus over the definition of "religion"
It is not clear but most people believe that the word religion comes from the latin „ligare“ wich means to connect and „re“ again.
So the word means the Human efford to connect with God again. But in Christianity we believe in God's effort to connect with us humans again. The opposite of religions.
We destroyed the connection with God with sin and Jesus came to us to rebuild it again.
We can't do anything to be saved by God. None of our actions and deeds matter. Only through God's grace are we saved. We only have to believe.

If we want to be more sure about Christianity we can look at the evidence which it presents itself to us.
There are a lot of different aspects of evidence we can look at:
There is the historical evidence, theological evidence, scientific evidence and so on. You can find so much for each of these points we could do our own sermons and because we don't have that much time I'll try to make it compact.
First let's talk about historical evidence. It is porbaly the most discussed kind of evidence.
The bible for historians is unimaginably valuable. You have thousands of years of detailed history of israel and the surrounding countries. Their wars. Their laws. Their Cities. Their Kings and their descendants an so on and so on. Especially in the old testament.
All wich is proved accurate by other sorces and documents found but such kind of  timelines and description can not be found in other religios texts.

One example is The Existence of Hittites. Genesis 23 reports that Abraham buried Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he purchased from Ephron the Hittite. Second Samuel 11 tells of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. A century ago the Hittites were unknown outside of the Old Testament, and critics claimed that they were a figment of biblical imagination. In 1906, however, archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of Hattusas, the ancient Hittite capital at what is today called Boghazkoy, as well as its vast collection of Hittite historical records, which showed an empire flourishing in the mid-second millennium BC.
-This historical challenge against the bible was often repeated over time and still the bible stands correct

Another example from a different region are The Nuzi Tablets. The some 20,000 clay tablets discovered at the ruins of Nuzi, east of the Tigris River and datable to c. 1500 BC, reveal institutions, practices, and customs remarkably congruent to those found in Genesis. These tablets include treaties, marriage arrangements, rules regarding inheritance, adoption, and the like.

We also now that the content in the bible is unaltered over time unlike what some people claim.
The oldest biblical texts found are not different from what we have today in our bible.
Last year in 2016 scientist where able to read the oldest known bible text found in En Gedi, Israel. A scroll of leviticus over 2000 years old. It was so damaged nobody could open the scroll and read it without destoying it.
New imaging techniques made it possible and scientist say the text is 100% identical to what is used today and that it is amazing how the text can stay unaltered for centuries.

There is a lot more and I had a really hard time picking out these examples.
There is historical  Anthropological proof of the bible with the common flood story in so many civilisations around the world but I think you understand the point. Historians treassure the bible nowadays second only to the christians and jews.

We can also look at theological proof.
We have all the prophesies given to us by God.
 If you only look the ones up about jesus You will find a list of 353 Prophesies in the old testament fullfilled by him. What are the chances of that happening?

My personal favorite prophecy is in the last chapter of Isaiah 66,7-8 where he talks about Israel being reborn as a nation again in one day and he literally asks. „Who has heard such a thing. Who has seen such things.
Nothing is comparable in world history yet May 14, 1948 The Jews were able to declare independence for Israel as a united and sovereign nation for the first time in 2,900 years.

That is incredible and you can find a lot more of these kinds of proof in christianity and I really mean a lot, but I would like to talk to you a little bit about some kind of evidence not spoken so often about.
Scientific evidence in the bible.
People often don't know that it is there but the bible reveals some scientific proofs and laws of nature only understood by humans many many years after the bible was written.

Do you know this friendly fellow with the name Pythagoras. He is quite famous. Maybe you remember him from Math class in school.
Pythagoras invented this triangle formula and also is credited to say the earth is round. That was around 500 BC.
You can find indications of a round earth quite a few bible verses. Old an new testament.
The very first statement I could find was in Job 26,10.
„He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters,
At the boundary of light and darkness.“
That circular horizon is called terminator the border of day and night and can only exist if the earth is round. Otherwise it would be a line. And not a circle

As you can see we can find evidence of the nature of the world given to us by God that was only found 1500 years later by mankind. We can find a more recent example.
In Isaiah 40,22 God is mentioned as the one „who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.“
That clearly indicates an expanding Universe which was only clarified by astonomers in the 1920s because of observation that galaxys clearly move away from each other.

And if we are in astronomy already we can talk about the numbers of stars. Nowadays we know that there is an uncountable amount of stars. In the year 150AD the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy cataloged 1,022 stars in his work The Almagest. Most believed that was it. You can still buy the book today.
But in the very first book of the bible Genesis 32,12 we can read God said already to Jacob:
12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
With the help of modern science, we have an even greater appreciation of just how innumerable the stars are. We have over 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone.
Scientists believe there are more galaxies in our seeable universe than stars in our own. Having each 100 of billion and trillion stars on their own.

But not only the Nature of the world is shown to us in the bible but also the laws of nature and much more.
As you have seen there is really a lot of evidence supporting christianity over other religions but a leader of a street evangelism workshop I have been to many year ago told me that you will not convince anyone to believe in Christ by beating them in facts or winning an argument.
That is why it is also so important not to forgett our beliefs when we go search for proofs.

In the beginning of the sermon I said the question of „how can I be sure that christianity is the right religion?“ is a good question every christian has or should ask themself.
Because God says

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Do you know the book or movie Ben Hur? There was just this new movie in 2016. It is after a book written by civil war general Lew Wallace in 1899 Ben Hur a tale of Christ. It is now known as one of the most famous christian stories of all time.
What many people don't know is Wallace never was member of a church. His novel startet by a discussion with Colonel Robert Ingersoll who „poured audacities and antithesis against believers in God, Christ and heaven like he never heard before.“
Lew laiter said: „... Yet here was I now moved as never before, and by what? The most outright denials of all human knowledge of God, Christ, Heaven... Was the Colonel right?
That would make a book, and compel me to study everything of pertinency; after which, possibly, I would be possessed of opinions of real value.

It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results--first, the book Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ."

So I enourage all of you ask yourself and others this question and study, read the bible, pray and listen to God's word till you find an answer too.

 "New Life" Bulgarian Protestant Church
Varna, 30.07.2017