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It Doesn't Matter What You Believe
Message by Dr. Rick Mandl at Eagle Rock Baptist Church, September 20, 2020
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA.
Sermon Manuscript: Dumb Things Christians Say Message 1- It Doesn’t Matter What You Believe As Long As You’re Sincere
Sermon preached by Dr. Rick Mandl, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, September 19 & 20, 2020
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA.
Hey church family, I want to welcome you, wherever you are and however you may be joining us today. You’ve picked a great time to be with us because we’re beginning a new series called “Dumb Things Christians Say.” And it seems appropriate in this era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”... At this time when so many seem to be saying that we can’t REALLY know anything for sure, to just take a little time and look at some common sayings that have been repeated so often, and so long that many just believe them to be true, when in fact they’re not.
How many of you have ever heard the saying, or maybe even said to someone else, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” That’s the one we’ll be looking at next week. Or maybe you’ve heard, or even said to someone else, “Everything Happens For A Reason.” That’s another of the things we’ll look at in this series. But today we are going to look at one of the most commonplace sayings. You may of heard it. You may have said it. You may even believe it, because all over the world today people say this. They say, “It doesn't matter what you believe about God as long as you are sincere.” “It doesn't matter WHAT you believe as long as you are sincere in your pursuit of God.” And that kind of sounds good. Doesn't it? It just kind of feels good that our God is so big-hearted, and so loving, and so inclusive, that it really doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincerely believing it.
People sometimes ask, after all... “Aren’t All Religions Basically The Same?” It’s a very legitimate question. They will ask you... With so many faith systems... isn’t it the height of arrogance... to claim that any one is better than another? Even more so, if you happen to be claiming that your religion is right, and mine is wrong. It’s a valid question - - and a timely question - - particularly today when SPIRITUAL INTEREST in America is as strong as it’s ever been. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but America is interested in spiritual things. We’re living in the midst of a GOD RUSH. People are excited about being “Spiritual.” “Spirituality” is in. But even though, SPIRITUALITY is in - - -people do not want to get too specific about WHO their GOD, or higher force is. The popular term today, and you’ve probably heard this is “Spiritual but not religious.”
It’s been estimated that one in five people describe themselves using this term. And it’s a really popular term among the ‘unchurched,’ with half of those describing themselves in this way. People today are SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED. But there are an increasing number of people who don’t really care if it’s Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Scientology or a mix of all of the above. There is a whole new category of people specially those under 30 called “Nones” – N – O – N – E – S. NONES don’t identify with any religious group - - - They really don’t care. NONES are spiritually interested, but it’s like they’re at a spiritual buffet,
Do you remember back when they had buffets? Pre-Covid? It’s like they’re at a buffet where they take a little of this, a little of that, but they’ll never commit to one particular religious focus, because from their perspective, all things are true. So, on the one hand spiritual interest is HIGH. On the other, people are not interested in any one particular religion. And that has fueled the belief that all religions are basically the same. They are all just different paths, ascending the same mountain. Because... All roads lead to God – but is that true? Is it really true that all religions are the same? Let me give you the short answer to that question by saying “Yes and No”... What do I mean?
What I mean is... It’s one thing to say that all religions are SIMILAR. Because after all, almost every religion has some sort of moral code, that includes some variation of the ‘Golden Rule’ - - - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Almost every religion have some variation of the command to Love your neighbor. Most religions have moral instructions that are parallel to many of the 10 Commandments. Don’t Kill, Don’t Steal, Don’t Lie, Don’t Commit Adultery. In all of those things there are great similarities. In fact if you count up all the commands you might come to the conclusion that the different world religions have more things in common (just on the basis of number) than there are those things on which they differ.
If you are going to be intellectually honest you have to admit that there are many, many similarities between the different world religions. But... But, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but... It’s one thing to say that all religions are SIMILAR. It’s something altogether different to say that all religions are THE SAME. Because very often they teach opposite things in terms of who God is, and how it is that we, as mankind can get right, or find acceptance with Him.
For instance Mormons teach, that God was once a man who achieved God status. He now lives with his many wives on a mysterious planet where he produces billions of spirit children. HINDUISM, teaches that there is NO ONE DIVINE BEING who is God, but everything is a potential God... the stars, trees, cows... everything. There are over 330 million gods in Hinduism. In contrast to HINDUISM which has many gods, ISLAM has one. Some would try and tell you, that the God of Islam, is the same God, as the God of Judaism and Christianity... But unlike the God of Judaism and Christianity, the God of Islam is completely impersonal and cannot be known. In Islam, there is no such thing as a personal God, who loves you and is interested in your life. The idea that God would visit earth in the person of Jesus Christ is blasphemous to Muslims. They do revere Jesus as one of the prophets, but they do not believe He was the Son of God, who came to earth and died for sins and now reigns forever with God and as God in heaven. Their main creed is “There is one God, Allah, and Muhammed is God’s prophet.”
All religions may be SIMILAR. That’s very different than saying “All religions are the same.” And yet... It’s popular today to claim that all religions are all just different paths leading up the same mountain in an attempt to get to the same God who is at the top. Popular, but at the same time confusing, because there are... So Many Voices, So Many Choices.
And as I said, many people feel like any religion is okay… With one qualifier. Any religion is okay, just so long as it doesn’t claim to be the only one that is correct. When you do that it causes problems. It always has, always will. Let me show you an example of what I mean.
If you’ve got your Bible or your Bible app you can open up to Acts 4:1-12. As you come to the fourth chapter of in the book of Acts you find that two of our Lord’s disciples, Peter and John, had just healed a lame beggar at the temple gate. The beggar had asked them for money - but Peter and John said. “We don’t have silver and gold, but what we do have, we give you - - In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” And the man got up and walked. It was an amazing miracle of healing for the man who was on the receiving end, it but it was also a miracle that caused quite a disturbance among the people who witnessed it. That’s where we pick up the story... .
“While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000. The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, ‘By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed?’ Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone’” (Acts 4:10-11).
And then OUR MEMORY VERSE for the week, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
What was it that Peter and John said that the people of their day found so offensive? Well, take a look at that verse. They said that even though there are many religions, and many different names that people might use to address the God that they worship, there is ONLY ONE NAME under heaven that will gain us salvation, and that’s the name of Jesus. We see this same message repeated, not just here in the words of Peter & John, but all throughout the New Testament. In a conversation between Jesus and his disciple Thomas, Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Also, John 3:16 -- one of the most memorized verses in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
A lot of people commit that verse to memory, but I wonder how familiar we are with the verses that immediately follow it. Verse 17 continues and tells us, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." That’s telling us that Jesus did not come to condemn, he came to save. And then verse 18... "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already." Why??? "Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).
All roads lead to heaven? Not according to the Bible. 1 John 4 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
With so many voices, and so many choices, how can Christians say that Jesus is the only way to heaven? They can say it because Jesus said it. They can say it because the Bible says it. With so many voices, and so many choices each claiming to be true, how can Christians say that Jesus is the right one? The simple answer is, they can say it because Jesus is God’s Choice.
Look at the verses there on your notes from Philippians 2. Beginning at verse 9 it says this about Jesus, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
There are many names that men and women may call on in an attempt to reach God - - - People choose many names through which to approach God. WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT JESUS? It’s the fact that Jesus is God’s choice. It’s actually not something that we get to vote on. In America we sometimes have the opinion that if something is right, then it’s going to get the majority vote. But when it comes to this issue - - - how we get to God - -- the opposite is true.
In His Sermon on the mount, Jesus 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.” People may ask you… With so many people trying to get to God in so many different ways, so many different paths up that same mountain, are you seriously saying that there is “one right road, that only a few find?” The gracious answer is to say, “No I’m not saying that - - - Jesus is saying that. And yet we know that people will still ask, "Isn’t it Elitist? Isn’t it Narrow? Isn’t it Exclusivistic? Isn’t it Intolerant and Unkind and Disrespectful to People Of Other Faiths? Isn’t It The Height Of Arrogance To Claim That There Is Only One Way?
Let me answer that question, with another question. The question is... What’s the purpose of your religion/spirituality? Is it to help you to be a better person/citizen/neighbor/member of your community? In the here & now? Is it to help you feel better about yourself? Is it to get you right with the one who made you? To make sure that you’re accepted by God?
If the purpose of your religion - - your spirituality is only those first two ... then indeed you should stick with whatever religion works for you. In fact, if you’re Muslim and that is your religion of choice stick to it. If you’re a Mormon and that works for you... stick to it. If the purpose of your religion/spirituality, is only about being at peace with yourself and others... Then in many cases, the worst thing I could do would be to introduce the gospel - - the good news of Jesus Christ into your culture - - - because if you embrace that, it can put you at odds with your family and your surrounding community.
But IF, IF, IF, IF, IF, the purpose of your religion and spirituality is to get you into a right relationship with God... Then it’s important that you look at who that God is... and the ways in which he has made Himself known to us... And what he says about how I can be right with Him. Back to that question... Isn’t it Elitist (Narrow, Exclusivistic, Intolerant, Unkind, Disrespectful to People Of Other Faiths) Isn’t It The Height Of Arrogance To Claim That There Is Only One Way?
The answer... It would be if that one way wasn’t AVAILABLE to anyone who wanted to find it. Jesus makes a very significant promise, regarding that one way. And that is that if people look long enough, and hard enough, they will find Him. In Matthew 7:8 Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” What does that tell you? It’s a promise from Jesus that someone who diligently and earnestly seeks him, is going to find Him.
And maybe you’re at a point today where you need to pray what you could call “a seekers prayer.” Maybe you’ve never investigated who Jesus is, and what he left heaven and came to earth to do. You just always felt like – that this was something you either believed or you didn’t. But here Jesus is saying, “If you knock, if you look, if you hunt, you’re going to find." And “the seekers prayer” is simply saying “God I’m not sure I’m ready to make a commitment of faith, but from this day forward I’m going to move from being a passive seeker to being an active seeker." I’m going to speak with some people who studies the Bible. I’m going to go to continue to come to church online and open up a Bible and read it for myself because Jesus promises you that if you do that you will find him. Romans 10:13 promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Aren’t all religions the same? No. There’s one way... one name... given by God... and it’s totally available to any who will call on Him. One more thing I want you to think about... And that is what we as Christians should do with this truth. I think that the thing that annoys most people is not that Christians think that Jesus is THE WAY to God. I mean they probably figure that they have a right to believe that. The real thing that annoys most people is that Christians are so annoying about it. So self-righteous, so cocky. That’s why the Bible itself says in 1 Peter 3:15.
Always be prepared to give an answer everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect... 1 Peter 3:15. Respect for other people. Respect for their cultures, respect for their persons. Why? Because people are operating with this stereotype that Christianity is exclusivistic, and elitist. And it’s not.
LET ME GIVE YOU A METAPHOR. Let’s say that there are TWO COUNTRY CLUBS. One country club says... “In order to become a member of our country club you’ve got to achieve a lot of great things, you’ve got to pay some very high dues in order to golf on our course. And only then will you be allowed in." The OTHER COUNTRY CLUB says... “Anybody who wants to join is allowed. Rich or poor, black or white, man or woman, it doesn’t matter, come on in - you can golf here - - - now the dues are a million dollars a year - - - but they’ve been all paid for by our owner’s son - - - it’s all paid for. Now we won’t twist your arm. You still have to decide whether or not to walk in. But anyone who wants to can walk in and golf here for free.” Now which of these two country clubs is being snobbish? The one that says “In order to really golf here you need to achieve certain standards.” Or the one that says, “All you’ve got to do is come in - the dues are paid for – everybody who wants to can come right in?" Obviously the first club is the one that’s being snobbish.
And I offer you this metaphor because I think it represents what most religious systems on the planet are like. Yes, you can come and learn about us but to really achieve enlightenment, or Nirvana, or heaven, you’ve got to achieve this and this and this and this. You’ve got to DO – DO – DO!!! Whereas Christianity says ‘All you’ve got to do is walk in the door.” It’s been DONE!!!!! It’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive. That’s why we can reach out to people with gentleness and respect. It’s just one beggar telling another where we found bread. Because you see ultimately it all comes back to that. It all comes back to the question that Jesus himself asked his own disciples - - - He said “A lot of people say a lot of things about me - - - some say I’m Elijah, some say I’m a prophet - - -some say I’m John the Baptist come back from the dead - - - and then he turns to them and says, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15
You see this is what it always comes down to. At the end of the day it comes back down to you!!!! What about you?? In your heart - - Who do you say Jesus is? I want to give you a chance to respond to Jesus personally in answer to that question... Let’s bow in prayer...
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA.
From Series: "Dumb Things Christians Say"
People have a lot to say, these days. On social media and among friends and family, we share opinions and advice freely. But sometimes Christians toss around statements that aren't exactly helpful or even biblically true. In this six-week series we’ll look at some of those spiritual urban legends and contrast them with what God’s Word actually says.
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