Faithlife Sermons

Why I Am a Christian 4 (Religions Wishful Thinking)

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 12 views
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

“Why I Am a Christian”

#4: “Aren’t All Religions Just Wishful Thinking?”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 28, 2007

Text:          Topical

Theme:      The cross makes all the difference.

Goal:          To better understand our own worldview by learning about other worldviews, so that we can be better salt and light.

Introduction

The last several Sundays we’ve looked at atheism, Islam, and Hinduism. Today as we conclude this series I want to ask four basic questions that are often asked by seekers and skeptics.

On your outline you’ll notice the first question…

1. Aren’t all religions just wishful thinking? (1 C 15; 1 John 1:1-4)

Illust: My dad is somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist. When push comes to shove he really doesn’t believe there’s a god. He thinks that when you die lights are out and end of story. We’ve had several conversations over the years where my dad would say, “Greg, I think Christ is a crutch. Religions are just props to help people cope with life. It’s all just wishful thinking!

I said, “Dad, I think atheism is a crutch! In spite of all the evidence for God and for Christ, you don’t want to believe in him because you don’t want to change! You want to do your own thing and so atheism is a crutch to help you live life your way!”

Pray for my dad. He’s now 69 years old and the girlfriend he’s living with is a heavy smoker and has CPD, and her health is going down rapidly. Pray for her and her whole unchurched family.

Illust: Last August I told you about the privilege I had to work at the Buick Open Golf Tournament on two days. I went with Pastor Dan one day and Brent Cooley on the other day. We worked as evacuation drivers. They had 17 minivans strategically placed all over the golf course. If it rained, our group of evacuation drivers was responsible to get the players and their caddies off the course and back to the club house.

If you were here that Sunday last August you’ll remember my highlight of the week…[SHOW PICTURE OF TIGER WOODS AND ME]

…but actually, the highlight of the week for me was not Tiger Woods.  On Thursday, when we had to evacuate the players for the second time, I happened to have a group of players on my fairway that you wouldn’t know their names. I didn’t know their names. One of the guys was Henrik Bjornstad, from Oslo, Norway. Henrik Bjornstad’s caddie got into the van with me about five minutes before the other guys got in. I don’t even know his name, but this caddie was from England and had worked as a caddie for almost 20 years, primarily on the ladies tour, but more recently on the men’s tour. This caddie sat in the passenger seat right next to me. I asked him all kinds of questions and he was open and eloquent. Then he asked me, “So what do you do?”  I said, “I’m a pastor.”  He said, “Oh that’s great. You’ll go to heaven when you die.”  I said, “Hopefully you will too.”  He said, “Unfortunately I don’t believe in heaven.”

I said, “Oh, what do you believe?”  He said, “I think this life is all there is. We humans are at the top of the food chain, and we don’t like the fact that we’re at the top and this is all there is. We like to think there’s something more. So people have created all these religions to meet those desires. But it’s a deception. It’s just hopeful, wishful thinking.” Then he went on to say, “But what you do is good because it helps people feel better and gives them hope.”

I said, “I appreciate your view. Obviously I believe otherwise.”  I went on to say, “Why is it that almost everybody around the world has deeper desires for something more, some kind of god, some kind of religion? Could it be that rather than being wishful thinking, it may be a pointer that there is something more? After all, if there is no god and this life is all there is, why do so many people long for more? Why not just face reality and say…this is it, enjoy it? Maybe all these desires for a higher purpose and power are pointers that there is something more?”

He paused. “Nah. Religions have caused too much hatred and killing in the world. It can’t be a good thing.”

Which leads us to the second question in a moment. But get this:

Our deepest desires are spiritual! All over the world people want to believe in some higher power and that there’s something more than this life and what you see on the surface! You can say that it’s all illusion and wishful thinking, or you can say it’s a pointer to the truth!

There’s another angle on this. Turn to 1 John 1:1-4. All other religions are basically teachings and philosophies. For example, Buddhists don’t really care if Buddha ever existed or not. What matters is the teaching. What matters are the ideas. In Islam, Muhammad is just a man who taught things about God. Now you can sit around and debate ideas and philosophy for ever!

But the Christian faith is more than a philosophy or a teaching. The Christian faith is the only worldview in the world that lays itself on the line. The Christian faith says that Jesus died on the cross and rose again –and if you can prove that Jesus never existed –if you can prove that he didn’t really die –or if you can prove that he didn’t rise again, then you destroy the Christian faith!

So far from being “wishful thinking”, the Christian faith makes actual historical claims. It says, “Here’s the evidence! Look at it! Disprove it if you can!” This is why the NT writers said what they said…READ 1 JOHN 1:1-4. (comment) also 1 C 15:14-16

So when someone says, “Aren’t all religions just wishful thinking?” Say, “No, all the spiritual desires that people have all around the world are indicators that there is something more; and when you really investigate it…

          Answer: The Christian faith makes the most sense.

It makes the most sense in every category:

·       Why do we long for love and relationships?

·       Why is there evil and suffering in the world?

·       What is the basis for morality?

·       What is the purpose of life?

          The Christian Worldview:

          Creation → Corruption → Reconciliation → Restoration

The Christian worldview makes the most sense intellectually; it’s the most satisfying emotionally; and it’s the most practical and workable –for individuals and societies!

Resources:

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright

Pocket Handbook to Christian Apologetics by Kreeft and Tacelli

2. Aren’t all religions basically the same, and just a variety of paths to God? (Acts 17:16-34)

I have to say that this question blows my mind! It’s so common to hear people say, “Well, you know, all the religions are basically the same, and as long as you’re sincere it doesn’t matter which one you choose.”

Now, anyone who says that obviously has never studied what the various worldviews actually believe! Of course it’s true that there is some overlap and some agreement in some areas, but at the core they contradict each other and especially Christianity. For example…

          Atheism – no god, no purpose, no answers!

          Buddhism – deny desire to avoid suffering

Buddhism says that the goal is to desire nothing so that you can enter nirvana where you lose your identity. The Christian faith says that the goal is to desire God and enter into a relationship with him that meets your deepest desires!

          Hinduism – escape the wheel of reincarnation

Hinduism says that there is no ultimate personal God who loves you. Christianity says, “Oh yes there is!” Hinduism says you’re trapped in this wheel of reincarnation. You suffer through life only to die and do it all over again. So round and round you go; and the goal is to escape the cycle of life and lose your identity. The Christian faith says you die once. You’ll then face your Creator and spend eternity in heaven or hell depending on whether you accepted his love or not. Not only that but one day Christ will return to restore this world to God’s original intention, and we will live in a new heaven and new earth with new bodies. So our goal is not escape but restoration! Totally different worldviews!

Now it’s true that Islam and Judaism and Christianity have a lot more in common with each other in that they believe in a personal Creator God and have a similar view of history and judgment. But…

          Islam – submit to God’s will; denies deity and death of Jesus

…which lies at the core of the Christian faith. Ironically, Islam denies the death of Jesus, whereas Judaism denies…

          Judaism – denies deity and resurrection of Jesus

Turn to Acts 17:16-34. Here’s what makes the Christian faith different from every other religion in the world. Every other religion in the world is about you. You have to earn your way. You’ve got to be good enough. You’ve got to follow these rules to reach the goal. And if you don’t, it’s bad karma or judgment or hell or reincarnation as a rat –whatever. But the focus is always you. You’ve got do more! You’ve got to achieve and impress the powers that be.

The Christian faith is the reverse! It’s not about you! It’s about what God has done for you; and it’s about what God can do in you and through you! Listen to how Paul puts it. READ ACTS 17:16-34. (Comment)

Christianity isn’t about rules and regulations and trying to be good so that God will like you. It’s about how much God loves you and how Jesus –God in the flesh –died for you and rose again to conquer sin and death. And what he asks is for you to repent, which means to turn from your sins and say yes to his love.

            Christianity – deity of Jesus; his cross and resurrection

So when someone asks, “Aren’t all religions basically the same? And aren’t they all valid paths to God?” Say…

          Answer: These worldviews are contradictory in their basic claims, and Jesus is utterly unique.

It’s about his grace and his transforming power in our lives!

Now at this point many people start to raise the fairness question. “Do you mean to tell me that Jesus is the only way? Are you saying that all Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists are going to hell because they haven’t received Jesus as Savior and Lord? How intolerant! How arrogant! How unfair! Many around the world have never even heard of Jesus. It would be unjust to send them to hell simply because they never heard of him!”

Some time we’ll address this issue more completely, but here’s the bottom line: We don’t know what God will do for people who never heard of Jesus. But we do know about the character and intentions of God. God is absolutely just and merciful and kind and loving. So it’s safe to say: whatever God’s plan is, it’s fair and just and good.

But let’s be clear: No one in heaven will be saying, “Thank Buddha I’m here! Thank Muhammad I’m here!” No, every person in heaven will be thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for them.

            Resource:

            Pocket Guide to World Religions by Winfried Corduan

Question three…        

3. Shouldn’t we grow up and leave religion behind, since religions cause hatred and wars? (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Illust: You may have heard of Sam Harris. He’s probably the most well-known atheist in America today. He’s on talk shows and radio interviews. He has articles in Newsweek and Time Magazines. ; and he’s written two books. Sam Harris makes no apologies. He’s out to show how Christianity and Islam and every other religion is irrational, incoherent, and leads to violence.

In fact, Sam Harris says, almost all the hostility that’s ever been in the world has been caused by religions. It’s time we grew up and became reasonable and left all these silly religions behind.

Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and scientist of Oxford University, says that religion is to blame, not only for 9-11, but for most of the hostility in the world. The reason is that religion makes you sure of things. Once you become totally committed to something and believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong, then you become arrogant and hateful!

I have only one question to Richard Dawkins: Are you sure? I think Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are every bit as sure of their worldview as any person of faith! So don’t their convictions make them intolerant as well?

And the simple fact is, most of the atrocities in the 20th century were caused by atheists and anti-God people like Stalin and Mao Tse Tung and Hitler! People are very good at hating and killing regardless of whether they’re religious or not!

So how do we answer Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins?

Answer: Hatred is the human condition, not a religious condition.

I finished reading Sam Harris’ book, “The End of Faith”, this week. He brings up all the classic cases of how Christianity has been so cruel and oppressive –like the Inquisition where they tortured and killed people for not believing all the Christian teachings. And it’s true, horrible things have been done in the name of God and of Jesus. And as Christians we need to say that we are extremely sorry and embarrassed for how professing Christians have sometimes acted. And we might also say that those people weren’t truly Christians.

But the fact is, Christianity has improved this world greatly. The whole idea of hospitals and charitable giving and compassion ministries started in the Christian faith! If you want to learn more about how the Christian faith has improved the world, read …

            Resources:

            The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

            What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe

            The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

They show that the world has been dramatically better off because of Jesus and his followers.  Let’s move on to the last question…

4. Doesn’t our commitment to Christ make us intolerant?

If you really believe that Jesus is the only way to God and if you really believe that you are right and everybody else is wrong, won’t that make you arrogant and intolerant and a menace to society?

Turn to 1 Peter 2:11-12. You thought I forgot that Scripture, didn’t you, since it’s listed with the third question? I didn’t forget. I was saving it for now. READ IT.

Christians are supposed to be honest and kind and loving and generous –to everyone –not just to other Christians! Now this theme of living a good life that attracts unbelievers is a theme that runs right through Peter’s letter.

READ (parts of) 2:13-3:16.  (“good behavior, good life, respect”)

·       Government

·       Slaves

·       Wives

·       Husbands

·       All of you

This is how Christians should live! The real problem is that many people who confess faith in Christ aren’t really following Christ! They are just as rude and selfish and petty as the next guy! And so our challenge as Christians and as churches is to allow the Holy Spirit to do his transforming work in our lives so that we actually live the Christ-like way! A couple of brief…

          Reflections on Tolerance

1. Love people; debate ideas. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

The whole idea of “tolerance” in our society has become confused and twisted. Many people think that tolerance means that I have to agree with whatever you say or do. If I disagree with you or if I say, “I don’t think you should do that” –I must be a bigoted and intolerant person. So tolerance has come to mean that anything goes.

But think about how stupid that is. By that definition, no one is truly tolerant and no society can ever be tolerant. For example, society says, “You cannot steal. We will not tolerate stealing. If you steal and we catch you, you will be punished.” Well how intolerant!

You cannot drink and drive. We will not tolerate drinking and driving. If we catch you, you will pay for it! You see, society has to draw the lines somewhere. And every individual person has basic values of what’s acceptable and what’s not. So when someone is arguing for “tolerance” what they mean is that they simply want you to change your idea of what is acceptable to their idea of what is acceptable. And that’s NOT what tolerance really means!

Tolerance does not mean that you have to agree that every idea and every action is good and right. Some ideas are lousy ideas! Some ways of living are not good for people or for society. And rather than “tolerating” everything anybody says or does, we need have healthy debates about what is good and right. And as we have these discussions, we should be kind and respectful and loving! That’s what tolerance is!

Have you noticed how our society is becoming so hostile and so uncivil? You can see and feel the hostility even in our congressman. Our country is becoming so polarized that people hate each other and demonize each other! What we need is a fresh injection of respect and civility that recognized that everyone –not just Christians –is made in the image of God and deserves love and respect.

Love people. Be kind to people; but debate ideas so that the best ideas and the best values and beliefs come to the top.

In Matthew 5 Jesus calls us to be salt and light. Salt is no good unless it mingles with the food and flavors it. A candle does no good if you hide it under a bowl. Jesus is saying that he wants us to influence people. We’re to get in there and mingle and shine the light of Christ’s love! This is not optional! This is who he calls us to be! But how do we do that? By fine-sounding arguments? By being loud and disrespectful and clever so that we win some debate with them?

2. Respect people; influence them for Christ. (Mt 5:13-16)

The Bible tells us that the primary way people will be influenced for Christ is the power of transformed lives! Life is hard. People are empty and searching for something. And it’s easy to be selfish and unhappy. So when people see Christians living unselfish lives, where their focus is on serving and giving and loving –people will say, “How can you live like that? Why do you live like that?” And we will be able to say, “It’s Christ living in us! It’s his joy! It’s his love! It’s his presence in us that has transformed our lives! And guess what? He can transform your life too!”

Let’s Pray: Father, we thank for these last four Sundays where we’ve looked at atheism and Hinduism and Islam. We thank you for the opportunity to reflect on our own faith and what we believe. Thank you Lord that you call us to love you with all our heart, soul, and mind, as well as strength. We don’t have to turn off our minds and try to believe crazy things in order to follow you. Following you, Lord Jesus, is the most rational thing we will ever do. But Lord, we also know that you exceed reason, and so we worship you, not reason. We know that that there is so much we don’t know. And we know that you call us not to win arguments or to be clever. You call us to be transformed by your love and grace. They will know we are Christians by our love. So help us, Lord, as your people, to be a vital, robust community of faith, filled with your Spirit, alive with your passion, to touch people with the love of Christ. For your honor and your glory. Amen.

Resources:

The Truth about Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity, and the Culture Wars by Brad Stetson and Joseph Conti

True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic Age by Art Lindsley


EXTRA MATERIAL:

          1) Tolerance has been redefined as affirmation.

                  

          2) Truth has been redefined as preference.

          3)

The emphasis on tolerance is actually intolerance.

                   - political issues and Christians responding to removing of 10 commandments, etc.

          3) Kindness and respect are better words.

          4) Christ commands us to be kind. (1 P 3:15-17)

Tolerance and political issues:

          Church and state: should Christians “tolerate” the secularist’s attempt to remove all Christian symbol and values from government? (Ten Commandments, inscriptions in D.C.)

          Some group will have the power/influence (Habits of the Heart quote)

Scriptures that teach us to be tolerant: humble, kind, not slander, etc.

Scriptures that teach us not to tolerate: sin, idolatry, etc.

          1 Corinthians 5 – sexual sin; shame; excommunication

          Some things are not acceptable. (see Baker Exegetical Commentary on this passage)

Tolerance and truth: tolerance is such a buzz word because few believe in truth anymore. It’s just opinion or preference or alternative or viewpoint.

Illust: Tony Evans “The Battle is the Lord’s” 266

TOLERANCE (Life Application Commentary on Revelation 2: church at Ephesus)

The church at Ephesus faced a culture characterized by immorality. We, too, live in a culture tolerant of sexual immorality. It is popular to be open-minded toward many types of sin, calling them personal choices or alternative lifestyles. But when the body of believers begins to tolerate sin in the church, it is lowering the church’s standards and compromising its witness. Remember that God’s approval is infinitely more important than the world’s. Use God’s Word, not what people around you are willing to accept, to set the standards for what is right or wrong.

Churches in Revelation 2-3 got in trouble for being too tolerant!

“If your right eye causes you to sin…” don’t tolerate sin in your life!

Study idea of tolerance and cooperation in relation to Yahweh and Baal and idol worship in the OT.

          Why was Israel so attracted to Baal, etc?

          Why is our natural tendency to turn away from Yahweh?

Illust: at Buick Open last summer…

Address:

The uniqueness and truth of the Christian faith: Jesus and the cross

How should we treat people of other religions? Idea of tolerance.

Aren’t religions the cause of most of the wars and hatred in this world?

          Ireland, Middle East, India, Middle Ages

Find resource that explains the historical process of the last several centuries…something like:

          Enlightenment

          Darwin

          Biblical criticism

          Modernism

          Postmodernism

See material in “Case for Faith #7: A Messed Up Church”. Discussion of how atheism has done more damage than the church.

Dict. Of Christ. Apol.: 98; article on atonement and how other world religions view it; Jesus and his death/resurrection make all the difference!

What turns off many people:

          Injustice of Hell; heathen, etc. (Baker Encl.: reincarnation; reasons for belief; some would rather believe in reincarnation than hell)

          Exclusive claims: arrogance, many paths, etc.

          How can be tolerant, open, loving people and yet hold biblical views on hell and exclusive claims of Christ?


Relate Family Systems to topic of “toleration”: (marriage, church, society)

Closeness as sameness; how can we be close if not the same? We want to be close and yet be ourself.

If the two become one, which one will they become?

Illust: I tolerate shopping but I don’t like it.

Illust: avoiding conflict…conflict is just a step in solving a difference. (emotional immaturity – name calling – not believing in real truth: gives rise to power plays to win). Don’t trust someone who always agrees with you. They are emotionally weak and are afraid to disagree. If they disagree with you once in a while, you can trust them when they say they agree with you.

         


“Why I Am a Christian”

#4: “Aren’t All Religions Just Wishful Thinking?”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 28, 2007

As we conclude our study of the major world religions, let’s address four basic objections that are likely to come up in conversations with skeptics and seekers.

1. Aren’t all religions just wishful thinking? (1 Corinthians 15; 1 John 1:1-4)

          Answer: The Christian faith makes the most sense.

          The Christian Worldview:

          Creation → Corruption → Reconciliation → Restoration

          Resources:

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright

          Pocket Handbook to Christian Apologetics by Kreeft and Tacelli

2. Aren’t all religions basically the same, and just a variety of paths to God? (Acts 17:16-34)

          Atheism – no god, no purpose, no answers!

          Buddhism – deny desire to avoid suffering

          Hinduism – escape the wheel of reincarnation

          Islam – submit to God’s will; denies deity and death of Jesus

          Judaism – denies deity and resurrection of Jesus

          Christianity – deity of Jesus; his cross and resurrection

          Answer: These worldviews are contradictory in their basic

                          claims, and Jesus is utterly unique.

          Resource:

          Pocket Guide to World Religions by Winfried Corduan

         

         

3. Shouldn’t we grow up and leave religion behind, since religions cause hatred and wars? (1 Peter 2:11-12)

          Answer: Hatred is the human condition, not a religious condition.

          Resources:

          The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

          What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe

          The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

4. Doesn’t our commitment to Christ make us intolerant?

          Reflections on Tolerance

1. Love people; debate ideas. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

2. Respect people; influence them for Christ. (Mat. 5:13-16)

          Resources:

          The Truth about Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity, and the Culture Wars by Brad Stetson and Joseph Conti

          True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic Age by Art Lindsley

Related Media
Related Sermons