Monday, June 16, 2014

Are Tattoos Biblical?

There is only one direct reference to tattoos in the Bible where the word "tattoo" is used in most English translations. (Leviticus 19:28). We know from that verse that God prohibited tattoos before the New Covenant. Why did God tell the Israelites not to have tattoos if it is okay for people to have them? The Egyptians especially would make deep gashes in their arms, legs, and faces out of respect for the dead and as an offering to the pagan gods they worshipped. Tattoos were also connected to names of idols therefore. God told the Israelites not to have tattoos because they were connected to names of idols who presided over death according to pagan belief.
The closest thing to a tattoo in the modern sense mentioned in the Bible is the mark of the beast that will be given out by the Antichrist's worldwide government during the last half of the Tribulation. That might not be a tattoo like what we are used to even then. It could be some modern technology like you a computer microchip implanted under the skin that produces an image on the hand or forehead. Or it could be something else. The Greek word used for "mark" in the "mark of the beast" verses in Revelation are the closest thing to a tattoo reference in the New Testament though (Revelation 13:16-18; 14:9-11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
Something similar to a tattoo is mentioned as a mark or seal given by God not to harm those who marked or sealed to protect them when others were being judged, punished, and even killed for sin (Genesis 4:15; Ezekiel 9:4-6). Other places where God mentions tattoos in a positive light are Isaiah 49:16 and Deuteronomy 11:18-19.

We can be comfortable with having tattoos today as long as we are not imitating the same practices of these ancient pagan societies. It is biblically permissible for people to have tattoos unless it is for a pagan reason listed above or unless you have a tattoo of something that does not glorify God. Jesus summed up the entire intent of the law in Matthew 22:34-40. Jesus said we are fulfilling and obeying the whole Law when we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and intellect and love others like we love ourselves. The rest of the Bible's commands show us how to love properly because the word and idea of love sometimes gets altered to mean things it really does not mean. That is why there should be no problem with getting tattoo(s) if they are glorifying God.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

True Repentance

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2 NKJV). This was the central message of John the Baptist during his ministry. It was among the first messages Jesus ever preached and remained a central theme of His ministry as well. "Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee...From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 4:12, 17 NKJV). The message of repentance is central to beginning and sustaining a strong relationship with God. It seems that the true meaning of the word has been lost however.

Thayer and Smith's Bible Dictionary
 defines the Greek word "Mentanoeo" from which we get the word "repent" as "to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins." Mentanoeo is used 34 times in the New Testament without a basic change in meaning. The meaning does seem to have changed in the understanding of some in the Church today though. Repentance begins with a change of mind. It begins on the inside in other words. It is an inward change that cannot help but produce positive results. Why then do so many insist on making repentance about an outward struggle or trying harder to do better? That is not repentance. That is works of the flesh. God condemns works of the flesh as they are nothing more than people's own ideas about how to make themselves acceptable to God. "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:4 NIV).
Falling from grace has been interpreted in some Christian circles and denominations to mean committing some awful sin that causes one to lose their salvation. Falling from grace actually means to try to make yourself right with God by your own self-effort. This is futile. Christ died in vain if we were capable of saving ourselves or even changing ourselves where it really matters on the inside. That is why the true message of repentance has been lost. We must make the decision to repent. The power does not come from ourselves though.
Do not be left with the feeling that you are left to your own struggle if you having a hard time with repentance in some area of your life. Simply receive the power that God offers by faith and He will help you to turn toward Him and go in the right direction. That change will begin on the inside rather than the outside. You will then recognize the results in the outward change of behavior. You will live in constant frustration if you try to work the change on the outside without receiving the divine power on the inside to change first though. "You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and your heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world" (Matthew 5:8 The Message).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You Shall Not Judge?

In sharing my faith or the principles of my faith with others, I have found that one of the favorite verses often used when I point out a moral absolute the Bible outlines is Matthew 7:1. In that verse, Jesus says not to judge so we would not be judged. If you listen to commentary or discussion on this verse, it would leave some people to think that this was the Bible's final word on the subject when it is not. A person can learn a great deal about what Jesus actually meant if they read on rather than just stopping at verse one. He goes on to describe in verses two and three that the way you judge is how you will be judged in return. Then in verses four and five,He contradicts the way verse one is often interpreted. Notice Jesus does not tell His followers to ignore or refuse to remove the log or plank in a brother's eye. He tells His followers to remove the speck from their own eyes so they can see clearly to remove the speck from his brother's eye. Therefore, when Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 not to judge, He goes on to explain that this condemns a certain type of judging, hypocritical and uninformed judgment. This same type of unrighteous judging is mentioned in Romans 7:1-3, 14:1-4, 14:10-13, and 1 Corinthians 14:5.

For example, if an unrepentant thief who stole $20 condemns a corrupt government official who steals hundreds of thousands of dollars, that would be a hypocritical judgment. Likewise, a person who accuses someone of wrongdoing without having all the facts would be guilty of the kind of judgment spoken about in Matthew 7:1-5. Furthermore support for this view can be found in Matthew 7:6 where Jesus says not to give what is holy to dogs or cast pearls before swine. One must be able to understand how to judge correctly to be able to discern a "dog" or "swine" when they find one. Then later on in verses 15-20, Jesus differentiates between true prophets who bear good fruit and false prophets who bear bad fruit. You have to make judgments based on a perfect, unchanging standard in order to be able to tell good fruit from bad fruit and the true prophet from the false.

People have to make judgments every day. We would not be able to live or function safely if we didn't. We all have a basis for right and wrong. Even atheists who have no verbally expressed religious belief make moral judgments every day. Parents make judgments about what and who is good for their children to be around. People in management positions make decisions on who to fire, who to hire, and so on based on judgments about people. So how does someone judge correctly if God does not condemn all judgments. We even have a court system with--(yes, you guessed it)--judges who make determinations based on law.
So the issue is not whether or not it is right to judge. It is how to make the best judgments. Fortunately, God does not leave us in the dark. He has given His divinely-inspired instructions for living (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Now all we must do is follow those instructions, (Matthew 7:20-21), teach others to do the same (Matthew 28:19-20), and humbly correct others in love when they are in error (Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Ephesians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 6:20-21).

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Democrat Party and the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan was formed primarily as a way to intimidate black Republicans and Republicans in general so that they would not vote. They went farther than just standing outside of voting locations and looking threatening. Eugene Smalley writes in A Brief History of the Republican Party "A secret organization sprang up as if by magic in all parts of the South, whose members were exclusively white men, hostile to the new order of things, and sworn to accomplish the destruction of negro rule. This organization was called the Ku-Klux Klan. Its ostensible purpose at first was to keep the blacks in order and prevent them from committing small depredations upon the property of the whites, but its real motives were essentially political...They murdered many of the negro leaders, and in pursuance of their scheme for overawing the colored population took thousands of poor blacks out of their cabins at night and brutally flogged them. In some neighborhoods scarcely a colored man escaped a visitation from these terrible midnight riders. The negroes were invariably required to promise not to vote the Republican ticket, and threatened with death if they broke their promises. In some cases, the Ku-Klux Klan assaulted Republican officials in their houses or offices or upon the public roads; in others they attacked the meetings of negros and dispersed them. Their action took almost every form of lawlessness, and was adopted with the single purpose of breaking down the authority of the Republican State and local governments, and preparing the way for a Democratic victory at the elections. The Ku-Klux Klan order and its variations extended throughout the entire South" Harper's Weekly reported on March 30,1867 that the KKK even went so far as to attack a Republican convention in New Orleans eight months earlier, killing and injuring many, and further proving the political motivation behind the organization, to harm the Republican Party.

It wasn't until the mid 20th century with the election of Harry Truman as President that some Democrats started going against the majority of their party to support civil rights for racial minorities. Richard Wormser of PBS writes, "Harry Truman astonished everyone by suddenly supporting civil rights. Truman had been outraged at the murder and assaults on dozens of black veterans of World War II. Although he once held strong racial biases -- he had used the ['n' word] freely in his speech -- in 1947 he decided to make civil rights a national issue. He authorized a fifteen-man committee on Civil Rights to recommend new legislation to protect people from discrimination." Many southern Democrats were not on board with Truman's bold stand though. February 8, 1948's Sarasota Herald reported "The South's governors adopted a resolution condemning President Truman's civil rights program…[Missouri] Governor [Fielding] Wright called on the conference to stand for 'white supremacy' against President Truman...Wright said he wanted to defeat President Truman's program of civil rights for Negroes by opposition within the Democratic Party. 'However, he said, 'if all other recourse is unavailable, I stand ready as a loyal adherent to the true aims of the party's time-honored traditions to take other and more positive action."
The history doesn't lie and is there for anyone to see. The Ku-Klux Klan and affiliated organizations were one in the same with the Democratic Party. There is documented history even up to and including the 20th century of white supremacists having a prominent role in the party. Yet somehow the Democratic Party is seen as the party of civil rights while Republicans are supposedly oppressive to minorities. In many ways, this is a Twilight Zone world in which we now live.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eternal Rewards

The Bible does promote the doctrine of greater rewards or lesser rewards in Heaven for born again believers based on good works done for the Lord. Those good works do not merit salvation, but they do have everything to say about rewards/position for followers of Christ in the millennial kingdom and beyond. The judgment for which these rewards are handed out is called interchangeably the Believer’s Judgment, the Bema Seat Judgment, and the Judgment Seat of Christ. This judgment is not for the lost that have not repented of their sins and trusted in Christ and his sacrifice alone for salvation. The lost are doomed to eternal Hell thanks to God’s righteous justice unless they repent during that awful seven year period of which Jesus said nothing like it has ever taken place on Earth nor ever will again. The judgment of the lost takes place at the Great White Throne Judgment found in Revelation chapter 20 at the end of Christ’s 1,000 reign before the eternal age begins. Rather, this judgment I am talking about right now takes place in Heaven after the Rapture of the Church while the Tribulation is taking place on Earth.

The Bible talks about five specific crowns people receive in Heaven for good works done with the purpose of serving the Lord. One is the incorruptible or victor’s crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 KJV says, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” Born-again believers who are faithful in witnessing, trying to win the lost to Christ, receive the crown of rejoicing. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 NKJV says, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” Those, such as me, who love to study about and long for the Rapture of the Church, receive the crown of righteousness. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Shepherds, who are elders or leaders in the church, receive a specific crown for their faithful service. 1 Peter 5:2-4 NIV says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Another crown is given specifically to martyrs. The last part of Revelation 2:10 NLT says, “If you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”

These five specific crowns, perhaps the highest of all rewards, are not the only treasures those born from above shall receive in the future though. God doesn’t command us to think lowly of these rewards as some would think. I have heard some people express reservation about looking forward to or working toward rewards. They feel like doing so is wrong because their chief focus should be looking forward to being with and serving Christ face-to-face. However, if God did not want believers to look forward to these other rewards, he would not have told us about them. If anything, getting even more rewards from God when no one deserves any based on their own merit should deepen love for God and desire to serve him.

Jesus told his followers to seek after eternal rewards. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus said in Revelation 22:12 HCSB says, “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

The Bible talks about this Judgment Seat of Christ before which all true born again believers will appear in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NIV. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” Notice again that salvation is not on the line at this judgment. This is all about the works of believers. If the work is done for Christ by a believer with pure motives, those works are like gold, silver, and costly stones for which the believer will receive rewards accordingly. Those works a believer does that are wrong or those works that may be right outwardly but done with wrong motive, will be burned up like wood, hay, and straw. That believer will suffer loss. Notice, however, that they are still saved because the last verse says the person’s whose work is burned up will still be saved, although it will be as if they were escaping through the flames. Romans 14:12 NIV also promises that “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” This brings out the opportunity present in everyday life to every genuinely repentant, trusting follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every day is an opportunity to store up treasure that will last forever!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is all slavery sin?

The Bible does permit, condones, and gave laws for slavery. Yet people assume that all slavery is wrong. How is that compatible? First of all, we must realize that slavery, like all problems in the universe, is a result of humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden that has been passed down through the generations. It was not a part of God’s perfect design or plan. Divorce was not part of God’s original intention for marriage, but there are laws for it because we are now trying to overcome our sinful nature through the power of the Holy Spirit if we repent of our sins and accept Christ. Whether it was intended or not, it was and is a part of reality in this present age.

“Some Pharisees came to [Jesus] to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 21:3:8 NIV).

The same can be said for slavery. I think one of the reasons we have such a view of slavery that we do is that American slavery was wrong. The basis of it was wrong. The way they treated their slaves was wrong. Even though American slave owners used the Bible to justify their practices, the way they went about it was way off. The Bible condoned certain types of slavery that were considered right under certain circumstances. We should not shy away from it. Just accept it.

One of the types of slavery that was allowed in the Bible was temporary and voluntary service for fellow Hebrews whether due to a debt, protection, or assistance. This is also called indentured service. Sometimes that slavery relationship became permanent, but other times the slave was to be released after a certain number of years. “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:2-6 NIV). We still have that today in the form of government dependence and even in the justice system. Some inmates would rather stay in jail than be free because there is a certain amount of security in it. American slavery back in the days it was lawful did not have such limitations though. Not only were slaves not released even if they wanted to be, many of them were returned if they escaped.

Another type of slavery was for criminals. Those who could not or would not make up for their crimes were sold as slaves. “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double” (Exodus 22:1-4 NIV).

Pagan slaves are also acceptable in the Bible. “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:44-46 NIV). The last verse is very important because it underlines part of my point. It orders slave owners not to treat their slaves ruthlessly. How much did that happen in American society during our pro-slavery past?

Furthermore, how many slaves in America volunteered to be slaves? “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession” (Exodus 21:16 NIV). “If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 24:7 NIV). There were more protections in place for slaves who no longer wished to be slaves, were mistreated, and the like. “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 NIV).

Slaves could be punished in the Bible. “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property” (Exodus 21:20-21 NIV). Compensation or freedom was to be granted for the abused slave though. “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth” (Exodus 21:26-27 NIV). “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.

Slaves in the Bible had rights. Slaves in America had none and in many places in the world where slavery is still practiced had no rights. Meanwhile, slaves in the Bible could not only be released after serving for a limited time, there were also paid well when released. “If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today” (Deuteronomy 15:12-15 NIV).

Slaves could also repent of their sins and follow God if they chose. They were not to be condemned temporally or eternally if they wanted to follow the Creator. “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:12-13 NIV).

Now as I said when I started talking about the specific issue of slavery, ideally it would not exist and therefore we would not need any regulations. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 NIV says, “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” Galatians 5:1 NIV echoes these thoughts. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

There is obviously a preference that slavery not exist in God’s perfect will. Christians who were slaves were encouraged to be free even though they were to remain as they were beforehand and live out a godly example until such a time they could become free. Christians have worked out throughout history to be a force to end slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. However, it is also true that there is no indication in Scripture that slavery is a sin” (Colossians 3:22-25 NIV). “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:9-10 NIV).

Just to show there is no contradiction between the Old and New Testaments, slavery was even permitted under the new covenant. Ephesians 6:5-9 MSG says, “Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don't just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ's servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free. Masters, it's the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.”

“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1 NIV). “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NIV).

To summarize, it is God’s perfect will that all people experience freedom in Christ and be free. That being said, slavery in and of itself is not a sin if a person becomes a slave for one of the above-listed reasons, are treated well once they become slaves, and have the opportunity to be free at some point should the slave choose to be free. American slavery was a sin because it was based off of racism. People who were slaves under the American system were horribly mistreated many times and never given the chance to be free. This was not true in all cases. Some of America’s founders and early American Christians worked to end slavery and free them after educating them in the Christian faith. In general though, American slavery was wrong even though the institution of slavery itself, if done biblically, is not a sin.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Proving the Bible and Christianity True

In order to prove that Christianity is the truth and all other religions are false, we must first begin by establishing absolute truth. If there is no absolute truth, there is no need to even talk about this. It’s hard to believe this is even an issue, but in today’s postmodern society we have to have this discussion because so many have rejected that absolute truth even exists. They have the Pilate Syndrome. Pilate’s life was so spiritually confused that he asked in John 18:38, “What is truth” (NASB)? Yet, the very discussion of the subject tells us there has to be absolute truth. Otherwise, we could not say there is not. About a week ago, I heard the father of a seven-year-old little girl say, “Did you know there are some people who don’t believe anything can be known for sure?” The little girl paused for a moment and then wisely replied, “Well, how do they know that?” Said another way, to say there is no absolute truth is in itself an absolute statement that contradicts itself.

All religions cannot be true. Some religions teach that there are multiple gods. Some religions place the number of gods in existence in the thousands and beyond. These religions are polytheistic. There are fewer religions that believe in one deity. My friend Darrell likes to say that Christianity is the only monotheistic and polytheistic religion that exists because God is one in essence and three in person or forms. Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Then there is 1 John 5:7 NKJV that says, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (“the Word” being Jesus Christ as John chapter one says). Taking the examples further, the writing on top of the Dome of the Rock says that God has no son. By contrast, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God as the New Testament proclaims. All of these cannot be right. Therefore, all paths cannot lead to the same God.

Now, narrowing it down, what makes Christianity superior to all other religions? Rather than examining all other religions for their falseness, we can just examine Christianity for its exclusive truth. There are many reasons to prove Christianity is true and the details are so exhaustive I dare not try to tackle them all here. So I will just give some highlights. The one that did it for me was fulfilled prophecy. I became a Christian while reading the Left Behind series, based off of future end-time events that will occur. Then the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming confirmed that Christianity is true. There are 109 distinct prophecies that prophesied Jesus’ first coming including His birth, events in His life, death, and resurrection. Those prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. There is no way Christianity could not be true based on that evidence alone. The odds that even 10 of those prophecies could be fulfilled in one man are astronomical. The prophecies about the Second Coming of Christ fascinate me because there are at least twice as many prophecies about His Second Coming as there was His first one. Given the state of the world today, all the pieces seem to be fitting into place as we speak. This is even more evidence that the Bible is 100% reliable. If we can trust what the Bible says prophetically, it has to have divine origin. Therefore, we can trust everything else it says. “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV).

The Bible is completely reliable. We can prove that it has been copied accurately down through the generations thanks to archaeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. These scrolls are dated somewhere between 100-200 years before the birth of Christ. Before that, there were not any discovered manuscripts anywhere close to the time of original writing. When the scrolls were examined with the later copies that were already available, no significant differences were found. That’s because this is a God-guided process to ensure that the Bible we have in our modern languages and versions today is completely reliable.

The New Testament is just as reliable as the Old Testament. There is a great amount of source material available for the New Testament. There are thousands of manuscripts and pieces of manuscripts testifying to the accuracy of the translations we have today. Textual criticism, which has been in practice since around the second century A.D, has confirmed the New Testament text with 99% agreement, the minor variances not affecting any major doctrine or idea, but rather comprising of things like spelling and grammar differences most of the time. This was not done later. It would have impossible for the Church to eliminate all things that are perceived as inconsistent, especially when we look at the age of many of the copies and see how close they are to the original time they would have been written. All objections to these points are based more on supposition than actual evidence.

The Bible itself also claims to be the Word of God. Over 2,000 in the Old Testament, the Bible makes this claim. The New Testament does as well. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV). This “Scripture” does not always just talk about the Old Testament. The early church considered the four Gospels just as much Scripture as the Old Testament canon. 1 Timothy 5:18 refers to a passage from the Gospel of Luke (10:7) as Scripture, on the same level as the Old Testament (it is quoted in the same breath as Deuteronomy 25:4). Peter referred to Paul’s writings as Scriptures as well. “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other SCRIPTURES, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16 NIV- emphasis mine). The Apostle John’s writings were also considered Scripture. The book of Revelation offers the same warning to adding to or taking away from the Bible that the book of Deuteronomy does. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll” (Revelation 22:18-19 NIV). Satan, the devil, Lucifer, the enemy of God has been trying to get people to doubt God’s Word from his conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden until now. Satan asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’” (Genesis 3:1 NKJV)? He has been doing the same to us ever since. “Has God really said…” “Is this really His book?” “Are you sure this is what it means?” “Is this the right version?” Satan’s purpose behind all this is to inspire doubt so that we will not trust the true God and be led astray all the way to the pits of Hell for eternity.

Jesus made some radical claims about Himself. He claimed certain passages written by Old Testament prophets to be about Him. “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-22 NASB). Jesus said of Himself, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NASB). “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6 NASB). “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 NASB). “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:13-17 NASB). “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds” (Matthew 16:27 NASB). Then there is my favorite when Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6 NASB). It is statements like this that prompted C.S. Lewis to write in “Mere Christianity,” “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Then there is the ultimate evidence of truth in the Bible and about Christ’s claim, which is His resurrection. It would have been easy to prove Christianity a fraud if those against the movement could have simply produced the body of Jesus, proving there was no resurrection. The Roman soldiers that were guarding the tomb could have been killed for supposedly falling asleep while the body was “stolen” as one claim goes. There is no way the so-called swoon theory holds any water either. These were professional executioners. They would know beyond doubt when someone was dead. Even if Jesus would have just been badly injured and not killed on the cross, there is no way a badly injured Jesus could have fully convinced the disciples that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Then there are the changed lives of the disciples. People die for things they believe every day, but how many people die for things they know is a lie? Even if you find the occasional person that will, would an entire group of people allow themselves to be tortured unimaginably and killed unless they knew for sure that what they were dying for actively happened? They couldn’t have been delusional. Since when are delusions collective? And besides, it was not just the 11 disciples that died for their faith that claimed to see Jesus alive after His crucifixion. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NLT, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (my note: who could have also testified that this was not true), “though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

With these mountains of evidence for the reliability of the Bible and the resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ, it would be foolish to come to any other conclusion than that all of this is true and can be trusted. Since we can trust what the Bible says about itself, about history, about prophecy, about Jesus, about His perfect life, about His resurrection, we can also trust what the Bible says about salvation, Heaven, Hell, and life after death. Acts 4:12 NIV says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Don’t waste another minute. If you have not done so yet, turn from your sins and turn toward God. Confess your sins to Him. Believe in and rely on Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins in the same way you would rely on a parachute to save you from an airplane jump. You wouldn’t just believe in the parachute. Simple intellectual belief would not be enough. You have to put on the parachute for it to apply to you. Jesus is eternity’s parachute. Put Him on before it is too late.