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Occasionally people email me …
asking for my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response:
Bob, Lately I have been dealing with depression that stems from my recently-shaken faith. I was raised Christian and attended Christian schools all the way through college. I have always been interested in scripture and never questioned my faith in Jesus Christ. However, in the last 5 years I have met many different people from many different places. These people have taught me an enormous amount about Islam, Judaism, and denominations of the Christian religion. By studying these religions I have learned that each religion believes theirs to be the truth and that others are pagan; and each religion has followers that have whole-heartily dedicated their lives to their beliefs and claim to have seen and felt things from God that confirm their faith.
The biggest faith-shaker for me is that, if we as Christians are right about how we believe God will judge us at death, God is NOT a fair God. How can you condemn someone to hell who was raised in India, taught Islam, studied Islam, prayed to God 7 times a day, and decided to not believe Jesus died for their sins simply out of a well-educated opinion and was wrong? What about the opposite? What if the other half of the world is right but not us, does he shun us for eternity even after giving a 100% humble and honest effort of faith?
My Answer …
Thanks for your thought-provoking email. While your exposure to people who are devoted to religions other than Christianity is causing you to question your faith, I’m hopeful that the end-result will be a deepening of your faith and a renewed confidence in Jesus Christ. Tennyson once said,”There is more faith in honest doubt than in half our creeds” If doubt motivates us to dig deeper, that’s good.
“Scripture makes it clear
that God is a compassionate and just God.”
– Bob Russell –
It is both humbling and convicting to encounter people whose commitment to their religion is more intense than that of most Christians. However, Saul of Tarsus was very zealous for Judaism, to the point of persecuting Christians, but the Lord still informed the man, who was later to become the Apostle Paul, that he was wrong about Jesus and was “kicking against the goads”. (Acts 26:14). A person can be totally committed to error.
I have two thoughts for you to consider. First is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus literally arose from the dead then that validates everything He said. That sets Him apart from the founders of other religions. That’s why the Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal doctrine of the Christian faith.
Ask yourself, “What do I believe about the bodily resurrection of Jesus?” If you conclude He actually came back from the grave, that lone fact settles your questions. That explains why Simon Peter could declare, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If Jesus didn’t come back from the grave, the Christian faith is useless. (See 1 Corinthians 15:17) Our faith is not a system of morals, it’s the worship of a person. It’s not earning salvation by good works but trusting Jesus’ perfect work on the cross to forgive us and His bodily resurrection to pave the way for eternal life.
My second thought for your consideration is to trust that God is a just God. Abraham asked, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). It’s not our assignment to determine how God will judge people who sincerely believe in another religion. The Scripture makes it clear that God is a compassionate and just God. The Bible teaches there will be various degrees of punishment and reward on judgment day. Romans 2:14-16 suggests that those who have no exposure to God’s law and no opportunity to know Christ will be judged by their consciences…because God’s Word has been written on their hearts.
Proverbs 16:11: “A just balance and scales are the Lord’s, all the weights in the bag are his work.”
Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”
Hebrews 6:10 assures us, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints…”
We trust God will deal with each situation fairly and justly. Our task is not to judge but to share the good news that Jesus Christ has provided a way to forgive our sins, grant us the promise of eternal life and give us a daily reason for living.
I would also like to recommend a new book …
written by a friend of mine, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a former devout Muslim, who converted to Christianity. It’s titled, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel was the kind of devout Muslim you describe but became convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God.
I very much respect your honest faith and your desire to believe and live in such a way that God is honored. I am praying that the Lord will guide you into His truth and keep you in His favor.