Religion and Philosophy – June 2019
(By Lilian and Bjorn Schmid)
Who am I?
Is there a God and who or what is that?
Since the fall of man through disobedience to God’s loving warning that we would die (spiritually) if we did not follow his simple instructions (per Genesis chapters 1 to 3), people have been in denial of God and their relative position to Him. Thus to replace the sure and healthy confidence that God is and we are his beloved children, and to try and satisfy our constant craving for more and more regardless if is good for us or not, we have tried to explain ourselves and who our preferred version of God might be (i.e. if God was made in our image instead of the other way around). This is respectively Philosophy and Religion.
Simply put, Philosophy is man’s explanations for our existence, Religion is man’s search for God, and Jesus is God’s the answer to both. Throughout His ministry, Christ explained the heart of God, our Heavenly Father, towards us and His desire to reconcile our differences with Him. He made the first step, as often an aggrieved party must do in spite of being the victim; the accused party is usually too bound by their pride, stubbornness or fear to make the first step.
A Bible Reading
From John chapter 1 verses 1 through 18:
The Beginning (Genesis 1:1-2)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Witness of John (Malachi 3:1-5)
6 There came a man who was sent from God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through him everyone might believe. 8 He himself was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.
The Word Became Flesh (Psalm 84:1-12)
14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testified concerning Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’”
16 From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Christianity is NOT a Religion or a Philosophy
Religions generally have a set of dogmatic beliefs and practices that are designed to help a person achieve a spiritual goal. A religion is about believing and doing the right thing in order to be ‘right’ with the spiritual universe. Philosophies generally train you to think along a prescribed path of thought which leads you to understand and accept a way of thinking of the universe and our existence in it, often accompanied by very expensive books and speaking tours. Christianity is about a relationship with God that is achieved by God himself and based on trust (also known as faith). A Christian has accepted that they can not do anything in order to be right with God because God has done it all. All Christians need do is accept this; to acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice for them to be reconciled with God and then follow Christ; His way, His truth, His life; no longer our sad versions of these.
From Acts 16:30 32 ‘The Conversion of the Jailer’:
…30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.…
Jesus summarized the core principles for religion and philosophy in Matthew 22:37-40,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself.”
What is a Christian?
Since the Bible is the written authority or benchmark for the Christian faith, let’s see what it says about the word ‘Christian’. The word is only used three times in the New Testament and each instance is referring to the first ‘Christians’ of the early church.
“…So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’” (Acts 26:28).
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
They were called ‘Christians’ because their behaviour, activity, and speech were like Christ Jesus. The word Christian means, ‘follower of Christ’ or ‘belonging to Christ’.
In his letter to Titus 3:3-6 Paul says,
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
In his letter to the Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul explains further,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
As true Christians we believe that:
Jesus IS the Way to Heaven
In John 14:6, Jesus declares: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Why is it important to know that NO other religious leaders throughout history have ever made these claims? According to Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
How does this contrast with the world’s religions which are based on ‘works’ versus faith in Jesus and His resurrection? If we can’t build a relationship with God by doing good deeds or repeating rituals, what must we do? Acts 4:12 is clear; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is God
According to John 1:1-3, Jesus existed from the beginning. From the beginning, Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. Here, the Bible establishes the inseparable nature of Jesus and the God of the Universe. The following verses provide further evidence that Jesus is 100% God:
- Miracles: Luke 7:22
- Eyewitnesses to His perfect life: Matthew 16:13-17
- Fulfillment of Prophecy: Matthew 13:14, Luke 24:44
- Jesus’ own identification/claim: John 10:30-38, Matthew 16:13-17, Mark 14:61-64
- Claims of Christ’s followers: Hebrews 1:8, Colossians 1:16, John 12:40 (quoting Isaiah 6:1-10)
- Resurrection: Luke 24:39, Mark 8:31, Acts 17:32
Jesus is the Key to Membership in God’s Family
When He revealed His deity by rising from the grave, He made it possible for us to have forgiveness from sin and a renewed, ongoing relationship with God.
Almighty One – “…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
Alpha and Omega – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13
Advocate – “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 John 2:1
Author and Perfecter of Our Faith – “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews. 12:2
Authority – “Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
Bread of Life – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35
Beloved Son of God – “And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
Bridegroom – “And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15
Chief Cornerstone – “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” Psalm 118:22
Deliverer – “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10
Good Shepherd – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
Great High Priest – “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hebrews 4:14
Head of the Church – “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” Ephesians 1:22
His Authority – “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
Immanuel – “…She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Isiah 7:14
Judge – “…he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42
King of Kings – “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14
Lamb of God – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
Light of the World – “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Lion of the Tribe of Judah – “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5
Lord of All – “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
Mediator – “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5
Messiah – “‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ).” John 1:41
Mighty One – “Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isiah 60:16
Our Hope – “…Christ Jesus our hope.” 1 Timothy 1:1
Our Peace – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” Ephesians 2:14
Prophet – “And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:4
Redeemer – “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25
Risen Lord – “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Saviour – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
Son of Man – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
Son of the Most High – “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” Luke 1:32
Supreme Creator Over All – “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…” 1 Corinthians 1:16-17
Resurrection and the Life – “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.’” John 11:25
The Way – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
True Vine – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
Truth – “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Victorious One – “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21
Pray for People in Religions and Philosophies
Pray for the people who believe in or are culturally devoted to religions and philosophies that are not focused on Christ Jesus.
Some common views and beliefs:
- ‘New Age’
Prayer for the Salvation of the World
Father, hear our prayers for the salvation of the world.
Grant Mercy to all souls that turned away from You.
Open their hearts and minds with Your light.
Gather Your children from the east and the west, from the north and the south.
Have mercy O God on those who do not know You.
Bring them out of darkness into Your light.
You are our saving God Who leads us in our salvation. Protect us from evil.
Bless and praise You O Lord, hear our prayers and answer us.
You, our Savior, are the hope of all the ends of the Earth and the distant seas.
May Your way be known upon Earth; among all nations Your salvation.
We put the world in Your hands; fill us with Your love.
Grant us peace through Christ, our Lord.
How to Plead in Prayer for Unbelievers
From the devotional by John Piper – www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-plead-for-unbelievers
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1
Paul prays that God would convert Israel. He prays for her salvation! He does not pray for ineffectual influences, but for effectual influences. And that is how we should pray too.
We should take the new covenant promises of God and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and our neighbours and on all the mission fields of the world.
God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give them a new heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)
Circumcise their heart so that they love you! (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Father, put your Spirit within them and cause them to walk in your statutes. (Ezekiel 36:27)
Grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil. (2 Timothy 2:25–26)
Open their hearts so that they believe the gospel! (Acts 16:14)
When we believe in the sovereignty of God — in the right and power of God to elect and then bring hardened sinners to faith and salvation — then we will be able to pray with no inconsistency, and with the confidence of great biblical promises for the conversion of the lost.
Thus, God has pleasure in this kind of praying because it ascribes to him the right and honour to be the free and sovereign God that he is in election and salvation.
Mediate on these Verses from Scripture
Let us read a few verses from John 16 and listen to what the Spirit is saying whilst reading:
8-11 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.