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ASK YMI: I Am Fully Self-Sufficient. Why Do I Need God?

A: What reality will end up showing you, if you leave it time, is that you are not fully self-sufficient. You can’t control your emotions. And you can’t determine your own future. But your life will be proof of that in itself.

When I Got Tired of Hiding My Sins

Written By Dorothy Norberg, USA

“The truth will find you out.”

When I was a small child, these words struck fear in my heart, because when my mother quoted them to me, it meant that even though she lacked sufficient proof to discipline me for my disobedience, she knew that I had sinned and was leaving my conscience to God.

This line from Numbers 32:23 was issued by Moses as a warning to Israel against violating their covenant relationship with God, but it also illustrates the general idea that even though we can bury the evidence of our sin and refuse to confess, we cannot escape the reality of our misdeeds.

When I read mystery stories, I always looked forward to the moment when the detectives would unmask a criminal. But in real life, I identified more with the criminal who hid his or her guilt, afraid of the moment when they would have to face the truth and its consequences. Nothing terrified me more than the thought of people seeing how bad I really was.

As I matured, I stopped wasting my mother’s time by lying about deeds that I had obviously done, but I sinned in other ways. People at church thought that I was a sweet girl, but at home, I was characterized by angry outbursts and disdain for others. When youth leaders praised me for my biblical knowledge and sterling character, I tried to convince them that I wasn’t nearly as godly as they thought, but they just chalked up points for my supposed humility, never understanding how bad I actually was. There was no way for me to convince people of my brokenness without shocking and alienating them, so I kept my public behavior up to the level of others’ expectations and felt like a total fake.

 

Confronting the Truth About Who I Am

I spent hours obsessing over my own perceived guilt and innocence, and this drew me even deeper into my lifelong interest in mystery stories. According to Hannah Anderson, who writes about how detective novels helped her discover the importance of truth in a chapter of her book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, readers gravitate towards this genre in search of “something that is more elusive in our real lives: certainty, truth, and resolution.” These are exactly the things that I was searching for—and yet at the same time was most afraid of.

Near the end of my teenage years, I devoured every single Agatha Christie mystery, enjoying the adventures of her famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, as well as those of her lesser-known detectives. Agatha Christie’s mysteries, published from 1920 to 1973, are famous for their ingenious twists and moral core; her detectives love justice and seek out the facts regardless of the personal or social costs.

As Hannah Anderson writes, “Pursuing truth requires more than knowing where the facts lead. It requires the honesty to actually follow them, no matter who they implicate.” When I reached the denouement of books where the murderer was a likable person or a love interest, I would inwardly groan, because I didn’t want it be them!

As I dealt with this fictional reality, I realized how much murder mysteries illustrate the truth of human depravity. We tend to assume the worst of unlikable people, while minimizing the sins of those who seem sympathetic, but we are all sinners, and our inner guilt doesn’t always manifest in our outward appearance. It pained me to think about characters that I cared about facing imprisonment or death because of what they had done, but this was the punishment that they had earned, and if the detective had not discovered their guilt, innocent people would have remained under suspicion.

The truth must come out, even when it is unpleasant, and seeing this reality at work in fiction encouraged me to be more courageous in facing the truth about myself. At the same time that I was reading a murder mystery a day, I became aware of red flags in my own life, recognizing that sin issues which I had ignored out of confusion and helplessness had become deep-rooted in my everyday habits and thoughts.

I could have spun stories about myself to ease the tensions between my problems and my ideals, but instead of looking for evidence to confirm a personal narrative, I held myself to the higher standard of truth that the best murder mysteries encourage, willing to deal with the facts in the most accurate, impartial way.

 

The Truth That Sets Us Free

I discovered that I was far worse than I had originally thought, and my feelings of guilt intensified. During this time, I became much less interested in explaining my sins away, because what I needed was forgiveness, not a better narrative.  This sense of desperation drew me back to a verse that I had memorized as a child: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

I clung to this promise, knowing that even though it was excruciating for me to reevaluate my life and face up to my sin, God would not leave me in the depths of my depravity. He promised to cleanse and purify me, and all I had to do was confess and reach for Him in faith.

“Truth is more important than my self-image,” I insisted, and as I accounted for the facts, faced reality, and moved forward in repentance, I learned what it means to be loved by a God who already knows everything about me (Psalm 139:1-5). The consequences that I had feared seemed paltry in comparison to God’s lavish grace, and I knew that His mercy had always been there for me, even during my worst moments.

As the psalmist writes, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). I was finally free to face the truth, and I knew what it felt like to be cleansed of my sin.

When I finally told people about my struggles, they responded with compassion and understanding, but my greatest relief came from the divine grace that I laid claim to in faith. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, I am cleansed of my sin and clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and this frees me from the bondage of sin and from my old, constraining fear of reality.

At the cross, all that I am, and everything that I have done, is totally exposed, but even though this can be an excruciating thought, it guarantees that I will never have to defend illusions about my own goodness again. My sin will find me out, but the mercy of Christ will restore me, because the One who has always seen the whole truth chooses to love me anyway.

Hunting for the Truth of Easter

Title: Hunting for the Truth of Easter
Artwork by: Elroi Teo and YMI
Description: 
We are in a constant search for something, whether it be the meaning of life or the reason for our existence. But this Easter, let us search through the Bible as we rediscover the significance of Easter, and why Jesus is the only one worth searching for.

 

Judas was searching for earthly treasures. But soon learned the consequences of his actions.

Thirty pieces of silver was all it took for Judas to betray Jesus. When his act of treachery was discovered, Judas felt remorseful and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He confessed he had sinned, and innocent blood had been betrayed in the process. Judas’s story is an example of the dangers of an unguarded heart, of a heart that wants what it wants. We are to guard our hearts to prevent ourselves from being swept away by the currents of temptation, or in Judas’s case, exchanging Jesus for fleeting earthly treasures such as status, or material wealth. What can we do today to guard our hearts in the face of temptation, and to stand firm in Jesus?

 

 

Peter was looking for a way to show Jesus his love for him. But ended up denying Jesus.

Peter trusted in his own strength when he told Jesus he would not betray him. Yet Peter went on to deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Peter wept bitter tears when he realized what he had done, and asked Jesus to forgive him. Like Peter, none of us are perfect, and as willing as we are to love Jesus perfectly, our weaknesses and failures often become our stumbling block. Fortunately, we are able to bring all these to the cross, and Jesus will meet us there to restore and refresh us. Will we look to Jesus today as the only one who refreshes and restores us?

 

 

Two thieves were looking for salvation. But only one accepted His invitation.

We often cry to God to save us from earthly struggles, but find it incredibly hard to believe we have already been saved from our struggles. We tell Jesus to remember us in Heaven, forgetting the invitation has already been extended to us. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation, and that means we are now able to spend eternity with Him in paradise. But when we think of heaven, do we think of it as simply a place where there will be no more tears and suffering? Or do we look forward to heaven because we get to be with Jesus, and to worship Him?

 

 

Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Mary were seeking for Jesus’ body. But all they found was an empty tomb.

Jesus’ mom and Mary were upset and disappointed when they discovered His tomb was empty. But they were met by an angel, who told them the one they are looking for has risen. Upon hearing this, the women rejoiced. Like them, we too can rejoice, in  knowing Jesus has overcome death at the cross, and rejoice in knowing death no longer has any power or hold on us. We should constantly remind ourselves that the Lord has indeed risen, and the resurrected Christ is still very much alive today. It can be easy to tune our hearts out to Jesus, and relegate him to the dusty recesses of our minds. But let us keep Him alive in our hearts today.

 

 

Thomas was looking for evidence that Jesus has risen. But his encounter with Jesus revealed his doubt and unbelief.

It is hard to believe in something we cannot see, but this is where faith comes in. We have to believe that Jesus has risen, and that He is alive. If you are struggling with unbelief, call out to God to show you that he is real. He wants us to know the truth, and He will reveal Himself to us in due time. Let us cast aside our unbelief, and reach out to Jesus.

 

Why Do Some People Believe All Religions Lead to the Same God?

Written By Jose Philip, Singapore

Jose is currently serving as an Evangelist and Apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Asia-Pacific). He also lectures on Apologetics, Christian Ethics, and Gospel & Culture at Singapore Bible College, Baptist Theological Seminary and Bible College Malaysia.

The idea that truth is exclusive does not sit well with many people today, does it?

In fact, it is deeply upsetting to some. We cherish the liberty to decide for ourselves what is true and what is not; at the same time, we demand that others be truthful to us. Now that presents us with a conundrum. How could we expect anyone to be truthful when, as my 12-year-old—who has quite the imagination—recently declared, “making things up” is so much more interesting!

Making things up or assuming them to be true is not what only children do. We tend to place more value on how we feel, or whether something works for us, than on whether it is actually true. Truth is relative, we are told, and this is an idea that those who hold strongly to their religious convictions will struggle with.

As an itinerant preacher, teacher, and Christian apologist, I am frequently asked to speak on a variety of topics to a wide variety of audiences. Once, I was asked to explore the question, “Do all paths lead to the same God?” As part of my preparation, I decided to do a quick survey. I wanted to know two things: Did people actually believe that all religions were the same? And, why?

So, every time I was sitting in a public area like a coffee shop or a library, I typed the words, “Why would anyone believe that all religions lead to the same God?”, in a font big enough for the person next to me to see.

It was a fascinating experiment, and I had some very interesting conversations. It showed that, contrary to what many might think, talking about religion is not a conversation stopper. Often, it did not take long before someone would see my words and ask, “Why not?”

It also confirmed my suspicion that many people, whether religious or not, believe that all religions are the same—even when they weren’t familiar with the claims or teaching of those religions. What also struck me was that most of the people I discussed the question with believed that they were entitled to their opinions. It showed me that for many, the right to be heard was more important than discovering the truth.

In a way, it wasn’t a surprise. Deciding for ourselves what is the truth is the logical next step following the belief that truth is relative. As a result, we find it rude—even arrogant—for someone to make exclusive claims about the truth. Now, if we pause long enough to think about this issue and ask, “Is this something new, or is this how humans have always thought?”, we might discover something very interesting.

 

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

Having encountered several objections to exclusive truth claims about religion, I have found that they can be broadly grouped into three positions or “postures”: that of misplaced confidence, masked arrogance, and mistaken trust. The first two are effectively two sides of the same coin, so I will discuss them briefly before going on to focus on the third.

The three “postures” have to do with taking sides. When we maintain that truth is not exclusive, we are trying not to take one particular side against any other. However, we have different reasons for doing so.

 

1. Misplaced confidence

Many of the people who conclude that all religions lead to the same God appear to do so because they do not have exhaustive knowledge of every religion to conclude otherwise. It seems that those who adopt this posture tend to hold to the view that the great religions must surely be the same, for they all teach us to be good, to love, to serve others, to take care of the weak and vulnerable, not to harm, and to speak the truth. Therefore, they reason, none of these religions can be wrong, and all must surely be right.

This view, however, largely ignores the tenets and principles that are foundational to these religions. This is a posture of misplaced confidence.

 

2. Masked arrogance

Then there are those who get upset with anyone who claims exclusivity or who appeals to absolutes. They believe that it is wrong to claim that only one way is right. They feel that to claim that any one religion is right and the others are wrong is egocentric. Since we are mortal, they reason, who are we to say who is right and who is wrong?

However, when they profess that “all paths lead to the same ultimate truth”, are they not claiming to know more than all the founders of these diverse religions put together? Each of these founders, whether it is Buddha, Mohammed, or Jesus, has claimed one exclusive path to God. If we then say that all of their religions lead to the same God, are we not claiming that we know more than all these founders put together? Is that not a posture of masked arrogance?

 

3. Mistaken trust

Underlying the postures of misplaced confidence and masked arrogance is the posture of mistaken trust. Once, when I questioned a conversation partner’s belief that all religions are equally true, he became visibly distraught. “How could you, an Indian, even raise such a question?” he protested. “I am sure you are familiar with what Mahatma Gandhi said.”

(Gandhi, who led India to independence and is widely seen as the Father of India, made it plain that he believed that all religions were essentially the same.)

The man’s response appeared to be typical of how the vast majority of people are informed about the truth—through the voice of the popular. I could not help but wonder if it was because I am an Indian, that this obviously well-read gentleman appealed to the founding father of India to challenge my religious conclusions. Not wanting to second-guess him, I asked him if my nationality had prompted him to appeal to Gandhi’s name, to which he replied with a smile, “Yes”!

We are quick to denounce the “might is right” dictum because we know that sheer power is not a test for the truth. Why, then, do we not conclude the same when it comes to the “popular”? Why do we think that popularity makes something right? I am not suggesting that being a popular voice in and of itself is bad, or that Gandhi was being facetious. My question is simply this: “Does exemplary standing in one thing automatically grant someone infallibility in all things?”

Many of the people who believe that all religions lead to the same God are kind, intelligent, and sincere. But does that make it true? Sincerity, like popularity, is not a test for the truth; I can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.

It is true that Gandhi stood head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen, and as an Indian, I owe my national freedom to his courage and selfless service. But does that mean that his belief in the equality of all religions is right?

It is no secret that the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount, had a profound impact on Gandhi. Yet he could not accept Christianity on its own terms. He picked and chose aspects of Christianity that appealed to him, and reinterpreted them from his perspective as a Hindu. He did the same with the teachings of Gautama Buddha, whom he saw as a great reformer of Hinduism. In Gandhi’s opinion, Buddha’s immense sacrifice and immaculate purity in life had left an indelible impression on Hinduism.

In essence, Gandhi’s approach was to consider the truth claims of different religions from the vantage point of the follower, and not its founders. In believing him, however, might we be taking a posture of misplaced trust?

 

Founder or Follower—Whose Decision Is It Anyway? 

Our motivations to believe all religions are the same may be noble—peace and harmony, for example. This, however, does not license followers to amalgamate world religions into an amorphous mix. It is not up to us to promise indiscriminately for all what is exclusively offered by one religion. In as much as you cannot attain ‘Nirvana’ by upholding the authority of the Vedas or adhering to the caste system, you cannot have ‘Eternal Life’ without choosing to follow Jesus alone.

The truth claims of the different religions are exclusive, and we will do well to appreciate its distinctiveness. It is up to us to choose whether we will allow these differences to divide us or to live in peace no matter how deep the disagreements. It is not, however, up to us to redefine what different religions claim as ‘exclusive’ and offer as the ‘same thing’.

If all religions are fundamentally different and essentially exclusive, then it stands to reason that they all cannot be equally true. I believe acknowledging this will bring us to the door of enquiry. And, despite my Christian convictions, I find investigating Jesus’ truth claims to be a good place to begin. He not only claimed divinity, He also offered a tangible way to validate whether His claims are true—through His death and resurrection. As the apostle Paul wrote:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

 

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