Lets take a poll….

If I asked you how many Canadians would say that they believe in a God that is different than we are and has the ability to  control things that we cannot, how many do you think would indicate that they do? In 2003 a Harris poll of American adults and found that 90% of them believe in God. However, simply believing in God is not the point of the message of Jesus Christ.

If the question from the Harris poll was changed to ask how many American adults believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the God of the Old Testament of the Scriptures, the same God we call Jesus Christ in the New Testament…I think that number would likely drop considerably.

You see, simply believing in God is not the same as putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Acknowledging that Christ’s death (which we celebrated last Friday) and resurrection (which we celebrated last Sunday) are the very things that guarantee that Jesus Christ truly can save us from the destructive choices and patterns of life that we see on earth today. Jesus can provide a life beyond all that we can see because he has power over death.

So, simply believing in God, belief in someone or something out there, is just not the point because that does not bring someone into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

It makes you wonder sometimes about the difference between faith in Jesus Christ and all the other gods and faith systems that surround us. Undoubtedly you are going to come up against people who feel that there is no difference between faith groups so long as you are sincere…after all there are some common practices that everyone adheres to, right?

Yes, there are some common practices and we are going to take a look at them. But is there something deeper that distinguishes faith in Christ? We’ll take a look at that too.

The Qu’ran says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of all things” (Koran 33:40)

The Bible says:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Muhammad is proclaimed to be the messenger of Allah; Allah is aware of what Mohammed is up to.

Jesus is also proclaimed to be the messenger of God; but Jesus is also a part of the living essence of God (the trinity is a whole other blog post!). God sent himself (Jesus) to interact with us personally as people.

The Qu’ran says:

“The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled…a duty imposed by Allah.” (Koran 9:60)

The Bible says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Both Islam and Christianity require that their adherents give to a common collection so that it can be distributed to those who need it. Both are concerned with the common good of the people around them.

The Qu’ran says:

“…pilgrimage to [Mecca] is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither.” (Koran 3:97)

The Bible says:

“…[lets] not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Islam asks its followers to gather together in Mecca for worship at least once in their life. Christians ask that we gather together in church and follow a process of discipleship together as we learn and experience Christ together.

There are certainly some things that we all do the same. Does that mean that we all accomplish the same goal so long as we believe in a God somewhere? Not really….

When the Apostle Paul was travelling throughout the world and preaching the message of Jesus Christ he came to Athens (yes, in Greece) and noticed that the people were very religious (they believe in God…). If that was the whole point he would have just left them alone there.

However, Paul did not. Instead, he stood up and said this:

Acts 17:22-2People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul preached the message of Jesus Christ to them. Believing in a god is not the point…having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ IS the point.

Keeping that in mind, we should not get too excited that 90% of American adults believe in God. We should not get too excited if even 50% of our school would acknowledge belief in God and we should not get that excited that 100% of students present at Emergency Ministries raised their hands confessing belief in God (and 100% of you did…).

What is more important than simply believing in God is having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The different between this faith relationship and all other spiritual pursuits in our culture comes down to motivation:

We do not follow Jesus Christ because good things (law) is what he requires.

We do not follow Jesus Christ because our family or our country requires it (or even endorses it!)

We do not follow Jesus Christ just because we like the people who do or because Christian always have the best food.

Our motivation is this: we feel a deep sense and longing to love God and to love our neighbor. This sums up the basic message of faith in God. This is an internal motivation that will be demonstrated in the way that we live our lives. Sooner or later the fruit of our life (what is on the inside) will be shown on the outside in the way that we live.

Simply believing in God does not affect this fruit; having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ does!

Luke 10:27

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

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