Ever wondered why children from virtually every nation and language go through the “why” phase at some point? Some parents try to answer each question accurately, others later give up and turn a deaf ear. The children eventually also give up asking questions or find the answers in other places and at other sources.
In the beginning, children’s questions are irrational and involuntary because they do not yet have a filter: Why do spiders eat their babies? Do Ninjas also kill dogs? Then the questions become more difficult: Where do babies come from? Why do people die? What happens to people when they die? Who is God? What does He look like? Where does God come from? Who created God?
This what-or-why questioning later becomes central to human existence. Why am I here? What should I do? Who am I? What is the best way to live life? However, faith questions become radically more difficult when life goes wrong: Why did Dad and Mom divorce? Why did my brother / uncle rape me? Why do people treat me so badly? Why does everything keep going wrong in my life? Why does nothing want to work out? Why do bad things happen to good people?
The initial teachers who try to answer these essential questions are mostly adherents of a particular religion or philosophy. This is how religions have come into existence over the centuries: the shaman or witch doctor knows best what the gods desire. In the church, the priest, pastor, apostle or prophet mostly becomes the specialist who speaks on behalf of God. They supposedly all know best what God, or the gods desire so that we may have happiness and peace on earth. However, with the arrival of the internet, scientific studies have shown that these enchanting specialists are becoming more and more obsolete, because people can now work out why bad things happen for themselves. Today, there is an extensive list of experts, philosophers, speakers, and academics in every conceivable field of study that explains why poverty, hunger, crime, disease and disasters are still happening worldwide. The solutions are numerous, sometimes contradictory, but even in a perfectly human-ordered world, our search remains insatiable.
Why do the most developed countries in the world, with the lowest crime rates, show the highest rates of antidepressant use? These are: Iceland, Canada, Australia, England, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Denmark. It is further interesting that some of these countries also fall among the countries with the highest number of atheists: Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Denmark.
The general search of mankind is for a better life: peace, inner happiness, meaning, harmony, freedom, supernatural power, wisdom, deeper insight, euphoric lasting happiness, eternal life, an ego-free existence without worries. Each religion, diet and pharmaceutical product markets their own recipe of how to achieve this “heavenly nirvana”.
The crux of the problem is: we try to achieve this peace and happiness in our own way while God has a plan for us to experience sustainable, true happiness and peace.
John Eldredge explains this process beautifully: “Desire the journey we must take to find the life that God offers.” God is not against the fact that we have desires: “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire and fulfill all your purpose.” (Ps 20:4); “Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Ps 103: 5); “You open your hand and give your favor in abundance to all who live.” (Ps 145:16). The trouble comes because our desires – which are not first satisfied in Him – it can harm ourselves and others. Our desires are sometimes selfish and want to glorify ourselves. This has led, for example, to Hitler and the Nazi Party carrying out their desire for self- determination at the expense of others. The same thing happens when someone builds his or her extramarital romantic love desire on the rubble of their family and friends’ broken hearts.
Life is at times a dramatic, dangerous obstacle course. A person who does not know God is forced to find ways to quench the pain. Thousands of forms of self-medication and the search for better painkillers become the anchor point of man’s addictions. We are all addicted to something that takes away the pain. The “medication” we eventually choose becomes our idol.
What Is Idolatry?
The Greek Word for Idolater: “5331. φαρμακεία pharmakeía; gen. pharmakeías, fem. noun from phármakon (n.f.), a drug, which in the Gr. writers is used both for a curative or medicinal drug, and as a poisonous one. Pharmakeı́a means the occult, sorcery, witchcraft, illicit pharmaceuticals, trance, magical incantation with drugs (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23; Ex. 7:22; Is. 47:9, 12). Syn.: mageía (G3095), magic.”
We can therefore conclude that religion, addictions and idolatry are all from the same family. Religion is the practice of magical rituals or magic to try to control the world for our own benefit. Religion is in fact the “opium of the masses” (Karl Marx). However, one can also put it another way: every time we try to escape the reality of this world through some “opium or painkiller”, we create an idol.
Some would like to argue that there are good and bad rituals or painkillers. Surely it is like this: you can not chemically fix an unhealthy lifestyle. There are also healthy and unhealthy habits: some try to calm the pain by cutting themselves, others meditate or physically exercise. The problem is that even the good rituals, habits and customs are of short duration, and therefore must be done over and over and at increasingly higher doses to achieve the same effect. Exercise is of course wholesome. But what do you do if you cannot exercise for a month?
But here comes a radical statement: religion and idolatry are the same thing. Idolatry is the religion that man creates for himself, with an image of a god he loves, to do for him
what he wants. In the following verses, idolatry is very widely described as the collection of the people’s selfish desires.
“For this you know that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5).
“Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5).
Definition of religion: The belief in the worship of a supernatural, controlling power, a personal God or gods. The English word “religion” comes from the French and Latin words: “obligation, bond, reverence, to bind”. The Greeks did not have a word for religion: they simply spoke directly of your worship. Who do you worship? Or according to the OT: Who do you “serve”?
Proponents of Religion Profit From Mankind’s Search for God
Different gurus, priests, spiritists and preachers preach their own version of how you can make God happy. Everyone speaks on behalf of God to explain what God wants. Each one tries to be more spiritual and authoritarian than the next one to gather the most followers and thereby generate income for themselves. Therefore, Jesus forcibly expelled the money changers who tried to profit from the people’s effort and burden of offering sacrifices (Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22). There are more and more true evangelists who do not take up offerings during public gatherings but focus on making people disciples of Jesus.
Religion’s goal is to gain leverage on God so that He can make my life better. Like the woman who prays that the Lord changes her husband so that she can have a better life. How many of our prayers are selfish? (James 4:2-3).
In essence, people are looking for life. Religion is the way in which man tries to fit the complexity of life into a framework that makes sense, which can be controlled. Religion makes one feel safe. You can fit the chaos and complexity of our existence into a specific framework. Job’s friends tried to convince him of their god-framework: that the righteous live well, and disasters follow sinners. Yet, Job refused to admit that he had sinned but maintained that he was blameless before God. (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3).
Religion is man-made. Religion seeks to control mankind through feelings of guilt, stigmas and magical rituals to prevent or escape disasters, accidents, illness and pain. That is why religion is people-oriented: everything is aimed at gaining more followers. Therefore, I must try to always please people. I must try to do what people like to try to attract even more people.
Are all the different religions simply different paths to the same God?
Some try to argue the diversity and competition between religions as merely different paths to God; everyone is right; there is no one exclusive way and method. God is therefore a distant, uninterested being whose attention we must try to get.
“Any god who forces you to earn his love is not worthy of your worship. Jesus did not tell us what we need to do to get to God, he was proclaiming what God is doing to get to us.” Ervin McManus
Who is God? All religions ultimately have their own version of what God looks like, who he or she is, what he or she likes and how to keep him or her happy. Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Hu, Baha, Mare d ‘Rabuta, Krishna. Every religion sells their version of who God is.
The human dilemma: there is a force of gravity (fallen human nature) in man that pulls one down to the animal instincts of existence. Yet man is essentially different from animals: we are playful and creative that lead to the arts; we like science and understanding things; we like order, legislation and rules; we not only consume our food, but we also set tables and create atmosphere when we eat; we do not have sexual intercourse in public, and we like to gossip. Since creation, man has been trying to determine for himself what is good and bad.
These aspects of being human indicate that we are spiritual beings: we want to be connected to the world around us. Our whole being is determined by the people around us. We all think we are generous until we must give to a cause. We all think we are loving until someone seeks our love. We think everyone can do anything until we must perform a certain task. We all think there is nothing wrong with us until someone is deeply offended by something we said or did. So, it is only in relationship with someone that I notice for myself who I really am. We can only realize how broken we are when we notice how broken our relationships around us are.
Is truth relative? We all search for the truth and when we find it in someone’s preaching, and that person disappoints us because they do not really live the truth, we abandon the truth they are preaching. This means that every preacher tries to get a better grasp on the truth than the next person, because we are each disappointed somewhere by some leadership. This leads to the argument that there is no absolute truth. Everyone’s truth is relatively true to everyone’s view and understanding.
In a time like this, religion has become obsolete and gives false hope. Some people try one form of religion after another and it fits like a shoe that is too small. You later get calluses and abrasions and can no longer walk or move properly. Religion limits you and robs you of your freedom. Religion holds you and dulls all creative inspiration. Religion is a form of lockdown! It’s like a camel being kept in a Canadian zoo – completely outside of its natural habitat.
Jesus did not preach a religion! Jesus was condemned to death by the religious of the day! Jesus and religion are not synonymous. If you are tired of religion, try Jesus.
Jesus is radically different!
Jesus overthrew all this religious practice by not speaking on behalf of God. He was God who became flesh. “He who is the reflection of his glory and the imprint of his being.” (Heb. 1:3); “After God had spoken many times and in many ways in ancient times to the fathers through the prophets, in these last days He has spoken to us through the Son.” (Heb. 1:1).
Jesus follows a completely different approach!
• Jesus does not preach a way to God – He preaches God’s way to us! (John 3:16).
• He not only preaches what we need to do to reach God, but what God has done to reach us (Matt. 5:24, 36).
• Jesus does not preach a set of rules and methods: He preaches a Person! (John 6: 28- 29). That is why Jesus disregarded the religious precepts over the Sabbath, because people keep the Sabbath and do not really have real peace or rest. He is Sabbath! When you discover the rest in Him, every day becomes a Sabbath.
• Jesus makes us focus on God where religion makes us focus on self (John 3:13).
• He proclaims a truth that He Himself physically demonstrates to the letter (John 14: 6).
• Jesus preaches a practical truth that teaches you how to live through crises and pain and not try to escape it. Blessed are the people who suffer, mourn, and are persecuted! (Matt. 5: 3-12).
• He gives immediate access to the reality of heaven and glory (lasting peace and joy) that man seeks. Peace, reconciliation, healing and deliverance are instantly available (Matt. 4:17). Religion always wants to present the destination far in the future, but Jesus gives the fullness of his Glory right in the beginning. The least is greater than John the Baptist! (Matt. 11:11).
• Jesus cultivates the ability to live godly in us (1 Pet. 2: 3-11). It is remarkable how quickly Jesus empowered His disciples to perform miracles and cast out demons as well. So, He wants to empower every follower who follows Him!
• Religion ultimately seeks people’s money to maintain the religion. Jesus proclaims that God does not need our sacrifices. “Then be followers of God as beloved children; and walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet fragrance.” (Eph. 5:1-2). Jesus multiplies bread and fish, helps His disciples catch many fish and discovers coins in a fish’s mouth. God gives! Finally, we give and sacrifice, but in response to what He first gave!
The proof and end of Jesus’ message is not a bunch of followers who blindly follow His methods like robots, but an empowerment of poor, ordinary, simple, broken, sinful people to start living godly lives. As the Son of God, Jesus could have come to demonstrate His rule with power and majesty, and He did. But it was very different from what we understand about power and might. He used His power to heal people, free them from evil, and empower His followers to do the same.
Only Jesus can answer and fulfill the “why?” question. So many people seek fulfillment in money, wealth, muscle, love, power and prestige to finally, when they have everything their heart desires, still feel empty and unfulfilled. However, the moment I act like Jesus, I feel inwardly: Yes, that’s right! I feel alive and fulfilled! These Jesus-moments are liberating and the highest heavenly experience!
Jesus fits your soul perfectly.
All you must do to receive Jesus is: BELIEVE! (Rom. 10:9-10; John 6:28-29).
Do You Know Jesus!!
There are several important “causes” for which people live. Some dedicate their lives to fighting for the rights of minority groups, or violence against women and children, or the conservation of our natural resources, or the protection of some extinct animal. BUT, the most primary “cause” we have to fight for is the cause of Christ.
To know Christ is LIFE!
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3: 8-9).
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” (Eph. 1:17). The word “know” is 1922. ἐπίγνωσις epígnōsis; gen. epignṓseōs, fem. noun from epiginṓskō (G1921), to recognize. It is more intense than gnṓsis (G1108), knowledge, because it expresses a more thorough participation in the acquiring of knowledge on the part of the learner. In the NT, it often refers to knowledge which very powerfully influences the form of religious life, a knowledge laying claim to personal involvement. (See Col. 1: 9, 10; 2: 2; 1 Tim. 2: 4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3: 7; Titus 1: 1; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pet. 1: 2, 3).
“Until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
The beautiful song by Kari Jobe sums up this sentiment beautifully:
The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ to build His church To love His bride
And make His name known far and wide
For this ‘cause I live
For this ‘cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ
He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus all my hope abides
(Kari Jobe | Ben Hastings | Bryan Fowler)1
1 https://music.apple.com/za/album/the-cause-of-christ/1440878905?i=1440879060 17
In a World of Unpredictable Chaos, Jesus Remains an Unshakable, Eternal, Solid Reality
We can study any subject under the sun as it comes and goes. Everything in this life is temporary. (2 Cor. 4:18) “…because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but theword of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Pet. 1:24–25).
“…scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35).
“Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise
man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24).
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we [a]may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28-29).
Therefore: Jesus is my religion. I dedicated my life to living in obedience to Him. He is the focus of my worship! In Him alone I am satisfied, and I come to rest. He is my source of strength and power. He is my focus, because it is the knowledge of Christ that He has chosen to reveal in us which, like the true north on a compass, helps us to maintain direction in the maze of life. Christ’s righteousness is my access and right to the Father. The more I understand and comprehend Jesus, the better I begin to understand myself.
The problem with Christianity, and why even Christianity is in danger of becoming just another dead religion, is because not everything we do is focused on Jesus! We easily fall back to the place where, like Moses, we put our trust in methods, even methods that God once commanded. When Jesus is our focus, He will guide and empower us to know which method is relevant now. Faith is receiving a word from the Lord. Jesus is the Source of our faith. Our time with Him, in His Word, anchors our existence! We literally look at Him through the Word, and the Holy Spirit helps us to see Him. As John saw on Patmos Jesus and wrote the book of Revelation, we need to see Jesus in every crisis we may face! To worship Jesus! To hear Jesus! Jesus to live! Jesus is not the guarantee of escape to miss all the dangers of life, but the Wisdom to grow and become stronger to complete the obstacle course!