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BlessingsExodus 3:1-14

Our heavenly Father is looking for men and women who will dedicate themselves to His kingdom work. He seeks people willing to accept responsibility and carry out His “assignments” to completion.

The Lord commended Moses because he persevered in faith to fulfill the divine calling on his life. Chosen to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage, Moses initially reacted by questioning, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). But God assured him, “Certainly I will be with you” (v. 12). His presence was a key part of Moses’ equipping as a leader. And the Lord’s response to us is the same. We can confidently accept the responsibility God gives us—whether it’s for leadership or some other role—because He has promised to be with us always (Matt. 28:20).

However, Moses wondered whether the Hebrew people would listen to him. He had been away from Egypt for a long time, and his last interaction with the Israelites had been a negative one (Ex. 2:11-14). What kind of influence could he have? God revealed that the only credential Moses needed to give them was that he was sent by God—the I AM (Ex. 3:14). When the Lord gives us a task, He will bestow the spiritual authority we need to carry it out. In addition, God gave Moses a helper—his brother Aaron. Our heavenly Father will also provide us with the people necessary to fulfill His plan.

God has promised to equip us for His work. What is your response when asked to serve?

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Too often we let our circumstances determine our attitude. If life is going smoothly, then we feel good about ourselves; when it gets hard, our mood drops. But we don’t have to live this way. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn and practice the secret of being content.

Contentment means accepting things the way they are—in other words, not wanting anything more or different. This requires developing an “I can through Christ” attitude. It means learning to bring God’s power into our weakness so we can accept and adapt to changing circumstances.
When we respond to life with that kind of thinking, we move beyond our feelings to living by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).

Submission and trust are needed for such a lifestyle. First, we must surrender our will to God’s: in every situation, we are to yield what we want and accept whatever He allows. Our desire to control events is replaced by reliance on Him. This option becomes more appealing when we realize that the alternative—fighting against our circumstances—brings anxiety and distress. The second step is to trust God to oversee our specific situation. If we believe He is working out His perfect plan for us, then we will experience the joy that comes from trusting Him. Contentment will be ours.

Paul submitted his life to God and trusted Him. He faced insults, rejection, and many difficult trials but was still content. When we surrender control to the Lord and believe He has our best interest at heart, we will experience contentment too. Who is in charge of your life?

Philippians 4:10-13

After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul had much to learn about salvation and following Christ. Throughout his life, the apostle shared what he was discovering. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote about a very important life lesson—the secret of being content.

What kind of life do you think brings contentment? You might assume it is one with few troubles or great success. You may want good health, financial security, and a loving family. Paul’s life was not
at all like this. He was in danger from both his own countryman and the opposition (2 Cor. 11:23-26). Sometimes the people listened, but more often, they were hostile to his message. He also had a “thorn in the flesh” which God refused to remove (2 Cor. 12:7-9). And Paul even spent considerable time in prison, chained to a guard. Yet he boldly wrote, “ I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12 niv).

The secret he discovered was to live on the basis of his position in the Lord, not his feelings. As God’s child, Paul knew he was spiritually rich—“blessed . . . with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) because he had a loving Father and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Contentment in our media-driven age is hard to find and harder to keep. There’s always something newer, bigger, or better to buy and someone else who has what you want. When you feel unsatisfied, try basing your response on your position as a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17) rather than feelings.

Matthew 28:18-20

Sadly, a lot of people will make a statement like, “That may be true for you but not for me.” Genuine truth is not relative. Nor is it a part-time phenomenon. In other words, if something is true, then it’s always true. Therefore, the rock-solid principles that God has communicated to you should, in turn, be shared with others.

We see this admonition repeatedly in scripture. In Matthew 28:18-20, the Lord gives us what is known as the Great Commission. This is a charge for all of us who believe: we are to go out and spread the truth about Jesus Christ, teaching others what we have been taught.

Likewise, in 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy not only to tell others what he has learned, but also to encourage those men to tell even more people. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul even states that we, as believers, are “ambassadors for Christ.” In other words, we are His emissaries to the world.

We are to take what we know and make it known to those we encounter. For what purpose? The passage makes it clear that our mission is to help others be reconciled to God.

How can we ever doubt the urgency of this message? We have a truth to tell, and we must share it!

This week, take the time to write out your faith story, including all the key details. Review this testimony so you’ll feel comfortable and confident sharing it with little or no warning. Then, pray for opportunities to share your faith. This shouldn’t be scary; just tell your story, and trust the results to God.

Numbers 14:17-24

Oftentimes, we become so focused on something or someone that we are unable to hear the Lord at all. In those times, one of God’s most effective and yet painful ways to get our attention is through disappointments. Oh, how we dislike this method!

This is the way God spoke dramatically to the nation of Israel. In Numbers 14, He directed His people into the Promised Land. However, they were scared of the inhabitants, so they refused to enter. As a result, the Lord told the Israelites they’d “by no means see the land” for 40 years, until after that generation had died (v. 23).

Their disappointment was so great that they decided to change their minds. Sadly, though, it was too late; God had already settled the issue. And the people were distraught with grief because of what they had missed.

At that moment, in the heart of their disappointment, do you think God had their attention? Absolutely. The next time He gave Israel a command, don’t you think they listened a bit more intently?

Tragically, failure is rather common in such situations. Instead of looking to God when disappointments occur, we are quick to blame circumstances, other people, fate, or even the Devil.

We are hesitant to believe that our loving Father could be responsible for our frustrations. Yet God is perfectly willing to use disappointments to realign our thoughts with His. Consider the difficulties in your life—might the Lord have been trying to say something in the midst of them?

The emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68 was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known simply as Nero. The emperor was not known for being a godly person and engaged in a variety of illicit acts, homosexual marriage being among them. In AD 64 the great Roman fire occurred, with Nero himself being suspected of arson. In his writings, the Roman senator and historian Tacitus recorded, “To get rid of the report [that he had started the fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace” (Annals, XV).

It was during the reign of Nero that the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. While one might expect him to encourage the Christians in Rome to rise up against their oppressive ruler, in the chapter 13, we find this instead:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1–7).

Even under the reign of a ruthless and godless emperor, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells his readers to be in subjection to the government. Moreover, he states that no authority exists other than that established by God, and that rulers are serving God in their political office.

Peter writes nearly the same thing in one of this two New Testament letters:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13–17).

Both Paul’s and Peter’s teachings have led to quite a few questions from Christians where civil disobedience is concerned. Do Paul and Peter mean that Christians are always to submit to whatever the government commands, no matter what is asked of them?

A Brief Look at the Various Views of Civil Disobedience
There are at least three general positions on the matter of civil disobedience. The anarchist view says that a person can choose to disobey the government whenever he likes and whenever he feels he is personally justified in doing so. Such a stance has no biblical support whatsoever, as evidenced in the writings of Paul in Romans 13.

The extremist patriot says that a person should always follow and obey his country, no matter what the command. As will be shown in a moment, this view also does not have biblical support. Moreover, it is not supported in the history of nations. For example, during the Nuremberg trials, the attorneys for the Nazi war criminals attempted to use the defense that their clients were only following the direct orders of the government and therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. However, one of the judges dismissed their argument with the simple question: “But gentlemen, is there not a law above our laws?”

The position the Scriptures uphold is one of biblical submission, with a Christian being allowed to act in civil disobedience to the government if it commands evil, such that it requires a Christian to act in a manner that is contrary to the clear teachings and requirements of God’s Word.

Civil Disobedience—Examples in Scripture
In Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaoh gave the clear command to two Hebrew midwives that they were to kill all male Jewish babies. An extreme patriot would have carried out the government’s order, yet the Bible says the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and “feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17). The Bible goes on to say the midwives lied to Pharaoh about why they were letting the children live; yet even though they lied and disobeyed their government, “God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (Exodus 1:20–21).

In Joshua 2, Rahab directly disobeyed a command from the king of Jericho to produce the Israelite spies who had entered the city to gain intelligence for battle. Instead, she let them down via a rope so they could escape. Even though Rahab had received a clear order from the top government official, she resisted the command and was redeemed from the city’s destruction when Joshua and the Israeli army destroyed it.

The book of 1 Samuel records a command given by King Saul during a military campaign that no one could eat until Saul had won his battle with the Philistines. However, Saul’s son Jonathan defied his father’s order and ate honey to refresh himself from the hard battle the army had waged. When Saul found out about it, he ordered his son to die. However, the people resisted Saul and his command and saved Jonathan from being put to death (1 Samuel 14:45).

Another example of civil disobedience in keeping with biblical submission is found in 1 Kings 18. That chapter briefly introduces a man named Obadiah who “feared the Lord greatly.” When the queen Jezebel was killing God’s prophets, Obadiah took a hundred of them and hid them from her so they could live. Such an act was in clear defiance of the ruling authority’s wishes.

In 2 Kings, the only apparently approved revolt against a reigning government official is recorded. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, began to destroy the royal offspring of the house of Judah. However, Joash the son of Ahaziah was taken by the king’s daughter and hidden from Athaliah so that the bloodline would be preserved. Six years later, Jehoiada gathered men around him, declared Joash to be king, and put Athaliah to death.

Daniel records a number of civil disobedience examples. The first is found in chapter 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden idol in disobedience to King Nebuchadnezzar’s command. The second is in chapter 6 where Daniel defies King Darius’ decree to not pray to anyone other than the king. In both cases, God rescued His people from the death penalty that was imposed, signaling His approval of their actions.

In the New Testament, the book of Acts records the civil disobedience of Peter and John towards the authorities that were in power at the time. After Peter healed a man born lame, Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and put in jail. The religious authorities were determined to stop them from teaching about Jesus; however, Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Later, the rulers confronted the apostles again and reminded them of their command to not teach about Jesus, but Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

One last example of civil disobedience is found in the book of Revelation where the Antichrist commands all those who are alive during the end times to worship an image of himself. But the apostle John, who wrote Revelation, states that those who become Christians at the time will disobey the Antichrist and his government and refuse to worship the image (Revelation 13:15) just as Daniel’s companions violated Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to worship his idol.

Civil Disobedience—Conclusion
What conclusions can be drawn from the above biblical examples? The guidelines for a Christian’s civil disobedience can be summed as follows:

• Christians should resist a government that commands or compels evil and should work nonviolently within the laws of the land to change a government that permits evil.
• Civil disobedience is permitted when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands.
• If a Christian disobeys an evil government, unless he can flee from the government, he should accept that government’s punishment for his actions.
• Christians are certainly permitted to work to install new government leaders within the laws that have been established.

Lastly, Christians are commanded to pray for their leaders and for God to intervene in His time to change any ungodly path that they are pursuing: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).

Romans 13:1-7 states, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

This passage makes it abundantly clear that we are to obey the government God places over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 12:8). We are to obey the government in everything—paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he was under the government of Rome during the reign of Nero, perhaps the most evil of all the Roman emperors. Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?

The next question is “Is there a time when we should intentionally disobey the laws of the land?” The answer to that question may be found in Acts 5:27-29, “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’“ From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).

Face it. The day that each of us will step into eternity may come sooner than we think. In preparation for that moment, we need to know this truth—not everyone is going to heaven. How can we know for sure that we are one of those who will spend eternity in heaven? Some 2,000 years ago, the apostles Peter and John were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large crowd in Jerusalem. It was then that Peter made a profound statement that resonates even in our post-modern world: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even as it was then, in today’s “all ways lead to heaven” climate, this is not a politically correct message. There are many who think they can have heaven without having Jesus. They want the good promises of glory, but they don’t want to be bothered by the cross, much less the One who hung and died there for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Many don’t want to accept Jesus as the only way and are determined to find another path. But Jesus Himself warns us that no other path exists and the consequences for not accepting this truth are an eternity in hell. He has told us plainly that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Some will argue that it’s extremely narrow-minded of God to provide only one way to heaven. But, frankly, in light of mankind’s rebellious rejection of God, it’s extremely broad-minded for Him to provide us with any way to heaven. We deserve judgment, and instead He gives us the way of escape by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Whether someone sees this as narrow or broad, it’s the truth, and Christians need to maintain the clear, untarnished message that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Many people today have believed a watered-down gospel that does away with the message of repentance of their sins. They want to believe in a loving, nonjudgmental God who requires no repentance and no change in their lifestyle. They may say things like, “I believe in Jesus Christ, but my God is not judgmental. My God would never send a person to hell.” But we cannot have it both ways. If we profess to be Christians, we must recognize Christ for who He said He is—the one and only way to heaven. To deny that is to deny Jesus Himself, for it was He who declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The question still remains: who will actually enter into God’s kingdom? How can I guarantee my eternal destination? The answer to these questions is seen in the clearly drawn distinction between those who have eternal life and those who do not. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Those who believe in Christ, who have accepted His sacrifice in payment of their sins, and who follow Him in obedience will spend eternity in heaven. Those who reject Him will not. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

As awesome as heaven will be for those who choose Jesus Christ as Savior, hell will be that much more awful for those who reject Him. Our message to the lost would be delivered with more urgency if we understood what the holiness and righteousness of God will do to those who have rejected the full provision of forgiveness in His Son, Jesus Christ. One cannot read the Bible seriously without seeing it over and over again—the line is drawn. The Bible is very clear that there is one and only one way to heaven—through Jesus Christ. He has given us this warning: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

There is only one way to heaven and those who follow that way are guaranteed to get there. But not everyone is following that way. Are you?

There appear to be five major categories regarding how to get to heaven in the world’s religions. Most believe that hard work and wisdom will lead to ultimate fulfillment, whether that is unity with god (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’i) or freedom and independence (Scientology, Jainism). Others, like Unitarianism and Wicca, teach the afterlife is whatever you want it to be, and salvation is a non-issue because the sin nature doesn’t exist. A few believe either the afterlife doesn’t exist or it’s too unknowable to consider.

Derivatives of the worship of the Christian-Judeo God generally hold that faith in God and/or Jesus and the accomplishment of various deeds, including baptism or door-to-door evangelism, will ensure the worshiper will go to heaven. Only Christianity teaches that salvation is a free gift of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9), and no amount of work or effort is necessary or possible to get to heaven.

Atheism: Most atheists believe there is no heaven—no afterlife at all. Upon death, people simply cease to exist. Others attempt to define the afterlife using quantum mechanics and other scientific methods.

Baha’i: Like many other religions, Baha’i doesn’t teach that man was born with a sin nature or that man needs saving from evil. Man simply needs saving from his erroneous beliefs of how the world works and how he is to interact with the world. God sent messengers to explain to people how to come to this knowledge: Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Baha’u’llah. These prophets progressively revealed the nature of God to the world. Upon death, a person’s soul continues its spiritual journey, perhaps through the states known as heaven and hell, until it comes to a final resting point, united with god.

Buddhism: Buddhism also believes that heaven, or “Nirvana,” is to be rejoined in spirit with god. Reaching Nirvana, a transcendental, blissful, spiritual state, requires following the Eightfold Path. This includes understanding the universe, and acting, speaking, and living in the right manner and with the right intentions. Mastering these and the other of the eight paths will return a worshipper’s spirit to god.

Chinese Religion: Chinese Religion is not an organized church, but an amalgamation of different religions and beliefs including Taoism and Buddhism. Upon death, worshipers are judged. The good are sent either to a Buddhist paradise or a Tao dwelling place. The bad are sent to hell for a period of time and then reincarnated.

Christianity: Christianity is the only religion that teaches man can do nothing to earn or pay his way into heaven. Man, a slave to the sin nature he was born with, must completely rely on the grace of God in applying Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to the sins of the believer. Upon death, the spirits of Christians go to a temporary paradise, while the spirits of unbelievers go to another temporary holding place. At the final judgment, Christians are given a new body and spend eternity with God in paradise, while unbelievers are separated from God for eternity in hell.

Confucianism: Confucianism concentrates on appropriate behavior in life, not a future heaven. The afterlife is unknowable, so all effort should be made to make this life the best it can be, to honor ancestors, and to respect elders.

Eastern Orthodox: Orthodoxy is a Christian-Judeo derivative that reinterprets key Scripture verses in such a way that works become essential to reach heaven. Orthodoxy teaches that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, but where Christianity teaches that becoming more Christlike is the result of Christ’s influence in a believer’s life, Orthodoxy teaches that it is a part of the salvation process. If that process (called theosis) is not performed appropriately, a worshiper can lose his/her salvation. After death, the devout live in an intermediate state where this theosis can be completed. Those who have belief but did not accomplish sufficient progress in theosis are sent to a temporary “direful condition” and will go to hell unless the living devout pray and complete acts of mercy on their behalf. After final judgment, the devout are sent to heaven and the others to hell. Heaven and hell are not locations, but reactions to being in the presence of God, as there is nowhere that He is not present. For Christ-followers, God’s presence is paradise, but for the unsaved, being with God is eternal torment.

Hinduism: Hinduism is similar to Buddhism in some ways. Salvation (or moksha) is reached when the worshiper is freed from the cycle of reincarnation, and his spirit becomes one with god. One becomes free by ridding oneself of bad karma—the effect of evil action or evil intent. This can be done in three different ways: through selfless devotion to and service of a particular god, through understanding the nature of the universe, or by mastering the actions needed to fully appease the gods.

In Hinduism, with over a million different gods, there are differences of opinion regarding the nature of salvation. The Advaita school teaches salvation occurs when one can strip away the false self and make the soul indistinguishable from that of god. The dualist insists that one’s soul always retains its own identity even as it is joined with god.

Islam: Islam is a take-off on the Christian/Judeo God. Muslims believe salvation comes to those who obey Allah sufficiently that good deeds outweigh the bad. Muslims hope that repeating what Muhammad did and said will be enough to get to heaven, but they also recite extra prayers, fast, go on pilgrimages, and perform good works in hope of tipping the scales. Martyrdom in service to Allah is the only work guaranteed to send a worshiper to paradise.

Jainism: Jainism came to be in India about the same time as Hinduism and is very similar. One must hold the right belief, have the right knowledge, and act in the right manner. Only then can a soul be cleansed of karma. But in Jainism, there is no creator. There is no higher god to reach or lend aid. Salvation is man as master of his own destiny, liberated and perfect, filled with infinite perception, knowledge, bliss, and power.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: The teachings of the Watchtower Society lead us to categorize the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult of Christianity that misinterprets the book of Revelation. Similar to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach different levels of heaven. The anointed are 144,000 who receive salvation by the blood of Christ and will rule with Him in paradise. They are the bride of Christ. For all others, Jesus’ sacrifice only freed them from Adam’s curse of original sin, and “faith” is merely the opportunity to earn their way to heaven. They must learn about Kingdom history, keep the laws of Jehovah, and be loyal to “God’s government”—the 144,000 leaders, 9,000 of whom are currently on the earth. They must also spread the news about the Kingdom, including door-to-door proselytizing. Upon death, they will be resurrected during the millennial kingdom where they must continue a devout life. Only afterwards are they given the opportunity to formally accept Christ and live for eternity under the rule of the 144,000.

Judaism: Jews believe that, as individuals and as a nation, they can be reconciled to God. Through sin (individually or collectively) they can lose their salvation, but they can also earn it back through repentance, good deeds, and a life of devotion.

Mormonism: Mormons believe their religion to be a derivative of Judeo/Christianity, but their reliance on extra-grace works belies this. They also have a different view of heaven. To reach the second heaven under “general salvation,” one must accept Christ (either in this life or the next) and be baptized or be baptized by proxy through a living relative. To reach the highest heaven, one must believe in God and Jesus, repent of sins, be baptized in the church, be a member of the LDS church, receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, obey the Mormon “Word of Wisdom” and all God’s commandments, and complete certain temple rituals including marriage. This “individual salvation” leads to the worshiper and his/her spouse becoming gods and giving birth to spirit children who return to Earth as the souls of the living.

Roman Catholicism: Roman Catholics originally believed only those in the Roman Catholic Church could be saved. Joining the church was a long process of classes, rituals, and baptism. People who had already been baptized but were not members of the Roman Catholic Church had different requirements and may even already be considered Christians. Baptism is “normatively” required for salvation, but this can include “baptism of blood” (i.e.: martyrdom) or “baptism of desire” (wanting to be baptized really badly). From the catechism: “Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized.” Despite the changes through the years, baptism (or the desire for baptism) is still required for salvation.

According to Catholicism, upon death, the souls of those who rejected Christ are sent to hell. The souls of those who accepted Christ and performed sufficient acts to be purified of sin go to heaven. Those who died in faith but did not complete the steps to be purified are sent to purgatory where they undergo temporary, painful punishment until their souls are cleansed. Purification by torment may be lessened by suffering during life and the offerings and prayers of others on the sinner’s behalf. Once purification is complete, the soul may go to heaven.

Scientology: Scientology is similar to Eastern religions in that salvation is achieved through knowledge of self and the universe. The “thetan” (Scientology’s answer to the soul) travels through several different lifetimes, attempting to expel painful and traumatic images that cause a person to act fearfully and irrationally. Once a Scientologist is “cleared” of these harmful images and becomes an “operating thetan,” he/she is able to control thought, life, matter, energy, space, and time.

Shinto: The afterlife in Shinto was originally a dire, Hades-like realm. Matters of the afterlife have now been transferred to Buddhism. This salvation is dependent on penance and avoiding impurity or pollution of the soul. Then one’s soul can join those of its ancestors.

Sikhism: Sikhism was created in reaction to the conflict between Hinduism and Islam, and carries on many of Hinduism’s influences—although Sikhs are monotheistic. “Evil” is merely human selfishness. Salvation is attained by living an honest life and meditating on god. If good works are performed sufficiently, the worshipper is released from the cycle of reincarnation and becomes one with god.

Taoism: Like several other Eastern religions (Shinto, Chinese folk religions, Sikhism), Taoism adopted many of its afterlife principles from Buddhism. Initially, Taoists didn’t concern themselves with worries of the afterlife and, instead, concentrated on creating a utopian society. Salvation was reached by aligning with the cosmos and receiving aid from supernatural immortals who resided on mountains, islands, and other places on Earth. The result was immortality. Eventually, Taoists abandoned the quest for immortality and took on the afterlife teachings of Buddhism.

Unitarian-Universalism: Unitarians are allowed to and encouraged to believe anything they like about the afterlife and how to get there. Although, in general, they believe people should seek enlightenment in this life and not worry too much about the afterlife.

Wicca: Wiccans believe many different things about the afterlife, but most seem to agree that there is no need for salvation. People either live in harmony with the Goddess by caring for her physical manifestation—the earth—or they don’t, and their bad karma is returned to them three-fold. Some believe souls are reincarnated until they learn all their life lessons and become one with the Goddess. Some are so committed to following one’s individual path that they believe individuals determine what will happen when they die; if worshippers think they’re going to be reincarnated or sent to hell or joined with the goddess, they will be. Others refuse to contemplate the afterlife at all. Either way, they don’t believe in sin or anything they need saving from.

Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism may be the first religion that stated that the afterlife was dependent upon one’s actions in life. There is no reincarnation, just a simple judgment four days after death. After a sufficient amount of time in hell, however, even the condemned can go to heaven. To be judged righteous, one can use knowledge or devotion, but the most effective way is through action.

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What is Jainism?

Jainism began in the 6th century as a reformation movement within Hinduism. It is based on the teachings of its founder, Mahavira. Believing that a life of self-denial was the way to achieve “enlightenment,” Mahavira wandered naked and mute through India for 12 years, enduring hardship and abuse. After this, he took on disciples, preaching his newfound belief. Mahavira was vehemently opposed to the idea of acknowledging or worshipping a supreme being. Although Mahavira denied that any God or gods existed to be worshipped, he, like other religious leaders, was deified by his later followers. He was named the 24th Tirthankara, the last and greatest of the savior beings. According to Jain writings, Mahavira descended from heaven, committed no sin himself, and through meditation, freed himself from all earthly desires.

Jainism is a religion of extreme legalism, for one attains his own salvation only through the path of asceticism (rigid self-denial). There is no freedom in this religion, only rules, primarily the Five Great Vows, which mandate the renunciation of (1) killing living things, (2) lying, (3) greed, (4) sexual pleasure and (5) worldly attachments. Women are to be avoided entirely because they are thought to be the cause of all kinds of evil.

Like all false religion, Jainism is incompatible with biblical Christianity. First, the Bible condemns the worship of any god apart from Jehovah, the true and living God. “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2, 3). “I am Jehovah, and there is none else, no god beside Me” (Isaiah 45:5). Mahavira was not a god at all, but a man. Like all men, he was born, he sinned, and he died. He did not reach sinless perfection. Only one Man lived perfectly, the Lord Jesus Christ who “was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Second, the Bible makes it clear that following laws and teachings, even those from the true and living God, will never result in the righteousness required for salvation. “For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) who bore our sin on the cross so that we could bear His righteousness. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The faith Jesus taught alleviates the burdens of people while Jainism only adds to them.

Finally, two of Jainism’s “great vows” directly contradict the revealed Word of God. While avoiding greed, lying and worldly attachments is commendable, avoiding sexual pleasure, if taken to its extreme, would be the end of mankind. In order to assure the continuation of the generations of man on the earth, God granted the gift of sexual impulse to us. Within the constraints of holy marriage, the sexual impulse finds its complete fulfillment, and the future of our species is assured (Genesis 1:28; 2:24; 9:1). In addition, one of the tenets of Jainism is ahimsa, the forbidding of taking life in any form. This directly contradicts both the Old and New Testaments where God gave animals to mankind for food (Leviticus 11 and Acts 10).

Like all false religions, Jainism is another lie from Satan whose desire is to entrap us in a system which focuses our attention on ourselves, the turning inward of our minds and spirits in an attempt to make ourselves worthy through self-denial and the keeping of rules. Jesus commanded us to die to self, to live for Him and, through Him, for others. The failure of Jainism to advance much beyond certain areas of India speaks to the fact that it does not meet universal human need. This is in stark contrast to Jesus Christ, whose impact is universal.