Feeling a little meaningless right now and want to get in touch with your “spiritual side”? Tried Buddhism, meditation, and everything short of hiking to Tibet? Well, the best answer may be a lot closer than you ever dreamed, within quite familiar wrapping paper…
It's Christianity, just like Grandma used to have. And it works better than any of the other things you've tried. Seriously.
We’re living in a time when it’s deemed polite to view everyone’s opinions and ideas as being of equal value. This sounds like fair play. The only problem is, all opinions aren’t equal.
Some ideas don’t work. Some values are deficient. Others positively stink.
When it comes to religion, "one size does NOT fit all".
Religions are one area where we’re supposed to pretend every belief is just as valuable as the other. And I am in full agreement we should accept and love people regardless of their beliefs.
Beliefs affect your life, if you truly live by them. Sometimes those effects can be positive, and others negative. And while it’s true HOW you practice your belief system may determine your results, you can never overcome a fallacious belief no matter how hard you try to work it.
As a belief system, Christianity, when practiced correctly, improves your life…dramatically. No other religion has had the power to heal the broken and reform the crooked like this one faith. Sure, there are positive testimonials from other faiths, but nothing like the measurable effects you find from a life that intersects the humble rabbi from Nazareth.
I know this sounds a bit like a schoolyard boy yelling, “My daddy’s stronger than your daddy!” But all religions are not the same. With a few minor ethical similarities, each major world religion teaches a different path to God. No amount of wishful thinking or political correctness will change that fact.
So as an admittedly biased observer, here are five reasons embracing Christianity will improve your life…
#1 - Christianity offers you a God who’s personally invested in your well-being, and gives you continual access to His comfort.
Prayer is one of the great pleasures of my life. When I pray, my focus moves from my current problems and I see life in it’s proper perspective - from God’s overview.
But it’s not just me. The stats on the positive effects of prayer on your life are undeniable. Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, studied Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns and found measurable positive results, both physical and psychological (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/why-people-who-pray-are-heathier_b_1197313.html).
Sure, you say, but the effects were positive regardless of which group prayed, right? Yes, if you believe the only results are that the person praying has basically fooled himself into being peaceful, and that there’s no supernatural benefit beyond what’s measurable through heart rate and brain activity. But if the Christian assumption is true, you’re not only “submitting yourself to the universe”, you’re actually making contact with a higher being whose wisdom and help can improve your life.
It’s really rather patronizing the way we look at religious people. We say, “Well, If believing in an all-powerful daddy in the sky is making you happy, good for you - have fun with that!”
However, the difference in what Christianity believes is that instead of praying into a benign, uncaring “universe”, the Christian prays to a very real, personal Being. Not so much for those who are just “spiritual but not religious”.
I’ve told my friends who are into meditation, “You’re praying to the universe, but the universe doesn’t know your name, and doesn’t care about your life. The universe will be just fine without you.”
On the other hand, the Father that Christians worship knows you, loves you, and wants to help you. Sorry, but I’ll take that over a cold, dark, uncaring universe any day!
#2 - Christianity helps you understand life is not "all about you".
Though Christianity has often been infamous for those who’ve practiced it badly (just Google the term “TV evangelist” and “scandal” and try to read all the results), it’s actually been a major force for good in the world. One of the best things Christianity teaches you is to get over yourself and care for the needs of others.
More to the point, the heart of Christianity is, “It’s not about you.” It’s about God and others.
A Christian worldview bumps up against our default perception that life is meant to be an “all-you-can-eat buffet” for me alone. Most of our ideals of tolerance and caring for other people’s needs come chiefly from the Christian idea of “charity”. The Bible was one of the first books of antiquity to see women not as property and having equal value to men (Gal 3:28). Most of our hospitals and aid societies world-round started off as Christian ministries…heck, even our great schools like Oxford, Harvard, and Yale.
Even some atheists, when backed into the corner, grudgingly acknowledge these facts. Matthew Parris writing his London Times OpEd on the overwhelming needs of rural Africa admits that, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God” (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/matthewparris/article2044345.ece). Evidently, he realized only a stubborn missionary with a Godly zeal is going to put up with the hardships inherent in helping people in such dire conditions. Celebrities may drop in for a day to get a photo shoot with a starving kid, but Christianity missionaries are the ones willing to actual live under the same conditions as the impoverished people they serve.
So yeah, come to Jesus and He will save you. But then, He’ll turn you around and point you to the rest of the world so you can join Him in saving them too.
#3 - Christianity gives you boundaries that improve health and mental outlook
None of us like rules, and the rules of Christianity are what have often received the worst press. And it’s true that a life lived only focusing on what “I’m not supposed to do” is one that will soon become a drudgery. Christians who obsess over Biblical rules become self-righteous and judgmental of others. Their pride destroys their joy, and they end up pushing people away from God instead of drawing them to Him.
However, a life lived with respect to Christian boundaries coupled with the grace God offers when we fall short is a recipe for a well-balanced life. Biblical ethics keep honesty and personal integrity at the forefront of our minds as we relate to others. The admonishments to avoid substance abuse and sexual license keep us from destroying relationships, and from causing harm to ourselves and loved ones alike.
Bottom line: a life lived by Christian rules minimizes the collateral damage you cause. A loving, monogamous couple raising children taught to respect each other is a family unit where each member can reach their fullest potential. These families also make for good, helpful neighbors. Most of the residue that comes from a life without boundaries is missing from a committed Christian family.
True, nobody’s perfect, and people will always fall short of the rules (the recent Duggar scandal comes to mind). What most people do instead is try to convince themselves the rules don’t exist, and then attempt to assuage their guilt. But when you’ve screwed up, Christianity offers that “amazing grace” where God says, “I know you screwed up, but I still love you, you’re still valuable, and now I’ll help you fix it”.
Seriously, can you think of a better deal than that?
#4 - Christianity gives you a reason for the evil in the world
One of the misunderstanding my atheist friends have about Christianity has to do with evil. They see all the evil in the world as proof God doesn’t exist. This is actually quite ironic, since the Bible says God hates evil and the pain it causes more than we can imagine.
In that one area, God and the atheist are actually in agreement.
So why doesn’t God stop evil? Well, if you really seek to understand Christianity, you’ll find the whole premise is that God created a perfect world (the Eden story in Genesis) but that man brought evil into it by disobeying Him. When we do wrong, the Bible says the natural consequence is destruction. Sin brings death and separation from God (Romans 3:23, 6:23), and our rejecting God and choosing our own way is what sends the world spinning into chaos.
God created the world, so He knows better than anyone how it works. It was made to work by His rules, but it falls apart when we ignore those rules and do things our own way. So when we choose evil over good and selfishness over kindness, we encourage that destruction even further.
So it’s the height of irony that the existence of evil is used to prove God doesn’t exist. Evil is present basically because we have a choice to reject God. God knows that without that choice, we can not truly love Him. For example, if you forced your wife at gun point to marry you, she may agree but you can’t say she truly loves you.
For love to exist, we must be able to choose not to love and to reject love’s advances.
God could have made my atheist friends happy and guaranteed evil would never happen. Only problem is, He would have had to take away their free will…which would mean they wouldn’t be able to choose NOT to believe…which would make them brain-washed robots. I don’t know many people willing to make that exchange.
So God gives us the freedom we want, which in turn allows us to say He’s not there: the very definition of irony.
At the end of time, God will indeed put everything right and “wipe every tear from our eyes” (Rev 21:4). Until then, we pray and trust Him to lead our lives, knowing one day there will be no more pain, no more death, and every wrong will be righted by the only impartial, righteous Judge.
#5 - Christianity says, “Don’t worry, everything’s gonna be alright”.
And it’s that “happy ending” Christianity promises which answers the most disturbingly existential question every thinking person who’s every taken a breath has asked:
“What happens when I die?”
Christianity’s answer is one of forgiveness and reconciliation, and entrance into God’s eternal home in heaven. And that heaven is not the one of clouds and disembodied spirits we’ve come to imagine - no, that picture is more from Plato than Scripture. The Bible’s heaven is one of a great city filled with life and light, with God Himself smack dab in the middle of it enjoying it all.
I know what many of you are thinking. You’re saying, “Well, I’m probably good enough to get there, I hope.” Sorry, but that’s not the message of the Bible, and when you think of it, it doesn’t make sense for us to get to heaven under our own power.
First, heaven is not our home, it’s God’s. Seriously, you wouldn’t show up on my front porch tonight and expect for me to let you live in my home, would you? What in the world would give you the right to stay with me?
“I think I should be able to live here because I’m a good person, Dave!”
Well, “good” by whose standards? If it’s my house, I get to decide who can stay and who can’t. You see, we have a very specific way of doing things that keeps the house peaceful, so not just anyone fits in there.
And if it’s God’s house, His standards are perfect holiness, because heaven is a perfect place. Nothing evil is allowed in to destroy that peace. So by his standards, neither you nor I can enter. We’re too messed up on our own. So no, you have no right to live in my home…anymore than you have a right to live in God’s home, heaven.
“Is there any circumstances under which you’d let me stay at your house, Dave?”
I’ll tell you, there is one loophole where several people have gotten in. It’s my heart. There have been children who needed a father, and their plight has touched me deeply. We’ve now adopted 3 children that way, and are in the works of adopting another soon.
But they had done nothing to deserve this adoption - I adopted them strictly because of my love and pity for them. And now Im raising them up in my ways so that they’ll fit in with how we live in my house. Day by day, they’re becoming more like my wife and me. Now they can come and go as they like, and have the same rights as our biological child. They are part of the family, so my house is their house.
It works the same with God.
If you want into His house, ask Him to forgive your sins and adopt you into His family. He will then take you on as His very own child, and start “raising” you up as his son or daughter. Daily you’ll become more and more like your Father, so you’ll fit in His heavenly house. You’ll have the same rights and privileges as your brother Jesus, who paid your original debt for all you’d done wrong.
That’s how you get to heaven, according to Christianity. Not goodness, not rules - just good old fashioned mercy and grace.
So my friend, I’d encourage you to take a good long look at Christianity. Based on the facts alone, it would only make things better for you. All you’d lose is a bunch of fear, guilt, and purposelessness.
If you’re anything like me, I’d be happy trade those in for a little mercy and grace any day ;0)