The following is a sermon transcription that will hopefully help you to understand the importance of having a true religion in our lives and how it impacts our lives.
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Yao Chia Chi)
Most of us have a religious belief, and I believe that it is God who places this desire in the hearts of men to seek and worship Him. This is the main difference between a man and an animal. In this world, there are many different religions or religious sects. There are temples, altars and religious buildings everywhere, and even within a religion there are many denominations. How then do we know which is the true religion?
I believe that many of us have the same religion as our parents and forefathers and usually the main religion of a country is influenced by its social and historical background. For example, majority of the Chinese are either Buddhist or Taoist and they believe in Deities. They tend to classify Christianity or Islam as distant religions. In Singapore, we have a congregation of many talents from around the world and perhaps people will bring along their native religions. This makes the selection of religion even more difficult. We have to examine the nature of a religion and what it offers to mankind before concluding it is the true religion. Most of us would agree that we hope to receive blessings and not calamities from a religion. Today, I would like to share a few points on what a True Religion should be.
1) True Religion is that the object of our worship must be the true one.
Today many of us are truly very devoted in worshiping God. In our church in Muzha, Taipei, there is a believer called Auntie Lee who, before coming to believe in our church, believed in the religion of “Yi Guan” for more than twenty years. She became a vegetarian because of this religion. She first accompanied her daughter-in-law to our church, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, she was soon able to know the truth and departed from her “Yi Guan” religion. When I first saw her, she was thin and unhappy. In her testimony, she told us that during one of her prayers she received the spirit of God which she told us was different from what she experienced previously. Even though she had many spiritual experiences previously, they only brought her pain and suffering. She even had to vow never to depart from her religion. Hence, we should examine and be able to differentiate the True God from the many which are created by men. Men are capable of creating things and also gods. In Romans chapter 1 verse 19 to 25, we were told that God created everything in this world and man is supposed to understand and experience Him. Unfortunately, man did not give glory to His name, and instead, they used their own imagination and created for themselves gods. Why are men foolish enough to create and worship idols? They surely know that they are made of wood or of gold. Usually, when a person purchases an idol, he will have a religious ceremony or procedures prior to taking it home for he believes that by so doing, the idol will have the power to protect him. Even though we do not believe, we will not despise them because we know that evil spirits, which are against God, make use of the idols to deceive men into not worshipping God. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul tells us that many Christians were dead in their evil and sin before they believe in Jesus. Also in Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1 to 3 we are told that man once walked according to the course of this world.
In almost every religion, there exists certain traditions and practices because the believers of these religions submit themselves to the prince of power of the air, the evil spirits and they’re controlled by the spirits which will make them worship in this manner. These believers will always be fearful and have a lot of taboos and restrictions. For example, they believe that the dates for conducting ordinary events such as marriages, moving a house or funeral services have to be consulted and usually restricted to only a limited number of dates. Others believe in geomancy and in this way, they’re being controlled by the evil spirits. We also see that men are turning more and more towards evil and this is because the evil spirits are working in the hearts of men. In Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3, it tells us that we once conduct ourselves in the lust of the flesh just as they have, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. These are actually sinful pleasures and many times, in order for us to gain something, we have to hurt others. This is the work of the evil spirits. For us today, we have to depart from these false gods and to worship the True God.
What are the conditions to be a True God?
Acts chapter 17 records about Paul preaching to the Greeks. When he arrived in Athens, he noticed that the Greeks were philosophical people, interested in strange phenomena and discussing about them frequently. Paul was also amazed at the number of gods that the people were worshipping. They became wearied because they were afraid to be punished by a god that they might have missed out in their worship. Paul even noticed that there was an altar inscribed with “To the unknown God”; these people were worshipping gods that they did not even know! Because Paul loved the people, he delivered them a message about the True God. From his sermons, we can summarize his definition of the True God in five points.
Firstly, Acts chapter 17 verse 24 states that God must be the One who has created the world and everything in it. He cannot be one that is being created or made using stone or wood. Neither can He be a human being nor an animal. He also cannot be a character in a story line. He is the creator of the universe and the Lord of the Heaven and the Earth so He does not dwell in the temples made by human beings.
The second condition is that God must be the giver and the sustainer of life. He does not require man to serve or make offerings to Him as He lacks nothing. In fact, He gives to all, life, breath and all things. Today our lives are in His hands and He holds the key to Life.
The third condition is that this God must be the same God throughout the History of Mankind. In verse 26, it says that He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth. In Luke chapter 3, one can trace the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam who is the first Man God created. God has arranged the time and the boundaries of our dwellings. He is in complete control of what is going to happen in the entire history of man.
The fourth condition is found in verse 29 which says that we are the offspring of God. Apart from the genealogy of Jesus mentioned earlier, what is more important is that our souls are made by God. In Genesis chapter 1, it is recorded that God created man and woman according to His own image and likeness. Hence, we share the common characteristic of God. We should not treat Him like one that is being created using gold, silver or stone.
The fifth condition is that this God must be the Judge of our sins in the end days but He wants to save those who believe in Him and who can be saved.
“..so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27)
Here it says that the True God is actually not far away from us and if we seek Him, we’ll be able to find Him. God initiated the effort to reveal Himself to us. Thus, we often hear “The word became flesh” which means that God is a spirit and has come into this world as a human being but He (Jesus) has the complete nature of God. At that time, Jesus preached about the Kingdom of Heaven to many. He also healed people of illnesses, casting out demons, and saving many people. He has completed his work. In John chapter 1 verse 14 which says “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” In John chapter 1 verse 18, it says that “no one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” In Greek, to “declare someone” means to “explain the purpose of someone”. Here the Bible explains about this true God, His purpose for coming to this world, the work that He has to complete and the Salvation that He has finally accomplished on the cross. Today, we’re able to understand God through Jesus Christ because Jesus is this True God. It may seem that God and Jesus are two separate entities but they’re not. In 1st John chapter 5 verse 20, it says that “and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ”. When we know Jesus Christ we will also know the True God and we can enjoy eternal life.
2) True Religion is when we have the correct motives in our worship.
In Bible, it was recorded that two disciples of John the Baptist went and followed Jesus. John the Baptist was the pioneer of Lord Jesus’s work and he was a man very devoted to God. He attracted many people to follow him. When Jesus walked past John twice, he told his two disciples that “This is the lamb of God to take away the sins of all man”. Jesus, after noticing that they were following Him, turned around and asked “what is that you want?” Today, we must ask ourselves our motives when we worship God. When Jesus was in this world working, many people followed Him because they saw Jesus performing miracles. Some miracles included the feeding of four thousand people with only five loaves of bread and the healing of the sick and many wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus saw the motives of some when He was performing the miracle to feed the five thousand men. This is recorded in John chapter 6 verse 26 where Jesus says “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled”. Jesus reminded us not to seek after food which can perish but rather, seek for the food that is everlasting. We should not focus only on this physical life but more importantly on our spiritual life. Jesus also speaks about the teachings of the bread of life. In John chapter 6 verse 35, Jesus says “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Additionally, He also said that “My flesh is food indeed, my blood is drink indeed.” We must highlight that Christians are not cannibals but rather this verse is telling us that Lord Jesus has given to us His life and also tells us the significance of the Holy Communion. Jesus emphasized that His words are of spirit and are of life. The words from Jesus are the truth and it can sanctify us and leads us to the door of Salvation. However, there’re people who have different motives; some actually come to church to be fed, while others are here to seek friends or marriage partners, and even to make business deals e.g. insurance agents. These people hope to gain worldly things for themselves and treat Godliness as a means to achieve their financial goals. But what should one really seek in a religion? Sometime ago in Taiwan, many idols were discarded after a round of gambling and lottery. The people who worshipped these idols for luck, lost everything instead of winning. Many people worship gods or a religion with such motives and some even turn to unethical means in order to achieve their material goals and still hope that their gods will protect them.
For us in the True Jesus Church, what do we actually want to achieve? Of course we want to have the peace and prosperity in life. Additionally, we also want to be successful in our marriages, our careers and our studies. These are of course important but they’re secondary when considering the salvation of our souls. This God-He is Spirit and created us. He has a plan for each and every one of us and after we die we either go to Heaven or to Hell. If we seek this religion then we can receive this gift of salvation and by our faith, we can receive the blessing of eternal life in Heaven. Hence, it is most important for us to esteem spiritual things. We should first seek the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and God will give to us the things that we need in our daily lives to sustain us. But He is God and we should never treat Him like an ATM machine. As long as we pray to God, we can expect that He would accede to our request. However, some of us ask for things only out of own interest and benefit and some even worship demons and practice sorcery because they want to gain power, even though they know that these are evil spirits. We see an increasing trend of people practicing sorcery. In the Yong He Church in Taiwan, there was this truth seeker who was suffering because he practised sorcery. His friend, who was his business partner, invited him to a religious ritual and from that time forth, he was being controlled by the evil spirit. He was often tormented when the “master” who performed the ritual appeared in his mind and talked to him. He had to obey his instructions, and even to go into a relationship with him. Hence, we need to have the correct understanding about our religion. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, said to a man who is born lame, “Silver or Gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise and walk.” And miraculously this man arose and starts to walk. This man lived a difficult life because he was lame and had to beg to sustain himself. He hoped that Peter could give him some money but instead Peter gave him, through the grace of God, something even better, that is the ability to walk. In the name of God and with the power accorded to Peter, he was able to make the man rise up and walk again. Today we must also worship God with this correct motive and we hope to receive the Salvation of our soul. We should not just have hopes for our life in this world but we should hope for eternal glory. When we have this correct motive, we’re moving in the right direction as we pursue after the true religion.
3) True Religion is when the attitude of worship is true.
Earlier, I share with you about Jesus asking the two disciples “What do you want?” Likewise, shouldn’t we also ask what are God’s expectations of us? Does God expect offerings of thousands of sheep and goats from us? The Bible tells us that God does not seek after these things. Rather, our obedience is better than sacrifice, and to heed better than the fat of rams that we offer. Another portion of the bible also tells us that God wants us to be like him, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. This means that that God expects us to worship Him in our spirit and with truth and worshipping Him according to His own nature. The Bible also tells us that because God is Spirit He will require these from us. Are we also worshipping Him with the help of the Holy Spirit? Are we really sincere in worshipping God? If we are, then we will be worshipping God according to His nature. Our God is a righteous, merciful and Holy God. We should constantly improve ourselves in our faith even though we may not be perfect now. We do not emphasize on certain rituals or practices or worship God with our lips only. More importantly, we should be using our whole life and strength to serve Him. If we worship God, can we still continue to do evil things? I once saw a video showing a man who went to worship this idol in the temple. He left but returned to steal a gold necklace which was hanging on the idol. His actions were captured on the CCTV camera and this thief was handed over to the authorities. We can perhaps believe that he was hoping to get rich by worshipping the idol but stole the necklace instead after believing that the idol wanted to give it to him. He didn’t consider that his action was evil and has ridiculed the object of his worship. A person who is like him will have no fear of God.
Sometimes I find it very strange that some people choose to worship a god based on their career. In Taiwan, there’re robbers who worship a famous robber who could have been the first person to rob the bank. There were others who worshipped “Liao Tian Ding” who was like Robin Hood. When we worship this true God we should also think about what are His expectations of us. As God is Holy, He surely will expect us to bear holy fruits. He wants our life to be like Light and Salt, to give light to all around us and to preserve food. And this is the requirement that God has of us from the bible. A person who is truly devoted is someone who walks in the truth. He is not someone who lives in the mountain to cultivate himself but rather, he is one who manifests the life of a Christian in society. Jesus Christ performs the same when He is in this world. Hence, we must have the correct attitude when we worship God and it must be based on truth. If the God whom you worship allows you to do evil and yet still accepts your worship, it shows that it has a similar nature as you.
4) True religion is that our experience in the religion must be true.
If you ask the believers of any religion, they’ll tell you that they have had real experiences. We shouldn’t believe in an idol or a god merely because we’ve certain experiences or might have seen certain signs and wonders. If we do so, we’ll become superstitious. Some religions are frauds; to deceive believers of their money. In 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 9 onwards, it mentioned the signs of the last days. It told us about the working of the lawless ones, according to the working of the Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all these unrighteous deceptions among those who were perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth. We do not deny that there could be miracles such as the healing of illness after drinking water mixed with the ashes from burnt charms and some people turned their luck around after consulting the fortune tellers. However, we believe that this is the work of Satan and his purpose is to deceive man. Hence, we should not believe in a religion just because we’ve certain experiences but more importantly, it should be based on our relationship with God. In the bible when it says to know God, it means to have relationship with God.
Today our Christianity faith is very good since we come often to church. Through singing of hymns, prayers, listening to the sermons, fellowship with brethren and the serving of God together, we have linked our lives together. Here we can experience the love of God and the life of God. We have many experiences and we are very sure of our faith. Some believers of other religions, even with idols in their house, are not sure of their own faith. There are many ways in which we can experience God. Many of our earlier members came to believe after they experienced miracles and through which, they saw God but this should only be the beginning of one’s faith and not the end. Ultimately, our faith has to be established on the truth else we will be weak in our faith.
In the True Jesus Church, we have the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. When the spirit of God enters us during our prayers, we will speak in tongues and move our body but we remain conscious during our prayers. In our hearts we are filled with joy. This is unlike the religious mediums that hit themselves with sticks and bled. So many of our early believers came from other churches because they realized that we have this gift of receiving the Holy Spirit and they saw that miracles, signs and wonders were very evident. Others came to believe after we preached to them and they agreed that this is the truth.
In conclusion, it is important that we must seek the true religion in which the God we worship is true and we must have the true motivation, attitude and experience in our worship. Only then can our religion be meaningful. Christians believe in the one and only true God and we emphasize that this true God is Jesus Christ whom we worship. Jesus is God who came into this world and He has resurrected after being crucified and is now in Heaven. Christianity emphasizes the true meaning of living from within oneself. It is also a religion that brings us true blessings in both physical and spiritual aspects of our lives. He wants to give us eternal life. If we can come to know this God and worship Him, we will have this fullness of joy and will receive eternal blessings. Today in our True Jesus Church, we preach to you this gospel which centers on Jesus Christ. But as we preach, we are also keeping the truth and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be guided in this True religion.
May the Lord Jesus bless all of us.