Christians seeking to actively “live out” their faith and personal convictions through the power of the Holy Spirit are often confronted with questions by Christians and non-Christians alike. The following three questions are quite common, and yet God’s Word gives clear answers to each:
Question #1: Doesn’t the Bible tell us to “judge not”? Why do some Christians have strong beliefs against this or that, or why do they speak against a particular church or person who does not agree with them? Isn’t it more constructive to focus on what we have in common than to judge others and focus on our differences?
This question or some version of it often arises and is extremely important for us to consider. Usually, the person who poses this question is not an unbeliever but another person who professes faith in Christ. Many times, these people are simply ignorant of the teaching of Scripture and have a tendency to rely on “one-liners” or a general, shallow understanding of Scripture as they listen to those who have their own weak idea of true Christianity. These people need to understand:
1). Jesus does not forbid anyone from exercising judgment, but He forbids people from passing hypocritical judgment (Matt. 7:1-5), that is, criticizing somebody for doing the exact thing that you are doing yourself! Hypocrisy is the key here, not the act of judging.
2). To “judge” in Scripture often means to exercise discernment and make a decision. Jesus actually commands us to judge, or exercise discernment. Notice Matthew 7:15 and John 7:24. In considering John 7:24, we find Jesus exhorting men to “judge righteous judgment.” This requires one to exercise discernment between right and wrong. In the context, these Jews to whom Jesus was speaking possessed no discernment, for they themselves would speak of killing Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, yet they would circumcise an infant on the eighth day if that fell on the Sabbath. They were not only hypocritical, but they lacked any discernment at all. Jesus then exhorts men to refrain from viewing and judging events based on a shallow understanding (according to the “appearance”), but to weigh events and “judge righteous judgment” (v. 24). To judge righteous judgment means to judge rightly based on a standard of righteousness, not a standard of feeling or emotion or pragmatism. Discernment is the key. It is not possible for us to “judge righteous judgment” without discernment, and it is impossible for us to possess discernment if we do not know God’s Word and God’s will.
3). God’s Word is full of warnings (judgments) about those who teach, preach, or live a life inconsistent with the Word and will of God. If we are to be “Christ-like” and follow Scripture as our standard of Christian living, then we will be people who heed the warnings of Scripture and test all things (judge all things) according to the Word of God.
4). It is actually impossible to live the Christian life in a way that brings glory to God without judgment or discernment. Notice Hebrews 5:11-14. Those Christians who are spiritually mature and who bring glory to God are those who “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (v. 14).
Question #2: Isn’t God concerned about sincerity more than anything else? Isn’t it true that it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you “cover the basics” and are sincere in your faith?
It is highly possible for a person to be genuinely sincere while still being completely wrong. For example, we could be completely sincere in believing that we don’t have to pay our income taxes because of our own interpretation of the constitution of the United States, yet when the IRS comes after us, nothing we can do will change the fact that we owe our income taxes.
Sincerity is important, but it is only half of the equation. In Philippians 1:9-10, the apostle Paul prays for believers to be “sincere” and “without offence.” Also, in 2 Timothy 3:13, Paul says evil men in the last days will deceive and will be deceived. Therefore, sincerity is certainly not a test of truth. As Christians, we must strive to be sincere in our beliefs as well as right in our interpretation of Scripture and subsequent behavior!
Question #3: What is the difference between faiths? Don’t all religions essentially teach the same thing just using different words?
While all religions may have some similarities in what they teach, every religion in the world except Christianity teaches that man can find peace or salvation through some avenue of “self” or of “good works” of human effort. What sets true, biblical Christianity apart from every other religion in the world is:
1) Its exclusive belief concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12). Jesus is fully God and fully man. He came to earth to pay the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross as our Substitute and rising again three days later, victorious over sin and death.
2) Its teaching concerning spiritual and eternal life—that eternal salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Rather, it is by faith alone in what Somebody else (Jesus Christ) has alreday accomplished on man’s behalf (Jn. 3:16 and Rom. 5:1). We are “declared righteous” by God through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
3) It is rooted in a relationship—a personal relationship between God and man through the person and work of Christ Jesus. Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations to follow in order to earn God’s favor. One’s faith in Christ produces a personal relationship with the Creator of all things!
— Matt Costella