The Three Tests
How to Know that Christianity is True
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 19 February 2005
I remember a Satanist about a year ago who was mocking Christians because of their supposed weakness. In his Yahoo profile he had a picture of a Christian man on his knees supplicating heaven. To him this was a pathetic sight - he assumed that all Christians do is grovel on the ground before a God who does not listen, hear or care. This he contrasted with the instant, turn-on demonic experience of his life, where power was instantly available to those willing to break Yahweh's laws and do evil.
The image of the pitiful, weak, crawling Christian seems to have been reinforced by much of the Catholic art that has been embraced by the older Protestant denominations. He is depicted solely as a sheep going to the slaughter house, unprotesting, silent, and meek. And whilst this is a very true picture of the Lord of the First Advent, it is not entirely correct. For Yah'shua (Jesus) is also portrayed as a Conquering Lion, the Lord of the Second Advent.
People have often wondered and commented on the fact that the logo of our Church is a lion rampant holding up a great big sword. It actually offends some people. We also have another logo, an older one, with a lamb lying down on the Book of Life. Both of these images express a vital truth. On the one hand, Christianity is about humility, meekness and loving kindness, but on the other, it is a conquering faith. It overcomes all obstacles through spiritual aggression against the enemy forces when applied in the right way and in Yahweh's timing.
Christians, like the European Jews of old, have acquired a ghetto mentality. They have retreated before the challenge of science so-called and humanism and hidden themselves in one of humanism's own tenets, individualism. With the exception of a label, they have hidden the power of the Gospel under a bushel, fearful that they will not stand up to the challenges of anti-Christian teachings. Much like the Israelites in Saul's time who quaked at the roaring of the giant Goliath, they have chosen inactivity over aggressive counterattack. Some, regrettably, have indeed chosen to go onto the attack, but in their own strength, like the Israelites who thought they could seize Kadesh-barnea and conquer the Promised Land without waiting for Yahweh's directions. Such have got a pasting and had to withdraw, licking their wounds, daring not to come out again.
The fact of the matter is that in Yah'shua (Jesus) we have not only all the answers to the enemy's challenges but also the power to resist and overcome them. Please note that we need two things: answers and power. The apostle Peter admonishes us to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV). That means we need to know why we believe what we do and be able to defend it against the arguments of the enemy. Moreover, we are to do so with "meekness and fear" and "having a good conscience" (Ibid.). We need to know the facts of the Gospel - our doctrine - we need to have a clean conscience, which means we need to be living the Gospel life in reverent obedience to Torah - and only then can there be any semblance of genuine power in what we do. I take the view, therefore, like all good military commanders, that attack is the best form of defense. Every human and religious philosophy should be encountered head-on, without fear, and be shown that they are inadequate. This should not, however, be a mere intellectual debate, for it cannot, especially in our time when occult powers are being marshaled to back up demonic systems of belief. There has to be power behind what we say, or our words are vacuous, and it then becomes impossible to have confidence in Yahweh and His promises.
I am not, of course, suggesting that Yahweh 'owes' us any miracles to develop our faith. It doesn't work like that. Faith always precedes the miracle. But it cannot be any old kind of faith, but faith in the Truth. The Truth always exposes the counterfeits by revealing the powerlessness of them to save and deliver. The Truth reveals the bondage that people are in and the helplessness of the philosophies of men.
Each and every believer needs, therefore, to be stirred up in mind, heart and spirit to exercise his or her God-given gifts and bring them to full maturity. Only as this is done can each and every citizen of Yahweh's Kingdom stand on his or her own two feet and come to terms with all the alternative views and powers around us. That means avoiding setting up straw men but instead presenting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in all its strength. What we do not need are the kinds of caricatures of Christianity made by those many false churches which the enemy finds no problem in smashing down. To set up a counterfeit based on our own weakness and unwillingness to adhere to the truth does a gross disservice to the Body of Christ which today is under assault as in no other time in history. False versions of Christianity simply discredit the Messiah by either equating Him with weakness and ineffectiveness or align Him with the false spirits in the world, an even worse blasphemy. For Yah'shua (Jesus) is not weak, but all-powerful, and He has nothing to do with all the demonic psychic imitations which vie for sinners' allegiances in the flesh markets of sin.
This work began on an essentially doctrinal foundation. For years Yahweh caused us to study, research, pray and lay out the Plan of Salvation through revelation - line upon line, principle upon principle. It underwent many modifications as false tradition was weeded out and genuine Truth substituted in. It took us over a decade to accomplish this before Yahweh declared the vessel acceptable and began to start pouring real spiritual power into it. And He has only just started. Indeed, I suspect the vessel is less than 5% full even now.
The True Gospel must be internally coherent, lack contradiction, and be harmonious. Everything that Yahweh has ever revealed through His servants in the Scriptures must neatly fit together. There must be no grey areas, no disjunctive pieces in the puzzle, no 'alternative' explanations. There can only ever be "one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism" (Eph.4:5), and it must be the same as that delivered to the first apostles, even if today it has been considerably matured and developed in the crucible of experience.
If someone comes up to you one minute and says, "I am beautiful", and the next minute says, "I am ugly", you know that person's testimony is unreliable, unless he explains himself. By themselves, these two statements seem contradictory, but what if, in the interval, he falls into a huge pool of mud and appears before you filthy. No wonder he could then say, "I am ugly". Then the two statements can be harmonised because of added information about circumstances.
A lot of atheists play dirty tricks like this. They accuse the Bible of being contradictory without recognising the circumstances or context. They are also fond of pointing at Christians who do not live their religion and are demonstrably hypocrites, and so they declare Christianity unreliable. But that is as absurd as saying all potatoes are disgusting because you were once served one uncooked. Cooked potatoes, I dare say, are liked by most people. Those who do not live their religion are 'uncooked' and are, naturally, bad advertisements for their faith. We must look, then, to the Truth and the Truth-Giver, and not to all and anyone who claims to be an ambassador for that Truth. For there will always be false ambassadors.
The first test of any doctrine or theory must therefore be consistency. Does it make sense? Is it coherent? If it's none of these, it can be thrown away. The second test is this: does it correspond with reality? Anyone can make up a religion, but if it does not address reality - that which is around us, and explain it adequately - then it must be discarded.
When we are given the facts as, for example, of Christianity, we should be able to construct a picture theory that precisely aligns with the reality around us. Why do people suffer? Why are they oppressed by invisible powers? Why do the evil get away with murder so often? What is the explanation for the apparent unfairness of life? Our responsibility as a Church is to present to the world a Picture of Life which will exactly conform to reality. It will have to explain all the anomalies, all the 'odd things out' like Mozart geniuses, people with supernatural powers, the sudden and miraculous healing by totally different religions, the origin and complexity of life, and so on. If the picture is bad, it will mislead us and give us the wrong impression, which will possibly lead to disillusionment. A view must be consistent before we can make sense of the picture it gives. When we are clear about the picture, we can ask if it is really accurate or not.
We were recently visited by a brother from the United States who was telling us about his earlier experience in the Worldwide Church of God. During our conversations he mentioned a book written by that church's founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, called The Mystery of the Ages. Here's a copy of it which I obtained years ago. It was the last major work by this man and was a summary of his whole experience and belief system. It was a 'picture' of his vision of true Christianity. Though it contains many truths, it is also riddled with false doctrine and was inspired by a spirit which caused this man, who claimed to be an end-time apostle, to issue hundreds of false prophecies. His picture simply was inconsistent and did not match up with the facts of reality.
Different world views present us with different ways of looking at life by means of assembling mental pictures. For example, physicists today tell us that the Universe came into being from a fixed point in space when some super-condensed material suddenly exploded in a 'Big Bang'. Everything else resulted from that. The Bible, however, tells us that Yahweh created all things in their places and set them in motion, sustaining their movements. Here, then, are two competing pictures of reality and we must choose between them.
This brings us to the third test which in many ways is the hardest: how can you determine which of two pictures is the correct one when both appear to be internally consistent? Both are able to seemingly marshal the facts and yet they are saying contradictory things. There has to be a test for adequacy. Which model fits the facts best? Which view is the better one? None of us - and that includes Christians - can escape the test of what actually works. The apostle Paul realised this when he said:
"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (1 Cor.15:12-19, NKJV).
If Yah'shua (Jesus) did not rise from the dead then there is no power over death. If the resurrection of Yah'shua (Jesus) is a lie and is not an accurate picture of how things really are, then quite simply Christianity is a load of rubbish. And if the resurrection is a fact of history, as the Bible claims it is, then the power which it makes available to those who believe must be a better solution to the claims of all the other secular and religious philosophies. It means also that the quality of true Christian living must be better than the quality of living of the other religions and philosophies. And not just in minutiae but in every area of living. Christianity lived faithfully and obediently can clearly be distinguished from all other modes of life and living. And I don't mean in words - I don't mean propositions made by Christians like, "Christianity is true and all the rest is false." Anyone can make propositional statements, and indeed they do. What counts is the fruits. What counts is if it really works. What counts is whether it matches reality. What counts is that we don't need to pretend because we simply want it to be true, but because it is true, and that truth is patently visible in our victorious living for everyone to see.
The only way Christianity can be relevant today is if we pursue the same goal as Paul and the other apostles did. When he was in Athens, he saw multitudes of blind alley beliefs which sounded good on paper but which in reality did not meet the burning needs of your average person. The Athenians were worshipping at multiple altars, vainly hoping that somewhere in the mix was the truth. And people do the same today, wandering aimlessly between religions and gurus hoping ... just hoping ... they will stumble on something that will really help. There are thousands of belief systems out there and it is not within the possibility of human life to study them all. Satan has endless numbers of counterfeits to confuse us with. Yahweh, however, is above all of this. His truth is a bright and endless Light that stands out from all the rest. He has even given witnesses in the Creation itself. The Bible says that if we look at creation and claim there is no good that we are deceiving ourselves and are without excuse (Rom.1:20). You don't need a Science degree to see that it is so. It is common sense. But thereafter we must determine which of the many gods is the true one. And that does mean some study. Yes, you can't just walk around in vague faith. You do need some facts. Yahweh has equipped every man and woman with the intellectual capacity to examine them and make adequate sense out of them.
So what do we have? We have three tests. First, is the belief self-consistent? Second, does it correspond with the facts? And third, is it the most adequate alternative available? If we ask ourselves such questions, we equip ourselves with the tools to understand both the true and the false systems. We have a procedure that will not disappoint us. This works both for the other religions around us as well as the false versions within Christendom itself, for there are many false beliefs posing as 'Christian' too.
I have spent the better part of my life applying these tests and as many of you know, I had a period of wandering between different religions, as well as amongst the different Christian denominations. We do not need to be afraid of other belief systems if we adhere to these basic rules of thinking. Indeed, we need to show them for what they really are - dead ends that go nowhere. They are quite simply misleading and wrong. We must also, moreover, resist the war cry of these false religions which is that we must accept all religions as equally valid, for this is merely the last desperate act of a lie that knows it is being exposed for what it really is. Such tolerance so-called is just an invitation to confusion and even more blindness. The Greeks and Romans have tried to enforce such an ecumenical position before and it has always resulted in totalitarianism and suffering for the adherents of the true faith. It is happening again and we are heading once more in the same direction. To those who are lazy and can't be bothered to examine their and other's religions objectively, this is surely an attractive clarion call, yet it is a deadly one. And it is as absurd as a scientist claiming that any and every theory is acceptable so long as you sincerely believe in it. If the physical universe has order and structure then the spiritual universe does too. All roads do not lead to Rome, that centre of false religion, but to Jerusalem.
We need not fear honest scientific procedure but neither must we just leave it at that. Science can only take us so far because science deals with the observable, not the invisible. Whilst Yahweh can, and does, have a profound effect on the lives of those who believe and obey, He is not visible directly, any more than the wind in a storm is except through its interaction with the environment. So we must remember we are dealing with different dimensions.
As we look at people's belief systems what we usually find is a mishmash of all sorts of different things with little internal consistency. Though people claim to wear various labels you will rarely find someone who is 'all Buddhist', 'all humanist', 'all occultist' or 'all existentialist'. People are spiritual patchwork quilts of all sorts of different things. And the chances that you will find two people who believe exactly the same thing is remote even if they may belong to the same religious or secular organisation.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6, NKJV).
We can therefore confidently say with the old Christian hymn:
None but Christ can satisfy,
There's love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Yah'shua, found in Thee.
David Cook, Blind Alley Beliefs (Pickering & Inglis, London, 1979)
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Last updated on 5 June 2005
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