Wow! Christmas arrived very quickly this year! Christmas has always been one of my favorite and one of my saddest holidays for many different reasons.
Beliefs are interesting, because we believe so many things throughout our lives, and change our minds about many things for many reasons. We believe what we believe because we trust the sources of information upon which we base our belief.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2005 he wrote an article entitled, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion,” in which he cites a study by the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Researchers interviewed more than 3,000 American teenagers about their faith and beliefs.
Mohler quoted some of the findings. Generally American teens believe the following: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one’s self.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
This study was conducted more than a decade ago, and those interviewed are now adults in their mid-20s. Do they still believe what they believed about God as teens?
Christmas is a good time to tell the story that Jesus is the great I AM who became a real human when God supernaturally gave Mary and Joseph a baby boy around 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, Israel. As an adult, Jesus declared He was God, to the extent that the religious leaders of His day crucified Him because of His blasphemy. But, if Jesus was really God, then Jesus was not blaspheming by declaring Himself to be I AM.
On the third day after dying, Jesus came out of the tomb alive and well! The gospel or good news is that God became man to die to pay for the sins of everyone in the world. Many of us have believed this and have trusted God for salvation. Many have not believed even though they have heard the good news.
Americans live in the richest, most powerful nation on earth. We are relatively well to do compared with other nations, particularly the poorest nations where people literally struggle to stay alive every day. Our circumstances guide our beliefs. Like the teenagers cited above, when life gets tough we generally believe god will help us. Living in an egalitarian society, we believe good people will go to heaven.
Practically all religions teach people to be good so god will bless them, and that if people are bad god will punish them. The gospel teaches we are all sinners who can do nothing to merit God’s favor. God sent Jesus into this world as a sinless man so he could die and pay for all of our sins. God invites everyone to believe and trust Him to give us eternal life. Some will believe, and some won’t believe.
We believe many things, but none more important than believing and trusting God. May you enjoy all the wonders of Christmas this year!
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, Miss. You may contact him at PJandMe2@gmail.com.