As an invitational person, Jesus often said: “Follow me.” This is a simple way of saying, “observe my example and do as I do; live and treat one another like you see me doing.” As the most exact image and likeness of God in a human, (a) [see end notes for all Scriptures] Jesus illustrated the character, attitude and personality (CAP) of our Eternal Father’s heart; a clear example for us to follow.
Some Christians tend to think that believing in Jesus is the only way to experience the God of heaven in this life and then enter the blessings of eternity after death. This surmises that all other responses to God are of little or no value.
Can the character, attitude, and personality traits of non-Christians that are loving and caring be of no natural or eternal significance? Is there only one way to know and experience God’s loving care?
Faith From Acceptance
As we examine this issue, it is helpful to understand how Scripture defines faith. A verse commonly quoted from Hebrews says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (b) What does this verse mean? Faith is the confident persuasion that God will accomplish His will, even though it is not yet seen.
Scriptural faith is not a particular belief system. Faith is our acceptance of God’s will for our lives and our willingness to walk and live in agreement with His will. For “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (c) To have faith, we simply believe in God and seek to receive His care and guidance! Anytime we call, He tends to help.
There is one place in our Bible that ‘appears’ to support the idea that there is just one way to hear and respond to God’s guidance, follow His lead, and enter the bliss of the after-life. It is where Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (d)
What did he actually say in this text? When the three factors, “the way, the truth, and the life” are translated as a relational phrase, a light comes on. Linguistic experts verify this is a plausible way to translate the verse: “I am the truthful way to live; no one knows God as Father unless they come (approach) as a child, like I do.” Through me means ‘like me’!
This declaration does not negate anyone’s response to God as Creator, Lord and King, Master, or as our spiritual guide. Similarly, the Greek version of this verse does not state there is only one way to experience God in this life or a singular way to enter the blessings of the after-life.
As the truthful way to live, we are encouraged to enter into a more intimate fellowship with God. Intimacy is experienced when we approach God as an adoring child, seeking to interact with Him.
Faith is our acceptance of God’s will for our lives and our willingness to walk and live in agreement with His will.
Available To All
Following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus out of the limitations of natural life and physical sight, he was rejoined to the “glory I had with You before the world was,” (e) to function once again as the word (Greek – logos, spoken expression) of God. (f)
God ratified the promised New Covenant a few days later, on that day of Pentecost. This historic event was foretold by the prophet Joel, as God saying; “I will pour forth My Spirit upon all mankind.” (g) Peter declared the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit was now happening during these “last days” of the Old Covenant. (h)
The presence of God-in-Christ was now available to everyone as the abiding “Holy Spirit of the Father and Son.” (i) The spoken expression (logos) of God that was born into this life as Jesus Christ returned to abide with us as “another helper.” (j)
We all turn to God in a variety of ways and come to believe different things. It was common during the first 300 years following the days of Jesus as different societies adapted local ideas into their new found faith. Despite the differences, people were being transformed into Christ-like people, with more of the character, attitude, and personality (CAP) traits of God that Jesus illustrated.
God does not have a problem with the different beliefs people develop, He was transforming hearts into better expressions of His heart. It was man that had a problem and began a process of solidifying and taking control. In 325 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine began forming a central belief system. This began to create the idea there is just one way to believe and experience God.
Following 1000 years of religious control over Europe (from 500 to 1500 AD), reformers began to shed fresh light on what Scripture actually teaches. As a variety of different understandings developed, the idea of one belief system began to dissolve. As denominations were formed, the idea that there is only one way to experience God began to reappear in other forms.
The spoken expression of God returned to abide with us as “another helper.”
The Light of God
Our God of Love and Light (k) responds to all who seek Him. God provides His love, light, and care to all His offspring, not just respondent children. (l) He loves all of us, even those who are of a different denomination or an entirely different belief system.
Our miss-perceptions do not limit God or keep Him from interacting with us. His influencing presence is available to all. While our religious mindset (beliefs) tends to be exclusive, God is very inclusive!
Jesus encouraged us to “not judge…and condemn.” When we decide who is or is not interacting and being led by God, we become judgmental. (m) Paul, the apostle to the nations, did not promote any idea that we must convert to one belief system. His epistles teach us to encourage (motivate), strengthen (establish), and build up (add to) one another’s faith in God. Different beliefs should not be an issue!
Can we learn to approach each other with the intention of encouraging faith in God? May we learn to approach God as our Father, so our words, attitude, and demeanor are an encouragement to others! As we acknowledge and worship God, let us lend God’s Love to those we interact with and shed Light into each other’s path.
While our religious mindset (beliefs) tends to be exclusive, God is very inclusive!
a) Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; b) Hebrews 11:1; c) Hebrews 11:6; d) John 14:6; e) John 17:5; f) John 1:1; g) Joel 2:28-29; h) Acts 2:14-17; i) Galatians 4:6; John 10:30, 38; Acts 1:5, 8; j) John 14:16-20, 23; k) 1 John 1:5; 4:7-8; l) 1 Timothy 4:10; m) Luke 6:37; Romans 14:13