Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bernie and the Messiah

A couple weeks ago, we talked about the Messiah in my Bible class. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 talks about the Savior that will come. He will be beaten. He will be punished. He will be innocent. He will take our punishment. He will be condemned on our behalf. He was sinless. We are the sinners. We deserve the punishment.

After discussing the passage, we related it back to the Penalty Offering (Leviticus 5:14-6:7). It talked about how each person had to sacrifice a sheep/ram for their sin. Whether they knew they sinned or not, they would still be held accountable. Each time they sinned, they were to give this sacrifice or offering. So, over a person's lifetime, they would offer thousands upon thousands of sheep. We connected that fact that the Messiah was the Final and Ultimate Penalty Offering. There would be no need for sheep anymore. Then I said, "I'll tell you a secret, Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is so important and talked about so much by all people because of what He did and what it means. All your sins can be forgiven, IF you believe in Jesus and his sacrifice for you."

Bernie had a question, of course.
"So, it doesn't matter what we do? We are forgiven, if we believe in Jesus. So, we can do whatever we want without consequences. It doesn't matter what we do because we are forgiven."
My response:
"No. And Yes. Imagine this. You kill someone. You are guilty. You have broken the law and you are sent to prison for the rest of your life. You will die in the prison. You will never be able to leave. But your friend comes one day. He says, 'You don't have to stay here. I am going to take your punishment. I'm going to stay here forever. You can go free.' What will you do? Will you go and commit more crimes? Will your friend's sacrifice mean nothing to you? No. It means something. It's important. It's your friend. If you go out and break the law again, it's like spitting in your friend's face. His sacrifice means nothing then. You leave and you want to honor your friend with the rest of your life. Doing your best. Trying your hardest."


Our meeting started as usual. We got right to work. Or I did. This is our thing: I make some baked good. She videos me and asks questions. Then we wait. I make coffee. And we eat the baked good. Then it gets to the good stuff. We talk about God, Christianity, beliefs, philosophy, boys, life, friends, etc.

This Saturday wasn’t any different. Or at first glance, anyway. We, as in I, made the cheesecake and since I was out of coffee beans, she brought coffee for us. 

Then the conversation began. But let's back up. June 2014 she had told me she had made a decision to become a follower of Baha’i. I have to admit, I don’t know the ins and outs of Baha’i, but what I do know doesn’t make sense. Since June, I was under the impression that things were pretty set in stone and I wasn’t sure how much I was going to invest in her. But a recent discussion in my Bible class made her feel insecure about our friendship. A student had asked me what I thought about Baha’i. I made sure to preface what I said with, “This is just my opinion.” I went on to say how ridiculous it all seems. Baha’i says all beliefs lead to the same god. How can one, two or even three different beliefs being saying the same thing? A lot of belief are based on works; doing good things, being a good person. But Christianity’s base is in faith. It’s not what we do, but what Jesus has done for us. He’s sacrificed his perfect body, mind and soul for us. We deserve punishment and banishment from God, but he took that for us. We are therefore exempt. 

As we began to talk, she revealed she was still searching. She feels lost and frustrated. She doesn’t want to be in the middle. She wants to make a choice. But she wants to make the right choice.

Heaven and Hell.
Christianity is clear. Those who believe in Jesus and follow Him are going to be with Him forever in Heaven. Those who don’t are going to a Lake of Fire, aka. Hell.

Baha’i has a more fluid belief about eternity. There is no hell. The more developed your virtues (honesty, kindness, etc.) are the closer you are to God. The less developed your virtues are the further away from God you are. The more developed you are, the more complete your spiritual body will be. I posed the question, “So, there is no punishment for people?” Her response was, “Being far from God is a punishment. It’s like Hell.”
Me - “But people that don’t care about God and virtues, don’t care if they are close or far from God. So, there is or isn't a Hell?”
Brea - “It’s like Hell, but God is sad if the people are not close to him.”
Me - “But if the people don’t care, it doesn’t matter if they are close or far away from God.”
Brea - "But it will make God sad."
Me - "But they don't care if God is sad."

Virtues/Good Works vs. Faith in Jesus and what He has done
Of course we had to hit this topic. She insisted that developing kindness and honesty and other good character qualities was not self-centered. She said developing those virtues was actually focused on God. I told her it sounded like Baha’i was centered on self-development.

But Christianity was centered on what Jesus had done for people. His sacrifice compels people to show him honor, praise and please Him. But ultimately, what we do is “filthy rags” to Him.

She reiterated that the development of virtues is about God. I asked how.
Brea - “Because we want to become better people. So, then we can deserve God.”
Me - “See that is a huge difference in Christianity. We deserve death because of our sin. Baha’i doesn’t say anything about being enemies with God. It doesn’t say that people have disobeyed Him. We don't deserve to live. We deserve death. But God is gracious. He erases our sin, if we believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for us.”

Different messengers with one message from one god
Baha’i says that different “deities” or religious leaders (Muhammed, Jesus, Buddha, etc.) have the same message to share and are different messengers sent for one god. I started with the statement that all those different leaders had different messages. Muhammad said you had to follow the pillars of faith. Hinduism says try and try again until you reach the highest level of enlightenment. Jesus says I love you and I want to take your punishment for you so that you can live. None of those are the same message.

Brea - “But the essence is the same.”
Me - “What essence? They all have a message, but all their messages are different. They can’t all be real or true.”
Brea - “God is the essence of all those messengers.”
Me - “Then why does the message change? In Christianity, God is the same. God is constant. He is faithful. He is loyal. He doesn’t change. People do. He sent many messengers, prophets. They all said the same thing. The Bible is consistent. But different religions have different messages. That's why they aren’t the same.”