Modern Myths ... about Faith
If you study world history you quickly discover that every great civilization has developed a mythology, a belief system that explains how the world came into existence, and how we got to be here on this planet. For eg, in ancient Greek mythology, the Earth goddess Gaia emerges from Chaos and along with her husband Uranus, they form the earth and the heavens. In Chinese mythology, a god names P’an Ku is hatched from a cosmic egg. The top half of the egg shell becomes the sky and the bottom half the earth. And there are many variations on these mythological stories found all over the wrold
If you look the word “Myth” up in the dictionary, it is defined this way:
any invented story, idea or concept
an unproved or false collective belief
While our culture may have rejected many of the myths of past civilizations, I think we can also identify what I would call “modern myths” that many people buy into today even though they have no actual basis in truth. In spite of the advances in science and medicine and technology we have seen in the last century, many people still live in deep confusion and misunderstanding, when it comes to some of life’s most important issues. On questions of faith, the nature of God, life after death, our society has adopted a mythology that I think we need to re-examine.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean by “modern myths”. We hear these ideas all the time in our world today:
1. All religions are equally valid, they’re just different paths to the same destination.
2. If a loving God really existed, he would never allow all the suffering we find in the world today.
3. A loving God would never send anyone to hell.
4. Most of the stories in the Bible have been fabricated over the past 2000 years
And there are many others that you could probably come up with.
Now, the Bible gives us some very important advice about this:
1 John 4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Would you agree that's especially true today? As Christians, we need to be discerning and not believe everything that people tell us. In our scripture reading we read earlier from Matthew 7, Jesus warns us to be careful about the kind of foundation we build our lives on.
Jesus tells us that if we live according to what God’s Word says, we are like the man who builds his house upon rock. When the storms of life come, his house will remain standing. But if we build our lives on sand, on the teaching & the belief system that the world is giving us, then we have no solid foundation upon which to build our lives.
I want to begin this morning with what I believe is one of the most commonly accepted myths in our world today, that goes like this: “You know, it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” Have you ever heard people express that idea?
Many people accept that statement, because it sounds very broadminded, very tolerant, very politically correct.
I don’t know if you have seen the ads for a new documentary series produced by Oprah Winfrey entitled “Belief”. It’s described as “a groundbreaking television event exploring humankind's ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves... “
It presents case studies of people all over the world pursuing their spirituality through any number of different belief systems. The basic message is this: “What particular beliefs you hold doesn’t really matter. They are all equally valid just because you sincerely believe them.” And that reflects what the world tells us today. “You believe that, I’ll believe this,” It’s not really important as long as you sincerely believe it. But the Bible tells us it does matter what you believe.
And as we will see, it can be very self-destructive to base your life on a false belief system. Let me suggest 4 things the Bible tells us about what we believe and why our beliefs are so important:
1. You are free to choose what you believe.
Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Nobody forces you to believe anything. The 2 men in Jesus’ parable chose whether they were going to build their house on the sand or on the rock. They made a choice.
Romans 1:25 says: “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies . . . .”
So God gives me the freedom to choose what I decide to believe.
If I want to believe in something, I can. If I don’t want to believe something, I don’t have to. Nobody stops me, nobody forces me. If I want to believe the moon is made of cheese, or the world is flat, I can believe it. If I want to believe in the Loch Ness monster, I can believe it. Here’s the point: You can’t blame anybody else for your beliefs.
You can’t blame your parents or your teachers, because they’re not forcing you to believe anything. You have to decide for yourself.
2. My Beliefs determine my Actions and my Behavior. The reason the second man built his house on the sand, was because he didn’t really believe there was a storm coming. His beliefs determined his actions. Proverbs 4:23: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (GNB) Your life is shaped by your thoughts. There is a belief behind every single action you take in life. Everything you do has an unconscious or conscious belief behind it.
For instance, when you came in today and you sat down in that pew, you unconsciously believed it would hold you up. Now, for some of us, that’s an act of faith. But, you believed it. When you get in your car after this service, you are believing that it will start up for you and you'll be able to go home. That's an act of faith Everything you do has a belief behind it.
Now, the problem is this: My beliefs determine my actions even when they’re wrong, even when they’re false. For instance, if you believe you’re clumsy, how are you going to act? Clumsy. If you believe you’re unlovable, you will act unlovable. If you believe you’re a risk taker, you’ll find yourself taking risks all of the time. If you believe other people cannot be trusted, you’ll tend to treat them with suspicion, put up a barrier and wear a mask, and you’ll receive the same kind of response. If you believe that God is unconcerned about you, you’ll never pray. If you believe that God is out to get you, as many people do, you’ll try to avoid God. So even if your beliefs are wrong, they still affect your behavior, so you need to examine them.
3. Much of the Unhappiness and the Emotional problems we experience in life are a result of misguided and untrue Beliefs.
Again, a belief does not have to be true in order for it to affect you emotionally or cause turmoil. For instance, let’s say next summer you’re going to go camping. And so you set up your tent, you get in your tent that night, you close it all up, you can’t see outside. As you’re lying on your sleeping bag, you hear a noise outside your tent, and you start to think: “What if there’s a bear pawing around outside my tent!” In actual fact it’s just a racoon, but you don’t know that. You you believe it’s actually a bear! So your heart starts racing, adrenaline will shoot into your system, your muscles tense up, and you experience a rush of fear over something that’s not even true.
And that happens to us all the time. We worry about things, we’re afraid of things that aren’t actually true. So, even when a belief is not true, it can still cause anxiety and turmoil in your life. And so, if you want to overcome stress, anger, or guilt, or depression, or worry, or perfectionism, or any emotional problem, you may have to start by adjusting your beliefs. You must clarify and correct the misbeliefs behind those feelings.
Jesus said: “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) As we uncover some of the false beliefs lies that we have been taught and apply the truth to those lies, God can begin to transform our thinking. And, you can experience new freedom, maybe from patterns of belief that have messed up your life for 20 or 30 years, or more. It is the truth that sets us free. And that brings us to the next point:
4. My beliefs have eternal consequences. What I believe will not only impact how I live in this life, but determine where I spend the rest of eternity. Jesus said “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life.” (John 3:36)
Many people will try to tell you it doesn’t matter what you believe. But Jesus never said that! He tells us that whether or not you believe in him will detemine your destiny for all of eternity.
5. The Only Source Of Absolute Truth Is God.
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority”
There is a fundamental question you need to ask yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian, whether you’re a Baptist, a Buddhist, or an atheist: every person eventually has to ask this question in life, and itt is this: What is going to be the authority for my life? What’s going to be the basis for my beliefs and my behavior? What’s going to be the guidebook that I rely on? What’s going to be the standard by which I evaluate my life? What is my authority; the final authority in my life?
And when it comes down to it, you only have two options: You either have the World, or the Word, the Word of God. You either have what man says, and there are a million contradictory things that man says, or what God says. You will either build your life on what culture says, or on what Christ says. The World or the Word.
So which of them do you think is more reliable? The problem with what culture says, what society says, is that it just keeps changing. It’s shifting every day and what’s popular one day, isn’t popular the next day.
Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.” (Mt 24:35) God’s Word has stood the test of time. You can trust it as your guidebook, as your authority, as your firm foundation. Why? Because it is based on God’s character. That’s why you can trust it. And look at the next verse. What’s God’s character? “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb 8:16) God cannot lie. And, so, if you want something to build your life on that is solid, you better build it on God’s truth.
70 times in the gospels, Jesus says this: “I tell you the truth.”
70 times: “I tell you the truth.” 20 times in scripture, Jesus says this: “Now you have heard it said, but I say to you.” What’s He doing? He’s exploding the false myths that we have bought into.
“You’ve heard it said”, this is the conventional wisdom, those are the modern myths everybody believes. “You have heard it said, but I say to you,” and “ . . . the truth sets you free.”
In the passage we read earlier in Matthew 7, Jesus says building your life is like building a house; you have to have the right foundation. And He says you can have one of two foundations: You can build your house on the solid rock, which is to live your life according to God’s unchanging truth, or you can build your house on shifting sand, which is the constantly changing opinions of the world.
And He says if you build your life on shifting sand, you’re a fool. He’s very blunt about it. He says it’s foolish to build your life on things that are changing every day. But rather He says build your house on the rock of God’s Word, unchanging truth.
And so each of us need to decide: “What am I going to believe? What am I going to build my life on? The wisdom of the world, or the Word of God. I challenge you this morning to make a commitment, that from now on I’m going build my life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, and his unchanging word.