Have You Found the Right Religion?
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this.”—JAMES 1:27.
1, 2. (a) In the thinking of many people, what determines whether theirs is the right religion? (b) What ought to be seriously considered in judging religion?
WE LIVE in an era when many people are content to give religion a relatively small corner of their lives. They may attend some religious services, but few do so regularly. Most people do not hold the view that all other religions are wrong and that theirs is right. They may simply feel that their religion is right for them.
2 In view of this, does the question, Have you found the right religion? simply mean, Have you found a religion that you like? What determines what you like? Your family? Your associates? Your own feelings? How seriously have you considered God’s view of the matter?
How Can We Know God’s Viewpoint?
3. (a) If we are to know God’s viewpoint, what must be available to us? (b) What questions should we ask as to why we personally believe that the Bible is from God?
3 If we are to know what God himself thinks, then there must be some revelation from him. The Bible is the most ancient book claiming to be inspired of God. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) But can it truthfully be said that this book, in contrast with all others, contains God’s message for all humankind? How would you answer that question, and why? Is it because your parents held that view? Is it because of the attitude of your associates? Have you examined the evidence yourself? Why not do that now, using the following four lines of evidence?
4. As to availability, what indicates that the Bible, rather than some other book, is from God?
4 Availability: A message that is truly from God and that is for the entire human family should be available to them. Is that true of the Bible? Consider this: The Bible, the whole or some part, is now published in upwards of 2,000 languages. According to the American Bible Society, nearly a decade ago the languages in which the Bible was printed made it available to some 98 percent of the world’s population. As pointed out by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Bible is by far “the world’s most widely distributed book.” This is what we would expect of a message from God that is meant for people of all races and nations and language groups. (Compare Revelation 14:6.) There is no other book in the world that has a record anything like it.
5. Why is the historical foundation of the Bible significant?
5 Historicity: Careful examination of Biblical narratives brings to light another way in which the Bible is distinct from other books that claim to be holy. The Bible contains historical facts, not unprovable legends. Irwin Linton, who as a lawyer was accustomed to analyzing what was required as proof in a court of law, wrote: “While romances, legends and false testimony are careful to place the events related in some distant place and some indefinite time, . . . the Bible narratives give us the date and place of the things related with the utmost precision.” (For examples, see 1 Kings 14:25; Isaiah 36:1; Luke 3:1, 2.) To people who turn to religion not for escape from reality but for truth, this is an important consideration.
6. (a) How does the Bible really help a person with the problems of life? (b) In what three ways does the Bible assist a person to cope with harsh realities?
6 Practicality: Those who seriously examine the Bible soon realize that its commands and principles are not designed to exploit them. Instead, these outline a way of life that brings benefit to those who closely adhere to them. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) The comfort that it offers to those in distress is not hollow, based on empty philosophies. Rather, it helps people to cope with the harsh realities of life. How? In three ways: (1) by giving sound counsel on how to deal with difficulties, (2) by explaining how to receive the loving support that God gives to his servants now, and (3) by revealing the marvelous future that God has in store for those who serve him, giving them sound reasons for confidence in his promises.
7. (a) Using scriptures cited in the footnote, explain the Bible’s answer to one of the major issues that concern people today. (b) Show how the Bible’s counsel safeguards us or helps us to cope with a stressful situation.
7 Though the Bible’s counsel is frequently not popular among those who reject authority and pursue a life of self-indulgence, many have come to realize that such a life has not brought them genuine happiness. (Galatians 6:7, 8) The Bible gives straightforward answers to questions about abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. Its counsel is a safeguard against drug and alcohol abuse and against contracting AIDS through contaminated blood or sexual promiscuity. It shows us how to have happy families. It provides answers that enable a person to cope with the most stressful situations in life, including rejection by close family members, catastrophic illness, and the death of a loved one. It helps us to discern our priorities so that our lives are filled with meaning instead of regret.*
8, 9. (a) What prophecy impresses you personally as proof of the Bible’s inspiration? (b) What do the prophecies in the Bible prove as to their origin?
8 Prophecy: The Bible is unique as a book of prophecy, a book that tells what will occur in the future, and it does so in detail. It foretold the destruction of ancient Tyre, the fall of Babylon, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the rise and fall of the kings of Medo-Persia and Greece, and numerous events in the life of Jesus Christ. It also foretold in detail world conditions that have developed in this century, and it explains their significance. It shows how the problems that overwhelm human rulers will be solved, and it identifies the Ruler who will bring lasting peace and true security to humankind.*—Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1-5, 9; 53:4-6.
9 Significantly, the Bible presents the ability to foretell the future accurately as a test of Godship. (Isaiah 41:1–46:13) The One who can do it or who can inspire others to do it is not a mere lifeless idol. He is not simply a devout human. He is the true God, and the book that contains such prophecy is his Word.—1 Thessalonians 2:13.
Are All Who Use the Bible Right?
10, 11. As shown by Jesus, although a clergyman may use the Bible, what may make the religion he advocates worthless?
10 Is it reasonable—more important, is it Scriptural—to conclude, then, that all religious groups that profess to use the Bible teach the true religion? Is everyone who carries or quotes the Bible practicing the right religion?
11 Many of the clergy, although they have the Bible, use religion as a means to glorify themselves. They dilute pure truths with traditions and human philosophies. Is their worship acceptable to God? To religious leaders in first-century Jerusalem who were doing just that, Jesus Christ aptly applied God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Matthew 15:8, 9; 23:5-10) Clearly, religion of that sort is not the true religion.
12, 13. (a) How can the conduct of church members help a person to determine whether theirs is the right religion? (b) How will God view our worship if we choose as associates those whom he rejects? (2 Chronicles 19:2)
12 What if the fruitage produced by the teachings of certain religions, as manifest in the lives of their members who are in good standing, is rotten? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned: “Be on the watch for the false prophets . . . By their fruits you will recognize them. . . . Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17) It is true that individuals may do wrong and need correction. But the situation is different when church members, even the clergy, indulge in fornication and adultery, fighting, drunkenness, greediness, lying, spiritism, worship of idols—any or all of these things—yet no discipline is administered, and those who continue in this course are not excluded from the congregation. The Bible clearly states that those who practice such things should be expelled from the congregation; they will have no place in God’s Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) Their worship is not pleasing to God, nor will our worship please God if we choose as associates those whom he rejects.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8.
13 It is clear that not all groups that claim to use the Bible practice the true religion that it describes. What, then, does the Bible set out as identifying marks of the true religion?
Identifying Marks of the True Religion
14. (a) On what are all teachings of the true religion based? (b) How do Christendom’s teachings regarding God and the soul stand up to this test?
14 Its teachings are based firmly on the inspired Scriptures. “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16) But where does the Holy Bible speak of Christendom’s Trinity? And where does the Bible teach, as the clergy do, that humans have a soul that survives the death of the physical body? Have you ever asked a clergyman to show you those teachings in your Bible? The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament.” (1992, Micropædia, Volume 11, page 928) And the New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.” (1967, Volume XIV, page 299) As for Christendom’s concept of a soul that separates from the body at death, church scholars admit that they borrowed the idea from Greek philosophy. However, true religion does not set aside Bible truth for human philosophy.—Genesis 2:7; Deuteronomy 6:4; Ezekiel 18:4; John 14:28.
15. (a) How does the Bible identify the One who alone is to be worshiped? (b) How do true worshipers feel about drawing close to Jehovah?
15 The true religion advocates worship of only the one true God, Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 4:35; John 17:3) Paraphrasing Deuteronomy 5:9 and De 6:13, Jesus Christ firmly stated: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matthew 4:10) Consistent with that, Jesus made his Father’s name known to his disciples. (John 17:26) Has your religion taught you to worship Jehovah? Have you come to know the Person identified by that name—his purposes, his activities, his qualities—so that you feel you can confidently draw close to him? If yours is the true religion, the answer is yes.—Luke 10:22; 1 John 5:14.
16. What does faith in Christ mean to those who practice the true religion?
16 An important part of worship that is pleasing to God is faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. (John 3:36; Acts 4:12) This does not mean simply believing that he lived or that he was an outstanding person. It includes appreciation of what the Bible teaches regarding the value of the sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect human life and recognition of his position today as heavenly King. (Psalm 2:6-8; John 3:16; Revelation 12:10) If you are associated with those who practice the true religion, you know that in everyday life they put forth a conscientious effort to obey Jesus, to imitate his example, and to share personally and zealously in the work that he assigned to his disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; John 15:14; 1 Peter 2:21) If that is not true of those with whom you worship, you need to look elsewhere.
17. Why are true worshipers careful to keep unspotted by the world, and what does that include?
17 True worship is not tainted by involvement in politics and worldly conflicts. (James 1:27) Why not? Because Jesus said regarding his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Jesus did not meddle in politics, and he restrained his followers from resorting to carnal weapons. (Matthew 26:52) Those who take to heart what God’s Word says ‘do not learn war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:2-4) If any religion with which you have even a nominal affiliation does not fit that description, it is time to break off ties with it.—James 4:4; Revelation 18:4, 5.
18 The true religion teaches and practices unselfish love. (John 13:35; 1 John 3:10-12) Such love is not just spoken about in sermons. It actually draws together in genuine brotherhood people of all races, all economic groups, all languages, all nations. (Revelation 7:9, 10) It sets true Christians apart from the world around them. If you have not already done so, attend meetings at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as their larger conventions. Watch them as they work together to build one of their Kingdom Halls. Observe how they treat both elderly ones (including widows) and young people (including those who have only one parent or none at all). (James 1:27) Compare what you observe with what you have seen in any other religion. Then ask yourself, ‘Who practices the true religion?’
19. (a) What solution to humankind’s problems does the true religion advocate? (b) What should the members of the group holding the true religion be doing?
19 The true religion advocates God’s Kingdom as the lasting solution to the problems of humankind. (Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:4, 5) Do any of Christendom’s churches do that? When is the last time that you heard a clergyman explain God’s Kingdom and what the Scriptures show that it will accomplish? Does the organization to which you belong encourage you to talk to others about God’s Kingdom, and if so, does the membership as a whole share in doing it? Jesus did such witnessing; his early disciples did. You too can have the privilege of sharing in this activity. It is the most important work being done on the face of the earth today.—Matthew 24:14.
20. In addition to identifying the right religion, what must we do?
20 Though there are thousands of religions, the Bible quickly helps us to cut through the confusion in order to identify the true one. But we need to do more than identify it. It is vital that we practice it. What this involves will be considered at greater length in our next article.
Abortion: Acts 17:28; Psalm 139:1, 16; Exodus 21:22, 23. Divorce: Matthew 19:8, 9; Romans 7:2, 3. Homosexuality: Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Drug and alcohol abuse: 2 Corinthians 7:1; Luke 10:25-27; Proverbs 23:20, 21; Galatians 5:19-21. Blood and promiscuity: Acts 15:28, 29; Proverbs 5:15-23; Jeremiah 5:7-9. Family: Ephesians 5:22–6:4; Colossians 3:18-21. Rejection: Psalm 27:10; Malachi 2:13-16; Romans 8:35-39. Illness: Revelation 21:4, 5; 22:1, 2; Titus 1:2; Psalm 23:1-4. Death: Isaiah 25:8; Acts 24:15. Priorities: Matthew 6:19-34; Luke 12:16-21; 1 Timothy 6:6-12.
For samples of such prophecies and their fulfillment, see the books The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, pages 117-61; and Reasoning From the Scriptures, pages 60-2, 225-32, 234-40. Both are published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
How Would You Answer?
□ In identifying the right religion, whose viewpoint is most important?
□ What four lines of evidence point to the Bible as God’s Word?
□ Why are not all religions that use the Bible acceptable to God?
□ What are six identifying marks of the one right religion?
[Box on page 10]
Jehovah’s Witnesses . . .
◆ Base all their teachings on the Bible.
◆ Worship the one true God, Jehovah.
◆ Live in harmony with their faith in Jesus Christ.
◆ Are not involved in politics and worldly conflicts.
◆ Seek to manifest unselfish love in everyday life.
◆ Advocate God’s Kingdom as the lasting solution to mankind’s problems.
[Picture on page 9]
THE BIBLE—what indicates that it contains God’s message for all humankind?