Do doctrinal differences between various sects have any
relevance since, according to some belief systems, we are all headed for the
same Ultimate Destiny anyway?
I believe that the sum of all the information we have
covered in this book creates a serious theological hurdle for those who
believe ‘all religions are one.’ At this juncture, most likely, we are
in full agreement that ONLY ONE of the following two conclusions can be
(1) A person’s religious belief system is
relatively unimportant (because all the varied doctrines and rituals
are just shadowy representations, often misrepresentations, of some
Ultimate Reality into which all will eventually be absorbed anyway),
(2) A person’s religious belief system is of
absolute importance (because there is only one correct
interpretation of truth, one path that leads from this present existence
into that Ultimate Destiny which is eternal and glorious).
If the former is true, it would be impossible for the
adherents of various sects to place their complete trust in any religious
book: the Qur’an of Islam, the Bible of Christianity, the Torah of
Judaism, the Adi Granth of Sikhism, the Avesta of Zoroastrianism, the Tao Te
Ching of Taoism or the Vedas of Hinduism. None of these ‘holy writings’
can be taken literally anyway. There is no standard by which to judge the
truthfulness of the doctrinal claims of any religious group. Totally
contradictory beliefs can all be blended together into one homogenous whole.
Exploring different religious theories may satisfy the intellectual
curiosity of the ‘seeker for truth,’ but no dependable, lasting
conclusions can ever be reached.
If the latter is true, it is absolutely essential to
discover that unchanging standard of unquestionable truth that grants a
successful passage from time into eternity. Yes, the vital essence of life
is to identify the "True Light" and walk in its brilliance all the
days of our earthly sojourn. The next section in this book will help you do
that very thing.
Identifying the True Light
Thoreau rightly observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Some get more desperate thanothers, though-and they break the silence to cry out for truth. Thankfully, mycry was heard, and precious revelation came to me. Nevertheless, in subjectingmy belief system to such critical analysis, deciding what to retain and what todiscard was no easy matter.
For months, after experiencing the reality of God, Istruggled to get a grip on what doctrines, concepts and spiritual experiencescould rightly be labeled “True Light.” Then, after much study and a greatdeal of introspection and prayerful communion with God, the heaven-sent answerapprehended my heart. I concluded that the worldview I held as a yoga teacherand the teachings of the Bible were, for the most part, doctrinally andspiritually incompatible. Having made such a strong statement, I feel I mustreinforce two major concessions already made clear in this book:
First, I do not disregard the sincerity, goodness andspiritual zeal that are often discovered in persons whose beliefs are sometimesnon-biblical. Buddha gave up the comforts of a royal lifestyle to pursue alife of self-denial and contemplation. Mahavira, founder of Jainism, subjectedhimself to such rigid asceticism in his search for answers that he eventuallydied of starvation. Zoroaster persisted in preaching ten years with only oneconvert to his credit. Confucius lived a life of such exemplary conduct thatwhen he died, one of his disciples faithfully remained at his grave for sixyears. The Bab, forerunner of the Bahá’í faith, was imprisoned numeroustimes and finally executed for the revelations he held to be true. For overforty years, Meher Baba maintained a discipline of silence, communicatingprimarily with hand signals.
Who can deny that these men-and thousands of other monks,sadhus, ascetics, mystics and religious thinkers-have been passionate about whatthey believed, and most likely, deeply sincere in pursuing a glimpse of UltimateReality? Who can deny that in a bad world they were probably exemplary in theirgoodness? They all command our respect and even, at times, our admiration.
How genuine rings the admission of Paramahansa Yogananda, “FerventlyI implored Christ to guide me in divining the true meaning of his words!”1 I do not doubt that Yogananda was deeply sincere inasking for such guidance. I do doubt that he actually obtained it. Anyonewho reads the prayers of Yogananda will quickly sense that he was a true loverof God. Unfortunately, though-just as I did, and as many others do-he tried tofit the message and life of Jesus into the framework of a Far Eastern worldview.He tried to assign to Jesus a role similar to a yogi or an eastern mystic. To doso is like attempting to force a square peg into a round hole. Even the DalaiLama admitted that trying to meld Jesus into a Buddha-like figure “is likeputting a yak’s head on a sheep’s body.”2 It doesn’t work. The two are just not compatible. Theirmessages and methods are oceans apart.
Most likely, Yogananda deeply desired to resolve this issuein his own mind. Nevertheless, his case proves once again that genuineness ofintent and fervency of soul are not always sufficient gauges to determine thecorrectness of opinions regarding the “True Light.”
Second, I do not deny that there are common elements inalmost all religions that have great worth. In fact, I shudder to think whatkind of horrid conditions this world would suffer if there were no religioussystems in every culture defining proper moral behavior and challenges to the‘higher life.’ Thank God for the influence of even non-religious,philosophical worldviews that accomplish this goal. Confucianism, for instance,is certainly not mystical and spiritual, but practical and world-affirming. Li,the Chinese term for the ideal standard of conduct in Confucianism, encouragesgoodness, kindness, respect and honesty in human relationships. Such standardsare of great value, worthy of implementation in any of our lives. So again, Irejoice to concede: there are aspects of truth in all religions that areuniversally acceptable and universally beneficial. However, the presence of sometruth does not authenticate, validate or substantiate an entire belief system.Besides, as Arthur S. Holmes so aptly put it, “All truth is God’s truthwherever you find it.”
Mahatma Ghandi, whose life and character I deeply admire,felt that all “religions are true,” yet evidently flawed. Lamenting thesituation, he explained they have been “interpreted with poor intellects,sometimes with poor hearts, and more often misinterpreted.”3 Though I cannot agree that all worldviews are basicallytrue, I must admit that they have all been subject to misinterpretation-evenChristianity! One has only to look at the history of Christianity over the lasttwo millennia to see the horrendous ways that the loving message of Christ hasbeen twisted, sanctioning such things as forced conversions, the severetreatment of the Jewish people or the harsh persecution of one Christian sect byanother. I cannot help but believe that those who committed such atrocities werethemselves Christian in name only, not in truth.
There are actually two different types of Christians in thisworld: professing Christians and possessing Christians. ProfessingChristians have a historical view of Jesus, what he accomplished and the messagehe preached; yet they lack a personal relationship with him. PossessingChristians not only know and appreciate the former; they possess the latter.Their ‘Christianity’ is not based on being christened at birth into someChristian denomination, or being born into a predominantly Christian society. Itdoes not hinge on rituals and ceremonies. Rather, it rests on the heart-changingexperience of being “born again.” While on earth, Jesus revealed to hisdisciples, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only trueGod, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) It is not enoughto know about the Lord Jesus Christ; it is necessary to actually knowhim.
Thankfully, there have been many instances of individuals andorganizations correctly representing the Lord Jesus Christ to this world duringthe past two millennia. It is through them-through the true church of the NewTestament-that the correct revelation of God has flowed to quench the spiritualthirst of a parched human race.
Prior to the establishment of Christianity, revealed truthwas deposited primarily within one nation (Israel) and its associated worldview(Judaism). Notwithstanding, according to the apostle Paul, God still did not “leavehimself without witness” in regions of the world not exposed to the truththrough God’s chosen nation. (Acts 14:17) When read in context, thisscripture primarily refers to God ‘witnessing’ his reality and careby providing rain, crops and natural provisions that create gladness in thehearts of all men.
Another important passage (Romans 2:11-16) indicatesthat God deals with all men, even those never exposed to his Word, through thevehicle of conscience. Certainly, this worldwide subliminal influence of theSpirit of God-quickening the consciences of all men-has caused basic, correctinsights such as the following to rise to the surface of the human race:
· Buddhism teaches that misery results from self-centeredness and that to change this condition, we must strive to do all things right. This is true.
· Confucianism emphasizes the essential goodness of human nature, as a potential implanted by God. This is true.
· Hinduism teaches that union with the Divine is the goal of existence. This is true.
· Islam teaches that man’s goal should be submission to a sovereign and omnipotent God who administers both judgments and rewards. This is true.
· Jainism teaches that self-renunciation is essential to salvation. This is true.
· Sikhism teaches discipleship to the one true God, reverencing and trusting in his name. This is true.
· Shinto teaches reverence for the beauty of creation and for purity of heart. This is true.
· Taoism teaches that understanding life involves discerning and comprehending the dualities and opposites that make up this world. This is true.
· Zoroastrianism teaches active co-operation with a cosmic Power of goodness in a struggle against evil. This is true also.4
All of these doctrinal generalizations are basically true(though the words, ideas and concepts communicated must be placed within theframework of a Christian worldview in order to be interpreted correctly). Still,it is noteworthy that these parallel perceptions, concerning both the humancondition and man’s connection with the Divine, have been evidenced in manyworld religions.
As R. Eugene Sterner points out:
“The laws of God are written in the tissues of our bodies, in the process of our minds, in the avenues of our souls, and in the fabric of society…They are part of your very nature.”
And as Plato insisted:
“The world is God’s epistle to mankind-his thoughts are flashing upon us from every direction.”
Once again, this does not imply that the bulk of doctrinalbeliefs in all world religions are accurate and universally acceptable. Thoughthe seed-like concepts listed on the previous page are all found planted in thesoil of Christianity, many other beliefs of these various religions would not befound growing in the ground of biblical revelation.
When it comes to the most important points of theology likethe exact nature of God, the full plan of salvation, the securing of a rightrelationship with the Creator and the precise means of inheriting eternal life,Christianity stands alone as a singular beacon of hope to the entire human race.
What is the Nature of Truth?
If we are to find the truth, we must become acquainted withthe exact nature of truth. Of all human pursuits, this is the most necessary,fulfilling and rewarding. Ralph Waldo Emerson insisted, “Every violation oftruth…is a stab at the health of society.”5 Certainly the opposite is also correct. Discovering andupholding the truth greatly improves the spiritual health, first, of theindividual soul, then second, of that person’s sphere of social influence.
One of the most important determinations any person will evermake concerns truth being objective or subjective. If truth is objective, it isthe same for all people, whether it is consciously affirmed or not. If truth issubjective, every person can ‘create’ his or her own reality. One person canhave his ‘truth’ and another person can claim another ‘truth’ and bothbe right simultaneously. This is the foundation stone of “Pluralism”: “thebelief that the world is far too complex for any one philosophy to explaineverything” and that all religions are equally effective means of achievingthe Ultimate State.6
The following quote by John Hay Allison exemplifies thisview-point well:
“Truth is the disciple of the ascetic, the quest of the mystic, the faith of the simple, the ransom of the weak, the standard of the righteous, the doctrine of the meek, and the challenge of Nature. Together, all these constitute the Law of the Universe.”
If truth really is the “disciple of the ascetic,”then it can be manipulated or altered by a single person to fit a worldviewimagined by him to be genuine. If it is simply the “faith of the simple,”then any simple person could have faith in any desirable, spiritual concept andfor him it would be correct. If the “standard of the righteous”automatically qualifies as truth, then any righteous person could set any moralor religious standard and for him it would be “truth”: perfectly just andright.
If this is the criterion for acceptable doctrine, thenauthority for setting standards rests in the hands of men, not the hands of God.We must make a quality decision concerning this central and crucial issue.Either the “Law of the Universe” is a product of human intellect (to whichGod himself is subject) or a product of the wisdom of God (to which man must besubmitted in order to have a fruitful and meaningful life-both now andforevermore).
The following parable pleads the case of truth beingobjective:
A man climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. A number of persons are sitting there who appear knowledgeable. So he poses the question, “What will happen to me if I jump off the edge of this building?” Several responses indicate drastically differing opinions. One person asserts, “You will sprout wings and fly over the Atlantic Ocean.” Another informs, “You will free-fall ten stories, then a net will automatically swing out from the building and catch you. You will have a very exhilarating experience.” Finally, a third warns in no uncertain terms, “You will fall all the way to the ground and be immediately killed by the impact.”
Though this proposed situation is certainly unrealistic, itillustrates an important point. Choosing the correct view is absolutelyessential, because the outcome is a matter of life and death. Of course, onlyone an-swer is true, that which is objectively correct for all, regardless ofpersonal opinion. So the question we must ask ourselves is this-If someone wouldshow extreme caution over a choice like this (stepping off the edge of theEmpire State Building) should we not all show even more care over a far greatertransition (stepping from time into eternity)?
Certain natural laws rule the natural realm-like gravity,friction, inertia, magnetic fields, and so on. Whether we acknowledge these lawsor not, they are constantly influencing us and will ever remain a permanent factof our physical existence. In like manner, it makes sense to believe thatdefinite spiritual laws govern the spiritual realm-which remain the same for allhuman beings and affect us all, whether we acknowledge them or not.
One permanently established divine law is the declarationthat reconciliation with God is only available through the cross. The very beamsof the cross-being vertical and horizontal-speak of God and man reunited. Thecross of Jesus is the connecting point between time and eternity and the mainthing that sets the Christian faith apart from all other religions. The apostlePaul declared that “the preaching of the cross” is the “power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18) At the very place where it appeared that God himselfbecame utterly weak, he imparts his awesome power to men-power to overcome sin,power to master the flesh, power to overcome this world. Our appraisal of thistruth should be similar to Lyn Landrum’s:
“That the Potter should die for his clay is a stupendous miracle.”
O, that all men could see the wonder of this mystery!
“God Is One! We Are All One!”
In the past thirty years I have asked many advocates ofvarious Far Eastern religions if they have ever considered receiving Jesus intotheir hearts. Quite often I receive a kindly spoken answer like:
“God is one! We all are one! We are all seeking the same God different ways.”
I deeply appreciate the humility, compassion andconsideration for others a response like this indicates. But I must say, humbly,compassionately and out of deep consideration for others, that I have strongreservations about any statement that implies this view. I agree wholeheartedlythat God is one. There definitely is only one God. However,through the millenniums, many theories have surfaced in this world about theCreator, some of which are right and some of which are wrong.
In a similar, analogous way, the solar system is one-thereis only one solar system containing the planet Earth. However, there have beenvarious ideas promoted regarding its nature, some of which have been right andsome wrong. For instance, in the second century, an astronomer named Ptolemypromoted the idea that our solar system is earth-centric: that the sun, moon andother planets all revolve around the earth on a backdrop of unmoving stars. Overa thousand years later, the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus offered anopposing view: that the solar system is instead heliocentric (sun-centered),that all the planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun.
Both of these ideas cannot be true simultaneously. If one isright, the other must necessarily be wrong. Of course, modern astronomy hasproven Copernicus’ viewpoint-though scorned and rejected in his day-to be thecorrect one. Had Ptolemy and Copernicus lived at the same time, and were itpossible for them to dialogue concerning their beliefs, Copernicus would havenever suggested to Ptolemy, “Truth is relative. Truth is subjective. Youcan have your truth and I can have my truth and we can both be rightsimultaneously.” To even consider such a merging of ideas would have beenabsurd. One viewpoint had to be accepted at the expense of the other beingrejected.
Based on similar logic, we can further deduce that God iseither internal or external before the experience of salvation. Both conceptscannot be true simultaneously. Ultimate Reality is either an impersonal cosmicenergy or a personal God-it cannot be both. The ‘self’ in man is eitheridentical with God or distinct from God-it cannot be both. True religion iseither man-centric, focusing on man’s superlative greatness and his ability totap into and control some mysterious, inner, divine energy, or it isGod-centric, focusing on the matchless wonder of the Redeemer God and submittinglovingly and worshipfully to his Word and his will. The human race is eithersaved by grace or by self-effort. We each have only one life or we have manyincarnations. Either Jesus was the only incarnation of God or he was justanother Avatar, another prophet, another teacher. In all these areas, only oneof the two opposing beliefs can be retained while the other is discarded.
Hindus, Buddhists and Jainists tend to express a great dealof sympathetic open-mindedness concerning other worldviews. However, when theirfoundational beliefs are closely inspected, they are found to be very exclusive.Geoffrey Parrinder offers this penetrating observation:
“It is sometimes thought that only the Semitic religions believe that they have revelations, which tend towards exclusiveness, and that Hindus accept anything and believe that anybody can be saved by doing, or not doing, what any religion teaches. But Hindus have been as insistent as Christians and Muslims that they have a divine relationship, which is the only way to salvation…Sankara [a teacher of Advaita Vedanta, born 788 A.D.] believed that only the Vedas could give knowledge of Brahman… Buddhists and Jains also claimed to have the final truth; the Jains holding that he alone is righteous who believes the true teaching [of Mahavira], and Buddhists that anything which contradicted the Buddha’s teaching could not be true. So modern exponents of Hinduism should make it explicit that such statements as ‘All religions are true’ are made only on their own authority, and do not represent the orthodox Hindu tradition.” 7
Rabi Maharaj also explains that “the Vedanta Society,founded by Vivekananda, the successor of Ramakrishna, with centers around theworld, professes to teach tolerance for all religions. However, the ‘unity ofall religions’ it espouses is really not liberal or broad-minded, but is basedupon this uncompromising monism which says that everything is One.”8
Divided opinions on major issues even exist between manyreligious groups that trace their roots back to Far Eastern religions. Forinstance, in defining his “Krishna Consciousness” Movement, Swami Prabhupadaunashamedly promotes exclusivity. He quotes Krishna as saying, “Abandon allvarieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.”9 Adding to this, he gives his own suggestion, “Give upall other ideas of so-called dharma, or religiosity…Krsna is theauthority.”10
Another popular Eastern leader in the Western world,Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, describes Transcendental Meditation in glowing terms, “Ifthis teaching is followed, effectiveness in life will be achieved. Men will befulfilled on all levels and the historical need of the age will be fulfilledalso.”11 Yet SwamiPrabhupada responds to the Transcendental Meditation movement quite negatively,“They do not know what real meditation is. Their meditation is simply a farce.”12 So who is right? Or could it be that neither of them isinterpreting truth and reality correctly?
The Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism, admittedthe irreconcilable differences between Buddhism and Christianity in a recentinterview:
“The entire Buddhist worldview is based on a philosophical standpoint in which…all things and events come into being purely as a result of interactions between causes and conditions. Within that philosophical worldview it is almost impossible to have any room for an atemporal, eternal, absolute truth. Nor is it possible to accommodate the concept of a divine Creation.
Similarly, for a Christian whose entire meta-physical worldview is based on a belief in the Creation and a divine Creator, the idea that all things and events arise out of mere interaction between causes and conditions has no place within that worldview. So in the realm of metaphysics it becomes problematic at a certain point, and the two traditions must diverge.”13
Many years ago I instructed my yoga students that they couldfind God by looking within and that from within, the divine nature would beawakened. Now, as a Christian minister, I share instructions that are muchdifferent: that God is transcendent, separate from human beings, and he must beinvited to come and dwell within their hearts. I also teach that this experiencecan only happen through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemptivework. As a believer in the Bible, I now fully realize that these two traditionscannot walk side by side (as well as many of the other traditions mentioned inthis book). As the Dalai Lama honestly and correctly disclosed, they “mustdiverge.”
Having experienced both the Christian and the Far Easternmindset, I can speak with absolute certainty on this issue. Jesus’ life andteachings are unique and unmatched by any other religious belief system in theworld. The New Testament refers to this as “the mystery which has been hiddenfrom ages and generations…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians1:26-27) Though it was hidden from the human race for millenniums, thankGod, the mystery has now been revealed! And though many of us have wandered farfrom God, he still beckons lovingly from above. According to Jesus’ teachings,we are all ‘lost’-groping through spiritual darkness and grasping forreality-yet to all of us the Good Shepherd extends a gracious invitation:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
You may have seen the famous painting titled, “The Light ofthe World,” that portrays this promise. Jesus is shown standing at night in agarden, holding a lamp with one hand and knocking on a heavily paneled door withthe other. When the artist, Holman Hunt, formally unveiled this work of art, anumber of art critics were present. One of them noticed what seemed to be anobvious flaw. He abruptly pointed out, “Mr. Hunt, you haven’t finished yourwork!” “O yes, it is finished,” the artist replied. “But there is nohandle on the door,” countered the critic. With calmness Holman Huntresponded, as if his answer was well rehearsed, “That is the door of the humanheart, and it can only be opened from the inside.”
I would urge you to hold this statement suspended in theinner chamber of your soul as you finish the remaining pages of this book. Why?Because the kernel of truth it offers needs to be replanted in our thinkingagain and again….
Yes, it is so very true…the human heart can only be opened from the inside.
Man’s Nature and Basic Need
Why is it is so important that we open our hearts to theentrance of God’s Spirit? This question is answered when we discover man’strue nature and his basic need. As the illustrations on the previous pagereveal, man is a triune being (in the image of the Triune God)-comprised ofspirit, soul and body. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 4:12.)
Prior to the experience of salvation, human beings are “deadin trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) This condition affects ourwhole being and is first an inherited status. When Adam transgressed God’scommand in the beginning, he died spiritually and began dying physically. Thiscondition was passed to all of Adam’s offspring (“for in Adam all die”). (1Corinthians 15:22) So we all enter this world spiritually dead. Inevitably,we pass through damaging experiences in life that can further darken the soulwith death-dealing attitudes like anger, fear, guilt, depression, lust,selfishness, and so on.
Many human beings are flesh-ruled, driven by their passionsand locked inside of their senses. The soul is the primary functioning part ofthe invisible nature of persons who are not born again. Because the soul is theabode of the mind, will and emotions, prior to theexperience of God’s reality, our problems are often soulish-involving mentaland emotional struggles. Furthermore, a weak will often causes us to fall shortof the inner dictates of the conscience. This often causes a deadly cycle-morefailures, more inner struggles-more inner struggles, more failure. When the soulfinally ‘overloads,’ people are driven to make a choice: either give up onhigher ideals and give into the flesh, succumbing to its deadening influence, ormake an attempt to change in a positive way. A great deal of intellectual,emotional and moral reformation can take place without God’s interventionsimply by self-analysis, self-denial, self-discipline and self-help:psychological, philosophical and religious. However, these means always fallshort of the full work that must be done to fill the void in man. ‘Soulishproblems’ in human beings cannot be fixed until their ‘spirit problem’ issolved.
The human spirit, in the original perfect man, was the fullyfunctional abode of conscience, intuition and com-munion with God. Once sinseparated man from God, a state of spiritual death set in. Communion withthe Creator ceased and is no longer possible (by man’s effort) unless arelationship is initiated by God, and in this era, until true salvation takesplace. Intuition (which includes revelation, inspiration and creativity)descended primarily into a lesser, non-spiritual expression (intellectual orartistic). True intuitive knowledge about God became quite limited and rare.Being out of touch with God, men have made many assumptions about the nature ofGod. Some have been right; many have been erroneous. Only those who receiveddirect revelation about God’s character and purposes (like Abraham or Moses)got a firm grip on truth. Other seekers may have received some elementary,intuitive glimpses into the nature of Ultimate Reality, but often these ‘insights’became mixed with other false, man-made views. Many religions have developedcorrect guidelines about moral behavior, yet this has resulted not as much fromintuition, as from the influence of the conscience.
This third aspect of the spirit remained most active afterthe fall, though according to the Bible, it too is darkened, defiled andundependable. The conscience is a gift from God, but it is not the evidence ofthe presence of God within the heart. The conscience is that inward sense ofwhat is morally right and morally wrong, that carries with it a desire to dowhat is morally right. However, the conscience is a barely burning ember wherethere used to be a raging fire of sensitivity to God. When a person becomes bornagain, the conscience is cleansed “from dead works to serve the living God.”(Hebrews 9:14)
So when the Bible describes unsaved people as being “deadin trespasses and sins,” this does not mean a state of absolute death, or wewould not be functioning at all! This is biblical hyperbole-intendedexaggeration that shows the seriousness of man’s plight. For instance, somesay that a developed human mind is only functioning at about 10% of itspotential. So, to use the same kind of language, the mind is about 90% ‘dead.’It is not dead in an absolute sense, but a relative sense-(related to what itwas originally in a perfected state).
The New Birth-When a person is ‘born again’ thiscurse of death is reversed. Three primary things happen: (1) The blood of Jesuscleanses the inner man from sin; (2) The human spirit is regenerated (made new);(3) The Spirit of God takes up His abode within the spirit. Notice it is thespirit that is initially reborn, not the body or the soul. This is far differentthan just a moral reformation brought about by a response to conscience.Ezekiel, the prophet, revealed God’s promise concerning the impartation of the‘born again’ experience under the New Covenant, “I will give you a newheart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out ofyour flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) Once man’sspirit is regenerated, it once again becomes the abode of true communionwith God, correct intuition and a revived conscience (all of which manifestaccording to the level of a person’s consecration to God).
From that point forward, the spirit should daily influencethe soul toward a strong will, godly emotions and a mind filled withcorrect interpretations of the truth. The goal of a true Christian is for thespirit to become the dominating influence in his or her life, daily transformingthe soul and bringing the body under subjection-anticipating thefinal ‘rebirth’ of the body also, into a glorified state, at the SecondComing of Christ.
Identifying The True Light
Recently I happened on a simple, yet striking metaphor pennedby a man named Samuel Rutherford:
“If you saw a man shut up in a small room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wanted to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps and throwing open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.”
Though I related to this analogy and sensed its worth, Icouldn’t help feeling uneasy. The sequence of events just wasn’t right.Extinguishing someone’s only source of light could easily be misinterpreted.An act that was truly sincere and compassionate could be construed to be abelligerent and aggressive one. Besides, if you strip a person of hisdependencies before giving him a superior replacement, he will quickly rise tohis own defense. Had I composed the allegory, I would have worded itdifferently:
“If you saw a man shut up in a small room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wanted to make him truly happy, you would begin by throwing open the shutters to let in the light of heaven. Automatically, with exceeding joy, the man would then proceed to extinguish all manmade lights himself, realizing their inferiority.”
One of my chief desires in writing this book is to makeothers “truly happy.” In the preceding pages, therefore, I have attempted tothrow open the shutters of truth to let in the “light of heaven,” theglorious light of the living God! I pray that I have achieved this goal. If Ihave, then those who read my words will quickly discern the insufficiency ofartificial, manmade ‘lights,’ extinguish them, leave them behind and turntheir faces toward man’s true and only Source.
One Old Testament prophet portrayed the coming Savior as “theSun of righteousness” who would arise with healing in his wings. (Malachi4:2) When Jesus came into the world, how brilliantly he radiated the truth!And when he arose from the dead, what a healing, revitalizing, enlighteningeffect he shed forth toward all those who would ever come to him in faith! Nowonder one of his chief disciples explained:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…that was the True Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (John 1:4, 9)
This passage speaks two very important things:
First, it reveals that Jesus shines his eternal light uponevery person born into this world. I believe this is more than just anadmonition that the Gospel should be preached to every people-group in theearth. It rather implies that Jesus, as the Light of the world, spirituallyinfluences every individual inhabiting this planet. Sometimes the signs of hisinfluence are quite evident; sometimes they are subtle and barely discernible.Often the results of his influence are not even attributed to him. Instead,other gods or non-biblical teachings may be credited for the changes that takeplace in people’s lives. However, it is the Spirit of Christ worldwide thatconstantly, subliminally convicts the souls of men concerning their sin, stirstheir consciences and draws their hearts toward a life of devotion to righteousprinciples. This could very well explain why there is some evidence of truth inalmost all religions. Tragically though, many have not heard the story of Jesus,so they fail to understand how salvation through Christ can be obtained. (SeeJohn 6:44, Romans 2:1-16.)
Dealing with this calamity, the Scripture goes on to explainthat “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehendit.” (John 1:5) I believe this happens often. After being inwardlyinfluenced by the Spirit of Christ-by the stirring of the conscience-men andwomen truly repent of their sin and alter their lifestyle. But they fail to comprehendthe next steps that need to be taken (most often, because of lack of biblicalinstruction), so they embrace religious ideas more readily accessible to themregionally or more comfortable to them culturally.
I now recognize that years before I became a Christian, Godwas dealing with me. His Spirit was drawing me, influencing my choices,convicting me of sin and creating in me a deep thirst for spiritual realities.Though I did not recognize it at the time, “the True Light which giveslight to every man” was beginning to light up my life. I was only fully‘enlightened’ when I acknowledged the Source of the light, when I called onthat Name the Bible says is “above every name,” accepting Jesus as Lord ofmy life. (Philippians 2:9)
Second, the declaration that Jesus is the “True Light”implies that there is a false light as well. Even though I gleaned somevaluable truth from all the books I studied and teachings I received as a yogastudent, it is clear to me now that the majority of those teachings wereuntrue-they were ‘false light.’ They were spurious attempts to analyze thenature of the Creator and man’s relationship with him.
I also realize that the supernatural experiences I receivedwere deceptive. The times my soul exited my body into the astral plane, or into‘white light,’ were all counterfeit occurrences, false light. Of course, noone could have convinced me of such a thing at that time. Yet I should haveheeded Jesus’ warning, “Be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”(Luke 11:35 RSV) Once I experienced the “True Light” it became verysimple for me to identify the false. It will work the same for you. Once heilluminates your heart with his indwelling presence, he will illuminate yourmind with the correct interpretation of truth.
Many New Age and Far Eastern teachers emphasize the heartabove the mind. For instance, one well-known guru insisted, “All religions arebasically dear to me. It is not so much what you believe that counts, but whatyou are.” Though I absolutely agree that character is much more important thancreed-I must add that the latter, in many ways, gives birth to the former. Whatyou believe actually determines what you are, so it is of the utmost importance.Even the Bhagavad-Gita states, “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, sohe is.” (Bhagavad-Gita 17.3) And Jesus exhorted that true worshippersmust “worship the Father in spirit and in truth”-so character (“spirit”)and creed (“truth”) are both vitally and equally important. (John 4:23)
Of course, you may still have many questions about certainaspects of the teachings of Christianity, but please don’t allow these toprevent you from experiencing the reality of Jesus. Only after you come into apersonal relationship with this Christ of Calvary will all the answers fall inplace. I cannot emphasize this too much. Knowing him is the priority; knowingabout him is the result. In his day, Jesus answered some of his critics with thestatement:
“My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own.” (John 7:16-17 NIV)
Again, this is the key-those who make an effort to approachGod according to his will (according to God’s revealed plan ofsalvation) will inevitably experience the reality of Jesus. Once a person ex-periencesthat reality, he or she will know the validity of the doctrine Jesus promoted.Do not seek to be convinced of the doctrine first; meet the One who authored it.
Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati suggests, “Your first andforemost duty is to know who you are. Without knowing oneself real life does notbegin.” I respectfully offer that our first and foremost duty is rather toknow the true God-because when we discover him, automatically, we discoverourselves. So let me encourage you with the same words Kent Sullivan spoke to mein the Fall of 1970-“Just try Jesus!” Once you experience hisreality, everything else will fall into place. So this really is the answer…andonce again, I share it in deep, heart-felt compassion:
A PRAYER THAT CAN TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE FOREVER!
Allow me to share with you some very important, finalinstructions. In the previous pages of this book, you have been exposed to thewords of Jesus-the One who is also titled the “Word made flesh.” (John1:14) Because his words are the absolute standard of truth, all that islabeled truth must be in absolute agreement with his words. I pray you will makethe choice to embrace these ‘heaven-sent’ insights. But again, it may seemdifficult or nearly impossible to whole-heartedly accept these concepts, untilyou have a personal experience with the Author of Truth himself.
The respected Christian theologian, Augustine, oncecommented:
“In every heart there is a God-shaped vacuum, and until that vacuum is filled with God, every other part remains empty.”
This ‘emptiness of heart’ is man’s basic problem-and itcannot be remedied even by studying every book on religion available in thisworld (including this one). As William Cowper pointed out:
“God never meant that man should scale the heavens by strides of human wisdom.”
(The Task, Bk. III.1.221)
We need more than what the human intellect can provide, evenat its zenith of expression. We need more than just an ‘explanation,’ nomatter how sound or how logical it may be. What we need is an invigorating,spiritual experience, a revelation to the heart. As the Catholic monk, ThomasMerton, emphasized:
“What matters is being spontaneously open to the reality of God.”
I urge you to do this very thing, to be “spontaneouslyopen,” praying the following prayer as it is worded. I also encourage you tobe creative, expressing yourself in a very personal way to God. The following isnot a mantra-like, mechanical formula; it is a suggested approach. The mostimportant thing is to pray from the heart and continue praying until you feelthe assurance that God has heard you and responded. You can use these words, orsimilar statements using your own words, that express the concept of biblicalsalvation correctly.
The posture of the body is not important. You can bestanding, kneeling or prostrate before God. You can be walking briskly orsitting quietly. Your location is not that important either. You can be in achurch, in your home or in a flower garden. What is important is that youcome to God with sincere love, deep humility and strong faith-and that you spendquality time seeking God without any distractions.
Sometimes there is a very joyous spiritual sensation thataccompanies the experience of salvation. Sometimes there is no actualsupernatural ‘feeling’ associated with the praying of this prayer andsubmission to Jesus’ Lordship. The Bible explains we are saved through faith (Ephesians2:8); so the significant thing is to believe, whether you feel an inwardsensation or not. (These divine ‘witnesses’ to the soul may come later on.)The main issue is that all who approach Jesus for salvation must do so trustingin the promises contained in his Word. One reassuring pledge he gave is this:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
Notice, Jesus did not say with uncertainty, “I could” or“I might”; he declared emphatically, “I will give you rest!” Soby faith, come to him now with a request and a confession similar to thefollowing:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I ask you to manifest yourself to me. Please reveal your salvation. I believe you died on the cross for the sins of the human race and I believe you arose from the dead. I ask you to come and live in my heart and wash away all my sin by the blood that you shed.
Thank you for saving my soul and granting me eternal life. Be Lord of my life and Lord of my future. I believe with my heart and I confess with my lips that you are the way to salvation and I accept you by faith as my source of hope, joy and fulfillment.
Fill my heart with your love, your peace and your truth. Fill me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And by the help of your grace, I will serve you the rest of my days. Amen.”
Now the promise belongs to you that Jesus spoke while he wason the earth:
“I am the Light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”(John 8:12)
Now that you have received him-follow him. If you do, youwill never walk in darkness again. You will have the “Light of life.”
A FINAL COMMITMENT
Ralph Waldo Emerson once commented:
“I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it.”
By receiving and reading this book, you have, in essence, reached out toreceive my extended hand. Please be assured that “the whole man accompaniesit.” I am committed to help, in any way possible, those who needassistance in their search for “True Light.” Please do not hesitate tocommunicate with me if you feel the need to do so. Surely it was by God’sdesign that led you to this website.
1 Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of aYogi (Los Angeles, California: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1998) p. 558.
2 Kenneth L. Woodard, “The Other Jesus,”Newsweek Magazine (March 27, 2000) p. 60.
3 “Ghandi, Mohandas Karamchand,” MiriamWebster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (Springfield, Massachusetts:Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1999) p. 366.
4 Robert E Hume, The World’s LivingReligions (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, rev. ed., 1959) pp. 273-274,The basic information for this list of statements was drawn from this source,though transferred in slightly different wording.
5 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: “Prudence”(First Series, 1841).
6 “Pragmatism: III History,” MicrosoftEncarta Encyclopedia 99.
7 Geoffrey Parrinder, Avatar and Incarnation, TheDivine in Human Form in the World’s Religions (Oxford, England: OneworldPublications, 1970) pp. 124-125 (Also refer to K.S. Jurty, Revelation andReason in Advaita Vedanta, p. 219, 2 Gita 10, 13-14.) Bracketed words byauthor.
8 Rabi R. Maharaj, The Death of a Guru(Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1977) p. 207, in the Glossary under“Vedanta.”
9 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, TheJourney of Self-Discovery (Botany, Australia: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust,1997) p. 49.
10 Ibid., Note: “Krsna” is SwamiPrabhupada’s preferred spelling of “Krishna.”
11 Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh. Maharishi MaheshYogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, A New Translation and Commentary Chapters 1-6(London: Arkana, Penguin Books, 1990) back cover.
12 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, TheScience of Self Realization (Los Angeles, California: The Bhaktivedanta BookTrust, 1998) p. 181.
13 His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, The GoodHeart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus (Boston: Wisdom,1996) pp. 81-82.