By Donnie V. Rader
The religious world is divided. There are thousands of sects or denominations. Thus, many different doctrines and practices exist. Does it make any difference about any of this? Does it make any difference in which church one chooses to be? Does it make any difference what one believes, the doctrine he endorses or teaches, or what he practices?
Let’s consider this popular concept that says, “It does not make any difference what one believes” in light of the word of God.
The Popular Concept
The prevalent idea in the religious world is that it really doesn’t make any difference what one believes in religion. We hear such statements as “Just believe on the Lord . . . faith alone will save.” That says that you can believe and practice anything you like, as long as you believe in Christ; that’s all that matters.
Many are consoled when they hear that sincerity is all that matters. That says you can believe and practice anything as long as you are sincere in it. Countless numbers have been deceived into thinking that one can just attend the church of his choice. Again, the bottom line is that it really doesn’t make any difference what one believes.
The term “Christian” is used rather loosely today. Any good moral person (who may not even go to church) will be described by some as a “Christian.” Like those ideas above, it says that God does not care what you believe or practice in religion.
A Barrier To The Gospel
If it doesn’t make any difference what one believes, there is no need to study the questions and issues that divide the religious world. Those is- sues become trivial matters. Questions about baptism, the Godhead, the one church, worship, instrumental music, the operation of the Holy Spirit, and the work and organization of the church are all like the question of where Cain got his wife.
In spite of their lack of understanding, those who are deceived by this concept are made to feel comfort- able no matter what they believe or practice. Since it doesn’t make any difference, why should different beliefs and practices concern them?
If those who think this way already have a church they go to, they don’t need another. Thus, when you invite them to visit with you or attend a gospel meeting, they may politely thank you saying that they already go to church. Since “one church is as good as another,” they need another church about like a man with a new car needs another car.
This concept is one of the devil’s most effective tools. As long as one has the concept that it doesn’t make any difference what one believes, the gospel cannot get through that barrier to penetrate the heart.
It Makes A Difference What One Believes
1. This popular idea will not work in other areas. It doesn’t work in the business world. Does it make any difference what one believes about in- vestments. Suppose one puts $10,000 into a business or in stocks, believing it is a good investment. However, the business fails or the stocks decline. Certainly what he believed made a difference.
This will not work in matters of health. Suppose one drinks a glass of liquid believing it to be water. However, if it is poison, it will still kill him even though he believed it was water. Several years ago a Nashville newspaper reported a story about a man who dug up some worms to go fishing. He thought the worms were rather large. He had never experienced worms “biting” him as he tried to put them on his hook. He continued to fish believing that he was bitten by worms. He died sometime later because the “worms” were actually poisonous snakes. You see, it made a difference what he believed.
Numerous people have been killed while driving on the wrong side of a four lane highway, because they believed they were on a two lane road.
2. There are some things we must believe. If I can show that there is even one thing that I must believe, then it makes a difference what one believes. We must believe that God is and that he is the rewarder of those that seek him (Heb. 11:6). We must believe in Christ. If we don’t, we will die in our sins (John 8:24). If we die in sin, we cannot go to heaven (John 8:21). We must believe the truth (John 8:32). If we believe any message contrary to the truth, we are accursed (Gal. 1:6-9). It does make a difference.
3. There is an objective standard. If I can show that there is an objective standard (a fixed standard) by which we determine what is right and wrong, then we must conclude that it makes a difference.
To illustrate, let’s suppose that in the process of building your new house that a friend or neighbor offers to do all your wiring. You ask if he knows how to do that. He replies, “Not really, but it doesn’t make any difference how it is wired, just as long as the lights and plugs work when we are done.” If there is a code book or statute by which electricians have to abide, then it makes a difference how the house is wired.
The same is true in religion. There is an objective standard. All of the following descriptions refer to the Bible, the word of God. We must abide by what is written of God (2 Cor. 4:13), the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37), the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13), the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and the words chosen by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-13). We must believe and practice only what we can find in harmony with the standard.
4. The difference that it makes. Now that we know it makes a difference, let’s consider the difference it makes. In 1 Kings 13 we read of a prophet who was instructed by God not to eat bread, drink water or re- turn by the way he came (vv. 9-10). However, an old prophet invited him home with him. The prophet said he couldn’t because of the instruction of the Lord (vv. 15-16). The old prophet then lied to him saying that God told him that he could come to his house (v. 18). The prophet believed the lie. What difference did it make? He was devoured by a lion because he was disobedient (vv. 22-26).
Salvation or damnation is the difference it makes with us. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 Paul shows a contrast between believing the truth and believing a lie. Those who believe the lie (v. 11) are deceived (v. 10), do not love the truth (v. 10), are deluded (v. 11), do not believe the truth (v. 12) and have pleasure in unrighteousness (v. 12). The consequence is that they will perish (v. 10) and be condemned (v. 12). Those who believe the truth (v. 12) and love the truth (v. 10) will be saved (v. 10).
It Makes A Difference What One Practices
1. If not, one can do anything in religion and be accepted of God. Handling snakes as an act of worship would be fine. I read of one “church” that came together and all engaged in fornication as their worship to God. What would be wrong with that, if it does not make a difference? “Oh, that’s immoral!” someone says. “God condemns fornication.” Then it makes a difference!
2. We must practice only what is authorized by God. God, because he is God, has authority over man (Gen. 1:1). All that we do must be by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17). We must abide within the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). God has a pattern that we are to follow (Heb. 8:5). We must all walk by the same rule (Phil. 3:16).
3. The difference that it makes. Whether we are practicing what God has authorized or not has to do with whether or not we are in fellowship with him (2 John 9) and receive eternal life (Matt. 7:22-23; Rom. 2:7-8).
1. If it doesn’t make any difference what one believes then it doesn’t make any difference whether one believes. “Oh, but we have to believe in Christ,” one retorts. Then it makes a difference! But if what you believe doesn’t matter, then whether you believe doesn’t mat- ter. Since that is so, it would not make a difference whether one believes the Bible or not. Thus, what the Bible says is really unimportant. Since the Bible is God’s word, then what God says in unimportant. That is the consequence of the idea that it doesn’t make any difference what one believes. That is blasphemy!
2. If it does make a difference what one believes (and we have shown that it does), then we need to know the truth (John 8:32). We need to study and examine what we’re taught to see if it is really true (Acts 17:11). We need to obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). We need to be careful as we live the Christian life (Eph. 5:15).