You would think federal agents, charged with weeding out counterfeit money, would spend their time looking at all the idiosyncrasies. The slight tints in color, changes in quality, different weights. They’d study what printers, brands of ink, and feels of paper counterfeiters use so they’d know when they feel a bill that’s a bit too waxy, DING! DING! DING! they’ve found a fraud.
It turns out, “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see the bogus money they recognize it.” 1 Apparently, intimate knowledge of the real thing makes it clear when they’re being deceived.
Don’t you wish that was the case today? Over the last several decades, this idea of your truth and my truth as different things that are equally true has overrun our world. Gurus and world leaders have made claims like, “All religions are the same. They all lead to God,” and “I am a Christian and a Hindu and a Muslim and a Jew” (Neem Karoli Baba and Gandhi respectively). Although many wise people would write off these statements immediately, it’s important to recognize how pervasive these ideas are in our world.
I fear that many teenagers are lost when it comes to truth. A student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania mused, “If two people came together and disagreed about whether God existed or not, they could both be right.” When I was studying both math and youth ministry a Christian university (whose Bible program was becoming much more liberal), I remember being torn between two worlds. My math classmates were astounded when I shared there were several people in my Bible and theology classes that would probably claim that for you, 2 + 2 =4 but for them, 2 + 2 did not equal 4, and both statements were equally true.
While teaching at HCLC, I’ve realized many students find themselves in the same boat; their friends believe contradictory things, but they think those beliefs are true for them. They find themselves wishy-washy on doctrine, wishy-washy on commitment, and wishy-washy on life change because if Jesus isn’t really the only way, maybe we don’t have to be obedient every day of the week.
As tough as my math classes were, I remember crying while struggling through homework assignments, I appreciated the logical reality of contradictions that we acknowledged. The $20 bill I have in my wallet can’t be both actually printed by the U.S. government and a counterfeit. It has to be one or the other.
That’s what I’ve tried to teach my students this week. We started by investigating the reliability of the Bible, as every class has for the last few decades. Ask my husband (who took this class 8 years ago) how many predicted prophecies Jesus fulfilled. He’ll tell you it’s 333. Then, we spent several days studying the real deal: Christ-centered Christianity. The major beliefs, plan for redemption, view of the afterlife, and our purpose as people. We talked about God’s commandments, how we fall short so we face consequences, how Christ took those consequences for us and the conditions of repentance and faith that allow us to be forgiven and commit to a life for Christ.
Next, the students stood up. Something about movement makes it easier to talk. Makes it feel like they’re not filling out a worksheet (although they kind of are), and allows them to discuss freely for the sake of learning new things. I set up four stations throughout the room. Each station represented a different world religion. In groups, they researched each religion and its basic tenants. Then they asked and answered two questions that I believe to be vital for witnessing to and reaching those who don’t know Christ.
What makes this religion appealing?
Why can’t this religion and Christianity both be true?
Now, before you think that I’m in the same category as Baba and Gandhi claiming all religions are true, hear me out. No one likes to feel dumb. No one likes to be patronized and made to feel small for being different. There are very intelligent people that ascribe to religions other than Christianity, and we need not neglect that. As missionaries, we must meet people where they are. My dear friend Courtney Cain studies missions at Toccoa Falls College. She learns about different cultures and religions. The main focus of her major is about contextualization: understanding a culture so you can explain the truth of Christianity to them in a way that is accurate and relatable. We ought to be able to step into the shoes of those who are different from us for a bit, after all, our Lord and Savior stepped into human skin for a few decades to relate to us.
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The very God who created the universe loves us enough to walk the earth and die so that we might be saved. That idea certainly contradicts with others. Students were able to see this as they learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. They found the contradiction because they knew the real deal. Christians believe Jesus is God, who came and died for our sins and resurrected so that we could have new life. He can’t both be God and there also be no God like Buddhism claims. He can’t both be the only way to God and there also be several other ways to gods like Hinduism claims. He can’t be both God, and just a human prophet like Islam claims. And He can’t be the Messiah and the world still be waiting on a Messiah like Judaism claims.
HCLC students have gotten to see that they can trust the Bible. They know that we would need 200 million more Earths full of our population to have enough people for a person to randomly fulfill just 8 of the 333 predicted prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. They know what it means to be saved and what Christians believe about God and our world. HCLC students know the real deal.
So, my students are like federal agents now. Studying the real thing, they can identify a counterfeit when they see it. And I hope and pray that when they see a fake, they have the courage to say something, so that only the Truth is in circulation.
- Reckless Faith. John MacArthur.
Sarah Harrison is a second-year teacher at HCLC. She hails from a suburb of Philadelphia where she studied Youth Ministries at a small Christian college. She is married to her wonderful husband and HCLC alum, Mitchell Harrison. Although she is a die-hard Eagles fan, she and her husband have a 2 year old dog named Kuechly (after the Carolina Panthers linebacker).