Hi I'm 17 years old. Right now in my life I have reached an extremely difficult point spiritually. All my life I believe I have had a very deep connection with God; I would always talk to him inside my head, and really believed in certain things that many other kids didn't. One thing about be however, is that I'm a very deep thinker, and nobody I know really knows this about me. I lead a normal life, I'm pretty popular, play sports, and generally live a life where the people I'm surrounded by are Christians and good people, but could really care less about religion in their hearts. So at this point in my life, I am really just very confused and lost about everything.
I have a tendency to question everything I believe, and it really leaves me with just questions and no answers. Right now I want so badly to believe strongly in God like I used to, but it just all seems so far-fetched to me at this age. I'm actually pretty scared about how I feel, and really do feel sinful for doubting things. Throughout the day, I think constantly about God, Jesus, death, the universe, the meaning of life, the purpose of man, why we are the way we are, and what it means to really be a Christian. I think very deeply, and am constantly battling thoughts about what God is in my head. I just can't seem to understand, why someone like me would deserve Heaven. I live a good life, my family is wealthy, I'm not starving, I don't suffer physically day in day out. I'm kind and helpful to people, but I really don't see how I could deserve Heaven after basically leading a life of luxury.
Why should I be granted eternal life, when I go to school everyday, slack off on homework, joke around with friends, use curse words, lie to my parents about things. These are all things however that the society I live in accepts and laughs about. See the problem is the people I live with aren't necessarily bad, it's just that they, along with me, are nothing special in the eyes of God. It's these types of questions that can drive me crazy all day. Your website was very helpful, I read all the topics, and it really did help to reaffirm my faith in God somewhat. I really like the way you worded everything, it really helps someone like me relate religion to everyday life. I guess though, that the point of this email is that I'm really just confused about a lot of things, mainly how to be a good person in the eyes of God. Thanks a lot for your time.
My response is in Green:
Thanks for writing me. First let me assure you that you don't deserve heaven, nor will you ever deserve heaven. But you are not alone, no one deserves heaven nor will anyone ever deserve heaven. That is what makes God's gift of salvation a true gift and so wonderful. We are all sinners and we have all sinned. Because we have sinned we all deserve just one thing and that is separation from God in hell for all eternity. If you grew up in Sudan and went hungry every night, worked hard everyday for little or nothing to show for it, if your parents had been killed when you were 6 months old, whatever, you would still deserve to spend eternity in hell. So next time you think you are not worthy of heaven, remember that is true and praise God that He loves you anyway and sent His Son to die for you so that even though you don't deserve it you can spend eternity with Him. Of course that is only true if you have placed faith in Jesus Christ. And don't be mislead, placing faith in Jesus Christ means more than just believing, it means putting that belief into practice:
Matthew 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. [NIV]
1 Cor. 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. [NIV]
We cannot claim faith in Jesus and continue to willfully sin:
Hebrews 10:26-27  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [NIV]
1 John 3:9-10 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. [NIV]
It is not wrong to question what you believe, that is good. God does not want people to park their brains at the door or have blind faith. Jesus told a parable which I will quote here in part:
Matthew 13:3-6 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." [NIV]
People who never question and never bother to figure out what they really believe and why are like those who Jesus is speaking of, they run after Jesus but they never have a root so when questions do come up or when things get tough they fall away, because they have no root. It is much better to question everything and find out why you believe and what you believe. God is not afraid of questions. But with a questioning mind comes some responsibilities. If you are going to question then you have the responsibility to look for the answers, otherwise you just condemn yourself. As I said God is not afraid of hard questions and He has given us proof, we just have to do a little work to find it.
Let me give you an example of how you can prove to yourself that Jesus is the Christ. As you know the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. You might say, so what, that is their problem. Yes it is their problem, but it will also prove who He is if you look at it the right way. First it was predicted in the Old Testament, which is the Jewish Bible that this would happen:
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [NIV]
Granted that does not prove that the Messiah was Jesus, but it certainly starts us on the right road and it does prove that the Jews have a vested interest in claiming that Jesus was not the Messiah. So since we know they reject Him, we can be sure that they would never do anything that might prove He really is the Messiah, right? But that is exactly what they did without realizing it. The Jewish people have what they call the Talmud, it is not part of the Bible it is called sage writings. It is sayings and interpretations of the Bible by Rabbis. It is a collection of writings and is broken down into books and chapters. So let me quote from it and show you what I mean.
The rabbis taught: Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the lot never came into the right hand, the red wool did not become white, the western light did not burn, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves, till the time that R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: "Temple, Temple, why alarmest thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed. For of thee hath prophesied Zechariah ben Iddo [Zech. xi. 1]: 'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and the fire shall eat thy cedars.'" (Yoma Chapter 4)
This might not mean anything to you, but let me explain. The Talmud tells us that each year when the High Priest was sacrificing the sin offering as prescribed by Scripture; two goats were taken, one was killed and the blood sprinkled on the alter and the other goat was called the scapegoat and was led out of the city into the wilderness. The High Priest placed his hand on the scapegoat and pronounced the sins of the people and then the goat was taken away, showing that the sins of the people were taken away also. This was a big deal they had to take the goat far enough away so that it could not come back, or otherwise the sins of the people would come back with it. Now the Talmud tells us that the High Priest also tied a red cord to the scape goat, but he also tied a red cord to the door of the Temple. The Talmud says that after the scapegoat had been taken away the red cord on the Temple would turn white. This was a sign that God had accepted their sacrifice and forgiven their sins. This comes from the Old Testament where God says even though their sins are as red as scarlet He will make them as white as snow.
Okay with that back ground now go back and read the section I quoted above. The Talmud is saying that about 40 years before the Temple was destroyed the red cord quit changing to white. They don't seem to understand why it happened. Also you see that some other things happened also, but I just want to address the white cord. Now we know from history when the Temple was destroyed, it was 70 A.D. So if you count back 40 years you come to 30 A.D.
What happened around the time of 30 A.D.? Well the calendar begins at the birth of Christ, so that would be 0 A.D. We know from Scripture that He was 30 years old when He started His public ministry and that He ministered for 3 years until they crucified Him. If those dates are right then He died in 33 A.D., but we can't be sure they are right, just close. Next the Talmud does not give a date, just that forty years before the Temple was destroyed the red cord quit changing, so again it could be 30 A.D. plus or minus a year or two. Are you beginning to see where I am going?
The red cord quit turning white after Jesus died, but why? Easy, God forgave the sins of the Israelites up to the time Jesus died because they were faithful in sacrificing as He told them to do and part of that was that they were by faith proclaiming that they believed that He would send the perfect sacrifice one day to take away all their sins. Well He did just that, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and after His death there was no need for the continuation year after year of the goats. So God quit forgiving their sins because of those sacrifices and the red cord quit turning white.
So you see proof of who Jesus was in the writings of people who deny that He was who He was. If they realized that this is proof of who He really is they would never have included it in the Talmud.
This is just one example of how you can have your questions answered. Is it easy? No not always, it takes work, it takes reading God's word and thinking about what it says and going and doing some study of the Jewish religion and customs etc... It is good that you doubt, that will make you a stronger believer, unless you doubt and never bother to find the answers, in which case you will eventually lose your faith.
So take your doubts and act on them and become a stronger believer for it. Please God by living a holy life, which means not willfully sinning.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)
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