Question: I have friends from many differing religions, and each claim that their religion is the right one. Some of these were raised in their religion, and some were converts. Is there any specific reason for you to have confidence that Jesus is the only truth? And what gives you certainty and confidence that the bible is also absolutely true? I go in and out of doubt.
Answer: I believe the Bible for two main reasons. First, the only world-view that makes any logical sense to me needs a God at the helm, and such a God would definitely leave us instructions. Second, in over forty years of walking with the Lord, he has proven himself at every turn, and every day his written word stands stronger in both my mind and my heart. There is plenty of empirical data for my first reason, but you'll have to take me at my word for the second.
In way of comfort, friend, you should never be embarrassed to admit that your feelings of confidence in God fluctuate. Mine do too. Being somewhat old, however, I’ve learned to separate the feeling of confidence from the fact of confidence, and so can you. God created us with a body, soul and spirit, but he also gave us feelings, and these seem to wash across all three aspects of our being. We must assume that God gave us this energy (for lack of a better word) to help send and receive information that we cannot always articulate or write down. These feelings, however, might influence us either way—toward or away from confidence, so learning when and how to use or ignore them is a most useful Christian-life skill.
Fact, feelings and faith: from a Christian perspective, which word of those three does not belong? Feelings! Although feelings are an undeniable part of our Christian walk, our confidence comes from the facts in God’s word. Our salvation comes from faith in those facts. If we had to rely on our feelings to be saved, we’d all be in trouble—especially since feelings oscillate when salvation does not.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8, ESV)
Love is not a mere feeling, either. Love is doing. Now, I can’t imagine loving my wife without feelings—that’s a wonderful part of life. Although I always try to perform the deeds of love, my feelings may fluctuate while love stays constant. Some days I feel rapturously in love, some days I feel pretty neutral, and some days I feel low and abandoned—even though the facts of my wonderful life do not oscillate the same way. So, feelings, although useful, cannot be considered reliable.
As it is with my wife, so it is with God. The facts of love, that is the performance of loving acts, are manifested both ways. God constantly provides, preserves, encourages, etc. I endeavor to pray, read the Bible, fellowship, minister, etc. Both God and I could place those “performance” items on a list and check them off. But still, on a bad day, I might not feel in love with God, nor feel that he loves me. But right here is the perfect moment to build confidence. When I feel shaky, I revisit God’s word. Does it say today what it said yesterday when I felt better? Yes. Second, I revisit my salvation.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?...!” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
Did I indeed receive Jesus as my Savior? Yes. Does the Bible teach the non-revocable nature of salvation? Yes. Am I, therefore, a born-again child of God? Yes. Should I then allow feelings, the most unreliable tool in my arsenal, to trump God’s word, the most reliable entity in the history of the universe? No. We build confidence by overcoming doubts during those very moments when doubts attack. Like a body-builder overcomes resistance to increase his muscle-mass, so may we increase our confidence-mass by pulling against the resistance of doubt. You will feel more continually confident as you exercise toward confidence, and the exercise of confidence is confidence. Feelings are, by comparison, nothing.
Jesus said of Himself in John 14:6 “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That is how I know that Jesus is the way to heaven—and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. God’s word has proven itself 100% reliable over the millennia. No other writings come even close to the credibility of Scripture. Therefore, no other religious systems can be true, since none have the underpinnings of a God-rendered and God-protected Bible.
Confidence comes from resting in God’s provision. Look at all that he has provided: A suitable environment for human life; an entertaining universe; a way for sinful men to reconcile with God through his Son, Jesus; his written word; The indwelling Holy Spirit…the list goes on. And with such a list, why then worry or waffle in regards to God? We’ve already spoken about feelings, how unreliable they are, but we also suffer because of lack of knowledge. And what is one huge thing that God wants us to know? He wants us to know that born-again believers in Jesus Christ have a non-retractable contract to live as his children forever, and I find such knowledge immensely freeing.
In verse 13 of 1 John 5:11-13, God tells us the reason that he’s written those passages: “…so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Since eternal life is the type of life that can never stop, and since currently possessing this type of life means that a believer absolutely must live with God forever no matter what, then what remains? To know it! Grab that knowledge and enjoy the rest that it provides.
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11–13, ESV)
God is sufficient—without any help from us! In spite of that, God allows Christians to engage the world on its own terms, and we do this in the field of Christian Apologetics. First a word of caution: God, his revelation, Jesus Christ, Faith, the Holy Spirit, etc. —these are our reasons for belief. They are sufficient alone. Apologetics, however, offers some world-credible arguments for the existence of God, the truth of Scripture, and the reasonability of the entire Christian enterprise. How do apologetics serve the believer? They provide an extra-biblical voice to proclaim that God exists, using the common reasoning of men—the very same reasoning used in logic, math, and science. Hearing the occasional word of affirmation from a different direction can also comfort the believer.
A very approachable apologetics work is Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demand A Verdict, and a particularly thorough apologetics tome is Douglas Groothuis's Christian Apologetics. Also, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has many online resources for seekers who want to understand Christianity as it relates to philosophy and different world views. Finally, the Christian Research Institute (CRI) keeps a special eye out for persons or organizations who proffer aberrant teaching. These four are my constant extra-biblical companions.
Although any of these resources might give you some traction outside of the Bible to help you capture the initial interest of a seeker, always ultimately bring that seeker to its pages. The Bible has its own way of working God's work in the hearts of its readers. It's a Holy Spirit thing—not an apologetics thing.
I'll pray for you and for those you point to Christ.