Recently I was witnessing in a park. There's a question I get asked that comes up every once in a while, and I heard it again: Why does God allow all kinds of false religions in the world to fool people away from believing in Jesus?
There are some solid, biblical answers to that question. First of all, false teaching is a judgment. We often don't think about it that way, but the Joel Osteens, the Joyce Meyers, and the Rob Bells of the world are a judgment of God. They are heading up false religions as much as any other kind of pagan worship.
In 2 Timothy 4:3, we read, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions." We know from Romans 1:26 that God will give up a rebellious people in judgment to be consumed by their passions.
A person gets "fooled" into following a false religion not because the false truth was more convincing to them than the truth of the gospel. It's because the condition of their heart had already turned them away from God and toward that kind of thinking. God allowed them to be turned over to a debased mind.
The other thing we come to understand by the existence of many false religions is the genuineness and the authenticity of what Christ did on the cross. Look at the pagan religions of the world and you'll see a god (or most likely gods) that demand that the people do something in particular to appease their wrath. But in Christ, God appeased his own wrath.
Part of God being a righteously just God is that he cannot pardon sin. When you ask forgiveness of your sins, God doesn't pardon you. He can't, or he wouldn't be just. If a man who was found guilty of murdering children asked the judge to be pardoned, we would not call that judge a just judge for letting that man go without paying seriously for his crimes.
So how is it that we receive forgiveness of sins? It's because Jesus Christ died in the place that we were supposed to die, taking the penalty for our sins upon himself. In Isaiah 53:10, it says that it pleased God to crush him. The wrath of God was satisfied not because Roman soldiers killed Jesus. It's because it was God himself who killed him, pouring out his wrath on his perfect Son.
When the Bible says that we are "justified," like in 1 Corinthians 6:11, it's because our sin has been paid for, and now it's just for God to grant us forgiveness of sins when we ask. We receive mercy and grace not because we simply ask for it, but because we ask according to the blood of Christ who paid for our sins.
God's love doesn't override his justice, otherwise God would be unjust. It's because he's both loving and just that Jesus Christ died. These are some things we'll talk about more as we continue our study of 1 & 2 Timothy.