What, if anything, makes Christianity different from other world religions, or is it just one more of the many choices people prone to being religious have to choose from? The answer, in the absence of a long treatise on the various aspects of different faiths, is that Christianity is the only religion that deals with the issue of guilt and forgiveness.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Since the introduction of sin into the world, man has been trying to work his way back into God’s good graces. Because sin skewed his understanding of who God is, mankind’s attempts at appeasing deity have spanned the gamut from simply trying to be a decent person to the genuinely abhorrent, such as child sacrifices and ritual temple prostitution. People gave Him various names, and in many cases, multiple gods were worshipped, but at the heart of it all lay the common thread of doing your best and hoping that when it is all over it was good enough.
The strange thing is that, for the most part, things haven’t changed. People are still trying to please God. Most people don’t burn their children on the altar to the pagan god Molech, but it is probably safe to say that the 9/11 attacks were committed in an effort to please Allah. Others of us who would never contemplate something like that are also, nonetheless, trying to please God, perhaps by following the Ten Commandments, attending church regularly, or doing good deeds.
The ultimate problem with any religion that requires some performance in order to be accepted by God is two-fold. Nothing we do (such as good deeds), or keep from doing (such as evil deeds) can appease God’s wrath towards our sin. This is because we are all sin-infected simply by being born human, and avoiding some of it doesn’t do away with either its presence in our lives or its penalty. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we recognize this dilemma. So what is the solution?
Other than Biblical Christianity, every other religion says you simply try harder. But if you can’t not sin, trying harder won’t help, because no matter how hard you try, sooner or later you will again sin. It’s a catch-22 situation. This is why Biblical Christianity is different—it is God solving the problem humans can’t.
Because it is impossible for human beings to live a life pleasing to God on their own, God, in the person of His Son, was born a human to accomplish what we couldn’t: live a perfect life. Many laugh at the thought that Jesus Christ’s human birth was a virgin birth, but it is exactly that fact that allowed Him to be fully human, yet without the sin that infects the rest of mankind. He was the true Son of God, eternal with the Father from eternity immemorable, yet He condescended to become human to accomplish what was necessary.
“…Jesus Christ…being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men [a human being]. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus’ sinless life qualified Him to pay the penalty for the sin of all. “For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s [Jesus Christ’s] obedience many will be made righteous…Therefore, as through one man’s offense [sin entering the world through Adam’s sin] judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act [Jesus’ dying on the cross] the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5:19, 18)
There is now no reason remaining for anyone to be separated from the love and forgiveness of God, because Jesus paid the penalty for the sin that separated us from God:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness [being separated from God and unforgiven] rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”(John 3:16-21)
Inevitably, both those who trust in Christ’s death as payment for their sins and those who are just “trying harder” to be good will again sin. But when a Christian sins, God sees not the person who messed up again, but His holy sinless Son who is present in the person of His Holy Spirit in us.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh [willfully living sinful lives], but according to the Spirit [in submission to the authority of God].” (Romans 8:1)
While on some level this may sound like just another way of “trying harder,” it’s completely different. We don’t obey so God can forgive and accept us; we obey out of love and gratitude because He has already forgiven and accepted us. And because the forgiveness comes before the acceptance—because I don’t have to clean myself up before God wants anything to do with me—I have peace that even when I do inadvertently mess up, God no longer condemns me, andthat is why Biblical Christianity is different from all other world religions.
Thank You that You love me even though I am a sinful human being. I submit to Your authority in my life, and I thank You that because of Jesus Christ, You forgive me and accept me. Amen!