Baptism has nothing to do with salvation

SPIRITUAL MYTH #6 “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation”

baptismYou often hear it said in evangelical circles, “Once you give your life to Christ, you need to be baptized as the first act of obedience.  However, baptism has nothing to do with your salvation.  You are saved simply by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and repeating the sinner’s prayer.”

I think that’s a partial myth that needs to be debunked.

There are actually two sides of the mythical coin associated with the ordinance of baptism.  One is that baptism in and of itself saves you.  Parents tell their children, “Of course you are a Christian, we had you baptized shortly after you were born”.  The implication is that infant baptism, performed against your will, was sufficient to forgive your sins and guarantee you eternal life in heaven.

Some treat immersion as an adult in much the same way.  They will say, “Of course I’m saved.  At age twelve, I was baptized by immersion at the end of a new member class.”  Again the idea is conveyed that baptism alone makes a person a Christian.  This misconception is termed, “Baptismal regeneration” in theological circles.

Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly teaches that salvation is granted to those who choose to place their trust in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and not their own goodness.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” John 3:16, Romans 3:28, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 11:1 all make it very clear – the first step of obedience is to place our faith in Christ.

The other side of the coin is the very popular misconception that since we are saved by grace through faith, baptism has nothing to do with salvation.  Baptism is just an act of obedience.  We trust Christ then, sometime later, we are immersed in water as a symbol of what happened to us when we were saved.

But the ordinance of baptism is more than an act of obedience.  It’s more than a symbol or, “an outward sign of an inward grace.”  Baptism was originally intended to be a means of receiving Christ’s grace.  It’s a God-given benchmark that testifies to the fact that we are beginning a new life in Christ.

When Jesus healed people, He often requested an act of obedience as a test of faith.  “Go show yourselves to the priests”.   “Go wash in the pool of Siloam”.   “Stretch forth your hand”.   When the needy persons obeyed, they were healed.   Their efforts didn’t heal them, Jesus did.  But their step of faith was when they were made whole.

In New Testament times when needy sinners put their faith in Christ they were not commanded to repeat the sinner’s prayer, raise their hand or sign a card, although those responses can be helpful.  Those who believed in Jesus were instructed to repent of sin and be baptized.  And they responded by doing so as soon as possible.

It’s not a myth that we’re saved by faith in Christ.  It’s a myth that we receive salvation by just repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Read through the conversion stories in the book of Acts and ask two questions: (1) What was required of those who wanted to accept Christ as Savior? (2) When did they respond to Him by being baptized?  Here are a few examples:

Acts 2- Those who believed the first gospel message were told to, “… repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins”.  Three thousand people were baptized that very day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Acts 8 – When the Treasurer of Ethiopia believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah he requested that the evangelist Philip baptize him immediately, in a pond along the road he was traveling.

Acts 16 – The Philippian Jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. Then he and his family were baptized in the wee hours of that D7K_3325-1981462688-Omorning.

Acts 22 – Three days after Saul of Tarsus had been humbled by Jesus’ appearance to him outside Damascus, Ananias asked him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

Someone may protest, “Are you saying that a person can’t be saved without being baptized?”  What about the thief on the cross? He was saved and Jesus said nothing to him about being baptized.”  Yes, but he was still living in the Old Testament dispensation – the blood atonement and bodily resurrection hadn’t yet been completed.  Jesus, God in the flesh, promised the dying thief he would be in paradise when he requested it.

“Well, what about a dying soldier who makes a death-bed confession?  What about a person who is physically unable to be baptized?  Won’t they be saved if they just put their faith in Christ?”

We certainly hope so.  We can only trust God’s grace is sufficient in those instances.  But the assurance of salvation is promised to those who demonstrate their faith by repenting of sin and being baptized into Christ.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, Cincinnati Christian University professor, points out, “Baptism is not the first step a convert takes as a Christian; it is the last step the sinner takes to become a Christian.”

If you were trained to instruct converts to receive Christ by repeating the sinner’s prayer but they refused to repeat the prayer, would you conclude they are saved?  You would probably have doubts about the legitimacy of their faith.  Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

God offers the free gift of salvation through the atoning death of His Son on the cross.  A believer’s response is repentance and baptism.  To refuse to obey is evidence of insufficient faith.  James said, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Simon Peter taught that just as the flood waters buoyed up Noah’s ark and saved his family, “…this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:21)

Dr. Beauford Bryant, Milligan college professor, often said, “Baptism is a tomb and a womb.  A tomb where, by faith, we die with Christ and a womb where we’re born again into His Kingdom.”

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-5)

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There’s A Wall In Front Of You.

facing wallThere’s a wall in front of you. Behind you is a past you are running from. Beyond the wall awaits the promise of a new life. But you’re not moving because there is this “wall.” You feel trapped. No way out. This is just the sort of situation in which God does some of his finest work.

You need only ask the Israelites. Behind them was a life of back-breaking work and slavery. Ahead of them was a life in the land of Promise. Behind them was the fierce army of a fanatical Pharaoh coming towards them. Ahead of them was a wall. Their obstruction was made of water.

Your “wall” may be a fear of failure. Or maybe it’s a lack of confidence that has grinded your progress to a halt. Or it could merely be too many problems that have piled up in front of you at the same time. And you have no clue which one to tackle first.

So you stopped. And you aren’t sure if there is a way over, around, or under this imposing impediment.

At this point many people panic. Anxiety courses its way through the body, atrophies the movement muscles, and rigor mortis overtakes their resolve. Eyes which once had clear focus now only focus on the wall just inches away.

But some look elsewhere. The Israelites looked to Moses. They began belting him with blame. Have you done the same? Blame the boss. Blame a co-worker. Blame your dog. Blame God. Maybe even blame yourself? Blame all you want but the wall remains.

While the Israelites were body punching Moses, he opted to look elsewhere. His options? He could have looked at the enemy’s facing a wallarmy. He could have looked at the ungrateful people he led. He could have looked at the wall of water spread out before him, sat down, and given up.

Instead he looked to God. And God opened an unlikely route through the wall of water. Safely on the other side, the very wall that had halted their steps closed in on and covered the sources of their fears.

The very name of the book where we find this story serves as a reminder when we face our “walls.”  “Exodus” is a compound Greek word meaning “the way out.” And in case you might have missed it,  the way out was not a better job, a different spouse, or a victim mentality.

No, the way out is God. Next time you find yourself up against a wall try looking to him.

NVCC Vision 2014

vision 2014Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18. As we begin a fresh, New Year here’s my vision for New Venture Christian Church for 2014.

 

1. LAUNCH AN AGGRESSIVE OUTREACH TO OUR COMMUNITY. We are here to help people who are living far from God come to understand God, connect with God, and pursue a growing adventure with him. We are not here for property and buildings. We are here for people who need a personal walk with Jesus Christ. Our focus in 2014 will be reaching the people of our community in an accelerated manner.

 

Our first outreach to them is a three part direct mail campaign. Part one will go out in a couple weeks announcing to our neighbors around our new ministry center, “Under new management.” The second mailing will go out a week following the first introducing our community to our new teaching series for 2014 called “The Story” beginning February 9. A follow-up piece will go out a couple weeks after that reintroducing them to “The Story and inviting them to join us for this adventure through the Bible in 2014.

 

We will initiate other outreach efforts to the community during 2014. However, the number one way to reach the unreached of our community is YOU. More people, and I say more people by far, come to connect with New Venture through the invitation of someone who is already a part of it, than any other way. You are the key to reaching our community. Sure, you can’t do everything but you can do something. You can identify the people in your circle of influence that are not connected with God and intentionally pray for them and seek ways to point them toward God and the church.

 

We have been given a mission, every one of us. That mission is to partner with God in building his family, in bringing those who are living without hope and salvation, to Jesus. It is the calling of every follower of Jesus. May we in 2014 be more serious about reaching out to the unreached than we have ever been before. May we pray for lost people like we have never prayed before? May we connect with those who don’t know Christ like we have never connected before? May we plant seeds in the hearts of those who are distant from God like we have never planted before? And may we allow God to use us to direct them to him and the church like we have never allowed before.

 

This is why we exist. We exist to reach the unreached, to build the family of God, to redirect lost people to the Savior, to bring hope to the hopeless. This was the reason Jesus came to earth. This is the work that he devoted his earthly existence to, seeking and saving the lost. May we be about the Masters business with undivided hearts and persistent passion?

 

Here’s a personal goal for you: Each one bring one.

Another personal goal: Each one win one.

 

2. DEVELOP AND LAUNCH A WORLD MISSION MINISTRY

 

As I have already affirmed, we are sent to bring others into God’s family.    The moment I become part of God’s family He wants me to share the good news with others. 

God has given us a message the world needs and it is the greatest message in the world – how to have our past forgiven, how to have a purpose for living, how to have a home in heaven.  To not share that would be criminal. It would mean that I don’t care if they go to hell. 

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18 “Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself.  Then God gave us the work of bringing others into peace with him.”  

Then there is the commission of Jesus, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-29)

And who can forget the words of Jesus right before he returned to the father, “You are my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8) We have not been going to the ends of the earth. We have been staying in our comfortable community. It is time to reach out and branch out and go out.

When Jesus gave these instructions where were they?  In Jerusalem!  So what’s he saying?  I want you to start where you are.  Start in your own city.  Start in Midlothian/Richmond Start in Jerusalem.  That’s your city.  He said to start there.

He said but you don’t just stay there, you also do your ministry not just in Jerusalem – you do it in Judea. What’s Judea?  That’s like the county.  That’s like Chesterfield Co. 

Then he says I want you to do it in Samaria.  Samaritans were of a different culture. He’s saying, reach across cultural lines in your community.  That’s our Samaria. 

And he says and you go to the whole world.

He didn’t say go to Jerusalem, then Judea then go to Samaria then go to the ends of the earth.  He said no, you do it all at once.  You go to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the world. We aren’t doing that. We need to get with the program, the program of Jesus.

The Bible tells us as a church we are to go make disciples of all nations.  He’s not talking to missionaries there.  He’s talking to you and to me!  We’re called to be sent.  Go and make disciples of all nations. 

Here is a quick overview of what our church is planning to do in the next three years when it comes to the world needs. These are baby steps but step we must take.

·              Assemble a world mission leadership team. I would love to hear from you if you are interested in being a part of this team

·              Gather volunteers for a world mission’s adventure in 2014, our first. I would also love for you to contact me if you are interested a missions trip. About a dozen people have already indicated interest in this adventure.

·              Be a real participant in ICOM (International Conference On Missions) 2015 when it comes to our city.

·              With volunteers

·              By having a part in planting seven churches around the world

·              Personally assist in planting one of those churches.

 

Here is a link to the VEF website that can get you connected with ICOM. http://www.vef.cc/

So 2014 is the year when we get serious about the world wide commission of Jesus.

3. ENGAGE IN AN AGGRESSIVE PAY DOWN OF PROPERTY DEBT

This is how it all stacks up. The more aggressive we are with paying down the note, the less interest we pay, (thousands of dollars less) the more equity we build, and the more willingness lenders have when it comes to us taking our next developmental step, a new multipurpose facility. These are indicators that lenders give careful attention to. So the more aggressive we can be the more willingness they will have. And the more equity we build the more ability it gives us to build a facility that has in it more of what we need.

This aggressive pay downbegins with all of us quickly fulfilling the commitments we made to the capital campaign back in May of 2013. The sooner we can get commitments in the quicker we can pay down the note and the more money we can save on interest. If you were not here for the capital campaign or if you were here and did not participate,  you are invited to join the others who are committed to covering the cost of our new property and ministry center. Send me an email at steve@relaxedchurch.com and I will get you started.

Let’s make this debt short term.

4. SOLIDIFY THE PLAN AND PROCESS OF MOVING TOWARD THE CONSTRUCTION OF OUR FIRST MULTI USE FACILITY

On our ninth anniversary I shared a dream that I would like to repeat. Since it is a dream it is somewhat lofty. The dream is that we might be able to break ground on our 10th anniversary, September 7, 2014, for our next facility. You know and I know that God will have to perform another miracle for that to happen. But hey, He’s did it in 2013 and He can do it in 2014.

 

Specifically speaking, for that to happen, we will need three things:

1. A huge amount of our current debt paid down.

2. A master plan on our property designed by a civil engineer that will cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

3. And we will need to have about 75-100 more people, who believe in the message and mission of New Venture Christian church and who are supporting it financially, to enable us to afford that step.

So, that’s my vision for New Venture for this New Year, an accelerated evangelistic outreach to the community, the development of a long overdue world mission ministry, aggressive pay down of our property note, and the development of a plan for our first multi-purpose facility.

Now, join me in turning dreams into reality.

 

Back to weird

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be weird, be proudAfter taking a week off for a special youth Sunday led by Kevin and Chris we are back to Weird.

 

In our discussion of “Weird” we have included:

               

Weird in a God way

                Weird is Better

                Weird Desires

 

This week we move into “A Weird Way to Win the World.”why be normal

 

I have a question for you. How’s your weird? Are you afraid to be different? Are you just content to be normal? If so, I have news for you—normal isn’t working.

Meet Jesus

meetingHave you personally met Jesus? Do you know of someone who needs to meet Jesus? This is one of the most fascinating accounts of someone meeting Jesus for the very first time. He is introduced to Jesus by a follower of Jesus named Phillip. God intervenes in Phillip’s plans by sending an angel to communicate his instructions to Phillip. Let’s pick up with Acts 8:26-29

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road-the desert road– (Desert means uninhabited, not dry barren sand.)  that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, (So this man would have been a black man, a highly influential, wealthy black man) an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

So Phillip ran up alongside the chariot. Can you imagine how you would have felt as you are reading a scroll riding through this totally desolate area and a man comes running up alongside of you. He is reading from an OT scroll of the book of Isaiah. That, in itself, gives you an indication of the importance and wealth of this man. How many people in those days do you suppose had a copy of Isaiah or any O. T. book, for that much? All the copying would have been done very meticulously by hand. It would have been extremely valuable and very rare. Let’s pick up on the conversation.

Acts 8:30-34 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. (That’s a good question to start with.) “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: (Actually from Isaiah 53) “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”  The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

There is both a note of anguish and frustration in the pleas of the Ethiopian. “Would you please explain who this scripture is talking about?”

So verse 35 states, Phillip began at that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about JESUS. He introduced him to Jesus. So let’s take a moment and go to the same chapter and meet Jesus just like he did. For some of you this might be for the very first time. There couldn’t be a better place in the O. T. to meet Jesus

Isaiah 53 begins with, vs. 1-2 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He, (that is Jesus), grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

1. The first thing we discover about Jesus is that he had NO BEAUTY.

He, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior of the world, was just an ordinary child and person from all appearances. There was nothing about His looks that made Him stand out or appear to be special. He was not one of the “beautiful” people of his day. He didn’t win the Jewish Idol contest because of His looks or special talents. He was not a celeb. There was nothing about Him that deserved neither special attention nor abusive treatment. Yet that was exactly what he got.

Isaiah continues in verse 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.

2. He was also DESPISED AND REJECTED

He was despised and rejected for no justifiable reason. He had done absolutely nothing wrong to deserve such treatment. The Bible actually says that. Literally, He never sinned. He never disobeyed the Father. He was morally and spiritually perfect. It’s not that He was never tempted to do so. He was tempted in the exact same ways we are yet He never gave in.

Now, let’s pause right there for a minute. What He was is the exact opposite of what man is like. Man is tempted and man gives in. Not just some or many or most, but all of us, all people from the beginning in the garden. The Bible clearly says, “all have sinned.” And sin brings with it a punishment. When there is disobedience there is a punishment due because, you see, God is a just God. He is fare and when He tells us not to sin or else we will have a price to pay, He must stick to his promise.

In fact, the price or punishment for sin is death. Not physical death. Everyone will die physically. But spiritual death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Death is eternal separation from God in a place called hell. Everyone sins and all of us are deserving of and face that future.

There is one way, however, to avoid that consequence. Are you ready for it? Live a perfect life. That’s right, never sin. Obey God perfectly from birth till death. Does anyone qualify? Has anyone lived the perfect life to this point yet? There is one though, who does. His name is Jesus, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior. Though perfect, He offered Himself as a Savior by taking man’s punishment for him.

Isaiah continues in Vs 4-6 “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

3.  He was PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS

We are guilty. We face a punishment. We deserve to die. We have earned eternal separation from God in hell. Yet Jesus says, “I will take your place. I will pay your price for you because it is impossible for you to pay it. I will meet My Father’s requirements of a perfect sacrifice on your behalf. I will die so that you won’t have to die. You won’t have to face eternal separation from My Father.”

Can you hear Phillip say to that man of immense royalty, “This is what Jesus did for you.”? And can you also hear him say to you, “This is what Jesus did for you too?”  

4. He did it to bring PEACE AND HEALING. Verse five says, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

I know, you are thinking, “How does punishment bring peace?” He took our punishment for us so that we could be at peace with God. He met God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice on our behalf so that there need not be anything that stands between us and God. He did all this so that we could be reconciled with God. You see, sin alienates, it separates, it makes one at odds, it destroys harmony. But Jesus took our place so that our relationship with God could be brought back together, made one again, so that we could know His peace.

And be heals. How do wounds heal? Well, in the same way. He took our punishment so that with His wounds God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice could be met and our broken relationship with Him could be healed. He was hurt so that we don’t have to keep on hurting. Being at odds with God hurts. He took the hurt for us.

No sooner had this man from Ethiopia heard this than his heart just overflows with excitement. “This is what I want. This is the explanation I have been looking for. This is the answer I have been needing all along. What’s keeping me from being baptized?” That’s what he actually said. Back in Acts we read, (Acts 8:35-37) “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Like we have just done. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

Phillip had been telling the Ethiopian about Jesus. So where did the man get the idea that baptism was something he needed to consider? What in the world does baptism have to do with the message of Jesus from the book of Isaiah? Maybe Phillip had given a summary of Jesus’ life and ministry that included an account of Jesus’ baptism by John. More likely he had mentioned some of Jesus teachings on the subject of baptism. Or maybe he told him about the beginning of the church and how that 3000 were baptized. We don’t know exactly what he said but we do know that he taught him the urgency of being baptized and that no response to Christ is complete without baptism.

So, this elated man sees this pond of water and says, “Hey, let’s get on with it. I’m ready. What are we waiting for?”

So what did he do? Acts 8:38-39 “And he gave orders to stop the chariot. (Driver, would you pull over in that parking spot.) Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, (Certainly a picture of baptism by immersion) the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”

“He went on his way rejoicing.” He had met Jesus. He had come to know about Jesus for the first time. Jesus was the answer he was looking for. Jesus offered him everything he needed for life and eternity. Even though he was already wealthy he found in Jesus something wealth could never provide, a peace filled, healthy relationship with the God of the universe. And he willingly accepted what He offered and surrendered. And as a result he had something to be joyful about. He had a joy that would last him forever.

So, there seems to be only one thing left for me to do and that is to ask the question, is there anyone reading that that is ready to do as this man from Ethiopia did? You have heard the message of Jesus, maybe for the very first time, perhaps numerous times. But have you made a personal response to Him yet. Have you accepted Him as the one who paid your price for you, your Forgiver and Savior? Have you acknowledged your faith in Him and made a determination to turn from sin and to the father. And have you said, “Here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

Lots of witnessing going on!

Jesus instructs His followers, at the very beginning of the Book of Acts in the New Testament, to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). A witness is someone who tells the good news about Jesus and his love or shares how Jesus and His love have changed your life forever. At New Venture Christian Church we have devoted ourselves to studying the teachings of Acts during the fall of 2012 in a series we have called “Witnesses”.

As we wrapped up the series on “Witnesses” and moved into the month of December we have “witnessed” five people baptized into Christ in December alone. That alone is cause for tremendous rejoicing. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. It is even more thrilling to see all five of these people baptized by the one person in their life that has had the strongest influence on their coming to Christ. That means I, as the church Pastor, have not baptized any of the five. That is exciting.

So, I am delighted to leave you with pictures of the five baptisms in December. They are;

Miranda Harmon, baptized by her dad, Chris Harmon

Jenny Wightman, baptized by her neighbor and friend, Tasha Blake

Andrew Szabo, baptized by his friend and KidVenture Director, Misti Binns

Holly Cooper, baptized by her former cheerleading coach and friend, Margie Kelly

Britney Cooper baptized by her sister Holly Cooper right after being baptized by Margie.

There’s a whole lot of witnessing going on. All I can say is keep it up.

Chris baptizing Minah IMG_1232 IMG_1238

 

holly, britney

Are all religions basically the same?

There are many who believe that all religions are basically the same.

Many people feel this way: They say, “When you get right down to it, when you strip away all the surface level differences, when you get them down to their essentials, all religions basically teach the same thing.  So it doesn’t matter which one that you believe.  All spiritual paths, in other words, lead up the mountain to God in one way or the other. and if you strip them down to their essentials they all teach the brotherhood and the sisterhood of men and women and the universal Fatherhood of God.”

And yet Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” And in Acts 4:12 Peter echos the same premise: “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” These statements take Christianity and put it in a class all by itself.  The uniqueness of Christianity is rooted in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  He is unlike any other religious leader who ever walked the planet.  Listen to the difference between what other religious leaders say and what Jesus says. 

Other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I will show you how to find the truth.”

Jesus says, “I am the truth.”

Other religious leaders say, “follow me and I’ll show you the way to salvation.”

Jesus says, “I am the way to eternal life.”

Other religious leaders say, “follow me and I’ll show you how you can become enlightened.”

But Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

Other religious leaders say, “follow me and I’ll show you many doors that lead to God.”

But Jesus said, “I am the door.”

Other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I’ll show you how you can find spiritual nourishment.”

But Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

Then Jesus said, “So, follow Me.” 

You see the difference?  For a long time people tried to harmonize, find commonality between the different religions of the world.  But there are drastic and irreconcilable differences between Christianity on the one hand and all other belief systems on the other hand. 

A study of the world religions will reveal that all religions, other than Christianity, are basically based on the idea of people doing something through their struggling and through their striving to somehow earn the good favor of God.  You’ve got to use a Tibetan prayer wheel or you’ve got to go on pilgrimages or you’ve got to give alms to the poor or you’ve got to avoid eating certain foods or you have to pray in a certain way or you have to go through a series of reincarnations.  They are all attempts of people to reach out to God. 

But Jesus Christ is God’s attempt to reach out to people.  Jesus taught the opposite of what these other world religions taught.  He said that nobody could earn their way into heaven so you might as well stop trying.  He said two things that are very consistent with what we know to be true.  First, we’re all guilty of wrongdoing.  And you know that’s true.  Not one person here would claim they’re perfect.  We know how true that is.  Everybody “falls short.”  Then Jesus said, our wrongdoing separates us from God.  we know from our experience that that’s true, too.  has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve felt that God is distant, detached from you?  Of course. We’ve all felt that. Why? Because our wrongdoing has created a gulf, a separation between us and God.  And because God, by His nature, is a righteous judge, our wrongdoing must be paid for. 

But out of his love for us, Jesus Christ voluntarily offered to be our substitute, to pay the penalty for the sin that we deserve so that we wouldn’t have to. And when we receive his sacrifice on our behalf, then we become reconciled with God. That’s what Christianity says. 

There’s a difference between good works and grace.  All other religions are spelled “DO”.  Why?  Because they all fundamentally teach that people have to do something, some sort of religious ritual, some sort of way to make themselves morally ok to try to please God.  The problem is nobody knows how many good things they have to do in order to please God.  It’s like you are a sales person and your boss comes to you and says, “I’m going to fire you unless you meet your quota but I’m not going to tell you what your quota is.”  So you go out and sell, sell, sell because you don’t know how much you have to do to meet that quota.  It’s the same thing.  Every other world religion says you’ve got to do something to make yourself acceptable to God, but you never know how much you have to do.

Christianity, on the other hand, says you can never do enough to earn your way into heaven.  Christianity is spelled “DONE” – it’s done!  Jesus Christ has done what we could never do.  He lived the perfect sinless life and He went to the cross to pay for the sins of the world.  And remember what He said just before He died on the cross.  He said, “It’s done.  It’s finished.  The sins of the world are paid for.”  And all that’s left for you is to apply that to your life, to receive His free gift of forgiveness and grace and mercy.

We can really see the distinction between “Do” and “Done” when you look at the stories told by various religions.  In fact, there’s a story that’s told in Buddhist literature that’s very similar to the story Jesus tells about the prodigal son.  At least they start out very similar.  In both the stories, young men kind of rebel against their father and they go off to a distant land on their own and then everything sort of falls apart for them and then they decide they want to come home and be reconciled with their fathers.  They both start out the same.  But in the Buddhist story the young man comes home and what does the father do?  He forces him to pay the penalty for his past misdeeds by spending years in servitude.  But what happens in the Christian story?  The prodigal son comes home and instead of forcing him to work off his past misdeeds, the father opens his arms and gives him unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness and grace and he embraces him and he enfolds him.  There’s a difference.

The Bible says in Titus 3:5, “God saved us.  it was not because of any good works that we ourselves had done but because of His own mercy that He saved us.”  That’s not to say that Christians don’t do good works.  They do, but it’s not to try to make themselves right with God.  It’s after they have received this free gift of God’s grace that they say, “I can’t believe that God loves the likes of me!” And they’re so overwhelmed by gratitude of what God has done that it’s very natural for them to express that love of God toward other people by doing good things.  Now they’re indwelled by the power of God in order to achieve that.  So it’s not that Christians don’t believe in doing good deeds but it’s not the way in which they become reconciled with God.  That is a freely offered gift of grace.

So other religions are irreconcilable with Christianity in terms of how you become reconciled with God.  And there’s also other major differences as well.

Christianity says there is one God, eternally existing in three persons – the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Hinduism says everything is God.  you’re god and I’m god, the tree is god, the house is god.  Islam denies that Jesus was God.  Islam denies Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  Buddha was non-committal about the idea of God.  he wasn’t sure – he was kind of agnostic.  He wasn’t sure if God existed or not. 

So you can see those beliefs are at odds with each other.  They can’t all be true at the same time.  They contradict each other.  So all religions are not basically the same.

And it makes sense when you think about it.  It would be illogical for God to come over to one side of the world and say, “Here’s who I am.  I am one God.  I am a good God.  I eternally exist in three persons.  This is how you come to Me.”  But then He goes to the other side of the world and says, “Forget all that!  I’m not one God.  I’m millions of gods.  And I’m not a personal God, I’m an impersonal God.  I’m a good god but I’m also a bad god.  You don’t become reconciled through grace.  You have to earn it and go through reincarnation.”  And then you go to another part of the world, “Forget those two things.  I’ll tell you something different.  I’m Allah and this is what you need.”  It wouldn’t make sense.  God would be schizophrenic if He did that.  Then we’d all be in trouble if God were schizophrenic.  What would make sense is if God would provide a path for us to follow for us in finding Him.  And He would tell us about that path in an absolutely extraordinary way.  Which He did.  It’s called Christmas.  It’s called the incarnation – God becoming man that He might pay the penalty for our sins, find out exactly what He is like and we might spend eternity with Him. 

So it does matter which path you follow in your spiritual journey.  Jesus’ words dispel the myth that all paths lead to God.

(Adapted from a document by Lee Strobel, author of Case For Faith )

Coming next, “Do all religions have equal claims to the truth?”