When Your Mistakes Land You Before A Judge

judgeeHave you ever had to own up for something you did wrong? Maybe you remember sneaking out to see an R-rated movie and then confessing the truth to your seething parents after you crept in the house past curfew. Or maybe, more recently, you lied to your boss and had to face the consequences once you were found out.

We have all had to come face-to-face with an authority and own up to what we’ve done wrong. Palms sweat, stomach twists and turns. It can feel like you’re going before the judge in a court martial. Believe me, I have had my frightening times before judges back in the day. It was no fun.

Judges elicit a sense of fear, don’t they? They never call you in for something you have done right. We think of them as someone who harshly tells us what we did wrong. And they seem to be everywhere these days on television. There’s Judge Judy and Hatchett. Mathis and Christina. Judge Brown.

Then there are some judges you may not know. They even have a book in the Bible with their name on it. Judges. These judges appeared on the scene to help sort out right and wrong. They also helped people get out of trouble.

God’s people kept putting themselves into a never ending cycle of disobedience, discipline, declaration of wrong, and deliverance. Judges like gavelDeborah and Gideon and Samson helped them find their way back to God.

What did the people do that was so bad they needed judges? Two things. First, they failed to put God first in their lives (Judges 1:28). And secondly, they did not teach their children to know God (Judges 2:10). These two “sins” led to their downfall and ruin.

Are you making the same mistakes they made? If so, you have a judge that can help you––Jesus. The good news is that when he “calls” you into his office after you’ve messed up, you will look up to see your judge’s face and see your savior there.


Face Your Battles With Strength and Courage

strong kidWhen someone keeps telling you to “be strong and courageous,” you might suspect you are up against something big. And the Israelites were.

About to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before, they had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison. Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants.

They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ faith muscles had grown.

There were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. And God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

My guess is you have a few giants in your life too. Some uphill battles that appear insurmountable. A task demanding more than you think strong kid wrestleryou have to give. One too many things on your “to do” list than you have the time or energy to do. Unemployment is staring you down. Depression has a grip on you. Bills have raided your bank account and left it empty. An illness hovers in your life like a threatening storm. You’d rather just run and wander.

Instead, be strong and courageous. You have a Joshua that will lead the way. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is “Jesus.” And he has promised to be with you always (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus knows how to lead you through battles. He had a few of his own while he was on this earth. Enemies attacking him with accusations (Mark 3:22). No home and no bed (Luke 9:58). Crowds and expectations pressing in on him (Luke 8:45). The religious establishment eventually insuring he was sentenced to a brutal death. (Mark 15:14).


excellence 4Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col. 3:23


If anything, those words call for excellence in everything we do, especially when it comes to working for the Lord, because, after all,  all we do is actually for the Lord. Excellence should be the passion of our heart-all the time.


Daisy Hepburn writes in “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” “Good, better, best, never let it rest—until your good is your better and your better is your best!” Nothing but the best should characterize what we do for the Lord, all the time.


Bob Russell, long time Lead Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY says…

·           In everything-excellence.

·           Excellence is not valuing one ministry above another.

·           Excellence is not perfection.

·           Excellence is not being judged by the standards and opinions of others.

·           Excellence is doing your very best in whatever you do, especially for the Lord. Excellence is quality ministry. Excellence is going the second mile. Excellence is planning and preparation ahead of time. Excellence is first class ministry. Excellence is ministry flowing from a healthy, full relationship with Christ. Excellence is refusal to cut corners or just doing enough to get by on. Excellence is God’s call to every Christian.

Whether you sing a song…play an instrument…serve communion…greet…usher…teach a class…preach a sermon…read excellence 2Scripture…participate in drama…serve in the nursery…change diapers…change light bulbs…mow grass…facilitate a group…lead a ministry team…whatever you do, do it “with all your heart”.


I can think of two enormously important reasons why excellence is needed in everything we do for the Lord– all the time.




Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”


Why? Because His ministry on our behalf was a ministry of excellence.


Leonardo Da Vinci was once at work for a long period of time on a great masterpiece. He had labored long to complete this work of art and it was near completion. Standing near him was a young student who spent much of his time with his mouth open, amazed at the master with the brush. Just before finishing the painting, Da Vinci turned to the young student and gave him the brush and said, “Now, you finish it.” The student protested and backed away, but Da Vinci said, “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?”


Because He gave His very best he deserves the very best from us.




Everything we do in ministry and for the Lord effects the eternity of people who come our way. How you do your ministry will oftentimes be the factor that determines whether they will return or you will get a second chance. We are influencing people all the time. And that influence reaches all the way into eternity.


Darren Walter wrote a book called The People Magnet Church. Some of what he addresses applies to the first impression people, but much of it applies to everyone who serves the Lord.


“The good news is that because of the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me, I’m going to heaven by God’s grace, regardless of how people treat me in any church. The bad news is that there are people who do not know God’s grace and are unaware of Christ’s sacrifice. They are going to Hell. And they will make a decision to accept or reject God based on how they are received in His House, by you and me. I’m not trying to be over dramatic here. I truly believe that eternity hangs in the balance when a guest walks through the doors of your church. Those who volunteer their time to greet, welcome, usher, and answer questions of those visiting have some of the most important challenges in the entire church body. Many times we only have one chance to make an impression, one shot at showing our love for people.


The fact is -most guests make up their minds whether they’ll return for a second time in the first few moments of their visit. Long before they hear the sermon or the solos, they’ve decided if they’ll ever come back based on how we treat them.”


·           How we treat them is the first factor.

·           The second one is the quality and passion with which we do our ministry. How well we represent our Lord. If He really is the most important person in life to us then it will be seen in the excellence of our ministry.


In effect, people come with two foremost questions in their mind that they want an answer to.

1.         Do these people really care about me?

2.         Are these people really serious about this thing called Christianity?


excellenceThe quality with which we serve the Lord and do our ministry influences others and that influence can touch eternity. Never forget that. Engrave it on your soul


I know it is highly likely that you will not receive the response or recognition from people that you anticipate or desire or think you deserve. So what do you do? Do it anyway. Do excellence anyway.


Robert Schuller wrote. (I have altered it a little.)


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.



If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.



If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies.



The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.



Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.



People favor underdogs but follow only the top dogs.



What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.



People really need help but may attack you if you help them.



Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.



From “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do” by Robert Schuller


Do it anyway because it’s not the response of the people that we are doing it for. It’s our love for Jesus that moves us.


So do it. Do it with all your heart, with your very best. And keep doing it regardless of the response we get.


Excellence Glorifies God and Inspires People.


Weird-because normal isn’t working!





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Weird-coverThese days, it’s normal to deal with financial debt, high divorce rates, and bad relationships. Maybe it’s time to shake things up. In our new teaching series at NVCC, beginning June 23, we explore life beyond normal into the WEIRD.

You will be invited to follow the teachings of Jesus and lead a weird life. Because even if we lay the Bible aside and just look at life practically, wouldn’t you agree that normal is not working? 

However, the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Scripture lead us off of the normal, broad path onto a narrow and different path. And if you want what normal people have, just keep on going with the flow of the world. But if you want what few have, you are going to have to do what few do and take the Bible seriously. If you will, you can have something way better than normal.

Scripture is clear, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:2) 

Weird people don’t think like normal people think. Because Normal Isn’t Working. Let us learn together how to think differently and live a life that brings honor to God, weird though it might be.

Could you use some hope?

hopeHaven’t we all had those moments in our lives when we’ve made life investments based on flawed assumptions? And now maybe you’re coming to a point in your life in your 20’s or your 30’s or 40’s or 50’s or 60’s or whatever it is, and you say, “I thought this and I did that; and now I am living in so much regret.” Or, “I’d hoped this and I went after that; and now I find myself in need of resurrection in my own life.”

There was a guy in the Bible who felt exactly like that. He was a close friend of Jesus. He was a fisherman, a guy named Peter. He began to wonder if he’d had some flawed assumptions about Jesus. He began to wonder whether or not he had made a bad life investment and misplaced his hope when he decided to follow Jesus.

But I want you to know what he wrote one day. In 1 Peter 1:3, he wrote, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

You see, he found out his assumptions about Jesus weren’t flawed. Did you notice those two words: hope and resurrection? There are a lot of things in life that get way overrated: sports teams, some movies, some restaurants, cars. Youth is completely overrated. (Hair) There are

Lots of things in life that are just way, way overrated.

But I’m telling you this: hope is not one of them. We all need hope. What’s really cool is that the New Testament contains the word ‘hope’ 71 times: hopelessone time before the resurrection of Jesus; 70 times after the resurrection of Jesus.

When the Bible talks about hope, it’s not talking about mere optimism. It’s not talking about some hyped-up, rose-colored, power-of-positive-thinking kind of hope. It’s talking about real hope, a get-up-off-the-mat kind of hope.

It’s a hope that can sustain you through the hard times of life, a hope that can come along and heal your pain, a hope that can wash away your shame and regret. It’s a hope that can give you the power to recover from those bad life investments you made, a hope that really can breathe life into an empty shell because it’s a living hope. It’s a life-changing kind of hope. It’s a resurrection kind of hope.

Have you ever noticed that hope always begins in the darkest places? Think about that. One of the most common symbols of Christianity is a cross. There’s lots of artwork of crosses. Many of you wear a cross around your neck. But the cross originally was a cruel instrument of execution. Today it would be like somebody wearing a little electric chair or lethal injection needle around their neck. Wouldn’t that be weird?

Yet we wear crosses because God took darkness and brought it into the light. God took despair and brought hope out of it. God took death and brought about resurrection. Think about it: What is the single worst thing that can happen to you in your life? Single worst thing is death, right? You can go through many other things, and you can get expert advice from other people on making life investments financially or vocationally or relationally. But who are you going to get advice from about death?

You can’t get advice about death from anybody else. Why? Because everybody who has died is … still dead. Except one. And that’s why I’ve decided that I’m going to trust the one who died and was buried and who rose from the dead. If there’s power that can raise Jesus from the dead, that power can help us in any circumstances that we deal with in life. He’s alive. Who else would you rather trust?

Look at that verse again from 1 Peter 1:3, In His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

New birth: Peter was talking about a new beginning, a fresh start. And that’s what Jesus Christ did for him. That’s what Jesus Christ did for me, too.

I grew up in Frankford, Delaware. I was 12 when I was baptized, but I question whether or not I really was serious about Jesus being the manager of my life.

hope 2I was a guy who had a lot of flawed assumptions about life and a lot of flawed assumptions about God and a lot of flawed assumptions about my own self-importance. Outwardly I was a pretty fun guy. I looked like a guy who had it together. But on the inside where the real truth resides, I was dying. I was so empty; and to be honest, I was really, really lonely.

When I was 14, the church group I was a part of came to Richmond to a week of summer camp. It was at Pocahontas State Park, right here in Chesterfield Co. It was the only time we ever used the park facilities for a church camp. During that week I made a commitment to give my life to serving God full time in some kind of ministry involvement. I was serious about the decision at the time. But that commitment soon waned as well.

Then, during the second half of my senior year in HS I decided it was time to decide once and for all where I stood with God and quit making empty resolutions and being just an empty shell. I had come to the point where I had to answer the question of whether or not I believed that Jesus Christ has life-changing power. I surrendered my life to his leadership and meant it that time. And God gave me a fresh start; he gave me a new beginning, a completely new direction in life. 

So I want to ask you: What about you? Are you ready?


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.


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.”


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?





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?”