Religion might affect a person outward appearance but the Gospel changes a person from inside out.
A religious person wears a new set of clothing in keeping with the moral law and therefore looks different and even presentable to the world.
But a person whose conviction is changed is a new man, a man who is born again.
For true lasting change starts from the heart and overflows into godly living. And for such a man there’s no limitation of good works to the glory of God.
Unity of religion
Many of us when we think religion we think gods, faith, rituals… but have you ever thought that religion might have less to do with God and more to do with man and his creation of gods in his own image?When you start thinking this way you realise the unity of world religions; faith based or otherwise is found not in the word God but in people opposed to God. The whole human race is united in this one thing; their rebellion against God, Romans 1:18. And what we call all roads leading up the same mountain is actually the opposite, all paths running away from the mountain; the acts of creation against it’s creator.
Man opposed to God?
Most religion especially the Abrahamic ones, would acknowledge that man was created by God and was in a perfect relationship with God before man wanted to be like God.
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ” Genesis 3.
As a result man was cast out of the garden and what follows is an ongoing cycle of rebellion with man wanting to establish himself apart from God, to attain the blessings of God’s creation without the cost of absolute loyalty to him.
But not Christianity
This kind of thinking makes sense of the exclusivity of Christianity. Why? Because Christianity rightly understood isn’t a religion, and it is first and foremost about God not man. In Christianity, God steps into the universe to reconcile the religiously-rebellious man to himself. He breaks into the cycle of rebellion and makes away up the mountain, if you like, through his son; Jesus. It is no surprise then that Jesus clearly and unashamedly states that he is the only way to the Father.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6
Jesus is Lord
If this is the case then, we must come to the conclusion that only in Jesus can we know God. And only Jesus has the ability and authority to tell us how to relate with God, which he does through his Word in the Bible. And if he is God stepped into our creation and given all authority on earth and in heaven then we owe him our unrivalled allegiance. And that’s what makes Christianity different from all other man-based religions. If you like, Christianity is God’s own religion.
The great commission is an invitation not take over or even to continue what God has started but to partner with him in what he started, is doing and will most assuredly accomplish; the salvation of disobedient-already condemned-people. (John 3:18)
The church does not replace the work of Christ but work under his ever present and sovereign leadership, (Eph 1:20-21).
There’s no division of labour and specialisation when it comes to God’s salvation, only in serving him through the church (Eph 4:7-16).
He did not retire on the cross but even now is working as the father is always working.(John 5:17)
Ours is the great privilege to make partner in the most prestigious of jobs in serving King Jesus by building his church as we speak the truth in love.
I grew up thinking that there was evil outside the house, hiding in the dark ready to pounce on me. I might have been wrong most of the times but when you find the body and evidence of a crime you know you have good reasons to fear or a child might.
What I never stopped to think was that the evil men responsible for the atrocities of the night were men like me. Of course I was not going to entertain this thought because I was taught that they were evil people and I was to emulate the good. I tried and almost succeeded to be a good person or at least I thought I did. But how can I be good if I’m evil from within? Jesus taught that evil is not out there or exclusive to some but that it is deep within the human heart and from the heart flows all the evil in our world, see Mark 7:20-23. So that I should have been more afraid of the man I saw on the mirror as much as the one I presumed to hide waiting in the dark.
While we might argue about faith and religion, I think we can all agree on this one thing, Jesus is right here. But the problem isn’t so much whether we agree with him as it is that we see the implications of this. To start with, it means that human religions have been lying to us for to sugarcoat evil with good deeds is not just ineffective but detrimental as it does not address the heart of the problem. Secular worldview is as harmful for dismissing this doesn’t address or eliminate its serious consequences. But perhaps we can find solace in the one who points it out, Jesus.
In Jesus we find one who does not shy to tell us what we are all suffering from and why our world is the way it is. And the good news is that he not only knows the problem but has the cure for he died that evil men like me who turn to him for help can be cured through a new birth and a new heart for a sure hope of an eternal future without evil.
If you are willing to accept Jesus diagnosis, why not consider his remedy? If anything only he seems to have one and we need it. Why not carefully investigate his claims in the Gospels and see it for yourself?
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8.
This is a well known passage of scripture. Easy to memorise and to flip and find. As a matter of fact I knew it even before I could call myself a Christian and I loved it, ironic isn’t it? But it’s not until a few weeks ago that I stopped to think about it’s incredible implications for a Christian.
If I didn’t know better I could say yes; suffering, death, this life, powers…could actually separate us from Jesus. It’s not once that we come across something that makes us doubt God and his steadfast love. To be honest if this relationship depended on me, it would have died long time ago. I doubt it would even have started.
But isn’t that the point? That our faith is founded on the unshakeable ground of Jesus love not me or my effort. What a relief? What a great assurance? And it’s not just a strong Hollywood kind of love. It’s much more; unshakeable, undefeated, unending love because in the Gospel is the surpassing power of God.
It’s only this kind of love that turns stumbling blocks into stepping stones so that, that which should challenge it actually supports it. Pick suffering for example, one can only suffer for so much before giving up. But when it comes to the Gospel, suffering actually points us to the amazing future that awaits a Christian with our Lord and Saviour Jesus. While death has been the end for many a love story, for a Christian, death is the best that can happen as we get to be alive with Christ.
What can separate us from the love of God in Christ? Nothing, no one, not what we know and not even what is beyond us? Simply and absolutely nothing!
It’s interesting that we would be worried of what we will leave behind instead of that which is ahead. That we care about what those we live behind might think of us more than those who wait for us in eternal dwellings.
We worry ourselves of what people will say when we die though many won’t even care to remember us.
We toil for things we might accomplish instead of the one thing that matters most; our eternal future.
If history is all we know then I see why some might care about legacy.
But certainly not Christians.
For we know where we are headed and we live for the eternal king now.
We are not here to leave a legacy but to live and serve King Jesus with our lives as we earnestly look forward to living him forever.
Our focus is not our history but our future. As we wait and groan together with all creation for our eternal adoption as sons of God, see Romans 8:22,23.
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”Mark 8.
Many refer to this passage as the cost of discipleship which of course is trading this life to follow and live for king Jesus; for his Gospel commission to gain eternal life with him. It looks like a big price to some but not if we understand what Jesus has done for us who believe and the value of the kingdom that he will bring. We might then realise that the benefit hugely outweigh the cost. It might be the case then that we need to meditate more of what it is that Jesus offers in the next unending life to see that this is the deal of a lifetime.
What is it that we can achieve with this short life anyway before death comes knocking? And if death is only a door to life unending then isn’t this life a small price to pay for eternal life with King Jesus? If ever we find this cost to be too much then we need to think more of the next and realise this to be but a drop in life unending. If we think we cannot give up pleasure and vain ambition then we need to realise just how amazing the new creation is; unending feasting and joy without death or pain; Isaiah 25, Revelation 21. And when we suffer for following King Jesus we should count it a privilege to follow his set pattern to receive his eternal inheritance, Romans 8:17-18.
I find that I’m tempted not to believe this when my eyes are short sighted; either wanting to avoid momentary suffering or enjoy fleeting happiness when the true joy lies ahead with my eternal King. It’s then I need to think just how amazing God’s kingdom is; enough to suffer now and not worth trading it for fleeting pleasure or human ambition.
I’m a man of a weak spirit
Easily overjoyed but easily broken
I laugh and rejoice
And then I cry and mourn
Nothing seems to last
I’m a child caught in a ruthless world
Ruled by greedy powerful men
Who trade my life for their gain
Who will save me from this world?
How long will you tarry dear Lord!
Some might call this home
But I cannot
I do not belong here, I never did
Not with all the evil, pain and death
No, I crave a better home
I dream of a better future
I long for another world
The world our Lord is preparing
Come Lord Jesus, come
Come and take me home
Take me to the new Jerusalem
Away from this evil world
Take me to everlasting life
Away from this body of death
Take me to your heavenly home
My hope is in your coming
I rejoice to know you will not tarry
In just a very little while
I will see you then and forever
So I live for the day of your coming
I don’t think what I have accomplished is what makes me celebrate my life as a Christian.
No, it’s what has been given to me freely; knowing him who died for me that I may live for him.
In this new life, I have come to know Jesus better through a faithful teaching and study of his Word.
As a result, I have grown to love Jesus more and enjoyed serving his people with the Gospel.
And have become even more convinced of the amazing privilege it is to be a rescued child of God living for King Jesus now ahead of his eternal reign in the new creation.
And this is beyond priceless.
At 26, I’m humbled by what Jesus has accomplished in me through his Word and his Church and the good works he has laid before me to walk in them.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2.
To many more years of knowing him, serving him and living with him in eternal life.