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What is the difference between Christianity and other beliefs?


Everybody trusts in something or someone for answers to the big questions in life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? How I can I have a meaningful life? How can I sustain joy and contentment? What will happen to me after I die--can I do anything about it? People put their trust either in someone else, God, their own wisdom and goodness, the government, or things.

The important faith factor is not the amount of faith that one has, but the validity of the object of the faith. Picture two tall buildings, with two boards straddled between them. Two men, call them Randy and John, plan to walk across the boards. The boards look the same, but are actually made of different material. Randy is trusting in a board that is hollow with a thin exterior. John is trusting in a board of solid hardwood. Randy has more faith than John; Randy is fully convinced that the hollow board will hold his weight. Randy even speaks very confidently about his faith in the board. But the truth is that Randy's board is weak--it cannot hold his weight. Randy will fall to his death, but John will walk across safely. Life is similar. The results will be based, not so much on the amount of our faith, but the object of our faith. It is not good enough to have faith in something. We must have faith in the truth. Otherwise we are deceived.

The object of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is what makes Christianity different than other religions. Described below are the specific differences:

1. Jesus Christ for forgiveness and mercy

2. Jesus Christ as the source of joy, contentment, peace, power to live righteously, and love

3. Jesus Christ as evidence

1. Jesus Christ for forgiveness and mercy

Most religions--but not Christianity--are based on human performance. If one's performance is good enough, one will go to heaven or another desirable place after the earthly life, and will have a good life on earth. If performance is substandard, the person will be rejected by the higher being and go to hell or some other unpleasant place. Christianity, by contrast, teaches that no person is good enough to be accepted into God’s kingdom and, therefore, we can be accepted by God only by God’s grace and mercy, which is possible through Jesus Christ.

Picture a court case. The prosecuting attorney contends that you are guilty of wrongdoing, making you unworthy of God's kingdom. You can plead guilty or innocent. Those who follow a performance-based religion are pleading innocent, indicating to the judge that they have lived a good enough life—based on the rules of their religion—to be worthy of entrance into heaven. Those who choose to trust Christ are pleading guilty, admitting that they are not worthy of God's kingdom based on their own "goodness." Thus Christians, pleading guilty, are asking for mercy; but religious persons, pleading innocent, are asking for judgment. The Judge judges those who plead innocent based on their deeds. Every one of them are pronounced guilty--because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23)--and given the death penalty. For the Christians, however, who have pleaded guilty and asked for mercy through Jesus Christ, the Judge acknowledges that they committed deeds worthy of death, but sets them free. The Christians are guilty of wrongdoing and deserve the penalty, just as the others. But the Judge sets them free because someone else--the Judge's own Son--sat in the electric chair on their behalf. The Judge's Son took the death penalty for them. Although they are guilty, they receive mercy and are forgiven. In fact, the charges are completely erased from their record, having been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ:

Col 2:13,14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Consider two questions:

1. How can God, who is loving, kind, and compassionate; reject a person, sending him or her to Hell instead of Heaven? The answer is provided by the second question…

2. How can God, who is perfectly holy, righteous, and just, allow humans, who all have sin of some sort, to enter His holy kingdom and have fellowship with Him?

The answer to the second question is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ brings together God's perfect holiness, righteousness and justice; with His love, compassion, and kindness. No person can enter God's kingdom on his or her own merits--all have fallen short of God's perfect righteousness. So God provided the perfect sacrifice--Jesus Christ, God the Son--as a payment for the sin of all people. Jesus Christ is a gift, given by the perfectly just and perfectly loving God. Forgiveness is appropriated to the person who acknowledges his need for the gift, and receives Christ.

Ask God to give you understanding of the following verses:

Rom 3:23,24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psa 85:9,10 Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land. 10 Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

1 John 4:9,10 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

To read more about forgiveness and mercy through Jesus Christ, see:

How good does one have to be to go to heaven?

What is the Gospel?

What is salvation?

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2. Jesus Christ as the source of joy, contentment, peace, power to live righteously, and love

Every person was designed to be filled with the Spirit of God and to have continual fellowship with Him--to be in touch with his or her Creator. God was supposed to be the center of our work and relationships. We were designed to get our contentment and fulfillment from Him. Without the Spirit of God in us, we are dysfunctional, like a two-legged table.

Think of a human as a glass. When God created Adam and Eve, they were right-side-up glasses, in His image, filled with His Spirit. But when they rebelled against God, they died spiritually; the glass was turned upside down. From that point on, humans have felt and experienced the emptiness of a glass that's upside down. Trying to force things into the glass, while it's upside down, won't work. What's needed is to turn the glass right-side-up.

Jesus Christ is the only solution to the problem. He makes our glass right-side-up when we place our trust in Him for forgiveness of sin, and fills us with His life, making us whole. What's more, through Christ we can have continual and meaningful fellowship with the Father, which provides joy, contentment, peace, power to live righteously, and love. Jesus Himself is the life--He gives life to those who place their trust in Him:

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"

John 8:12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

John 10:10 "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"

John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

When Jesus said, "He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35), He was not talking about food and water; He was addressing the emptiness—the want and discontentment—that we have in our hearts. Only Christ can fill the void in a heart.

Jesus said that He has overcome the world. This applies to our desire to get fulfillment through things and circumstances in the world. Jesus gives us victory over the never-ending chase. Think about these verses, picturing your heart as a glass that needs to be turned right-side-up and filled. Before you read the verses, ask God to give you wisdom to understand them:

Psa 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psa 34:9 O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.

Rom 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 15:11 "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

To read more about Jesus Christ as the source of joy, contentment, peace, power to live righteously, and love, see:

What does Jesus have to do with contentment?

What is the Gospel?

What is salvation?

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3. Jesus Christ as evidence

As stated above, Christianity is based on the belief that those who entrust their lives to Jesus Christ receive forgiveness of sin and new life. Only God can forgive sin. Only God can create life. Therefore, the foundation of Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ is one and equal with God. If Jesus Christ is not God, then His death on the cross was not sufficient payment for our sin, and He cannot give us life. The validity of Christianity thus depends on evidence that Jesus Christ is God.

The resurrection is the evidence. The resurrection of Christ proves that He is God, and validates all that He said. Although Jesus performed many miracles on earth, and amazed people with the wisdom and authority of His teaching, the primary evidence for His deity is the resurrection. The Bible even says that if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is worthless:

1 Cor 15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

1 Cor 15:17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

Says E. M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University, "I claim to be a historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history." (McDowell, J. "Evidence for the Resurrection," Josh McDowell Ministry, 1992.)

For more information about Jesus' resurrection, go to riverpower.org's web page entitled Facts About the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Randy and John, whom we discussed at the top of this article, were contemplating walking across boards straddled between two tall buildings. Randy was trusting in a hollow board; John in a solid board. Randy had more faith than John, but Randy's faith was in the wrong object. Had they both tried to walk across, Randy would have fallen to his death but John would have made it. The point made was that the soundness of our belief is based, not on the amount of our faith, but on the validity of the object of our faith.

But let's say that John was not willing to walk across. Even though he believed that the board was solid and would hold his weight, he was not willing to walk across it, so he never made it to the other building. Similarly, to receive God's gift of forgiveness and new life, one must not only believe that Jesus Christ is God, but be willing to entrust his life to Him-- to not only believe the board will hold his weight, but to get on the board and walk across it.

Consider the word believes in the following verses:

John 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 7:38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"

The book of John was originally written in Greek. The word believes in the above verses was translated from the Greek word pisteuo that appeared in the original manuscripts of the book of John. Pisteuo belief amounts to more than intellectual acknowledgement of a fact. It is belief that involves a willingness to commit to, trust in, or follow. Parents may believe what is said about a babysitter's qualifications, but will not leave their children with her unless they really believe (pisteuo) in her. John may say that he believes the board will hold his weight, but will not walk across the board unless he really trusts (pisteuo) in it.

The word believe (or believes) is found 69 times in the Gospel of John. John wanted the readers of his book to entrust their lives to Christ. For this reason he provided much evidence that Jesus Christ is one and equal with God, and the only way to new and eternal life. John clearly stated the purpose of his book:

John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Consider reading the book of John. Ask God to reveal truth to you. Tell Him that you do not want to be deceived into trusting in the wrong person or thing. Ask Him to clarify whether or not you should entrust your life to Jesus Christ.

 

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